Bear Paw Succulent Leaves Falling Off: How to Care for Cotyledon Tomentosa

Cotyledon tomentosa is a wonderfully fluffy succulent, which is also called “bear paw” or “bears claw plant” because of its appearance, and which you will immediately love. It comes from southern Africa, more precisely the provinces of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

If the general conditions get out of hand, it is no surprise to see bear paw succulent leaves falling off. We have compiled the most common causes with suggestions for problem solving here for you.

bear paw succulent leaves falling off
“P1010016.jpg” by imormo is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Why are Bear Paw Succulent Leaves Falling Off

Lack of Light

Room gardeners underestimate the pronounced light requirements of bear paw succulents. These clever survivalists are native to South Africa with 12 or more hours of sunshine daily. Assign the sun-kissed exotics a semi-shady to shady location, see the bear paw succulents threatened of their existence and throw off the leaves for their protection. This phenomenon usually occurs during the dark season.

To resolve the issue:

  • Immediate relocation to a fully sunny location on the south window
  • In winter, compensate for the lack of light with a plant grow light

The cooler the location in winter, the lower the need for light. Do not encourage your bear paw succulents to hibernate in the well-heated living room. In a light-flooded, temperate room, the leaves remain even in winter, where they belong.

Wet Substrate

Bear paw succulents are characterized by the ingenious strategy of storing water in their leaves, branches and roots. In this way they can thrive in hostile locations around the globe. The sap-rich growth does not imply that the soil should be constantly moist. On the contrary, bear paw succulents depend on dry, poor soil. If the roots get waterlogged, leaf fall is inevitable.

How to get the plant back on track:

  • Repot bear paw succulents with wet substrate immediately
  • Completely clean the roots of the wet soil
  • Cut off rotten roots with a sharp, disinfected knife
  • Pot in fresh, dry succulent soil

Please do not water the repotted plant. Only after a span of 2 to 3 weeks do you check with a finger test whether there is a need for watering.

Pro Tip:

If the leaves first turn yellow before they fall off, the succulent plant suffers from calcium deficiency. Hard irrigation water causes the lime content in the substrate to skyrocket, whereupon nutrients are fixed and no longer transported into the leaves. Use rainwater or decalcified tap water as irrigation water.

How to Care for Bear Paw Succulents


As a location you should choose a sunny place for the bear paw succulent plant. After getting used to the direct sun, it can spend the summer outdoors in a rain-protected place, but at temperatures below 15°C it should be brought back inside. You should make sure that the substrate is well permeable to water, which can be achieved with a mixture of cactus soil and mineral components.

Water and Fertilizer

As with almost all other succulents, the substrate should be dry before watering again in order to prevent waterlogging. The rule is: it is better to give too little water than too much.

You can fertilize during the growth phase between March and August about every four weeks.


The temperature during the winter should be around 15°C. During this time, there should hardly be any watering and no fertilization. Cotyledon tomentosa should also be in a bright place in winter.


In winter the succulent plant is susceptible to mealybugs, in summer it is more rarely attacked.

Bear Paw Succulent Propagation

The propagation of this succulent plant works best with cuttings, but is also possible with leaf cuttings and seeds.

  • Propagation by cuttings: If your bear paw is very small, we advise you to allow it to grow a little more to be able to make the cuts. If it is already a good size, you can take a cutting, let it heal and later plant it in its new pot and wait for it to have roots. You will hardly have any problem propagating it by this method.