Dealing With Succulent Stem Rot: A Comprehensive Guide

succulent stem rot

So you want to learn how to save a succulent with a black stem? 

Well then, congratulations. You came to the right place!

Succulent City is your best bet for tried and true succulent-revival tips and tricks. 

You want nothing but the best for your lovely green ladies. We understand that. 

So when you come across icky black splotches on your succulent, we know just how confused, sad, and disheartened it makes you feel. 

These blackened areas are called stem-rot (or root-rot) and are a succulent enthusiast’s worst nightmare.

So what exactly is stem-rot? 

How do we cure it?

For the answers to this and more, visit the Succulent City Plant Lounge – meet other succulent lovers from across the globe. Read their experiences, hear their stories and learn their remedies.

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Stem Rot Black: IG@happy.little.succulents

What Is Stem-Rot?

It is a disease characterized by yellow, mushy leaves/stems and visible black or brown spots that manifest on the unlucky succulent. 

Stem-rot and root-rot are especially common among succulents growing in warm, humid climates.

Stem-rot refers to rot occurring on or around the stem, above ground level, while root-rot refers to decay taking place down among the roots, below ground level.

One thing you should know: a succulent with visible stem-rot has a 20% probability of survival, and that’s being generous!

It is better if caught early, while the decay is still down in the roots. However, once the rot is visible above ground, it’s already got the unlucky succulent in a choke-hold.

It’s a terrifying thought, losing your dear green babies to this black scourge. 

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Succulent treatment from Root Rot: IG@plantholicmum

How To Treat A Succulent With Stem-Rot 

At Succulent City, we believe succulent is more than a simple plant. Instead, we view it more like a little green companion – a reflection of your personality.

With this in mind, we curated a list of to-dos that, if followed, should land a solid blow on the nasty rot and give your succulent a fighting chance. 

Read on and learn how to treat a succulent afflicted with stem-rot. 

1. Cease all watering immediately.

Excess moisture is what got your ailing succulent here in the first place. More water will only make matters worse, sealing your plant’s fate.

2. Take the plant out of its pot.

Get rid of the old soil and wash the succulent roots under running water. 

You must be gentle, considering they might be rotting and ready to crumble at the slightest touch. 

3. Chop off any part of the succulent exhibiting black/brown discoloration.

Discard cuttings carefully to avoid contact with any other healthy plants.

4. Be sure to use only new equipment. 

Don’t let anything from the infected plant come in contact with your new setup.

5. Mix a fresh batch of quick-drain soil. 

Click on me to read an excellent article by Succulent City explaining how to DIY your succulent soil at home.

6. Get a new planter – preferably terracotta or ceramic – and fill it halfway with soil. 

Carefully place your now-healthy succulent into the pot and fill it with soil to the brim. 

Ensure your planter has a drainage hole to avoid stagnant water. 

7. Place the remaining healthy succulent in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight.

Avoid hot & humid locations at all costs.

For more stem-rot DIY remedies, check out our Succulent City Facebook page to share tips, tricks, and inspiration from fellow succulent lovers from across the globe!  

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Stem Rot noticed in Image: IG@grownassgrass

How Do I Know If My Succulent Has Stem-Rot?

Nine times out of ten, stem-rot usually begins below ground.

Usually caused by extra water in the soil due to over-watering or insufficient drainage, the roots get wet and slimy and start to rot. 

Remove the plant from its pot and inspect the roots if you suspect root-rot as the source of your succulent’s woes. 

A healthy succulent’s roots should be firm to the touch with a light brown/tan color. Rotting roots will feel soft, and mushy, and some may even crumble on contact. Infected roots have a dark, blackish hue and smell similar to rotting vegetables.

If the rot isn’t found and treated while below ground, it will climb up the root system, creep above ground, and begin to affect the stem. 

Slowly eating away at the stem, you may notice the leaves turn an unhealthy shade of pale yellow. Should it proceed unencumbered, the lower half of the succulent will get soft to the touch and start rotting away. 

By this time, the affliction has your succulent well in its grasp. It takes a lot of effort and luck to get it free.

A case of prevention is better than a cure. 

Carry on reading to learn the causes of stem-rot and how to avoid it altogether.

What Causes Stem-Rot?

A couple of things could be responsible for this destructive infection. More often than not, excess moisture in the soil tends to be the culprit.

1. Over-watering 

Succulents are native to arid and semi-arid regions. They receive very little rainfall and have adapted their biochemistry to store water in their thick green leaves and stems. 

Over-watering causes the succulent to store more & more water resulting in the leaves(or stem) bursting open to release excess water. This act damages the plant tissue and exposes it to infection.

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2. Fungi

Soil-dwelling fungi may also be the chief cause of your succulent misfortune. Indeed, these parasites are the bane of succulent lovers worldwide. Phytophthora, in particular, is a mold fungus known to attack the roots. It thrives in areas of excess moisture/flooding with poor drainage. 

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Succulent-Sunburn: IG@novasucculents

3. Sunburn

Too much of anything is poisonous. Different succulents have different preferences. Sure, they might look similar, but keep one individual species in the sun for too long, and it will produce black spots as the leaves begin to burn. 

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Mealy Bug: IG@sucstu

4. Pests

Bugs like mites, aphids, and mealybugs dine like kings on succulent plants. Pay close attention to your green companion; if you notice small freckle-like black spots, these guys are most likely responsible. 

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

A stitch in time saves nine – English Proverb.

More than 95% of stem-rot is a result of over-watering. Going by this, it’s safe to say keeping your succulents nice and dry may help you dodge the bullet. Succulents don’t need watering every day. Twice a week should be just fine.

To my next point, always ensure your grow-pot has a hole at the bottom to drain any excess water instead of leaving your succulent roots sitting in pools of stagnant water.

Last but not least, opt for premixed succulent or cactus soil. These are porous and provide excellent drainage. Purchase it online or from your nearest gardening store.

If you cannot buy premix soil, read this informative article:  Best Soil For Succulents from Succulent City, and learn how to DIY your soil, among other handy succulent growing tips.

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