Why have the stems on my succulents shrivelled?

Why have the stems on my succulents shrivelled?

The stems of a few of my succulents started looking dry and then they started to look shrivelled and brown.  I was quite concerned.  How would the succulent live if it could not get water from its roots?  I did notice that there were some aerial roots above the shrivelled stem which would be the succulents way of trying to survive the lack of water it was receiving from its original roots in the soil.

shrivelled stem on succulent

Why did the stems shrivel?
This is ‘not‘ root rot or in this case ‘ stem rot’.  Root rot on a succulent is black! and there is no sign of dried out stems when a succulent has root rot.  This is due to the succulent having too much heat and not enough water for it to cope. Normally it would be the amount of heat – ie high temperatures.  Succulents like sun with lots of air flow but some do not cope with high temperatures. ie 38-40C/100-104F. It may cope with a few days of high temperatures with the right amount of water but ongoing high temperatures with no water and the succulent’s survival tactics will kick in. 

Will my succulent survive?
As in the case below, the stems have all shrivelled and the separated stems have put out new aerial roots in attempt to survive the heat.  A sure sign it is willing to survive!

Graptoveria growing in ground

A healthy succulent when first planted!

Graptoveria dying

Suffering from over heating and lack of water!

What can I do to save my succulent?
Firstly, do not panic!  The reason we all love succulents is because they are amazing survivors. Cut the stems above the shrivelled part and replant into a new pot or a different spot in the garden. Move the pot/plant  to a position with a bit more shade.  Even if the stems do not have any tiny white aerial roots the plant will still grow some new roots in the soil and live on.  Wait about 1 week before you water the new cuttings.

Some succulents do require a little more water than others.  However, moving the succulent to a shadier position will most likely cure the problem.  If you move the plant to a shadier position AND increase the water then you may then over water which will then cause root rot. So try the shadier position without adjusting the water first.  If the stems shrivel again (in due course) then you should water more regularly.  Some succulents do require more regular watering than others.

So why have the stems of your succulents shrivelled? Basically; to let you know that they are not happy and to do something about it!



What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?

What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?

The name Graptoveria is a combination of Echeveria and Graptopetalum. It is a hybrid between the two plants. Like most people I thought these plants were another Echeveria variety rather than a hybrid between two genera.  So how do you tell the difference between an Echeveria and a Graptoveria and is there a difference in their growing conditions and care?

Growing Conditions
Most Graptoveria are low growing and normally grow with a clump-forming habit.  Their growing period is in the Summer, they are drought tolerant, can withstand a full sun position and can grow in part shade.  They also tolerate wet winters. For those of you who live in colder climates they have a good cold tolerance too. So, does that sound familiar,?  Basically, they have the same growing habit as an Echeveria.

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Both Graptopetalum and Echeveria come from the same Crassulacae family. As with Echeveria there are many different varieties of Graptoveria. Like Echeveria there are some varieties with very plump/thick leaves and there are also  some with very thin flat leaves.

Graptoveria Succulent Graptoveria Succulent Graptoveria succulent

I thought one of my Graptoveria was dying when the stem shrivelled up and died. (see below)  I waited to see what happened – as many other succulents have revived and survived after looking dead.  Not too surprisingly the plants rosettes put down new roots and continued to grow as separate plants.  Why did the stem shrivel up? – I’m not 100% sure, research suggests it was probably due to high summer temperatures and not enough water.

Graptoveria dying shrivelled stem on Graptoveria Succulent

Sometimes the leaves on a Graptoveria may look blotchy.  This is normal when they are changing colour from summer to winter.

How do you tell the difference between a Graptoveria and Echeveria?
Apparently the only way you can tell the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria is by the flower. The flower is neither an Echeveria or a Graptopetalum flower. The two photos on the left are a Graptoveria flower: the petals open out wider, they have spots on them and the stamen reaches outside the petal. On the right are the Echeveria flower.

Other than the flower there really is not much difference between an Echeveria or a Graptoveria.   The only other very small difference that I have noticed (in my experience) is that the Echeveria may cope with higher temperatures in a full sun position than a Graptoveria would.  Hence, the shrivelling stem situation that I had occur last year.  So if you buy a succulent from a hardware store that just says ‘ succulent’ on the name tag -or you are given a nameless Echeveria or Graptoveria succulent and you are unsure of what it is, do not worry!, treat it the same and it will survive.  Alternatively, you could try and identify the plant online (see post: Where can I identify my Succulents? ).  Make sure you look under the Echeveria and Graptoveria category though!