Succulent Edema

Succulent Edema

Succulents are easy to care for and commonly used to decorate patios and certain areas at home. However, they also suffer from diseases and other plant disorders that could pose great risks. Succulent edema is one such condition. Read on for insightful tips on how to diagnose and treat this condition among succulents. 

Succulent edema: What it is and conditions that lead to it

Succulent edema causes bumps, blisters and rough spots on succulents and plants. The spots are either brown, red, white, black or yellow. It indicates an imbalance, but it is not fatal and acts as an early warning signal to correct your cultivation process to avoid any serious damages. 

Succulent edema is a disorder of the transpiration system, resulting in small scars on the leaves of the plants. The scars are cork-like patches and rough, often raised like a blister. These scars are small and irregularly shaped and can affect other types of plants as well.

While root rot is characterized by decayed roots due to excess water in the soil, succulent edema results from healthy roots that take up water more rapidly than the leaves can release back into the air. Unlike overwatered succulents, the disorder affects a few cell walls near the skin. Most likely, the cells were already weakened and bruised before the conditions leading to edema.

Conditions that lead to succulent edema

These are the conditions that lead to succulent edema:

  • When plant roots take up excess water when the soil and water are warm. 
  • When there is too much water in the soil, forcing healthy roots to take up water more quickly. 
  • When high humidity or fog slows the ability of leaves to release water into the air. 
  • When cold air temperature slows the plant’s release of water into the air.
  • When poor air circulation slows the leaves’ ability to release water into the air. 
  • When there is improper fertilization. 

How to diagnose succulent edema:

A noticeable sign of succulent edema is brown spots on succulents. However, this may also be due to insects, sunburn or insect damage. To be certain if the spots are due to edema, you need a powerful magnifying glass. It will show you if the brown spots have legs, or if they are a defect in the skin–which is an indication of succulent edema.

Sunburn in succulent leaves occurs over a broader area and is flat and relatively smooth, while edema scars are raised like blisters. Sunburned leaves have single swaths of burned skin while with edema it could be a single small scar or separate little scars that form randomly. Sunburn is always on the surface while edema blisters can occur on the underside of leaves.

Treatment for Succulent Edema 

These are the ways to treat succulent edema:

  • Use fast-draining succulent soil to avoid waiter build-up in the soil.
  • Opt for a container or pot with good drainage so the soil won’t stay wet.
  • Water the plants only if the soil is parched or dry. 
  • Make sure that there is good air circulation for your indoor or outdoor succulents. 
  • Do not over-fertilize your succulents. Time-release plant food adds fertilizer when plants are growing slowly and it could increase the risk of edema.
  • Do not water succulents with warm water on cool, humid or overcast days. 

Succulent edema is not a disease nor is it bacterial or viral. It is not contagious since it is not a sickness. It is an injury and disorder that serves as a signal regarding your plants’ health and growing conditions. Edema marks are permanent scars and cannot be removed, but your succulents can still grow large and will eventually outgrow them. 

If you begin to notice symptoms like brown spots and suspect that it is succulent edema, increase light and air circulation and decrease the water that you provide. 


Succulents are great-looking plants that are low-maintenance and do not need too much attention. However, they are also prone to disorders and conditions like succulent edema. This disorder indicates an imbalance and while it is not fatal, it serves as an early warning signal to correct the cultivation process before any serious damage occurs.

Image: / Amanda Comarim

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