There is hardly anything more frustrating than seeing a succulent plant dying, especially when you have cared for it with love, and when it is your favorite Zebra succulent. Just like with everything else in life, however, law of action and reaction cannot be broken. If your succulent is dying, it means that there is a problem, or you neglected something in your care.
The most common reason why zebra plant dies is over-watering. When the problem is not resolved immediately, the plant will look droopy or dying. It is important to remember though that there are many factors that pose threats to zebra plants. To make sure that over-watering is the real culprit, I recommend that you check the soil. You can do it by inserting one of your fingers into the soil and see if it comes out with dirt. If so, then probably your zebra plant is over-watered. Let’s have a look at other possible causes though, and how you can address them.
How to save a dying zebra succulent?
Just like a doctor treating his patient, you cannot really come up with a cure until you know what causes the issue. So the first step is identifying the root of the problem. Just then can you come up with necessary steps to take to save your zebra succulent.
Now we will have a look at the most common reasons why zebra plants may suffer, and also on a remedy for each of these problems. Let’s go!
Zebra plant with soft brown or yellow leaves
Your zebra plant leaves may turn brown or yellow with a soft and mushy texture. These symptoms are a clear sign of over-watering. Most of my succulent plants before planted in pots without drainage holes had this issue.
The problem was that because the water has nowhere to go, it stuck at the bottom of the pot. As soon as the roots reach the wet area, they start to rot. If you are a beginner, it is very important to keep in mind that succulents are accustomed to arid areas. Growing them in your garden, you need to give them similar soil and the amount of water that they would get in their native location.
Good news is that it is not that hard. The simplest thing I can recommend is to plant zebra plant into fast-draining soil and only water when it the soil is completely dry. This will keep your zebra plant safe from over-watering, which is the no. 1 reason why these plants die. You should never plant a zebra plant in compact or regular garden soil. As I mentioned, succulent plants need gritty soil that drains excess water. You can buy fast-draining soil online (click here to check my recommended soil on Amazon–affiliate link), or make your own.
Guide on saving over-watered zebra plant
Once you identify the symptoms of over-watering, take the following five steps to save your plant:
- Stop watering . As soon as you noticed the symptoms of over-watering, stop watering immediately. Allow the soil to completely dry before watering again. During summer, the soil dries faster. But during winter, the moisture in the soil may take a longer time to dry, sometimes weeks. Always check the soil before giving your plant any more water.
- Replace the existing soil if necessary. If the soil stays damp for too long, replacing it with new potting soil is a good idea. Immediate action is needed in this case. If zebra plant remains in the damp soil, it will suffer from root rot. Choose the fast-draining soil, it will help the plant recover.
- Use a pot with drainage hole. Aside from fast-draining soil, also make sure that the pot has a drainage hole. A well-draining soil is not enough. The water during watering should have an exit point to drain. This prevents the water from getting stuck at the bottom of the pot.
- Use a pot with appropriate size. In terms of choosing a pot for a zebra plant, pick the one that has proportional to the size of the plant. A too big or too small pot will not work well. Larger pots can contain a large volume of soil which takes a longer time to dry. On the contrary, smaller pots may limit the plants’ growth. A pot that is proportional to the size of the plant is the best option. It provides just enough soil and moisture for the plant.
- Always empty the saucer. If you are growing zebra plants indoors, there is a high chance that you use saucers beneath the pots. A saucer catches the water during watering and keeps it from spilling. However, the saucer should be emptied after watering. The water in the saucer can potentially cause root rot, especially in a shallow pot, where it not uncommon for the roots to stretch all the way to the bottom of the pot.
Zebra plant with red or white leaves
When you grow zebra plants outdoors, you might notice that the leaves turn red or white. This means that the plant is overexposed to sunlight. The leaves are not mushy or soft. This indicates that the plant suffers from direct sunlight. Zebra plants love bright indirect sunlight, not a direct one.
If you see these symptoms, I suggest that you move the plants to shaded areas immediately. Sunburn can potentially kill zebra plants. Healthy zebra plants have green leaves. This indicates that the plants are getting the appropriate amount of sunlight. The key to saving zebra plants that have red or white leaves is to move them immediately to shaded areas. As simple as that :).
I can tell you from my personal experience with growing zebra plants for years that excessive sunlight exposure will surely cause serious problems to the plant. Make sure you give it the environment it needs.
Zebra plant with brown lower leaves
Zebra plants sometimes also develop brown lower leaves. This is another issue that needs immediate attention. The most common cause of this problem is actually under-watering. Light watering won’t work in succulent plants. This is the reason why I always recommend the soak and dry watering method.
Light watering only causes issues to the zebra plant. If the water only reaches the top of the soil, the roots will grow upward instead of downward. This in turn creates a weak root system. Other than that, light watering keeps the plant thirsty. As a result, the leaves will turn brown starting from the bottom. Check for this symptom, it can happen especially during summer months, and it is a clear indication that your plant needs more water.
Luckily enough, the remedy is easy here. Soak the soil only, avoiding leaves and stems. Allow the water to flow through the soil until you see the water draining through the drainage hole of the pot. This technique is known as soaking, and it ensures that all the roots are able to get the water they need. Remember that it is always much easier to save your zebra plant dying from under-watering that it is to save it from over-watering.
The most common reasons of zebra plant struggling or dying are over-watering, under-watering, and exposing it to excessive direct sunlight. Any of these factors can potentially kill your zebra plant. As you now know though, you can address each of these problems quite easily.
As soon as you notice the symptoms described in this post, act accordingly and immediately. Your first job is to figure out what causes the problem, and just then act on it. Immediate intervention may be needed to save a dying zebra plant, especially when the cause is over-watering. To learn more about succulents, and how to make sure they thrive in both your home and garden, do not forget to check my complete guide here. Happy growing!