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Why is My Succulent Stem Dried Out?

6 min read

Why is My Succulent Stem Dried Out?


Succulents are those tough, drought-tolerant plants that everyone seems to adore. They're famous for being low-maintenance, requiring very little upkeep and essentially thriving on neglect. One of the incredible aspects of succulents is their resilience in the face of harsh environmental conditions. While many other plant species would wither away in the scorching sun, the arid desert, or the dry soil, succulents stand tall, almost proudly flaunting their ability to endure such challenges. It's as if they possess a secret superpower—an innate ability to store water within their fleshy leaves and stems, ensuring their survival in environments where moisture is scarce. This resilience has earned them a special place in the hearts of gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Succulents are the go-to choice for people who want to add a touch of greenery to their living spaces or gardens without the need for constant attention. They're like the set-it-and-forget-it heroes of the plant kingdom, perfect for those who may not have the time or green thumb for more demanding houseplants.

succulents. moonstone succulent. succulent collection. pink succulent

 One of the incredible aspects of succulents is their resilience in the face of harsh environmental conditions.

However, despite their remarkable ability to thrive under less-than-ideal conditions, it's crucial to remember that succulents are not entirely problem-free. For succulents, one of those weak spots is their stems. These sturdy plants can still face a critical situation where their stems start to dry up and shrivel. In this blog, let’s take a look into the underlying causes of this curious problem: How can succulents, known for their water-storing prowess, end up with dried-out stems? Even more importantly, let’s find out how to address and avoid this situation, ensuring a healthy growth for your beloved plants. 


Underwatering is a common and crucial factor contributing to the drying out of succulent stems. Succulents, renowned for their remarkable adaptability to arid landscapes, are frequently regarded as low-maintenance plants with minimal thirst. While it's accurate that they can withstand dry spells better than numerous other plant varieties, it's a misconception to assume that they thrive without a specific watering schedule

Succulents have evolved unique mechanisms to store water within their specialized tissues, such as their fleshy leaves and stems. This adaptation allows them to survive in regions with infrequent rainfall. However, the stored water isn't an endless supply, and even succulents need regular hydration to remain healthy.

When succulents don't receive adequate moisture, they initiate a survival strategy by drawing from their water reserves. Initially, this may not be readily apparent, but as the plant continues to tap into its stored water, visible signs of distress begin to emerge. Succulent stems, once plump and turgid, start to lose their vitality. They may wrinkle, shrivel, and eventually dry out.

The symptoms of underwatering in succulent stems can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, you might notice slight wrinkling and a subtle loss of firmness in the stems. In more extreme situations, the stems can become severely desiccated, leading to irreversible damage and, in some cases, the demise of the plant.

Treatment and Prevention:

  • Establish a Consistent Watering Routine: While succulents are known for their drought tolerance, they still require periodic watering. Develop a watering schedule based on the specific needs of your succulents and the environmental conditions in your area.
  • Water Thoroughly: When it's time to water, ensure that you thoroughly soak the soil. This helps the water reach the roots, where it's needed most. Make sure your succulent pots have adequate drainage to prevent water from pooling at the bottom.

  • Seasonal Adjusting: Recognize that succulent watering needs can vary with the seasons. They typically require more water during their active growing season, which is often in the spring and summer, and less during their dormancy, typically in the fall and winter.

Extreme Heat and Sunlight

Extreme heat and/or intense, direct sunlight can also cause succulent stems to dry out and become stressed. Succulents are generally well-suited to sunny conditions, but there's a fine line between the ideal amount of sunlight and excessive exposure that can lead to problems.

Succulents. Cactus. Succulents in full sun. Direct sunlight for succulents

Extreme heat and/or intense, direct sunlight can also cause succulent stems to dry out and become stressed.

When succulents experience prolonged periods of scorching heat, high temperatures and intense sunlight cause succulents to lose water at a faster rate. Their natural defense mechanism involves closing their stomata (tiny pores on their leaves) to reduce water loss, but in extreme conditions, this may not be enough to prevent excessive moisture loss from their stems and leaves. Moreover, just like human skin can suffer from sunburn, succulent leaves, and stems can become damaged by too much sunlight. These damaged areas can eventually lead to tissue death and drying out. Extreme heat can also elevate soil temperatures. Soil that becomes excessively hot can hinder the succulent's ability to take up water and nutrients, which can indirectly lead to stem drying. 

Treatment and Prevention:

  • Provide Shade: Create shade for your succulents during the hottest parts of the day, especially during heatwaves. This can be done with shade cloth, sheer curtains, or by moving pots to a shadier location.
  • Gradual Acclimatization: If your succulents are accustomed to milder conditions, introduce them gradually to more intense sunlight and heat. This allows them to acclimate over time.
  • Water Mindfully: Increase your watering frequency during periods of extreme heat to compensate for increased water loss. Ensure that the soil is well-draining and that water penetrates to the root zone.

Diseases and Pest Infestation

Succulent stems can also dry out due to diseases and infestations by pests. While succulents are often robust plants, they are not immune to these common issues, and both can contribute to stem problems. Fungal and bacterial diseases can infect succulents, targeting their stems, leaves, and roots. These pathogens can disrupt the plant's ability to transport water and nutrients, leading to stem drying and other visible symptoms. Common signs of disease include discolored or darkened areas on the stems, wilting, and a decline in overall plant health.  Moreover, pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, and spider mites can target succulents, feeding on their sap and damaging the stems, leaves, and overall plant structure. Pests can weaken the plant, making it more susceptible to water loss and ultimately stem drying. They can also leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew, which can promote the growth of sooty mold, further affecting the plant.


  • If you suspect a disease, it's essential to act promptly. Remove and isolate affected parts, and consider using a suitable fungicide or bactericide to control the infection. Ensure that the plant is not overwatered, as excess moisture can exacerbate disease problems.
  • If you see signs of pest infestations, including the presence of pests themselves or their telltale honeydew, use natural methods like insecticidal soap or neem oil to control mild infestations. For severe infestations, you may need to resort to stronger insecticides, but use these cautiously and according to label instructions. 
  • Remove damaged parts and isolate infested plants to prevent the pests from spreading.


  • Maintain Good Plant Hygiene: Keep your succulents clean and free from dead or decaying plant material, as these can attract pests and diseases.
  • Isolate New Additions: Isolate new succulent additions for a few weeks before introducing them to your collection to ensure they are pest-and disease-free.
Succulents. Cacti. Cactus. Succulent collection
Isolate new succulent additions for a few weeks before introducing them to your collection.
  • Optimal Growing Conditions: Provide your succulents with the appropriate growing conditions, including well-draining soil, adequate airflow, and proper sunlight exposure. Healthy plants are better able to fend off pests and diseases.
  • Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect your succulents for any signs of trouble, such as discolored areas, wilting, or the presence of pests. Early detection can prevent issues from escalating.

Stress Factors

Succulent stems can also dry out when plants experience underlying stress factors that weaken them, leaving them more susceptible to environmental challenges, including stem desiccation. Physical damage is one example. Succulents can be damaged by accidents, rough handling, or even by pests. When succulent stems are injured, they may lose their ability to retain moisture effectively. This damage can create openings for pathogens to enter and contribute to the overall stress on the plant. Moreover, succulents can be stressed by abrupt environmental changes. Succulents thrive on stability, and sudden shifts in their environment can cause stress. This includes abrupt temperature changes, relocation to a drastically different light exposure, changes in watering frequency, or repotting. Such stressors can disrupt the succulent's natural water balance and lead to stem drying.


  • When physical damage occurs, it's essential to address it promptly. Trim or remove damaged parts, apply a suitable wound sealant if needed, and ensure that the plant is protected from further harm.
  • To minimize stress from environmental changes, acclimate your succulents gradually and only repot during the growing season. 

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