Succulents

Succulent Diseases and Problems: Solutions to Your Plant’s Symptoms

Succulents are desert plants so they do not need to be watered often. They still need watering though and the amount of watering they get is a delicate balance. Too much or too little will cause problems to set in. They are fairly responsive plants though so when you adjust the watering, many of the problems can be rectified within just a few hours.

Don’t believe the myth that it’s extremely hard to kill these hardy plants because without taking precautions to treat early signs that there’s a problem with your plant, it can see them die a premature death.

Some of the questions listed below will help you identify the most common to the most pressing concerns about growing healthy succulents and treating problems before they become fatal.

Breathe a new lease of life into your succulents by taking the time to read this, understand what’s going on with your plant and then take the steps you can right away to get your succulents back to growing healthily with some TLC.

Succulent Diseases and Problems Solutions to Your Plant's Symptoms

Succulent Plant Diseases, Problems and the Solutions for Them! FAQ

Why is my succulent shriveling?

When you notice your plant begin to shrivel, check the leaf color and texture. If it’s yellowing and shriveling, it’s underwatered and will feel dry to the touch. Yellowing leaves on a well-watered plant is too much water with a mushier feel to the leaves.

What Causes the Leaves on Succulents to Fall Off?

The leaves on your succulent will start to fall of if you continue to over water it. Yellowing happens first and is a sign of a watering issue – too much or not enough. There’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get it wrong and continue to over water it.

Now, growing succulents in soil needs the right potting mix. Like most plants, they need both water and nutrients, which the soil will retain for the plant to feed on when it needs it. Since succulent plants are better a storing water and nutrients in the plant itself, the soil needs to drain faster than your average potting soil. Otherwise, the roots will continue to soak in the water and stay there because the rest of the plant will have no need for it.

The soil used should be labeled specifically for succulents or cacti plants to ensure you’re getting a potting mix with better drainage.

If you still find the soil retaining too much water for too long, another thing you can do is put some pumice through the soil to assist in both aeration and water absorption.

Other options include adding:

  • Perlite
  • Sand
  • Mulch
  • Vermiculite

However, pumice is usually the preferred option to improve drainage, so use that first. If that doesn’t improve it enough, the other options above could help too. Remember to start with the right type of potting soil. Potting mix for succulents and cacti plants, and then add your pumice to that for better aeration.

Why are my succulents turning brown?

Browning leaves on succulents are a warning sign that you’re underwatering the plant. Along with that, you’ll notice the leaves start shriveling.

Gradually increase the amount of water you give the plant and if you’re using pumice in your soil, cut back on the amount used.

What’s the white stuff growing on my plant?

There are a few things that can cause a white coating to cover the leaves of succulents. Only one is good and that’s Epicuticular wax. This is a wax coating that will cover the entire surface of the plants leaves and should not be scrubbed off. It’s there as a natural sun barrier to protect the plant.

That being said, it could also be something not so good. Other things that can cause white fungi to show on your plants include:

Powdery Mildew

This is a fungus that often starts on the underside of leaves before becoming visible on the top part. For that reason, when you’re taking care of your plant, it’s always a good idea to inspect under the leaves so you can catch this early. Although it is a fungal disease, it’s rarely fatal. It will stunt the plant’s growth though because with enough of it, photosynthesis will be impaired and leaves can start to fall off due the inability to feed on the right nutrients.

If this is a problem, the solution is covered in this post.

Mealybug infestation

Mealybugs are a succulent’s worst enemy. When they’re present, you’ll notice white fluffy spots appearing on your plants. It’ll start off with a few, but the female of the species can lay up to 600 eggs. Get a few of them and you’ll soon see why they’re a huge problem.

With enough of these, as in an infestation, the mealybugs and the plants will be in battle for the water. With bugs in the hundreds or thousands, the plant has no chance. It’ll eventually wither and die.

When dealing with a mealybug infestation, don’t rely on sprays. Use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab and dab the insects rather than coating the leaves.

More information on dealing with bugs is covered in this article about handing indoor pests.

Are ants bad for succulents?

Sort of. They won’t harm the plant directly, but they are a tell-tale sign that you have another insect problem because ants harvest aphids for their honeydew.

And that’s not all. Another area of concern with ants is if they take up home in the soil. A colony of ants in the soil could destroy the root system so yeah, ants are bad for succulents.

The star attraction to ants are insects so if you’re getting ants on your succulents, chances are there’s another insect there that the ants are farming. Use sugar water to deter the ants and treat the main insect problem with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol.

Why are the leaves on my succulent wilting/drooping?

Wilting/drooping is caused by insufficient water in the plant leaves. For succulents to stand upright, they need plenty of water in the leaves. When they start to droop, that’s a sign you need to water them. The funny thing is that once you add more water, they’ll pick up within just a few hours.

Why are there black spots on my succulents?

This could be sunburn, over watering, or perhaps even a bug problem. It’s hard to tell so consider the growing conditions.

The most common cause is watering or using the wrong potting mix.

You can tell a lot from how the spot feels. If it’s caused by sunburn, it’ll be dry. If it feels mushy, it’s too much water. If it’s neither, then there’s a chance it’s a pest problem, in which case you can treat it with rubbing alcohol.

The black spots won’t go away so just snip the leaf off (remember to sterilize your pruners).

One other thing to note is the type of plant affected by black spots. If it’s a Jade plant, which is prone to developing black spots in the winter, the watering frequency needs altered because they don’t grow in the winter. Also, the lighting conditions for plants grown indoors should be adapted to reflect the seasonal change to let the plant go into dormancy. Otherwise, the roots will take in more water than the leaves of the plant are going to use.

How to Revive a Succulent with Black Stem Rot

The most pressing of concerns with succulents is when you notice the stems are rotted. That can be fixed, so you don’t need to toss the plant and start again. All you need is your trusted pruners to cut away the rotted part of the stem.

The fix for black stem rot is to repot the plant. When you do, there’s a few things to pay attention to:

  • That you use the right potting mix
  • That the pot you use has drainage holes
  • That you add enough pumice, gravel, sand, mulch, perlite or any other substance to increase aeration and water absorption
  • That the roots are not root-bound, meaning that if the roots have grown compacted, aeration could be decreased, in which case, you’ll need to separate the roots to increase air flow before repotting

In Conclusion

While succulent plants are hardy plants that are relatively easy to care for, problems can set in if you don’t understand what the plant is trying to tell you. They have their subtle ways of speaking to you to tell you what they need. They’ll wilt when they need watered, and they’ll swell when there’s too much. Black spots, and browning can occur if the root system takes in more water than the plant needs, which is why they do not need to be watered frequently. Even once a week on some types of succulents can be too much.

Succulent Diseases and Problems: Solutions to Your Plant’s Symptoms was last modified: February 13th, 2019 by The Practical Planter

Leave a Comment