Over-watered Zebra Plant (Haworthia attenuata) – Symptoms and Top 3 Remedies

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Zebra plant is one of the most beautiful succulents out there. What’s more, it isn’t vulnerable to pests, powdery mildew, or other issues many succulents suffer from. Even a beginner can grow it with success. In fact, the only common issue people have with Zebra Plant is over-watering. Zebra succulent is native to South Africa, a semi-desert area. It won’t surprise you that it doesn’t rain much in most of Africa (drought and famine is a sad consequence of lack of rain, but that’s not something we want to discuss here).

Zebra succulent doesn’t like too much water, and many people actually kill their plant with over-watering. In this article we will look at symptoms of over-watered Zebra succulent, what you can do to save an over-watered plant, and also remedies you can take to make sure the issue won’t repeat again. At the end of the day, growing succulents is a learning process. Maybe you won’t save your Haworthia, but you will at least make sure not to repeat the same mistake with another one…


Common symptoms of over-watering in Zebra succulent

The earlier you spot the problem the better, hence it is a good idea inspecting your plant once in a while, looking for signs of over-watering. You can check for various things, but different symptoms become apparent in different stages of over-watering. Let’s have a look at each stage and symptoms:

  1. Stage one: Soil is always wet. It is good sticking your finger into the soil, or using a moisture meter, making sure the soil can dry. You actually shouldn’t water your succulent when the soil is still wet. It can also happen that you have a bad soil mix for Zebra succulent, or a pot without drainage hole, and the soil stay moist regardless of what you do. If the soil is completely wet, you are almost certainly giving your plant too much water too often.
  2. Stage two: Leaves are full of water, almost ready to burst. Hawortia has thick leaves, just like the majority of succulents. This makes a lot of sense in semi-desert areas of South Africa, where it accumulates as much water as possible in the leaves during the rainy season, and then easily survives the dry season. However, when you have the plant at home, this should not happen. If the leaves are really thick or even burst open, you are certainly over-watering your Zebra succulent.
  3. Stage three: The plant starts wilting and eventually dies. When the over-watering goes on for too long, and drainage system isn’t good, the roots of the Zebra succulent will start to rot. When they rot to a considerable extent, they won’t be able to transfer water and required nutrients to the plant anymore. It will start wilting, leaves may change color, and it will eventually die. When you spot the problem only in stage three, it can be too late to save your over-watered Zebra plant…

Saving an over-watered Zebra plant

As I suggested earlier, your ability to save an over-watered Zebra plants depends on how early you notice the problem. Addressing the issue in stage one is very simple. Just stop watering the plant until the soil dries and adjust the watering frequency accordingly. In my experience, most Zebra plants will do fine if you water them just once in two or three weeks. Of course this depends on the place where you live, temperature, humidity, etc. That’s why the moisture of the soil is the best criteria here.

In stage two of over-watering, when leaves get thick and perhaps some root rot has started, I suggest you to repot the plant to new soil. While repotting it, you should cut away the rotten parts of roots, and leave just healthy ones on the plant. Again, make sure that you lessen the watering schedule. Actually considering the amount of water presently in the leaves, you can even stop watering completely for a month or even longer, and just then resume it, with lessened frequency.

In stage three, with serious root rot (as a result of excessive moisture of the soil for prolonged period of time), you do not have many chances of saving the plant. You can try repotting it and cutting away all rotten parts. The problem is though that in this stage (when the plant starts wilting and changing color) the entire rooting system is often rotten, and you just cannot do anything. In such a scenario, you can just throw the plant away, remember the lesson you learned, and move on.


Precautions you can take with your Zebra succulent to minimize the chances of over-watering

Prevention is always the best cure. You can minimize the chances of killing your Zebra plant with excessive water taking some precautions, and doing things right from the beginning. Namely:

  • Make sure to use a pot with drainage hole(s), and ideally also from a material that promotes aeration, such as clay or terracotta.
  • Use the right soil mix, ideally one made for succulents, you can get it in any good gardening store, or you can make your own soil mix for succulents.
  • Less is more when it comes to watering. It is extremely rare seeing a household succulent die as a result of under-watering. But over-watering is the no.1 reason why succulents in households die. Hence if you aren’t sure what to do, opt for less frequent watering. What I try to say here is that watering your Haworthia once a month only is safer than watering it every week.
  • Check the moisture of the soil regularly. Make sure that you water the plant only when the soil dries completely. In combination with right pot and soil mix, this is the surest way of prevent over-watering in your Haworthia.


Final thoughts

Zebra succulent is one of the most beautiful succulents, and it actually thrives in neglect. Wanting our best for the plants, we often give them something we believe is good for them, while in reality they do not really need it. This is the case with over-watering. We think we care for the plant, watering it often, while in reality we are harming it. I hope this post helped you understand how to identify an over-watered Zebra succulent, and how to address the problem, depending on the duration and severity of over-watering. Happy growing!

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