Solving the Mystery Behind Succulent Deaths: 9 Causes

Succulents are extremely rewarding and satisfying plants to care for. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, adding vibrancy to any room or space that they are placed in.

They are also fuss-free and easy plants to care for, provided you give them the bare minimum they ask for in order to thrive. However, if you still find that your succulents are dying, the following sections will shed some light on possible reasons. First, let’s dive into what conditions a succulent thrives in best.

why are my succulents dying

Ideal Conditions for Succulents

Succulents make for great indoor plants and are the perfect houseplants one could care for, especially if you do not have a lot of experience with gardening. They are resilient and do not require a lot of management. If you provide them with the ideal conditions, then succulents will be able to thrive for years, maybe even decades!

Succulents prosper the most when kept in bright but indirect sunlight. They also require soil that drains well so that the water does not accumulate at the bottom. Ideally, you should be watering your succulents only once a week but if you find that the weather is especially hot, you may sprinkle some water.

If you are growing your succulents outdoors, then be sure to keep them out of harsh sunlight, especially on hot summer afternoons. You should also be sure to move them indoors before the first frost as the succulent will not be able to survive the temperature change.

Why Are My Succulents Dying?

The conditions that have been described above are the ideal conditions in which a succulent may thrive. But if you still find that your succulent is dying, the following can be the possible reasons.

1. Too Much Light

sunburned succulent
Sunburned succulent

While succulents need some light to perform photosynthesis, there is certainly something known as too much light for succulents. Your succulent may start withering when there is too much light and the leaves may start turning beige, or even start burning in intense sunlight. As described above, succulents thrive best when there is bright but indirect sunlight.

2. Insufficient Light

While, admittedly, succulents do not require a lot of light but they do need some light to be able to generate their food through photosynthesis. If you have kept your succulents in a dark room, you need to take them out into the sunlight at least once a week if not more.

If the succulent begins to lose color from its leaves, that is the indication that they need more light. Try as far as possible to always keep your succulents in indirect sunlight.

3. Watering Too Much/Too Often

overwatered succulent with rot

Succulents are resilient plants that have a water storage system. They can also survive in the desert! So when you overwater succulents, you will cause their roots to become mush and rot. No matter how well the soil drains, if you water your succulents too much they are bound to wither as it will be too much water for them to handle.

Read also:
Succulent Leaves Turning Yellow and Soft

4. Not Enough Water

thirsty succulent

On the flip side, if you do not give the succulent enough water you will cause it to die as well. When a succulent is growing naturally in the desert or out in nature, they tend to have a natural reserve of groundwater even if it does not rain for months. However, for potted succulents, this is not the case. So you must water your succulents at least once a week on average.

Read also:
How to Water Succulents

5. Wrong Type of Soil

use good succulent soil

A succulent needs soil that drains well and does not collect water at the bottom. If the soil you have used for potting your succulents is thick and does not leave any gaps for the water to seep through, then that will cause the roots to rot.

As mentioned before, succulents have a sophisticated water storage system. They can pull water from the soil even when there is no rain for months on end. So when the soil collects an excess amount of water, it overwhelms the succulent’s natural storage system and causes it to die.

Read also:
Best Soil for Succulents in Pots

6. No Drainage Holes

no drainage holes

Even if you do everything right with potting the succulent in the right kind of soil, placing it in indirect sunlight and giving it just the adequate amount of water, your succulent can still perish if that water has nowhere to escape to.

Any pot must have a drainage hole at the bottom, but this is especially true for succulents. Even if you water the plant only once a week if the water starts accumulating at the bottom of the pot and has nowhere else to go, the roots will start getting affected.

Read also:
Best Drainage Pots for Succulents
How to Plant in Pots Without Drainage Holes

7. Fertilizer Burn

If you are using fertilizers on your succulents, make sure you don’t use a very strong one as the succulent may burn. This is true for all plants but is especially true for succulents as you will not be watering the fertilizer down as frequently as you would with other types of plants.

Pick a mild fertilizer that works for your succulents and use it judiciously every few months instead of turning the soil too frequently. If possible, pick an organic fertilizer over a commercial one.

Even better, you can make fertilizer in your own compost pit with kitchen waste (see our recipes using banana peel tea and eggshells). Unless you are sure of the effects of commercial fertilizer, avoid using them on your succulents or use them very judiciously if you must.

Read also:
When to Fertilize Succulents

8. Pests and Diseases

Overwatering may cause bacterial and fungal diseases that can cause the succulent to wither and perish. In addition to this, if the succulent does not see enough light, that can cause the infection to multiply. In other words, many diseases can be prevented if you maintain the ideal conditions of water, light and air for your succulents.

However, they can also be victims of pests and insects that spread disease, such as scale, whitefly and mealybugs, to name a few. A mild pesticide can be an effective way to remove these pests.

mealybugs on succulent

Read also:
How to Kill Mealybugs

You should also be sure to remove dead leaves so the pests do not have a place on the succulent’s body to thrive. If your succulent has been infected once, avoid reusing the same soil when you turn it or for composting.

9. Frostbitten

If you left your succulent out up till fall and allowed the first frost to set in, your succulent has probably been frostbitten. Remember, these are not plants that are meant to thrive in sub-zero temperatures so be sure to bring them in before the first frost of the season arrives.

Do Succulents Die Easily?

Succulents are extremely resilient and strong plants, with a sophisticated self-preservation mechanism. However, what you must keep in mind is that they need specific conditions to survive and thrive. Now, these conditions are certainly not difficult to create but it is a balance you constantly have to strike to keep your succulents healthy.

If you provide your succulents with the right amount of light, water and air, then there is no reason for them to die unless there has been a pest outbreak. Even several pests and disease outbreaks you can prevent by maintaining healthy environmental conditions for the succulents.

If your succulent is kept dry for the most part, for example, you will be able to keep fungal infections away, the roots of the succulent will be healthy and it will also not be a breeding ground for insects.

Similarly, with the right amount of sunlight the succulents will get enough light to create their own food and the UV rays will also keep harmful bacteria and disease away.

If you are doing everything right, succulents should be the easiest plants for you to take care of. You don’t even need to water it every day! Just find a good spot for it and remember to hydrate it once a week.

How Do You Revive a Dying Succulent?

If your succulent is dying, the first and immediate action is to figure out what might be the cause.

If it is overwatering, remove the succulent from the soil and take off the excess mud from the roots. There are going to be some black and brown ends for some roots. Cut them out with garden scissors. Then leave the succulent on a mesh plate or a strainer and give it 3-5 days to completely dry out. Once all the excess water has dried out, replant the succulent in fresh soil.

If the succulent is not getting enough light, the leaves will start to become beige or you may notice the stems arching out towards whatever source of natural light is available.

Move the succulent outdoors for some time, though still avoid putting it in direct sunlight. Let it enjoy some natural air and light for some time before moving it back in.

If the original spot for the succulent did not have enough natural light, find another spot for it. If the leaves are scorched and you suspect it is getting too much direct light, simply move the succulent indoors where there is milder light.

If the leaves look withered and dry, it is probably because the succulent has not got enough water. So go ahead and water the plant and keep an eye on it for a few days. Sprinkle more water if you do not notice an improvement even after 2-3 days.

If the succulent has experienced frostbite, remove the leaves that have collapsed or have become mushy. Make sure to bring the plant indoors when the temperature drops.

In other words, diagnose the specific problem and administer an antidote accordingly. Reviving a dying succulent is not a challenging thing unless the damage done is irreversible.

Even if the damage is extensive, you can remove the healthy leaves or fragments of stems and allow it to callus. Once it is ready, plant it in fresh soil and it will sprout before you know it!

If a succulent has been through trying circumstances in terms of overheating, overwatering, less watering, etc. all you need to do is fix the specific issue and then keep an eye on the succulent for a few days after. These are resilient plants and if you fix the problem at hand, they usually do not have a problem bouncing back to life.

healthy succulents

The above sections have hopefully shed some light on why your succulent may be dying. Do not panic, in most cases, this is something you can fix if you put your finger on the problem in time and give the plant the right care.

Succulents do require a balanced environment in which they can thrive, so you will have to pay attention to how it is reacting to the environment in which you have placed it. But with the right amount of light, water, air and fertilizer, a succulent should be able to thrive and grow for many years to come.

The beauty of succulents is also that you can propagate them easily, sharing the joy of a rare and beautiful plant with more people by repotting it regularly. Removing mature leaves and stem fragments will also give the parent plant more space to grow. So, set a reminder to plant your succulent at least once a week, and check in with the plant every few days to see how they are doing. There is nothing more a healthy succulent will ask for.