What’s Wrong With My Succulent?

Need succulent troubleshooting tips? Find out what's wrong with your succulent and how to fix shriveled leaves and stretched out stems.

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What's wrong with my succulentStudio Light and Shade/Shutterstock
Plant succulents in containers with drainage holes

Debra Lee Baldwin, the author of Succulents Simplified and Succulent Container Gardens, says that succulents can be grown anywhere by anyone. But even though succulents are tough, hardy plants, they’re still living things and sometimes things can go a bit sideways. If you’re here, you’re wondering what’s wrong with your succulent. Here are Debra’s five top troubleshooting tips for succulents.

1. Why are the leaves on my succulent bleached, beige or have dark spots?

The cause of sickly coloring on succulents is too much sun. Try moving into a spot that still receives some sun, but experiences more shade throughout the hottest part of the day.

Discover 10 seriously cool succulents that make great houseplants.

2. Why are the stems on my succulents puffy and squished?

The No. 1 secret to caring for succulents is to not overwater them, and overwatering is the culprit here. A little water goes a long way, and if they get waterlogged, they are prone to rotting. Make sure the containers you choose have drainage holes. If the roots are dead, take cuttings from healthy tissue and replant in new soil.

Check out 10 unique succulent pots and planters.

Miniature Succulent Plantskynny/Getty Images
Make sure you don’t overwater succulent plants

3. My succulent’s leaves are mushy and have collapsed. What should I do?

The cause here is frost. Cover the plants or move them indoors until the temperature rises.

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4. Why are the leaves and stems stretched out?

Your leggy succulent is trying to get closer to a light source, because it’s not receiving enough light. Adjust its location to somewhere sunnier.

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5. The leaves on my succulent have lost their shine and their tips are shriveled up. What happened?

There’s not enough water. A good rule of thumb is to keep soil only as dry as a wrung-out sponge. For best results, succulents prefer well-draining soil, ample light and warm, dry conditions.

For more succulent tips, learn what a fellow gardener wishes she’d known before planting her succulent garden, or how to tell if your jade plant needs repotting.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.