Although succulents are known to withstand harsh conditions, enabling them to thrive for long periods of time with minimal care, they are not immune to problems just like any other plants. They have needs that still need to be met for them to look their best.
Good thing succulents have quite sensitive leaves that allow them to tell us if they are already in need of immediate attention. In case you are uncertain about some of the signs that you are seeing with your plant, we’ve laid out a simple guide below to help you know what exactly is happening with your succulent and as well as how to treat it.
Why do succulent leaves turn yellow? The answer can either be due to overwatering or underwatering.
If you know that your succulent is well watered but the leaves are turning yellow, feel mushy and swollen, then most likely you have overwatered it. But if you know that you haven't watered your plant for a while, but the leaves are turning yellow and at the same time shriveling and wilting, then they are underwatered.
Remedy: Adjust your watering schedule accordingly. If you reckon that the plant is being overwatered, then water your succulent less frequently and make sure to wait for its soil to dry out before giving it another drink. But if you feel that the plant is underwatered, then give your plant a more thorough watering. Keep in mind that most succulents like a good watering until excess water drips out of the holes of the pot. Wait until the soil dries before watering again.
Shriveled Up or Withered Leaves
There are two possible reasons as to why leaves of your succulents may appear to shrivel, but the most common answer is due to underwatering. If a succulent is underwatered, you'll notice that its top leaves will start to appear withered and shriveled.
Remedy: Water your succulents more frequently and thoroughly. A good rule to remember is that succulents need more water during a heatwave or its growing season. Remember to allow the water to drain out of the drainage holes whenever you water and to let the soil dry out before watering again.
The other reason why succulent leaves shriveled up is overwatering. But unlike underwatering, an overwatered succulent appears limp, weak, and will look like it may fall off. Plus, the stem can also look puffy.
Remedy:Overwatered succulents can be treated by cutting back with your watering schedule and making sure that the top inch of the soil feels dry in between waterings. It is also essential to check the soil of your plant. Using a soil that is not good enough for your succulent may lead it to sit in wet for too long, leading it to have root rot. If necessary, repot your plant and make sure to use a well-draining potting mix.
If there's a need to repot your plant, do so. Just make sure to give it time to recover from being overwatered by allowing it to dry out for a few days before transplanting and watering again.
Here's another article that may help you tell the difference between an overwatered versus an underwatered succulent.
Scarring or Abrasions
Some succulents, especially Aeoniums, have very delicate leaves that can easily get brown marks or lines and blotches a day or 2 after something or someone has touched them.
Remedy: Unfortunately, abrasions are permanent. But over time, your succulent will grow new leaves and shed the old ones with the markings. This, however, can be prevented by making sure to hold the succulents by the stems only and make sure to not let them brush up against anything.
When you see signs of this issue, it is usually the result of overwatering or an irregular watering schedule. When this happens, the excess water builds up pressure, which stretches and collapses a leaf's skin causing irregular bumps or blisters.
Remedy: A plant cannot heal once edema occurs, but you can reduce watering frequency and maintain regular intervals of drought to prevent edema from occurring in new leaves.
Agave Grease Mite
If you see an Agave with lesions, but no grease stains, then it is probably not eriophyid mite damage. Grease mites usually appear as dark, greasy blotches on agaves, which is the result of an eriophyid mite infestation.
Remedy: If Agave Grease Mite has contaminated more than one of your succulents, rotate at least two translaminar miticides, spraying all your plants from top to bottom in 4-week intervals.
Agave Snout Weevil (or Sisal Weevil)
The most obvious sign of Agave Snout Weevil is damage right where leaves meet the plant's stem. You’ll see that your Agave’s lower leaves usually show the first signs of wrinkling or wilting around May. Sometimes, there’s a tiny hole about the size of a pencil near the base of a leaf where the weevil burrowed to lay eggs. When this happens, your plant will most likely become loose in the ground if rocked gently, and eventually, your agave collapses and dies.
Remedy: If you noticed the infestation early enough, you can apply a systemic insecticide with imidacloprid in early April and late May. This treatment can also be applied to help stop it from spreading. However, if the plant is already seriously infested by Snout Weevil, it is best to put it away from all your other plants nearby to protect them. Make sure to use a cloth or tarp to catch the dirt around the plant's roots and help spot and destroy any grubs you find. You can dump the grubs into a trash bag and sprinkle them with a broad-system insecticide.
Those dark, greasy blotches that are usually found on Agaves can be due to an eriophyid mite infestation. Aloe Mite is a microscopic mite that causes bubbly, tumorlike growth on aloes, especially along with leaf margins, flower spikes, and where the leaves meet the stem.
Remedy: Aloe Mite damage is irreversible and the plant must be discarded. To do this, simply put the infected plant in a plastic bag or incinerate it to prevent contaminating the other plants. In case the infestation is very minimal, you can treat your Aloe with a miticide according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Black markings or spots are mainly caused by over-watering, sunburn, or sometimes bugs. It can also be caused by fungus, which usually affects Aloes, Haworthias, and Gasterias.
Remedy: Unfortunately, once a succulent leaf is damaged or scarred, the only way to hide the spot is to remove the leaves with spots. But this can be avoided by keeping the leaves dry and placing your succulent where there’s good airflow.
Succulent leaves change colors in response to the extreme conditions in their environment. This can be due to a lot of sun exposure, the weather turns really hot or really cold, or when the plant is not getting regular watering, which will cause the leaves to look less green.
Blotchy leaves may occur to succulents, especially Graptoverias, Aloes, and Echeverias, during the transition.
These small insects are initially a nuisance. They suck on cacti leaves, and in really serious infestation, can weaken and eventually kill the plant. This usually forms dots of white fluff on your cacti leaves, which can dye your fingertips red if you mash it.
Remedy: If infestation is minimal, you can treat your plant by simply blasting the affected area with a hose under pressure. Once the scale bugs have been exposed and weakened, apply insecticidal soap or a mix of ½ teaspoon of dish soap to a gallon of water. If the problem persists, cut off the worst pads at the joints and discard them.
Some succulent species like Crassulas and Aloes have the ability to change colors when happily stressed. This may sound bad, but it is completely normal and advisable if you want your plant to have its color pop. Change of colors to succulents usually happens due to 3 reasons: Water, Sunlight, and Temperature.
Read our “How to make my succulents turn to red?” article to learn more.
Crackled, Scabby Patches
Crackling and scabby areas on leaves indicate mycoplasma bacteria infection, which causes the flat leaves of a normal plant to curl in on itself and fuse, forming a distinct tubular appearance.
Remedy: There’s no way to treat a plant infected by this bacteria other than to discard it.
Dead Lower Leaves
Lower leaves naturally wither and die as the plant grows and produces new leaves from the center. Dead leaves can be easily pulled off, or they drop off on their own.
Remedy:Generally speaking, it is better to leave the dead leaves on your plant and just remove those that have already fallen off into the soil to prevent insects and bugs from hiding in there. If you find the dead leaves unappealing, you can simply pull them away from your plant.
If the healthy, plump leaves of your succulent suddenly become wrinkled, then it is highly possible that your plant is drying out, which usually occurs when a succulent is underwatered or your plant is rooted in frozen ground.
Remedy: If your plant's vital core is still healthy and has not been infested by pests, it can easily recover when watered or when the rains return.
You can check out our "How to spot and treat winter-damaged succulents" blog to learn more.
Stems Stretching Out (or Etiolation)
Etiolation is a succulent’s or any other plant's natural response to lack of light. The stems or even the entire plant starts to stretch out or be etiolated when it doesn’t get exposed to enough sunlight per day. You will see that the stem and the plant itself are stretching out towards the direction of the light source, and the spaces in between the leaves get wider. In this state, the plant’s growth usually tends to be weakened.
Remedy: Move your plant to a brighter location. If grown indoors, placing the plant near a south or east-facing window will do the trick. Remember to slowly acclimate your plant if moving it to a sunnier location to avoid sun damage. For example, try not to move the plant from a low light setting indoors to the full sun outdoors right away. Instead, slowly increase the amount and intensity of sunlight the plant receives.
If you are unable to provide more sunlight for your indoor succulents, a grow light is a great option to provide more light for those hard to reach areas indoors. Watch how your plant reacts when moving to a different location or when using a grow light, or when making any sort of adjustments. Adjust and make changes as needed.
Read more about it here.
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