When do succulents get wrinkly, and what can you do to avoid it?

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Many succulent growers had asked me this question before. Only a week ago, I received an email from one of the readers wondering why her succulent has become soft and wrinkly. So let me explain this problem for everyone out there.

First of all, there isn’t a one cause only. The most common reasons for your succulents to turn wrinkly are under or over watering, lack or too much sunlight exposure, and compact soil that could cause root rotting.  In most cases though, at least in my experience, the two factors to blame are over and under watering.  Keep in mind though that under-watering is less likely to occur, since succulents can survive for a few weeks without any water. So even if I left them unattended during holiday vacations, they were just fine when I came back.


Over-watering as the most common reason why your succulents may wrinkle

Over watering is often the core of the problem. It happened to me as well, when I was just starting to grow succulents. Enthusiastic and often wanted to do more than necessary for my plants, I gave them too much water and they wrinkled. Luckily, I found the remedy that keeps my succulents safe from too much water, and it is a simple one.

I transferred my plants into Terra Cotta Pots (click here to check these pots on Amazon). What I like about these pots is that they provide excellent drainage which allows the excess water to exit the pot, unless the plant needs it. Since I choose the right pots for my plants, I don’t worry about excessive water and wrinkling issue.

However, sometimes it is hard to figure out what exactly is causing the problem. If you are growing succulents for a while now, you for sure know what I am talking about. The main challenge stems from the fact there is no one rule or technique that will solve all the problems. Wrinkly succulents are not the only issue. There are many types of diseases that could affect the health of plants. What I realized throughout the years is the importance of being brave enough to experiment every time I encounter new problems in my plants.


Adjusting the amount of water should always be your first experiment

Normally, the first thing I do is adjusting the amount of water. I either add or decrease the amount of water and see what works better for the plant. If this doesn’t solve the problem, the second step is changing the soil. The wrinkling of succulents leaves may also be the result of compact soil.

The “soil” that works very well with my succulents is the Noot Organic Soilless Potting Mix  (check this soil on Amazon, it works great for my plants). Honestly speaking, I tried many succulent and cactus soils before, but with some I found more issues than benefits. This one is another breed though, working really well, which helps me avoid many issues other people face with their succulents.

When Succulents Get Wrinkly

How to avoid over-watering before succulents get wrinkly?

Well, as I already mentioned, there’s no single way to determine when the succulents get over-watered. This is because the amount of water they need is influenced by so many factors. Sun exposure, the climate, the type of soil, type of succulent, etc.

I found a great remedy here as well though, and it is using a cocktail stick or wooden skewer. What you need to do is to put the cocktail stick in the soil. Make sure that the tip of the stick reaches the bottom of the pot. Then pull it and check whether the soil clings to the stick or not. If it does, that means that the soil is pretty moist. In this case, avoid watering your succulents, regardless of how long you haven’t watered them. If it does not stick, you can give your succulent more water.


Drying too long can indicate lack of sun exposure

If soil takes an unusually long time to dry, it can be an indication that your plants need more sun exposure. This commonly happens indoors, and especially in humid areas. In such cases it may sometimes seems that the soil never really dries.

If you have indoor succulents, place them near the window so they can feel presence of sunlight every morning. It helps them get the energy they need. In a way plants are no different to humans–they need some sun to thrive, just as we do… Another option is to bring the plants outside once a week or every morning if you can. It may take quite an effort (especially if you have many plants), but it will be well worth it.

In winter, I suggest you to go with artificial lighting for your beloved plants. The one that helps my succulents to thrive is the Ankace 40W Dual Head Timing Grow Light (check this grow light on Amazon). It gives your plants the light they may need to thrive in winter.


Few other things to keep your eye on while growing succulents, starting with etiolated growth

Etiolation usually happens indoors. It is a tendency for succulents to be stretchy. The main reason for this is the lack of sun exposure–they are literally stretching their branches to get some sun. Succulents are like any other plants in this regard. If they remain in an area with limited or no access to light, they stretch their branches towards the area of the house where they can “feel the light”.

If you notice this with your indoor succulents, it means that they need more light than you think. You can either place the plants near the window or provide them with grow light, to make sure they will thrive and won’t wrinkle.


Physical Damage

Although succulents are tolerant to some environmental conditions, they are vulnerable to physical damages. This happens when pests attack them. Or, sometimes, animals and humans can knock them over.

If you have little children in your house, I suggest you to place the succulents in safe areas. If you are relocating your plants, make sure that you place them on a sturdy place. Physical damages seem too simple to concern about. But the truth is that similarly to humans, physical damages hurt the plants more than almost anything else. Keep it on your mind when deciding about the placement of your plants.


Final thoughts

Many factors can cause wrinkling in succulents. If your succulents get wrinkly, that means that something bad is happening to them, and you should take some action. As a grower, it is your job to figure out the cause. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and hopefully my tips will help you to find the reason why things aren’t going as expected… To learn more about successful succulent growing, feel free to visit: How To Grow Succulents? The Complete Guide