Succulents can survive a certain degree of neglect, especially because they store water in their leaves and stems, and aren’t prone to dying from a lack of water, which is the case with 95% of all other plants. However, although versatile and tolerant to extreme environmental conditions, succulents have their needs, and you need to pay attention to them, unless you want to experience some unpleasant scenes, such as leaves and stems of your beloved plants turning yellow. But what does it mean?
Actually when the leaves of a succulent change their color to yellow (or yellowish), it is typically a sign of one of the following three problems: too much water, lack of water, wrong pot size. Any of these three can hurt the succulent plant and cause yellowing of the stem or the leaves. But how do we know whether over or under watering causes the problem? Well, for me, the most basic and simple way to fault-find the problem is assessing the plant.
Root rot is a clear indication of over-watering
If you take a bit of soil our and see that roots, or the bottom part of the stem, started to rot, it is a clear sign of over-watering. Rotting can change the feature of the plant especially the color. The remedy is quite simple though: reduce the watering frequency and the amount of water you give your succulent.
Mark my words: If you notice the problem early, and the yellowing of the leaves is just in the starting phase, the succulent plant can be easily healed. After you reduce the amount water, the plant will eventually recover on its own terms, without additional help. If the rotting has already progressed a lot, however, you may not be able to save the plant. Quick response is key here. Another essential point is using a fast draining succulent potting mix (check my favorite one on Amazon), which really helps with avoiding over-watering.
Roots on stems suggest lack of water
When you spot roots developing on stems, and the leaves getting yellow at the same time, it is a clear sign that your plant needs more water. But this does not mean that you should drown your succulent with water. Giving just enough water is the key here, to both healthy growth and natural color of the leaves.
If, after checking your plant and what’s going on you come to a conclusion that neither lack of water nor too much water is to blame, then probably you should check the size of the pot.
Succulents change color when they lack space to grow
Succulents may change color if they don’t have space to grow. It usually happens when you have your plants in smaller pots. If this is the case, make sure to transfer the succulents to a bigger pot, one appropriate for its size.
But you need to remember that not all yellowing is a bad sign. If the lower leaves of the succulent plant turn yellow, then there’s usually nothing to worry about. It is a natural characteristic of virtually all plants. Wilting of leaves is part of their growing process. Some leaves turn yellow and fall, so new leaves of fresh green color can replace them. You should worry only when the top or upper leaves turn yellow, or the stem.
Check the soil to make sure over-watering isn’t your issue
Let me give you a few more tips. If you aren’t sure whether over-watering is the culprit here, examine the soil. Check the moisture or the stored water in the soil or pot. You do that by inserting our finger into the soil. If you feel too much moisture or the soil is wet, then over-watering is likely to blame for the yellowish color of the leaves.
Once you are certain about the cause of the problem, take immediate action to give you plant the best chance of a successful recovery. Late action may often result in the death of the plant.
Lack of light can also cause a plant turning yellow
Lack of light isn’t a typical reason why succulents turn yellow, but in certain conditions it can be the case. Especially if you are using a fast-draining soil, good size of a pot with a large hole, and do not over-water or under-water your plant. Let me explain.
When we expos succulent to excessive heat or direct sunlight for too long, the leaves of the succulents may turn yellow. Although succulents are native plants to semi-desert areas, they cannot tolerate an extreme heat or scorching sun all day long. I suggest you to expose them to direct sunlight in the morning. Once the sun gets stronger, transfer them in shade, so they get only indirect sunlight.
Pests can cause the leaves of succulents to curl and turn yellow
Another potential cause here 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. Some of them are easier to identify than others. For example, if aphids attack the plant, you will typically discover them inside of the curled yellowish leaves.
Fortunately, you can deal with these insects quite easily. You can make your own solution with a mixture of alcohol and water. Then, spray the solution to the affected succulents. If applied correctly, it will kill the insects and the plant will recover. And if the infestation is too strong for a home-made remedy, you can always use some natural insecticide (check my favorite one on Amazon, it has always worked great for me, even against the strongest infestations with pests).
Q: How can we save an over-watered succulent?
A: You can easily save the over-watered succulent if you take an immediate action early on. But when rot already takes its toll, the plant may die. Yellowing of leaves is just one sign of over-watering. Other signs include mushy, soft, and pale bottom leaves. If you see these signs, stop watering the plant immediately.
Q: Will the succulent leaves grow back after they fell off?
A: In most cases they will. 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.
* Want to read something else? Check my complete guide on succulent growing, and learn how to grow your plants in the best possible way.