Succulents are hardy plants, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick from time to time. In all succulents, white spots are usually a sign that something’s wrong, and your plant needs a little extra care to get better. In most cases, white spots are a sign of something bigger: if left untreated, your plant may suffer! Fortunately, we’re here to help communicate what your succulent can’t. Here are some of the most common reasons you’ll see white spots on a succulent:
What Causes White Spots?
As we’d mentioned, white spots are typically a sign that something is wrong with your succulent. To get to the root of the problem, you’ll have to test for one of several things:
Powdery mildew is a type of fungal infection that thrives in warm, dry areas, just like succulents do. At the start of a powdery mildew infection, your succulent will look like it’s been dusted with white or light-brown powder. As the infection progresses, these white spots will start darkening in the middle, turning brown and black. Powdery mildew infections usually start on a single leaf, then spread to the rest of the plant.
Sometimes, a mildew infection will go away on its own. However, it’s best to treat your succulent just to make sure it recovers safely. To treat for powdery mildew, prune away any infected leaves and treat the rest of the plant with copper (a powerful fungicide). You can find copper-based fungicides at your local garden store. Just always make sure you follow the instructions on the container to avoid damaging your plants. Some gardeners have found that mixing one tablespoon of baking soda and a half teaspoon of liquid soap can also create a fungicide, but baking soda can cause sunburn. Make sure you avoid application during daylight hours and always test it on a couple of leaves before using the mixture on your whole plant.To prevent future infections, ensure your environment has plenty of air circulation.
Mealybugs are the most common pest that can cause white spots on your succulents since the bugs themselves look like cottony spots that gather on the underside of your succulent’s leaves. Like all pests, mealybug infestations will slowly inhibit your succulent’s growth and eventually kill it.
Treatment and Prevention
Mealybugs often come calling when your succulent is overwatered. However, there isn’t much research on the true cause of mealybug infestations. To treat for mealybugs, start by quarantining your succulent. Then, using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, brush off any mealybugs you can see on your succulent. Next, give your succulent a wash. Using either a diluted 75% rubbing alcohol solution or a 5% neem oil and soap solution, spray your succulent thoroughly. Do so once a week until you no longer see mealybugs. Afterward, you can repot your succulent in a clean pot with fresh soil just to be safe.
To prevent future mealybug infestations, make sure your succulent is kept in a pot with drainage holes and well-draining soil. You can also open windows or use a fan to promote air circulation, which in turn will prevent the buildup of mold or water droplets on your succulent.
Too Much Salt
If you’re familiar with the thin, white buildup that gets on the end of your garden hose, then you’re familiar with salt buildup. Succulents and other plants may experience salt or mineral buildup if you use hard water in your watering routine or you fertilize using a mineral-based fertilizer. Mineral buildup on succulents primarily looks like a thin, white ring around the plant’s base, white crusting on the edges of your pot, and splotchy white patches on your succulent’s leaves. The main difference between salt and mineral buildup and other succulent complications is that you can scrape off the salt residue with a knife or you can rinse it off with a wet cloth.
While hard water isn’t bad for houseplants, excess salt can absorb water in your succulent leaves and essentially burn them from the inside. To avoid buildup, we recommend using distilled water to water your plants, or to avoid using water with lots of dissolved minerals. Every four to six months, rinse your succulent’s soil with fresh, clear water to remove any excess buildup in the soil. Jade plants, in particular, are extremely sensitive to minerals in your water, so if possible, avoid watering them with hard water as much as possible.
To prevent buildup, plant your succulent in a pot with drainage holes and well-draining soil. Avoid bottom watering the plant, and instead use a succulent watering bottle. To avoid overfertilization, always read your fertilizer’s instructions before use, and only fertilize according to your succulent’s specific care guide. For Jade Plants, less is more. Avoid fertilizing more than once per growing season.
Succulent edema isn’t necessarily a sign of pest infestation or fungal infection. Instead, it’s a sign your succulent isn’t retaining water very well. A succulent struggling from edema will start showing signs of poor water retention through welts, which swell and burst on the leaves.
Edema isn’t necessarily bad for succulents, but it’s a sign that your succulent is likely getting overwatered. To treat succulent edema, avoid touching the welts. Instead, repot your succulent in a pot with drainage holes and well-draining succulent soil. Remember to only water it when the soil is completely dry!
The final cause of white spots on your succulents is a harmless one: farina. Farina is a translucent, powdery wax your plants produce as a natural protectant to shield them from sunburn and water damage. Echeveria, Sedeveria, Kalanchoe, and Graptoveria succulents all produce thick farina layers.
Watch the video below (and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos) to see Why Are There White Spots on My Succulents:
See more about WHY ISN’T MY SUCCULENT GROWING?
And get a free plant when your friends make an order. Sign up here!
Learn more about how to nurture and enjoy many gorgeous succulents and clever decoration tips with our newsletter. Let's sign up!