Why Your Succulent Is Losing Leaves, and How to Bring It Back to Life


Feb. 23 2021, Published 1:18 p.m. ET

Why is your succulent losing leaves?
Source: Getty Images

Succulents are tough little houseplants, there’s no denying that. The assumption among many is that these plants require very little water, nominal sunlight, and most importantly, minimal attention. As hearty as they are, though, even succulents can become the victims of those without the greenest of thumbs. So what do you do when your succulent starts losing leaves, and how do you bring it back to life? 

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Why is your succulent losing leaves?

why succulent losing leaves
Source: Getty Images

Despite all the hype about how “easy” succulents are to care for, they are just as sensitive to changes in temperature, water, and sunlight as any other plant. 

Water problems

Watering issues are particularly troublesome to succulents. According to Succulent Plant Care, too much water can cause succulent leaves to swell and eventually detach from the plant itself. The leaves on an overwatered succulent won’t just swell up, they will also often appear soft, mushy, and slightly translucent.

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Under watered succulents, on the other hand, will look less succulent and more shriveled overall. Their leaves will be wrinkled and appear flat, thin, or deflated. The entire plant might even take on a wilted appearance. But water isn’t the only cause of succulent potential succulent problems.

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How to fix an overwatered or underwatered succulent:

If your succulent is too dry, simply give it some water. Start slow and you should be able to notice a change within about a day. If your suspect your succulent is overwatered, Succulent Plant Care recommends withholding any further water until the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. 

Check that the potting mix is draining properly. Succulents that are sitting in water too long could easily become oversaturated. Succulents can get stressed just like everything else: they just don’t whine about it. They will, however, drop some leaves. If you suspect that your succulent isn’t draining enough, be gentle with repotting. Let the plant dry out for a few days after transplanting and watering again.

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Light problems

Succulents need light just like any other plant. Keeping a succulent in low light conditions for too long will start to make it appear stretched or uneven. According to SucculentCity, sun-starved succulents might look as though they are growing towards the light source. 

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How to fix a succulent that’s missing sunlight:

Get that plant some light! It’s an easy enough fix to put your succulent someplace sunnier. Yes, yes we know that it might look better on that top shelf with all the tchotchkes, but it’s not worth your succulent’s well-being. Be careful to acclimate the succulent to the light slowly, however. Too much sunlight all at once can actually be harmful to the plant. 

SucculentCity recommends that you only give your plant about an hour of sunlight or artificial light each day to start. You can slowly increase the length of sun exposure over the next few weeks, but no more than six hours a day at max. Otherwise, you risk sunburning your succulent.

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Temperature problems

Succulents like a reasonable amount of heat but they don’t like anything excessive. According to Succulent Plant Care, periods of extreme heat and drought can result in dropping leaves just as surely as periods of overwatering. 

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How to fix a succulent that’s gotten too hot:

The answer is the opposite of the sunlight problem. If your plant is too hot, move it into the shade. You might only need to do this in times of heatwave or drought, of course, but it never hurts to keep an eye. If your succulent has been moved but the room is still hot, make sure to keep it watered regularly. 

Succulents come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that none of them are immune to the basic needs that all plants crave. 

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