Why Is My Succulent Turning Yellow?

Succulent Turning Yellow
Why Is My Succulent Turning Yellow

Why is my succulent turning yellow? This is a common problem by most succulent growers especially the newbies. If you experience the same problem, then this article is for you. In this post, I will share with you some tips so that next time you’ll know what to do.

Succulents are generally plants with low maintenance. They can even survive with neglect. The very reason for this is the plants’ ability to store water in their leaves and stems.

However, although succulents are versatile and tolerant of extreme environmental conditions, they too have special needs. And if those needs are not met, they start to behave differently.

One of the indications that the succulent needs something is when it develops unusual color in its leaves or stems. And one of the unusual colors is yellow.

So, why is your succulent turning yellow?

When the leaves of the succulents turn into yellow, it may suggest three possible problems; overwatering, under watering, and pot size. Unfortunately, any of these three could potentially hurt the succulent plant and cause yellowing.

Succulents commonly have thick green leaves and stem in their healthy state. Some have mixed colors though. Yellowish color that develops in the leaves or stems certainly suggests that there is a potential problem conquering the plant.

But how do you know whether over or under watering causes the problem? Well, for me, the most basic and simple way to assess a succulent plant in this matter is by examining the plant.

If there is a rot on the roots or stems, that is a sign of overwatering. Rotting can change the feature of the plant especially the color.

What you can do in this case is to adjust the amount of water you’re giving or reduce the watering frequency schedule.

If the yellowing of the leaves is just in the starting phase, the succulent plant can be easily healed. After you reduce the water, the plant will eventually recover.

But if the rotting is already taking its toll, there is not much to be done to save the plant. So a quick response is key here.

On the other hand, if you see some roots on stems developing, that is the sign that your succulent is thirsty. In other words, the yellowing of the leaves is caused by underwatering.

Obviously, your succulent plant needs more water. But this does not mean that you drown your succulent plant with water. Giving just enough water is key to its growth.

If neither of the two could potentially cause the yellowing of the succulent plants, the third factor that you should consider is the size of the pot.

Sometimes, succulents change color if they don’t have space to grow anymore. This usually happens in succulents in smaller pots. If this is the case, then you need to transfer your plant to the bigger pot.

But you need to remember though that not all yellowing is bad. If the lower leaves of the succulent plant turn yellow, then there’s nothing to worry about. It is a natural characteristic of virtually all plants. Wilting of leaves is part of their growing process.

Only worry if the top or upper leaves turn yellow. Something bad is happening in your succulent plant in this case.

Watering issues can be easily fixed using a fast-draining soil. This helps the succulent plant safe from any overwatering issues. With this, you don’t have to worry about soaking the soil with water. Actually succulents love it. But just make sure that the excess water is drained away.

In fact, what I normally recommend is the soak and dry watering method. This means that every time you water your succulent, make sure that the soil is soaked. Then let the water drain and evaporate. Water again once the soil gets dried.

Check the Soil

Since one of the causes of the yellowing of the succulents’ leaves is overwatering, you need to make sure that it does not happen in your succulent plants. But how do you do that?

Well, the best way to do it is by examining the soil. Check the moisture or the stored water in the soil or pot. You do that by inserting your finger in the soil.

If you feel too much moisture or the soil is wet, then overwatering is the cause of the yellowing of the leaves.

Another indication is when the soil sticks to your finger, it suggests that the soil is really wet. If this condition is not treated or adjusted, it will cause rotting the succulent plant. Rotting usually starts in the roots up to the stems and leaves.

Once you are certain about the cause of the problem, take immediate action to recover the plant. Late actions often result in the death of the plant.

Corrective Actions You Can Implement

If you found that overwatering is the cause of the yellowing of the leaves, you can start implementing some of the corrective actions. Here are a few things to remember:

  1.  If the yellowing of the leaves is just starting, you can easily fix it by stop watering the succulent and only water again once the soil gets dry. The plant will heal itself. You’ll notice it within a couple of weeks.
  2. If aside from yellowing, the leaves are falling, this is a little worse scenario. Normally, I just don’t adjust the amount of water but change the soil. Remove the plant from the pot and shake the roots to remove the soil.
  3. It is very important to choose replacement soil that has a fast-draining capability. If you are not sure what to choose, you can buy my recommended soil on Amazon. This soil is formulated specifically for succulents and cacti. It is fast-draining and has all the ingredients for healthy succulent and cactus growth.
  4. Aside from changing the soil, I recommend that you also change the pot. Choose the bigger pot with a large drainage hole. This helps the plant safe from overwatering that may result in root rot.

Check for Other Potential Causes of the Problem

If you’re using a fast-draining soil, pot with a large hole, then probably overwatering is not the cause of the yellowing of the leaves.

In this case, another potential cause is the light source. Most succulents have green colors. But when exposed to too much heat or direct sunlight, the leaves of the succulents may turn into yellow.

Although they are accustomed to semi-desert areas, succulents are not tolerant of too much sunlight exposure. They need sunlight but in a moderate amount. They love 4-6 hours under direct sunlight usually in the morning but not for the entire day.

If you want to keep the beautiful natural color of your succulent plants, the best thing you can do is to expose them in the direct sunlight in the morning. Then, before the scourging sun hits, transfer them in shade with access to bright indirect sunlight.

Another potential cause of the yellowing of the leaves aside from the factor mentioned is pests. Infested succulents may develop yellow leaves. It indicates that the plant actually experiences distress.

Some of the common insects are mealybugs, aphids, spider mites. These are common attackers on succulents.

Fortunately, these insects are easy to deal with. You can make your own solution with a mixture of alcohol and water. Then, spray the solution to the affected succulents. If applied correctly, insects like these will be gone.

Read my complete guide on how to demolish insects in your succulent plants.

Related Questions

How Do We Save an Overwatered Succulent?

You can easily save the overwatered succulent if you take an immediate action early on. But when rot already takes its toll, it will be impossible to save a succulent plant. In most cases, plants die.

Aside from yellowing of leaves, other signs of overwatering are mushy, soft, and pale bottom leaves. If you see these signs, just stop by giving too much water to your succulent plants.

Will the Succulent Leaves Grow Back?

In most cases, yes. As soon as you reduce the amount of water, the succulent plant will eventually recover. If the plant has lost many of its leaves, new leaves will develop after the problem is treated.

There will also new growth from the top and from the sides of the plant. Even the bottom sometimes you’ll see new growth. These are a good sign that your succulent is already recovering.


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

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