Surprisingly, it does not take much for a succulent to get sun burnt! There are a few reasons why and how your succulent could/would get sun burnt and there are a few things you can do if it does.
It was not that hot and my succulent still got sun burnt!
If you move a succulent into a sunny position from its usual shadier spot there is a very high chance that the leaves will get sun burnt. Of course there are variables to consider. Summer sun is a lot stronger than winter sun, so should you move your succulent to a sunnier position in the winter chances are they will enjoy the sun and be fine but should you move your succulent to a sunnier position in late spring or summer the end result could be sun burn. It really depends on the intensity of the sun.
Aeonium Pinwheel – sun burnt leaves.
My brand new succulent got sun burnt as soon as I put it in the sun!
Keep in mind that succulents grown in nurseries are grown under shade cloth. This is how all succulents are propagated and grown. Even a baby succulent offshoot/pup grows in the shade of the parent plant until it is old/strong enough to survive the strong rays of the sun. So if you purchase a new succulent and put the plant in the sun there is 90% chance that the leaves will get sun burnt. Every succulent that I buy I put straight into the sun knowing this will happen, but I know that in the end the succulent will be stronger and used to growing in the sun (assuming it a succulent species that likes sun). It can actually take a few months for the succulent to acclimatise and during this time can look a bit worse for wear but I believe it is worth it.
Above are a few of my succulents that were sun burnt this summer.
If you do not want your succulent to get sun burnt but ultimately would like your succulent to grow in a full sun position you need to start the plant off in a semi-shaded position and gradually allow the plant to receive more sun (time) as it matures.
My succulent suddenly has sun burnt leaves and I did not move it into the sun?!?!
If you are growing your succulent in a half shade/half sun position and one day (during summer) you find the leaves have sun burn this would probably because it was a very hot day (ie 40c/104F) and the intensity of the sun was stronger than the succulent was used to, The heat of the sun on these hot summer days will easily burn your succulent’s leaves.
What can I do about my sun burnt succulent?
Leave the burnt leaves on the plant.
There are a few things that you can do about your sun burnt leaves. Sun burnt leaves do not look at all attractive and the first thing you will want to do is to get rid of them. However, if you are experiencing a heatwave or know there is more hot weather on the way and you are unable to move your succulent to a shadier position (as it may be planted in the ground!) then it is best to leave the sun burnt leaves on the plant. They will protect/shade the lower leaves on the plant below that did not get sun burnt.
Cut the burnt leaves off the plant.
Yes you can carefully snip out the sun burnt leaves to make the succulent look nice again, this will not be detrimental to the plant. Usually the leaves that get sun burnt are the outer leaves so they should be fairly easy to access.
If you leave your sun burnt leaves on the plant they will eventually complete their natural cycle and go brown, dry up and drop off the plant in due course.
Will my sun burnt succulent die?
No it will not! Usually only a few leaves will burn. The new leaves forming in the centre of the succulent actually look amazingly healthy in comparison. Conversely, you would expect the new (inner) leaves to be burnt and the older leaves (to the outer edge of the plant) to survive. This is not the case, the succulent is preparing its new growth for the hotter more intense sun. The older leaves have not been prepared for these conditions and have not been grown to cope with the sun’s intensity – this is why they burn.
What can I do to prevent sun burn?
You can protect your succulents from sun burn by moving them into the shade when it is a hot day out of the intense heat from the sun. So either move your pots into the shade for the duration of the heatwave or if they are planted in the garden cover them with some shade cloth. This will deflect some of the intensity of the sun.
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.
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!
A healthy succulent when first planted!
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!
An inevitable part of every gardener’s life is dealing with pests. Those of us enamoured with succulents are more fortunate than most – we have fewer bugs trying to munch our plants. Still, audacious insects attempt it occasionally, so you should be prepared to defend yourself and your plants.
The first (and most important) step to treating any pest is to quarantine affected plants. Infestations will usually take several days to a week to treat, and you need to ensure that the pest isn’t able to spread to unaffected plants.
A successful quarantine relies on you catching the pest early. I probably don’t need to tell you to do regular inspections because you’re already looking at your plants every day. If you’re not, for some strange reason, make an effort to look carefully at every plant in your collection at least once a week. Check under leaves and in nooks and crannies. Pests like dark, damp places.
If you find something suspect, quarantine immediately. Take the plant into another room, if possible, or at least 2 meters away from the others. Then, begin treatment.
Photo from Garden.org
Perhaps the most common succulent pest and, fortunately, one of the easiest to treat. They are easy to identify too: specks of white cottony material about 1-2 mm in length. They tend to group in crevices; often where the leaf meets the stem.
You can treat these by washing them off with a particularly powerful stream of water. Some succulents drop leaves at the slightest touch, however, so this approach won’t work for them.
Instead, try spraying a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution on the affected areas. It won’t harm your plant. A neem oil solution is also very effective in treating mealybugs.
There is a much more detailed explanation of mealybugs, their prevention and their treatment, over at Sublime Succulents if you want to check it out!
Photo courtesy of Flickr
While most pests are soft-bodied insects like mealybugs or aphids, scale is a hard-bodied bug. What this means for you is that treatment is more difficult.
They usually appear as brown to black colored bumps that are oval in shape. Scale hugs the plant very tightly, and won’t be removed by simple brushing or water. You can try the alcohol solution detailed above, but chances are it will take several treatments to get some results.
While I generally try to avoid using insecticides because of the collateral damage it can cause to beneficial insects, a scale infestation means you have to get serious. Try an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution. Don’t apply them during the day, or the oils that linger on your plant could cause it to burn.
Picture by Reddit user /u/bornslippy_nuxx
Also called sciarid flies, these pests look (and act) a lot like fruit flies. Also like fruit flies, they’re not very harmful to your plants – they’re just annoying.
These gnats pop up when your soil stays wet for too long. They lay eggs in the dirt, then the larva munches on dead and decaying matter. Those baby fungus gnat require moisture to survive, so they’ll go away if you adjust watering frequency accordingly.
I’ve got rid of them several times by simply inflicting a drought – I delay watering until I don’t see the flies anymore. The adults only live for 10 days or so, and the eggs and larvae wither if they’re not moist. A more immediate solution is to mix some hydrogen peroxide into your water the next time – that’ll get them too.
To prevent them from appearing at all, make sure you only water when the soil is totally dry – then wait another day or two. Top-dressing like a layer of gravel on top of your soil can also help dissuade the flies from making your plant their home.
Remember, Prevention is the Best Treatment
Most of these pests can be avoided by simply having good garden hygiene. Don’t let your plants or their soil stay wet for too long. Make sure there is plenty of airflow of dry air. Prune occasionally, and remove dead plant matter from pots.
A pest invasion isn’t a reason for panic. By catching it early you can mitigate the damage done. Many infestations will require treatment to be repeated every few days until the pest goes away.
Even if a plant is severely affected – it’s ok! These are succulents we’re talking about. Just propagate it.
About the Author
Patrick Grubbs runs the website Sublime Succulents – a site dedicated to saving succy lives through education. When he’s not writing tutorials about pest control, he’s figuring out how to fit more plants on his windowsills.
The answer to the question – which locations do succulents thrive in – is : any and all locations! There are so many succulents that there will always be a species that will thrive in a location in your garden.
If you are a succulent novice or a well seasoned succulent gardener there will always be a new succulent that you acquire that you will be uncertain about which location to put it in. Does it cope with full sun, is it a shade lover?
If the succulent you buy comes with an ID tag (that’s if you are very lucky) its possible it ‘might’ give you a ‘vague’ idea of the sort of growing conditions the succulent would thrive in. General suggestions like ‘full sun’ or partial shade’, ‘fertilise in spring’. They are generalised by the nursery for all plants that they grow. For further explanation on some of these see: (How much sun do succulents need? Morning or Afternoon? Full or Part? )
This ID tag contradicts itself – may tolerate dryness but the soil must not dry out! – not helpful!
But how will you know if your succulent is just surviving or if it is thriving?
Signs that your succulent is just surviving.
There are signs that will tell you that your succulent is not doing well. Such as, stretching (etoliation) from not enough sun/light, wilting leaves from over watering, puckered leaves from under watering and burnt leaves from too much sun. It is surviving but not as well as it could. These signs do not mean that it is dying but it could be doing a lot better in a different location.
Stretching succulents: If your succulent is not receiving enough sun/light and is stretching then it needs to be moved straight away into a position that gives it more light. Stretching (also known as etoliation) is not reversible, the only remedy is to prune the plant back so that it can start again in its new sunnier position where it wont stretch and will grow compact and healthy.
This is an example of an etioliated/stretched succulent. Tall and lanky rather than short and compact.
Burnt leaves: If your succulent has burnt leaves it may be because it has been previously grown in a part sun/part shade situation at the nursery. The good news is that having burnt leaves will not kill a succulent, once the burnt leaves become the oldest leaves they will shrivel and die. The new leaves that grow from the centre will be strong and healthy and will have acclimatised to full sun and will not get sun burnt. Succulents will acclimatise to new locations in 2-3 months
Note: The only exception to this rule is if there is an abnormally hot day/week (around 40C/104F) the chances are that even a succulent growing in full sun can still get sun burnt leaves.
These leave are suburnt.
Wilting/Pale leaves: Over watering can cause the leaves to look pale or yellow and they will wilt. If you notice this on a few leaves then do not water the succulent until you see signs of recovery. This could be weeks or even a month! It may already be too late and the plant will die but you may catch it in time. See post: How often should I water succulents? Do succulents need water?
Puckered Leaves: It does not happen very often but sometimes you can underwater your succulent and it will have puckered leaves. Give the plant a drenching of water and leave it to dry out. Do not make the mistake of then giving it too much water.
Puckered leaves can be a sign of an under watered succulent
Signs that your succulent is thriving
It can take some time to know if your succulent is thriving. It is not something you can know within a week of receiving the plant. The signs that it is thriving are:
– not showing any of the above mentioned conditions
– new growth – especially in the succulent’s growing season
– flowers – a succulent will only flower in the right growing conditions
– pups/babies -succulents will only produce offspring if it has the right growing conditions to do so
– getting to its maximum species size
Succulents can thrive and look different!
A succulent will always adapt to its growing conditions. See example below. Both of these succulents are the same genus/species and are producing babies/pups ie thriving. Sempervivums (House Leeks) are grown on roof tops in Europe so would receive full sun at some times of the year and no sun at others and would therefore look different during different seasons.
These Sempervivum are exactly the same species. The Sempervivum on the left are growing in partial shade. The Sempervivum on the right have 8 hours of full sun.
Whether your succulent is grown in the ground or in a pot. If it is not doing well do not be scared to dig it up and move it or put the pot somewhere else. The majority of succulents are very hardy and if it is not doing well in one position there is no harm in moving it to another location.
I have found that planting a succulent in the garden, that is not doing so well in a pot, makes the world of difference. As long as the soil conditions and drainage are correct the roots of the plant will fair better in the ground, as the conditions are not so variable, compared with a pot which can heat up and dry out quicker and constrict the roots.
The difference between a succulent ‘surviving’ and a succulent ‘thriving’ is location, location, location!
Which succulents grow in full shade?
Do Succulents really prefer Sun?
The human race is a very impatient species. Even more so nowadays with Gen Z wanting everything yesterday. I can understand that when it comes to succulents, I cannot wait till my baby succulents grow and thrive, in the back of my mind though I hear a voice saying ‘succulents are slow growers’……. but are they?
As always, with succulents – due to the vast quantity of species and varieties – the answer is yes and no.
What is the definition of a fast growing plant?
It depends on your individual interpretation of what is slow or fast! To me growing overnight is fast growing! The only plants that literally grow overnight, that I remember from science class, are water cress and mung beans. Some varieties within a species will grow faster than other varieties within the same species. To me a fast growing plant is one that you can see a difference in size within a few months.
Each species will have some varieties that are faster growers than other varieties in the same species. In general though I believe that most species are either fast, moderate or slow growing.
Which conditions increase the growth rate?
There are a two conditions that will effect the growth rate of a succulent.
Growing Season A succulent will grow faster during its growing season than it will in its dormant season. Some succulents do not grow at all in their dormant season and some will grow; but a lot slower. (see post: When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons? ) So if you purchase/receive a succulent in its dormant season do not be worried if it sits there doing (almost) nothing.
Environment How fast a succulent grows will also depend on environmental conditions. Sunlight, temperature, soil and moisture can all affect the growth rate of a succulent. If the plant has its ideal amount of light, temperature and moisture and grown in the right soil medium it will grow at is optimum rate.
Which succulents are fast growing?
Firstly let me say what I consider to be fast growing. If I can see a succulent has increased in its overall size by about 25% within a 4-6 month period I would consider it to be fast growing. I take a photo of a succulent the first day it arrives, including its name. If you are like me and check your succulents every day you would not notice their growth. Looking back at the original photo can show you how much they have grown in that period.
The following succulents are species that I grow in my garden and have witnessed their growth first hand.
The Aeonium Aboreum below was planted in the middle of its growing season and had formed a thick mass after only 4 months. It would have been a totally different story if I had planted them in the summer when this species of succulent is dormant. (see post: Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum ) Don’t forget succulents have a dormant season as well – so make sure you know when this is.
Most Echeveria are fast growing. As long as you can see new leaves forming in the centre of the Echeveria then they are liking their environment and growing as fast as they can. Most of my Echeveria varieties grow for about 9 months of the year due to our short winters.
April 2017 – 4 months later
Graptoveria are a very close relative to the Echeveria species as they are a hybrid of an Echeveria and Graptopetulum (see post: What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?) Therefore they also are generally a fast growing species.
Graptoveria Fred Ives
The Crassula species is also a fast growing plant. Especially Crassula Ovata which is also a very hard variety.
Research on the world wide web indicates that the following succulents are of the fast growing variety.
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi – Lavender Sallops
Sedum rubrotinctum – Jelly Bean Plant
Crassula perforata – String of Buttons
Which succulents are slow growing?
There are a few slow growing succulents.
Euphorbia Millie – Crown of Thorns
Euphorbia Milli is quite a slow growing succulent. The one below suddenly lost all its leaves and flowers so I moved it to a different position and it grew again – but very slowly. It took 8 months just to grow its leaves back but still is not any taller.
Giant Barrell Cactus
There are some succulents that literally grow so slowly you wonder if they are growing at all. The Giant Cactus Barrell (below) is one of these. However, they can live for approximately 100 years.
Lithops are very slow growing but like the Giant Barrell Cactus they live a long time.
How long does it take to grow succulents from a leaf?
Once again depending on conditions a leaf can sprout roots within a week and start to sprout within a 3 week period. To grow to a new plant – depending on the species and variety you can have a new succulent baby within a 3 -4 month period. This is a huge generalisation but has been my experience with a lot of leaf propagation I have tried.
In summary, I would say, most of the popular and more common succulents that are available in Australia are moderate to fast growing. Taking into consideration the general growing conditions of succulents; the weather in most parts of Australia are ideal and even with their dormant season thrown into the mix you will still see a huge difference after one year of growth. Below is a photo of my front succulent garden bed with just a 9 month growing period.
Succulents are known for their ability to survive without water and thrive in the heat of summer. There are some succulents that will survive extreme heat ‘and’ cold temperatures. There are some succulents that can survive snow and therefore there are some succulents that also can survive frost!
This is not surprising as many succulents originate from the mountainous areas of Europe. So which succulents can survive frost?
In the Garden
For those of you who are growing succulents in the garden – there are a lot of succulents that survive frost. They will get frost damage and look unsightly for quite a few months but will eventually grow new leaves and the old frost damaged leaves will die back. The succulents below were victims of a hailstorm (see post: Succulents DO NOT like hail!! ) Hail is like frost so far as freezing water is deposited on the leaves of the plant.
The same succulents below 8 months later looking healthy with no signs of the hail. (This would be the same for frost.)
For those of you who are growing succulents in pots. If you are worried about your succulents getting frost damage the best course of action is as follows:
- Do not water
- Move your pots under the eaves of your house
There are some general points to observe when it comes to frost and how to avoid damage to any succulent.
- Do not water
- Keep the soil as dry as possible (they are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry)
- Ensure adequate ventilation
- Make sure your soil has good drainage
It always surprises me how hardy the Aloe species of succulent is. Aloe is a very frost hardy succulent. However, there are some Aloe species that survive frost but if they are flowing when they are hit with frost their flowers will not survive. Cut the flowers off as soon as you have noticed they have been effected.
Sempervivums are hardy succulents once grown on roofs to protect against storms. They are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and therefore are used to cold temperatures, snow and frosts. These are one succulent species that should survive frost without incurring any damage. They can withstand extremely cold temperatures. Most will be fine even in temperatures that plummet down to -30. This is for Sempervivum growing in the ground or rock crevices – ie in the garden. If you are growing your sempervivum in pots you should still move pots under the eaves of the house. The temperature of soil in a pot can drop very quickly AND be a lot colder than soil in the ground.
Sempervivum covered by snow
Other succulents that are frost hardy are Sedums, Lewisia and Delosperma
What to do if a frost is forecast
When a frost is forecast, do not water succulents. They are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry. If you have time to plan ahead, keep the plants on the dry side well before the weather cools. If it is a succulent that stores water in their leaves they are plump with water, their cells are more likely to burst when the temperature drops.
Point to note: succulents that do survive frost and cold temperature tend to struggle with very hot summers.
What can I do if my succulent has been damaged by frost?
If your succulents are damaged by frost, the affected leaves will probably turn white or a very light colour within a day or so. The damaged leaves then turn black and mushy as they rot. If only part of a plant is damaged, then the rest of the plant should survive. Usually it is only the top leaves that will be layered with frost and therefore the under leaves should not be affected.
When my succulents were affected I left the leaves on the plant rather than prune them so if another frost/hail incident happened the leaves that had already been damaged protected the leaves below. They do look unsightly but this is better than more leaves being affected and rotting the plant.
Once the risk of frost or hail has passed and warmer weather has arrived you can prune the affected leaves.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend Mathew.