Succulent Leaves Turning Black: 4 Fatal Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

Why do succulent leaves turn black?

There are 4 main causes for succulent leaves turning black: over-watering, sunburn, bugs and fungal or viral infections.

We discuss all below.

succulent leaves turning black
Why do succulent leaves turn black?

Succulent Leaves Turning Black: It's More Common that You Think

If you've been growing succulents for quite some time, you'd have possibly experienced problems with these plants before. Black spots on the leaves, or even on the stems are perhaps the most common.

But what causes succulents to get black spots? Black spots have 4 primary underlying causes: sunburn, over-watering, and bugs and viruses/fungi.

As soon as you notice the black spots on your succulents' leaves, you need to act because there is something unusual with your plant.


If you touch your succulents leaves and they are soft, that means the plant has received too much water. It's practically drowning.

Succulents retain excess water in their leaves, roots and stems so that they can withstand the drier conditions of their native desert, but too much water causes the leaf tissues to surpass their water storage ability and so they swell and burst.

Black spots are a type of fungus which has formed in the damaged tissues in the plant.

succulent leaves becoming black
Succulent leaves turning black from rot

Solution: You may not be able to restore your succulent, but you may try.

Remove the plant from the pot and examine its roots to see if they are still good. If that's the case, cut off all infected leaves and stems and replant succulents on dry soil.

Let it settle on a new soil with good drainage but without watering it for a few days. You can start watering it after two or three days but with less or less frequency than you did before.

If the roots are soft, it means they are dead and the plant is a goner.

For the remaining healthy parts of the plant, you can take some cuttings.

Let the ends recover before transplanting those cuttings into new containers.

You have to get rid of both the dead mother plant and the soil where it was grown, as both are possibly contaminated with the fungi that caused the plant's rot.

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If the black spots on the leaves are dry, sunburn may be causing this.

Sure, while such succulents like the sun, they may be damaged or adversely affected by excessive sunlight.

This can occur particularly when a shaded succulent plant gets too much intense light before it has time to acclimatize.

When you buy a plant in partial shade in a nursery and, for example, put it on your sunny terrace, or bring an indoor succulent plant outdoors, it may cause the leaves to burn.

Solution: The sunburnt succulent can be restored with some ease.

Remove the leaves that are sunburned, since they won't regenerate, and place the plant in the shade.

You should allow your succulent a few days to adapt to the full sun, so on the first day place it in the sun for three or four hours in the morning, and increase the time of sun exposure by one hour a day.

Bring the plant indoors at night, or place it in the shade.

The succulent will adapt by the fourth or fifth day, so you can let the sun shine without worrying about getting sunburn on the succulent leaves.


If the black spots are tiny and appear like freckles, the problem could be bugs.

Mealybugs, mites and aphids feed on succulent leaves, leaving small patches of dead tissue that eventually form sooty black mold.

Solution: Cut and throw away any infected leaves.

Wipe the leaves with alcohol-soaked cotton balls, or use a potassium soap or insecticide to kill the bugs.

Repeat treatment every day until the small bugs are gone.

Viral Infection

If the black spots are underneath the leaves, it may be caused by a black ring virus.

Orthotospovirus, the same one that causes the tomato wilt, can also attack succulents.

Solution: There is no remedy for it.

Cut off the infected leaves of the plant and sterilize the scissors with alcohol when you're finished so you don't transfer the disease on other plants.

Succulent Leaves Turning Black: 4 Fatal Mistakes and How to Overcome Them 1
Black spots on succulent leaves


So what's causing your succulent leaves to turn black? Was this article useful in helping you diagnose your succulent leaves troubles?

If you have any other succulent troubles, do check out our articles and guides below. Feel free to comment if you have further questions, we're here to help 🙂