Why did my succulent die?

Why did my succulent die?

This a question that people ask a lot. A common misconception is that succulents are indestructible.  I was under this same impression when I started with succulents.  It can certainly seem that way when you see them growing on the side of the road. However, like any plants, succulents have their likes and dislikes.  Too much of their dislikes and they will curl up and die.

I hardly watered my succulent! Why did it die?
Common misconception number one is that succulents do not need ‘any’ water.   Only misting a succulent with water is not enough and even though some varieties of succulents can survive without water for years not watering a succulent can also kill the plant.  Succulents ‘do’ need water like any other plant.  Misting a succulent will not give their roots the water they require.  A good watering once a week in Summer, ensuring the water drains through the soil would be sufficient. Once per month in Winter.

I watered my succulent every day and it still died!
On the reverse side of the watering coin, over watering is the number one killer of succulents.  As soon as I buy a succulent I wait at least a week before I water it.  Hardware stores and sometimes nurseries will over water succulents as they have a watering regime for all their plants and include succulents in this regime.  It is a natural human instinct that to care for a plant you need to water it. You have to trust the science of succulents- less water is good. Too much water can rot the roots as per the photo below.

echeveria black prince succulent

This Echeveria had too much rain. The outside leaves are soggy and pale. Pale due to lack of sun, soggy due to too much rain.  It did not die though.

Succulent - Too much water

This is classic root rot from too much water. The leaves are thin as they are not storing water.  If your succulent looks like this it wont survive unless it has produced an offshoot.

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Does your succulent get enough light?
Some succulents will survive inside as long as they are near a window that receives strong sunlight/light for part of the day. Some will survive in a partially shady spot in the garden.  There are so many different types of succulents with different light requirements. Some succulents will not survive inside and require full sun to grow and thrive.  If your succulent is not receiving enough light then it will grow long and lanky (called etioliation) and not look right.

Both of these succulents have stretched (etiolated)

Both of these succulents have stretched (etiolated)

Is your succulent really dying?
You may think your succulent is dying or looking decidedly ill when actually it is just growing to its circumstances.  If you identify the problem for the type of succulent you have then you can change the position and/or watering conditions and your succulent should perk up in no time and be the healthy looking plant it was when you first bought/received it. See post: Where can I identify my Succulents? to find out what conditions your succulent prefers.

Why are the leaves on the bottom of my succulent dying?
It is natural for leaves on succulents to turn brown and shrivel up.  They will then drop off.  This does not mean that your succulent is dying. They are the oldest leaves on the succulent.  You can pull them off or cut them off with secateurs. See post: Should I prune my Succulents?

Succulents will usually not die without water alone and will not die without sunlight alone. It is usually a combination of the two.Some succulents will look different in their dormant season.  The succulent below – an Aeonium Aboreum has its dormant period during the Summer.  It will come to life again in the Winter.

Aeonium Aboreum

This Aeonium is fine and healthy but looks different as it is dormant in the Summer.

Graptoveria dying

This Graptoveria shrivelled up and looks dead. However, the 4 attached rosettes sprouted new roots into the ground!

Succulents with hail damage

This Graptoveria Succulent looked like it would die. It has hail damage. It took a few months but it did fully recover.

Aeonium Aboreum dying

My Aeonium has drooped and the leaves are falling off. This is due to extreme temperature, lack of water and dry soil.

Even those of us who love growing succulents have succulents that die.  Most of the time we can pin point a reason as to why they die but sometimes plants just die and we do not know why!  Do not let this stop you trying again or getting a different succulent to nurture.   See post: Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part 1   and Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II for some tips if you are a beginner.

Dying Succulent

I killed this succulent by moving it from a semi shaded position to a full sun position and did not  water it for a few weeks!

 

 

Should I prune my Succulents?

Should I prune my Succulents?

It is certainly ok to prune your succulent.  You can prune your succulent any time you feel they are getting stretched or overgrown. You can also take cuttings to propagate new plants or to encourage new growth. There are a few other reasons why you would prune a succulent.

Should I prune dead or rotting leaves on my succulent?
If your succulent has dead leaves or you buy a succulent with lots of dried/dead leaves around the base of the plant the leaves can be removed. It’s natural for leaves to die on a plant.  It’s like hair falling out your head.

dead leaves on succulent

Dead leaves around the base of the plant.

dead leaves on succulent

Easily removed by pulling the leaves off.

If you pull them gently they should easily come away from the stem or you can cut them off with secateurs.  This encourages new growth, deters any bugs or mould and improves the look of the plant.

dried leaves on succulent

Agave leaves die but are still firmly attached to the plant.

agave attenuata

A pair of secateurs are required for cutting the dead leaves from the plant.

Should I prune a plant that has stretched/etiolated?
If you have a succulent that has stretched due to lack of light, pruning is the best way to rectify this. The succulent will look a bit worse for wear at first but in time new growth will be more compact and the succulent will look healthier.

Graptoveria Succulent

This is an example of pruning. Some of the long leaves were pruned and the stem produced new growth. I eventually removed all the long leaves.

Should I prune the flowers on my succulent?
Most succulents flower, some are more prolific than others.  My Echeveria plants seem to flower all the time. When the flower dies you can prune it.  Some flower stems have leaves on them which are great for propagating a new plant as the stem has more hormones from producing the flower. The best time to prune a flowering species of succulent is after it has finished flowering.

Succulent Flowers

These flowers are truly dead. Time to prune.

After Pruning.

If you have a large succulent that flowers the best time to prune is after the plant has finished flowering.  If, however, you do not have the time or inclination to prune, don’t worry, the flowers will die and drop off by themselves eventually with no adverse reaction to the plant.

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

I rarely prune this Crassula Ovata Jade Plant.


Should I prune my succulent to make it a nicer shape?

Succulents often need pruning just like any other type of plant when it comes to shape and to control size. The succulent you buy will grow bigger and will not look so cute and compact after a while so pruning is a necessity if you want to keep your plant compact.  However, do not panic, succulents are fairly slow growers.  So you won’t be out there pruning all the time!

Crassula Ovata Succulent

I have been pruning this Crassula and replanting the cutting to make a succulent carpet.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent

I have pruned this Aeonium and replanted the cuttings at the front of the plant.

 

What instrument should I use for pruning succulents?
I use normal garden secateurs to prune, or if the leaves are dry enough I pull them off with my fingers.  Some leaves are ready to come off and fall off as I touch them. If you have pruned a succulent that has a disease make sure you clean the secateurs thoroughly so that the disease is not transferred from plant to plant.

Where do I prune my succulent?
Do not worry! you cannot hurt a succulent by pruning it. There is no wrong way to prune it.  If there is a part that is protruding that looks out of place, prune it off as far back as you like.  Pruning is really trial and error.  If you have not pruned before give it a go and learn from your mistakes.  The photo below is a Graptoveria succulent I have.  It was pruned by a passing German Shepherd!!  I was a bit annoyed at the time but didn’t throw it out and here we are quite a few months later with a new shoot!

Graptoveria succulent

 

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II

Succulents are very adaptable and can grow in many different conditions.  They will change their shape and colour depending on these conditions.  When you become more experienced with different types of succulents you will get to know how your succulent is coping with the position it is growing in.

Why does my succulent change colour?
Colour change in succulents is fairly common and is a response to growing conditions. Some people use the term ‘stressed’ for plants that change colour but I like to use the word ‘adaption’. A plant grown in part shade will differ in colour to the same plant grown in full sun. Some plants will be grown in the same light conditions but if one is watered more than the other they can be different colours. Some plants are a different colour in the winter than they are in the Summer.  (see below)
See full post : Why has my succulent changed colour?

Echeveria Succulent, Colour Change

This echeveria was purple and elongated in the winter with less sun and lots of water.

Echeveria Succulent

With full sun and less water it is now green and a lot more compact. It looks like a totally different plant.

You can buy a succulent because it looks amazing and then it will change colour once you have brought it home and put it in a different position/condition.

Aloe Succulent

This aloe was a beautiful purple when a friend gave it to me.

Aloe Succulent

Now the very same plant is an amazing green aloe.


How do I know if my succulent gets enough sun?
As I have mentioned in my previous post: Do Succulents really prefer Sun?   Succulents can change shape and/or look different when they do not have enough sun. A succulent that would normally be short and compact will grow long and spindly. The scientific term is: etoliation or the layman’s term is: stretching. This just means that the plant will not grow as compact as it would if it had sufficient sun and stretch upwards in search of brighter light.  Unlike over watering, not enough sun is easily fixed.  Move the plant to a sunnier position!  Either in its pot or transplant it. The plant will stop stretching. Please note however: the part of the plant that has already stretched will not correct itself. The best option for this would be to prune the stretched part of the plant. This will not harm the plant in any way.  Or you can leave it as it is as the plant can look amazing on a long stork as in the photo below.

Echeveria stretching succulent

This echeveria stretched to get enough sun over the other plants in the pot. I like it though!

Echeveria stretching

In the same pot this echeveria has also stretched above the plants.

How do i know if my succulent has ‘enough’ water?
This is not a question that you need to ask yourself but I know that there are people who worry about this. There are some species of succulent that show signs of not having enough water (see below) and would like a drink but on the whole you should be asking yourself if you have watered too much! Succulents can survive without water for extended periods. How long that period is depends on a wide variety of factors including light, soil, drainage etc.  In my experience if you do not water your succulent for a year, as long as it was not under the eaves and receives annual rainfall then it will be fine.

Aeonium swortkop’s leaves become droopy if they have not had enough water. Crassula Ovata’s (Jade Plant) leaves can look wrinkled and withered if they do not receive enough water. Echeveria and Graptoveria hold water in their leaves so they will be very flat if they do not have enough water.

Can succulents survive inside?
Not ‘all’ succulents will grow well in an indoor environment but there are a lot that will.  I have quite a few jars of echeveria succulents growing on my kitchen window sill, they receive about an hour of sun every morning and then bright light for the rest of the day.  I also have one in the bathroom which receives no direct sun just bright light.

Indoor succulent Succulents on windowsill Indoor succuelnts

I only give the small succulent jars a table spoon of water every other week and the bathroom succulent about the same. I also have a few terrariums with succulents – see below.

 succulent terrarium

 

Note: I do not profess to be an expert on succulents and do not have a horticultural qualification. My blog is simply my opinion and details my experience with succulents in my garden. All photos are taken by me. If there are photos of succulents not taken by me this is mentioned.

Please feel free to comment on anything and/or ask questions. You can do so by registering in the user admin section of this page.

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part 1

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part 1


So you want to start out with Succulents? They look cool….. are very trendy and you have heard that they are indestructible. So I have decided to put a few posts together to help you. I know I would have found such a post handy when I first started.

There are 100’s of different succulents with different requirements for each species with regard to: how much water they need, how tall/large they grow, full sun/shade requirements, indoors/outdoors, pots/garden and flowers etc etc. Don’t let this put you off!  Part 1 is a generalisation on succulents.

You probably fall under one of two categories.  You have already bought a Succulent or been gifted one. You are about to buy one. I’m going to assume most people would research something after the purchase but if you fall into the second category this post will help you as well.

Before I go any further, and in case you do not read any further!  The number ONE rule for any succulent is:  DO NOT WATER YOUR SUCCULENT EVERY DAY.  I have seen many posts from people saying they had watered every day so why did their succulent die!?!?!?!?

I did exactly this when I started out. See my post: Do Succulents need water? The photo below is the result of too much water. Although I did not water every day I did water far more than required.  Over watering causes the root and stem to rot. The photo below shows classic stem rot.

Succulent - Too much water

Over watering killed my first succulent.

Which Type of Succulent do I have?
Chances are your plant does not have an identification tag telling you which species of succulent you have. If this is the case see my post Where can I identify my Succulents? There are 100’s of different species of succulent. Once you have identified which species you have you’re ready to decide where the best growing position for your succulent is.

Hillside Herbs & Succulents

Here are just a few different types of succulents.

Does my succulent prefer indoor or outdoor/sun or shade?
As a novice I assumed I could put my plant anywhere, unfortunately this is not the case. When you have identified which type of succulent you have you can find out if it will survive inside or outside in full sun or part shade or prefers just shade! Be aware that most of the websites you find on succulents are based on conditions in the parts of the Northern Hemisphere that experience very cold winters – so if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, like me, do not take this information as gospel.

So how much water ‘does’ my succulent need?
A rule of thumb for Succulents is: the thicker the leaves the less water they need.  So an echeveria succulent (below) that has thick leaves does not need as much water as a thinner leaved plant.  Remember though this is just a rule of thumb and not a hard and fast rule. The succulents below would be considered to be thick leaved, succulents store water in their leaves and stems.

Graptoveria

Graptoveria

Echeveria Black Prince

Echeveria Black Prince

Echeveria Elegans Succulent

Echeveria Elegans

In Summer I (generally) water my succulents in pots once per week.  If I forget it doesn’t matter I just do it when I remember. The succulents planted in my garden I only water once per month if there is no Summer rain.  If it rains I do not water them at all.  The beauty of a succulent plant is that if you forget to water it will not curl up and die like other plants. In the Winter I would only water the pots once per month if they were under the eaves out of the rain.  I do not water my succulents in the garden at all during Winter.

Should I keep my succulent in a pot or plant in the garden?
I think the majority of people who avidly grow succulents do so in pots.  They look beautiful in pots but also look spectacular in gardens.  The benefit of growing them in pots: you can move them around from sun to shade or under the eaves in the Winter to avoid over watering. Pots also have excellent drainage which succulents need. The succulents in the garden need less watering in the Winter, as long as they are in a well draining soil/position.  I have found that some of my succulents have lived successfully in pots but have thrived once I planted them in my garden. Also, vice versa, I have grown a succulent successfully in a pot and they have curled up and died in the garden. (see below)

Succulent in a garde

Thrived in full sun in a pot.

Dying Succulent

Died within a month in the ground.

 

In Part II of Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents I will be writing about:

How do I know if my succulent has enough sun?
How do i know if my succulent has enough water?
Why does my succulent change colour?
Can succulents survive inside?

 

 

Note: I do not profess to be an expert on succulents and do not have a horticultural qualification. My blog is simply my opinion and details my experience with succulents in my garden. All photos are taken by me. If there are photos of succulents not taken by me this is mentioned.

Please feel free to comment on anything and/or ask questions. You can do so by registering in the user admin section of this page.