Fourteen Reasons Why Succulents Die

Succulents, often cherished for their unique beauty and minimal care requirements, can sometimes perplex even the most seasoned plant collectors. While these hardy plants are known for their resilience, a lack of understanding regarding their specific needs can lead to untimely demise. In this article, we explore some common mistakes that can cause succulents to wither away and how to avoid them.

1. Misjudging Light Conditions

One of the most frequent missteps when it comes to succulent care is misjudging their light requirements. While many succulents are marketed as low-light plants, they are not truly suited for low-light environments. Succulents thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. If they’re kept in the dark or in areas with minimal natural light, their growth can become stunted, and they may eventually die. Additionally, the accumulation of dust on their leaves can hinder photosynthesis. To ensure their well-being, place your succulents in spots that receive ample indirect sunlight, and periodically clean their leaves to remove dust.

2. Pot Problems: Size and Drainage

Another common mistake succulent enthusiasts make is choosing the wrong pot size and neglecting proper drainage. When succulents are potted in containers that are too large, they face the risk of overwatering and moisture retention. Excess soil can hold too much water, suffocating the plant’s roots and causing root rot. To avoid this, select a smaller pot that is proportionate to the size of the succulent, and ensure the container has adequate drainage holes. Well-draining soil is also crucial for preventing waterlogged conditions and maintaining healthy roots.

3. Pest Predicaments

Succulents are not immune to pests, and neglecting pest management can lead to their demise. Common pests that can afflict succulents include spider mites and mealy bugs. These tiny invaders can damage the plant by sucking out its juices or creating unsightly webs. To safeguard your succulents, inspect them regularly for signs of pests. If you detect any unwelcome visitors, clean the leaves to remove eggs and use natural remedies like neem oil or introduce beneficial insects to combat the infestation. Preventative measures, such as quarantining new plants and maintaining a clean growing environment, can also help keep pests at bay.

4. Inappropriate Soil Selection

One often overlooked aspect of succulent care is the choice of soil. The soil must be well-draining to prevent root rot, a common issue among succulents. To achieve this, it’s advisable to create a soil mix that includes components like perlite, pumice, sand, and standard potting soil. The goal is to ensure the substrate allows excess water to escape, keeping the roots dry and healthy.

5. Watering Woes

Succulents have a reputation for being low-maintenance, and this can sometimes lead to underwatering. Many individuals believe that succulents thrive on neglect and rarely need water. However, the key to successful succulent care is understanding when to water. Typically, you should water your succulents when the soil is completely dry. This can be easily determined by checking the soil’s dryness with your finger. Additionally, monitor the condition of the leaves – if they appear thinner and weaker, it’s time to give your succulent a good drink.

6. Watering Technique Matters

Not only is the timing of watering important, but the technique matters as well. Avoid watering succulents from the top, which can lead to moisture sitting on the leaves and causing issues. Instead, opt for the bottom-watering technique. Place your succulent in a vessel with water and allow it to absorb moisture from the bottom. This method prevents overwatering and promotes healthy root development.

Climate Compatibility

Another crucial consideration is the compatibility of your succulent with your local climate. While some succulents thrive in arid, dry conditions, others may suffer in humid environments. If you reside in a region with high humidity, your succulent’s leaves may become prone to fungal growth. Ensuring adequate air circulation and moisture control is essential to keep these issues at bay.

7. Pot Selection and Pruning

The choice of the right pot is pivotal for succulent health. Succulents require pots with excellent drainage to prevent waterlogged soil, and pots with drainage holes are a must. If you have a decorative pot without holes, consider using it as a cover pot while keeping the succulent in a pot with proper drainage.

Sometimes, succulents can become leggy, unsightly, or appear lethargic. Pruning is a helpful solution in such cases. Increasing the amount of light is often the first step in rejuvenating a struggling succulent. Pruned branches can be propagated to create new plants, breathing fresh life into your succulent collection.

8. Fertilizer mistakes

Fertilization Timing

Succulents, like most plants, benefit from fertilization during their active growing season, which is typically in the spring and summer. During this time, they require an extra nutrient boost to support their growth and vitality. However, it’s crucial to remember that succulents have distinct needs, and typical house plant fertilizers may not be suitable for them.

The Importance of Specificity

The key to successful succulent fertilization is using a fertilizer specifically formulated for these plants. These specialized fertilizers are designed to provide the right balance of nutrients tailored to succulent requirements. Before application, always ensure that the fertilizer you select is explicitly labeled for succulents.

Start with Caution

When introducing fertilizer to your succulent care routine, it’s wise to start with a diluted solution. A good rule of thumb is to use a 50 percent strength fertilizer mixture. This approach allows you to gauge how your succulent responds to the added nutrients. Keep a close eye on your plants over the following weeks to ensure they exhibit positive reactions to the fertilizer.

9. Using Rocks in pots

Succulent enthusiasts often find themselves on a journey of trial and error, seeking the ideal care practices. One common misstep, rarely addressed, is the use of rocks in the bottom of plant pots. In this segment, we’ll explore how this seemingly innocent practice can lead to succulent fatalities due to root rot and why it’s essential to reconsider this approach.

A Root Rot Revelation

Many plant lovers have unwittingly fallen victim to root rot, a perilous condition that can devastate succulent collections. The culprit, as it turns out, is often the rocks used in the bottom of plant pots. This well-intentioned act, aimed at enhancing drainage, can inadvertently create a moisture trap.

The Moisture Conundrum

Rocks in the bottom of a pot can indeed improve drainage, but they also have an unintended consequence. The gap created between the rocks and the soil above can serve as a reservoir for excess water, effectively trapping moisture. Over time, this moisture is wicked upward, leading to overly damp conditions near the roots—exactly the scenario succulents despise.

Revelation and Recovery

For those who’ve learned the hard way, the revelation is that the removal of rocks from the bottom of plant pots can be a game-changer. By eliminating this moisture-holding layer, root rot incidents often become a thing of the past. Root health is restored, and succulents can flourish without the threat of succumbing to excess moisture.

10. Re-potting required

Sometimes, succulents meet an unfortunate fate not because of neglect but rather due to their own success. As these hardy plants thrive and flourish, their root systems can grow exuberantly, becoming too substantial for their current pots. When succulents outgrow their containers, it restricts their ability to access essential nutrients and results in cramped, compacted root structures. This predicament can eventually lead to suffocation, poor growth, and the gradual decline of the succulent. Recognizing the signs of root congestion and providing an appropriate, roomier pot for these thriving plants is essential to ensure their continued health and longevity.

11. Poor air circulation

Succulents thrive in arid conditions, where good airflow is essential to their well-being. However, insufficient air circulation can be detrimental. It creates an environment conducive to problems like mold and mildew growth. These moisture-loving culprits flourish in stagnant, damp conditions, which can occur when succulents are overcrowded or placed in areas with poor ventilation. Inadequate airflow around the plants can not only lead to unsightly mold and mildew but also compromise the overall health of the succulents, potentially causing their decline. To protect your succulents from these issues, it’s crucial to provide them with the breathing room they require by spacing them adequately and ensuring they’re positioned in areas with sufficient air movement.

12. Extreme temperatures

While succulents are renowned for their resilience, they are not impervious to the challenges posed by extreme temperatures. Both scorching heat and freezing cold can take a toll on these hardy plants. Excessive heat can lead to sunburn and dehydration, causing their leaves to wither and brown, while freezing temperatures can result in frost damage and ruptured cell walls. Succulents are naturally adapted to thrive in specific temperature ranges, making it vital to shelter them from the harshest extremes. By providing appropriate protection, whether through shade and hydration during heatwaves or insulation during cold snaps, you can safeguard your succulents from the perils of extreme temperatures and ensure their continued health and vitality.

13. Transplant shock

Transplant shock, an often-underestimated hurdle in succulent care, can have devastating consequences for these hardy plants. It occurs when a succulent is relocated from one environment to another, causing stress that can manifest in various ways. This stress may lead to wilting, leaf loss, and overall decline. The shock is particularly common when succulents are moved from nurseries or stores to their new homes. To minimize this risk, it’s essential to acclimate succulents gradually to their new surroundings, allowing them to adjust to different light, humidity, and temperature conditions. By implementing a thoughtful transition, succulents can thrive in their new environment and avoid the unfortunate fate of transplant shock.

14. Extensive touching

One remarkable feature is the powdery coating known as farina that covers their leaves. This natural shield serves as a safeguard against excessive sunlight exposure, moisture loss, and other environmental stresses. Farina acts as a sunblock for succulents and also serves as a valuable indicator of their overall health. Handling succulents can be their undoing, as contact with human fingers often results in the removal of this protective layer. Without farina, the plant becomes more vulnerable to environmental harshness, including disease risks. In essence, touching your succulent can compromise its health by disrupting its protective layer and increasing its susceptibility to stressors, making it essential to handle these plants with the utmost care to ensure their longevity and vibrancy.


In conclusion, succulents can thrive with minimal effort, but only if their unique needs are understood and met. Avoiding these common pitfalls related to light, pot size, and pest management can go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your succulent collection. By providing them with the right amount of sunlight, well-draining soil, and vigilant care, you can enjoy the beauty of these captivating plants for years to come.

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