Succulent Leaves Shriveling: Causes and Treatments


Succulent Leaves Shriveling
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Succulent Leaves Shriveling

Why are my succulent leaves shriveling? Is there anything you can do to fix them? In this post, I will share with you how you can fix your succulents with shriveled leaves.

Succulents are often regarded as resilient plants. Although they are, it does not mean that they are totally free from any potential growth issues.

There are many factors that could potentially harm succulent plants. If you see succulent leaves shriveling, it means that something wrong is happening.

So, why are succulent leaves shriveling? Well, there are two common causes of shriveling in succulent leaves. It could be underwatering or overwatering. The lack of water will lead succulent leaves to turn brown and shrivel. Too much water, on the other hand, could cause the leaves to shrivel, become soft and mushy.

As you can see, both the lack and too much water are detrimental to succulent plants. The tricky part is determining which of the two might cause the problem.

In this post, I will share with you the signs of under watering and over watering to give you an idea of how to determine and fix the issue effectively.

How Do You Differentiate an Underwatered from Overwatered Succulents?

If you are a complete beginner to growing succulents, this can be difficult. But do not worry, this article is written to help you.

The truth is that the underwatered and overwatered succulent plants have similar indicators. Only a slight difference will give you a hint of which one causes the succulent leaves to shrivel.

Symptoms of Underwatered Succulents

  • Shrivel leaves
  • Brown leaves
  • The soil is completely dry

Symptoms of Overwatered Succulents

  • Leaves are turning yellow
  • Leaves become translucent
  • Soft and mushy
  • The soil is wet

As you can see, the symptoms are almost similar except for the soil and texture of the leaves. The best way to determine whether your succulent plant is under-watered or over-watered is to check the soil.

Check the moisture in the soil. You can do this by sticking your finger into the soil and feel the moisture. If the dirt sticks to your finger when it comes out, then that tells you that the soil is still wet.

Otherwise, when your finger comes out clean, it tells you that the soil is already dry.

Another way to do this is by using a moisture meter (click here to check my recommended moisture meter and other materials I use for my succulents). This is, in my opinion, the most accurate way to determine the moisture in the soil.

The weight of the pot can also tell you whether the soil is still moist or dry. What I like to do is to take the weight of a pot with completely dry soil and record it. Next time, I can easily determine whether the pot needs water or not by assessing its weight. A lighter pot means that the soil is already dry.

Can You Save Underwatered Succulents with Shriveled Leaves?

The question of whether or not underwatered succulents can be saved depends on the severity of the problem. But in most cases, underwatered succulents are treatable.

As long as the succulent plant is not totally dead, it can recover. Remember that succulents are native to semi-desert areas. This means that they are accustomed to a less water environment.

This is also the reason why succulent plants are resilient to drought and neglect. But this does not mean that they can survive with the total absence of water.

If you leave succulent plants for too long without water, let’s say 3 weeks or more, they start to show symptoms of underwatering. One of which is shriveled leaves.

When you notice this sign, what you need to do is to give your succulent plants something to drink. Give them a good soak and let the soil dries before you water again.

If you do it right, succulent plants usually go back to their normal appearance. Just maintain a good watering strategy. And speaking of the watering technique, I recommend the soak and dry method.

I have tried many watering techniques I learned from online articles, but most of them did not work well with my succulents. What I learned is that succulents are not like other plants that follow a perfect watering cycle.

Watering succulents is different. Using an exact watering cycle (for instance once or twice a week or so) won’t work with succulent plants. This is because there are many factors that determine when to water them.

The following factors could really shape the watering frequency of succulent plants:

  • The Growing Environment

The immediate environment where succulents are growing determines the water need of the plant. In an indoor environment, for instance, it takes a longer time for the soil to dry. Because you only water succulents when the soil is dry, the watering frequency is low. Frequent watering in this case can surely kill succulent plants.

  • Season or Climate

The other factor that affects the watering frequency of succulent plants is the season or climate. The soil moisture evaporates differently depending on the season. In summer, for instance, the soil moisture tends to dry pretty quickly. Thus, the watering is more frequent in summer than in winter. In colder seasons, the moisture takes time to dry thus succulent plants do need less frequent watering.  

  • Sunlight Exposure

The last factor that I can think of that affects the watering frequency of succulent plants is sunlight exposure. Needless to say that succulents in direct sunlight need more water than those in shade. Direct sunlight exposure evaporates the moisture in the soil making the plants thirsty.

To successfully grow succulent plants, you need to have a good understanding of these factors. I had killed so many succulents in the past back when I was started growing succulents.

The main reason was that I had no idea of the nature of the plant. I thought succulents are just like my regular garden plants that can be watered every day and with whatever watering strategy.

When I realized that what I was doing was wrong, it was already too late. My succulents, most of them died either due to underwatering or overwatering.

I learned the simple lesson – succulents are unique plants that need just enough amount of water. This realization led me to three steps on successful succulent growing to avoid shriveling of leaves.

1. Avoid Light Watering

When I was first started, I used to do this. I thought that because succulents are accustomed to arid areas, they only need less water. As a result, I only water them lightly.

Sure enough, my succulents started to show some symptoms of underwatering. I noticed that the roots started to grow upward instead of downward and the entire root system was weak.

The leaves of the succulents also shriveled and that was alarming for me. I had no idea what was really going on. But what I noticed was that the soil dries pretty quickly.

As you can tell, light watering does not help the succulents plant at all. Although they are accustomed to dried areas, they love their roots being soaked in water occasionally.

What I mean by this is that when watering, you need to make sure that the water reaches all the roots and parts of the pot. The soak and dry watering method work well for this purpose.

This technique is simple. What you need to do is just soak the soil and let the excess water drains down to the drainage hole of the pot. Then water again once the soil is completely dry.

However, before you soak the soil, make sure that you’re using an appropriate type of succulent soil. This leads us to the next topic.

2. Use a Well-Draining Soil

I mentioned that soaking the soil when watering is what succulent plants need. However, you can only do this if you are using well-draining soil. If you are a complete beginner, make sure that you pick the gritty succulent mix.

This type of soil does not absorb or retains too much water making the succulent roots safe from root rot. Also, an appropriate succulent soil mix provides aeration to the plant something that they love.

The good news is that a good succulent soil mix is available online (click here to check out my recommended succulent soil). You can buy them from online sellers.

The good thing about these ready-to-use succulent soils is that they are formulated for succulent plants. This means that the soil has all the ingredients needed for succulents to grow healthy.

If you are willing and have time to make your own succulent soil, you can also do so. I have a complete guide on how to make succulent soil and grow succulents successfully. You can find it here.

If you decide to go on this route, make sure that you pick the right ingredients for your succulent soil. The ingredients should include both organic and inorganic materials.

The final result should be soil that drains excess water fast and does not hold too much water for too long. This is very important to keep succulent plants safe from root rot.

3. Use a Pot with Drainage Hole

The last thing you make sure that your succulents have is the pot with a drainage hole. If you soak the soil when watering the plants, using a pot with a drainage hole is absolutely important.

Without a drainage hole, the water will be stuck at the bottom of the pot which will in turn cause root rot.

The drainage hole will not only help the excess water drains but also provides aeration to the plant. It is very important for succulent plants. They should be able to breathe and comfortable.

Can You Save Overwatered Succulents with Shriveled Leaves?

As mentioned, shriveling of leaves in succulent plants can also be caused by overwatering. When the roots of succulent plants are soaked in too much water or moisture, the leaves will turn translucent or yellow and become mushy and soft.

Generally, the shriveling of leaves can be caused by one of the following factors:

1. Frequent Watering

Watering succulents frequently more than they need can be tremendously dangerous to succulent plants. Succulents store water in their stems and leaves which allows them to survive in drought. This characteristic, however, makes these plants vulnerable to diseases such as root rot and other overwatering-related health issues. Avoid frequent watering and use the soak and dry technique instead. This way your plants will be safe from overwatering.

2. Inappropriate Soil

The use of inappropriate soil can be detrimental to succulent plants. Garden soil is not appropriate for succulents. Soil like this holds too much moisture and does not drain water. As a result, the water in the soil can cause root rot. Use fast-draining soil instead to keep your succulent plants safe from overwatering-related issues.

3. Saucers and Trays

Saucers and trays are commonly used underneath the pot to collect water from the draining soil through the drainage hole of the pot. This is the common practice, especially for indoor succulents. It prevents the water from spilling. However, if the saucers or trays are not emptied, the water in them can potentially cause root rot and shriveling. So do not forget to empty the tray after watering. This is very important especially if you are leaving the plants for several days or weeks.

4. High Humidity

The last factor that could cause leaves shriveling in succulent plants is high humidity. It triggers water stress which is not good for succulent plants. If you are growing succulents indoors, this is something you need to pay attention to. Do not place the plants near the bathroom because this is one of the highly humid places.

Any of these factors can be detrimental to succulent plants. To keep succulents safe from any growth issues, make sure that none of these factors are present.

To learn more about reviving overwatered succulents, watch the video below by Christine Kobzeff.

Can You Revive Overwatered Succulents with Shriveled Leaves?

For years of growing succulent plants, I learned that reviving an overwatered succulent is a bit trickier than reviving an underwatered one.

However, this does not mean that the overwatered succulents are totally useless. In some instances, you still have an opportunity to revive an overwatered succulent.

The success though depends on the severity of the issue. If overwatering has already ruined the whole plant, then it can be impossible to revive.

However, if you spotted the shriveling early on, then you can definitely revive the plant. Here are the simple steps you can follow:

1. Reduce Watering

The first step you should be doing when you notice the overwatering symptom is to immediately reduce the amount of water. Do not water until the soil becomes completely dry. If the soil does not dry for days, it might be that the soil is not well-draining. In this case, you can change the soil and repot the plant.

2. Change the Soil

A slow-draining soil will not serve the succulent plants well. It can only bring harm to your succulents than good. If this is the case, do not hesitate to change the soil. Replace it with fast-draining soil and repot the plant. This should help revive the succulent plants with shriveled leaves.

3. Change the Pot

Overwatering mostly occurs in succulents planted in pots without drainage holes. During the watering, the water will be stuck at the bottom of the pot which will in turn cause root. If your succulents suffer from overwatering, check the pot and make sure that it has a drainage hole. If not, change the pot with an appropriate one.

4. Choose Safe Locations for Succulents

Sometimes the place where the succulents are located can affect the health of succulent plants. A highly humid area in the house, for instance, is not good for succulent plants. It can only cause water stress. Bathrooms are examples of high humidity places that most succulents do not like. If you are growing succulents indoors, you need to take this into consideration.

The success in growing succulents depends on understanding the factors that have a direct effect on the growth of the plant. Watering is one of the factors that detrimentally cause growth issues in succulent plants if not implemented correctly.

Final Thoughts

Although succulents are pretty resilient plants, they can be vulnerable to growth issues. One of the signs of growth problems is the shriveling of leaves.

The main reasons why succulent leaves shrivel are overwatering and underwatering. Too much and too little water has a negative impact on succulent plants.

The best way to prevent overwatering is to use an appropriate watering technique. The one that I recommend is the soak and dry method. This watering method is safe and effective for all succulent varieties.

Overwatering can be caused by using inappropriate soil mix and pot. The use of slow draining soil and pot without drainage holes can exacerbate the chance of overwatering.

To keep succulents safe from growth issues like shriveling leaves, it is important to make sure that they get just enough amount of water, appropriate soil, and pot.

I hope this helps. If you want to learn more about growing succulents, you can visit my complete guide here.

Why are succulent leaves shriveling? If you encounter this problem, you might end up asking the same question. Here’s what you need to know.

Robinson

I am a university teacher by profession, researcher, blogger, and gardener.

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