Why are My Succulents Dying?

Fleshy plants are hardy thus can survive in any harsh conditions. Some of the harsh conditions are like less water, less light, are risky to other plants, and can cause death. For succulents, they take time before showing any signs of dying due to their resilient nature. Some of the symptoms include yellowing of leaves, wilting of the whole plant, leaves rot, and more. Although succulents are highly adapted, its advisable to take good care and eliminate the chances of dying.

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Top 10 Things that Could Kill Your Succulents

Here are ten reasons why your succulents might be dying.

1. Giving them too much water

Succulents enjoy little water in well-drained soils. The soils should be moist but not saturated or muddy. Too much water causes the roots to rot, an outbreak of diseases, and stunted growth. You should consider watering your plant only when the soil is dry.

Before watering, always check the soil moisture with your finger at least an inch deep; if you feel wetness, the soil moisture is sufficient. Check this guide we did on watering succulents to find how much water they need.

2. Planting your succulent in a small container

Small pots limit the growth and development of roots and the whole plant as well. Roots growth helps in the uptake of minerals and water. The small container may not allow the plant to spread its branches well and will end up stunted.

Always use a large container that is deep and wide to offer enough space for plant growth.  The box shouldn’t be too deep or too shallow. Most succulents will do well in a 4 inches deep container, so the container should be between 4-5 inches.

3. Planting them in a container with poor drainage

A container with poor drainage retains more water in the soil. Succulents require less water for their growth since their uptake is less due to their fleshy nature. Excess water is, therefore, harmful and cause rot decay. Poor drainage also affects soil aeration, and this can quickly suffocate the plant. The planting container should have holes at the bottom to ensure excess water drain, and the soil doesn’t retain too much water.

4. Very low temperatures

Fleshy plants enjoy warm conditions and not cold. They naturally adapt to hot and dry environments. Coldness makes the plant leaves flaccid, and this is an indication of a dying plant. It’s usually because of lower light and lower temperatures. Check your location temperature to ensure its optimum plant growth and help adjust by moving your plant to a warmer area or providing artificial warmth.

5. Underwatering the plant

Succulents are resilient to less water because they use the stored water in their tissues. They can withstand dry soil up to 14 days without showing any signs. As they withdraw water from their cells, the leaves become wrinkled and shriveled. Its a sign of stress in your plant and can lead to it drying up. You can save the plant regain its turgidity by submerging its roots in water without the stem and leaves touching it for a few days.

6. Insufficient exposure to light

The plants naturally require alternating bright sun and shade daily. The indoor environments should, therefore, emulate the natural environment by providing enough light. Plants with less light will stretch and bend in search of radiance; some may develop aerial roots or lack new leaves. The stretching makes the leaves become smaller and further apart on the stem. It looks like the plant is growing, but it needs light. Depending on your indoor conditions, choose a plant that will adapt especially to low light or provide alternative light sources.

7. The wrong kind of soil or potting mixture

Succulents require a combination of potting soil and perlite. This soil is well aerated, has good drainage, free from pests and diseases, and has sufficient nutrients. Growing them in super fertile soil will affect them or grounds with poor drainage. The potting mix is also porous and allows roots penetration and development. Make your soil mix with the following, 3 -parts of potting mix, 2- parts sand and 1-part perlite, or buy premade soil.

8. Overcrowding

All juicy require enough space for growth, absorption of light, and protection from pests and diseases. Crowded succulents compete for nutrients, light, water, and more resources. These plants become weak and can quickly die. Each plant should be planted in its container to avoid unnecessary competition for nutrients and transmission of infections.

9. Pest infestation

Pest affects plants due to dirty conditions like having rotten leaves, using dirty water, and also flooding the plant. Pest transit disease to plants and can cause injuries. Some good hygiene practices like using clean water, removing rotten and infected leaves can help overcome infestation by pests. Use neem oil too when planting to prevent any pests.

10. Using extra-large container

Lush plants have small and shallow roots that capture much water during watering. An extra-large pot holds more soil that the shallow roots cannot reach. The soil stores more water than the plant can’t take and nutrients which drain to the bottom layers.  With time the succulent will become weak due to lack of nutrients and poor aeration because of flooding. Use the perfect container size for your plants, not too large or too small, within 4-5 inches deep.

How to know if your succulent is dying

A dying fleshy plant will have the following signs;

  • Mold and pest infestation
  • Leaves turn colors, black, yellow.
  • Leaves growing apart
  • The plant becomes droopy/ wilted
  • Leaves and stems wrinkled or completely dry up
  • May dehydrate, and sheets feel deflated and soft
  • May start shedding leaves
  • Leaves swell up
  • Leaves look puffy, translucent
  • Stems feel soft
  • Stems having black spots
  • Plant becomes stunted

Can succulents come back to life?

Most fleshy plants can come back to life if they are not so much affected. If you notice any of the danger signs, be quick to respond to save their lives.

You will note the plant wilting or buildup of a white crust on the soil or the pot’s sides. Flush the soil with plenty of rainwater, filtered, or distilled water, free of minerals salts. Repot the plant and gently knock some of the old earth away.

For a rotten plant you should do the following;

  • Check the plan for any dark brown patches either on leaves or stem on the lower parts.
  • Remove the plant and all the soil materials from the container and clean it thoroughly.
  • Cut the infected part of the plant with a garden knife and allow the remaining section to dry but not under direct sunlight. The remaining stem can regrow if partially affected.
  • Prepare the potting mixture and place the container in a sunny spot.
  • Plant your remaining section and water it with just enough water.

If your plant has been getting insufficient moisture and it’s dehydrated, consider water therapy as follows:

  • Gently shake all of the soil out of the roots. You can even run your plant’s roots underwater to ensure there is no soil. The process helps to get rid of any bacteria.
  • You should also make sure that your succulent’s roots are the only thing sitting in the water. Putting the leaves in the water can damage them, so position your succulent carefully.
  • You should bathe your plant for about 24 to 72 hours. When you take your plant out of the water, make sure you handle it with extra care. The roots are especially vulnerable to damage and bruising after they get out of the bath.
  • Leave the roots to dry out for a few days before replanting, to lower the chances that the radicles will break or get damaged during the replanting process

If you have issues with frostbite, your options are quite limited

  • Try planting only cold-hardy succulents in your garden
  • Use frost cloth to keep them a little warmer in the winter.


If you notice any of the dying signs in your plant, give a remedy as recommended. But to avoid all challenges, ensure you use an appropriate container, provide enough sunlight, use the right potting mix, provide them with enough water, and protect them from pests and diseases. Ensure you don’t crowd the plants, let each plant grow in its pot, and keep spacing of 2-3 inches between containers. These measures will help your plant to grow healthy and flourish.