How to save dying succulents - Part 1 - Overwatered Succulents

3 min read

How to save dying succulents - Overwatered Succulents


You have those beautiful cacti in the windowsill and another bunch of plants thriving in the balcony but your favorite succulent doesn’t look well and the two most frequent issues are under watering and overwatering with latter being more common among our kind (the nature lovers aka gardeners).

Naturally, you will cut down on watering immediately but usually the problem doesn’t get solved just by doing that. Simply put, you want to know if your plant can be saved or not. Yes, it can be saved given that the damage is not too far gone. Don’t worry if it’s that bad, you can salvage the leaves and stem and propagate them.

Signs of Overwatering

You think you have overwatered the plant but still it’s better to make sure that that’s the case and not something else. Let’s go through the following and confirm overwatering is the main trouble.

How Does The Soil Look?

It’s clogged with water and wet. You will get clumps of soil and not separate grains of soil.

What Is The Color Of The Succulent?

The leaves close to the bottom are brown whereas the overall leaves and stems look bloated and feel squishy to the touch instead of firm. The leaves seem lighter or show translucence (can be the whole leaf or just patches) due to excess water breaking the cell walls. New growth will be brown.

Overwatered Succulents

Keep Away From the Sun

Yes, I understand that it sounds counterintuitive when you want to get rid of the excess water from the soil. The rationale is this. the succulent is already under stress from too much water and direct sunlight just compounds the problem. Most succulents need bright indirect light so direct sunlight is a big no.

Let the Roots Air Dry

Dig the succulent out of the soil and remove excess soil stuck to the roots, cut off any brown/black roots as these are rotten already. Leave the plant on a mesh or any kind of strainer till the roots have air dried from anywhere two to three days. When the roots are dry completely, plant them back in the pot.

Overwatered Succulents Treatment

If the roots are completely rotten, remove all of them and part of the stem that is puckered and has black or brown spots. You can plant the succulent stem in the soil for propagation.

Improve the Drainage

This step is important otherwise you might encounter the same overwatering problem the next time. There are two ways you can do this: take another pot that’s larger than your succulent pot and put 2 inches of gravel or expanded shale in it. Place your succulent planter on it so the roots don’t have to sit in excess water each time you water.

 Note: The gravel must not get submerged in water otherwise you will be back to square one.

The second method requires succulent soil and is explained in detail in the section below.

Change the Soil

If your succulent is already planted in succulent soil, store bought or homemade, you might not have to change it completely. Generally, algae (green living matter) grow on overwatered soil. If this is the case, it’s your job to get rid of all the top soil (throw it in the bin far from your plants) and replace it with fresh succulent soil.

You would have to scoop out quite a lot of soil from the middle too if the roots had developed root rot.

In the not so bad but bad enough scenario, your succulent is planted in the usual potting mix, it is better that you prepare soil that’s suitable for succulents. Just take three parts potting soil, two parts poultry grit and one part perlite, this mixture provides good drainage and ventilation.

Overwatered Succulents Treatment

You can substitute the last two ingredients with sand and pumice and if you are short on time, just order a bag of succulent mix.


Propagation is the last resort in case your succulent can’t recover from its condition. Cut a few surviving healthy leaves from the base or stem and let the ends dry for 5 to 7 days. Plant them in a tray or a shallow pot in succulent soil mix.  Water regularly for the roots to grow but make sure there is good drainage.


How to save overwatered succulents

How to save dying succulents - Overwatered Succulents

See more about Overwatered vs. Underwatered

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See more about Water therapy

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