When choosing our horticultural roommates, many of us chose succulents for their strikingly unusual appearance.
Indeed, added to the mix of other household plants in your home the succulent provides an interesting counterpoint to the fern sitting in the corner.
Another major advantage of choosing ornamental succulents for your home is the relative ease in which they can thrive with minimal attention.
Watching your “easy to raise” succulent slowly die before your eyes is disheartening, to say the least.
While some might be throwing up their hands in exasperation, others might be asking the critical question, “How do I save a dying succulent?”
How to save a dying succulent?
Before you can save a dying succulent, figure out what is killing it. Whether too wet or too dry, finding that happy middling ground is your first step in saving a dying succulent.
Saving a Dying Succulent: Nifty Tips
Triaging your succulent begins with understanding that leaves die off as a natural process of the life cycle of the plant.
Beyond that factor, two of the biggest causes of a succulent’s impending demise is either being underwatered or overwatered.
It is easy with the day-to-day doings of life to lose track of what’s getting watered and when it was getting watered, so consider keeping track of your watering schedule in some format that works for you.
Whether it is the old fashion pen and paper, or you use one of many available note apps.
The Nature of Succulents
A botanist would explain that succulents are plants that are predisposed to survive and thrive in arid soil and climate conditions.
This success owes to the fact that parts of the plants are thickened and fleshy that engorge to allow the plant to retain water.
Indeed, the water content threshold of some succulent organs can be as high as 90% and 95%.
It makes sense that succulent owners might be confused as to what constitutes the correct amount of water for their plant.
All Succulent Habitats are not Created Equal
Now that we know the similarities that classify plants into the succulent family, let us look at those factors that separate them, and how those differences might impact the care of your plant.
Looming large amongst succulent aficionados is the placement of their plants.
With two available options, indoor and outdoor, many seem to notice that the outdoor placement option yields a better result with happier and healthier-looking plants. Their observations are not unwarranted.
The fact is outdoor plants enjoy a couple of advantages over their indoor counterparts that include more sunlight and better airflow.
The former reduces stretching, which we will look at in more detail below and the latter allows the roots to dry quicker than indoor plants.
Since the bulk of ailing succulent health problems come from overwatering, this natural airflow will guarantee a healthy root system.
Diagnosing the Probable Problem
A distressed plant will show signs of what ails it if the wary plant parent can recognize the signals. Every plant experience periodic leaf die-off and succulents are no different.
Dry and dying leaves at the bottom of the succulent are an example of this natural progression.
But when that withered appearance extends up the plant to the top you know you have some issues.
Normally dry leaves outside the natural growth cycle are a simple indication that you should water a bit more often. Also, like any plant, removing the dead and dying leaves only makes the remaining ones healthier.
Conversely, if your succulent’s leaves are mushy to the touch or feel soggy and look yellowish and transparent, the probable culprit is overwatering.
Let’s look deeper at the signs and symptoms of overwatering.
The Signs and Symptoms of Overwatering
In addition to your leaves beginning to look like the undead in the third season of any Zombie series, an overwatered succulent will also start to lose leaves with little more than a slight bump early in the overwatering process.
Understand that some succulents are more sensitive to overwatering than others.
Echeverias are one of the more sensitive species to overwatering issues, and after just a couple of days of overwatering those leaves and stems will be well on the way to Zombie town.
Once your leaves have turned mushy and the stem starts to look blackened, the overwatering would be severe making saving the plant difficult. But we are here to try and save it so let’s explore some options.
Stay Alert, Stay Alive
Let’s put our cards on the table. A succulent with blackened stems is on the hurt table and is well on the way to the boneyard.
Stay alert and stay alive as they say, and at the very first sign of blackness though you can take some specific steps to ensure the best possible outcome.
Stop watering immediately and consider surgery.
In fact, begin to pay attention to the soil. Don’t water the succulent if the soil’s not completely dry yet.
Succulents can go between three days and a week without water, so it is better to wait longer than you probably think.
As the soil dries and the water is curtailed, you may need to consider more drastic measures.
Cut off the top of the plant and remove any blackened spots before allowing the cutting to dry out for a few days. Plant in new soil, and make sure your pot has a good drainage hole before hoping for the best.
To be honest, the diagnosis is not great, but this option will give you the best chance of saving some portion of the original plant.
Stretching is Not Just About Yoga Anymore
As mentioned above, a common ailment of succulents is stretching.
Simply stated, the plant’s desire to reach sunlight manifests itself in stretching itself apart. A lack of available sunlight is the bane of indoor gardeners causing many succulents to fade in color and lengthen their stems.
At the first sign of stretching, you will want to move the plant closer to a south-facing window to maximize available light or move the plant outdoor should the weather permit.
Plan on a two-week gradual transition before you will notice more leaves willing in the gaps.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.