Succulent Leaves Are Wrinkly

Succulent Leaves Are Wrinkly

If you notice wrinkly leaves on your succulent, it might be caused by you are either over or under-watering it. For new succulent keepers, it might be difficult to distinguish between ove-r and under-watered succulents.

Here are a few important facts that will help you discern whether your succulents are indeed under-watered or over-watered.

The difference between over and under-watering

In the wild, succulents can survive in arid conditions, getting by with intermittent rains. These plants have adapted to these conditions by learning how to store moisture in their leaves and other parts.

That, however, does not mean that you can forget watering your succulents. Just like any other plant, succulents require water, just a little less.

On the converse side of the coin, one of the very first things that succulent keepers must learn is that their plants do not like excessive moisture. In fact, the easiest way to kill these resilient plants is to over-water them.

But how exactly do you know if you are under or over-watering your succulents?

Signs of under-watering

Succulents have a way of telling their owners that they are under-watered and need more moisture. As such, it is your duty to learn what these signs are.

If you look closely at an under-watered succulent, one of the first things that you will notice is that its leaves are wrinkled and shriveled.

This occurs because the plant’s stores of water have become severely depleted. If the plant remains under-watered for an extended time, it will droop.

Another sign that you might have been remiss on your duty to water your succulents are the presence of brown or dead leaves.

Deprived of enough water, succulents drop their bottom leaves. These plants do this as a means of conserving both energy and water which are vital for their survival.

Touch your succulent’s leaves. Do these feel flat and soft to the touch? Healthy succulents have plump and firm leaves. If you have been under-watering your succulents, the leaves will look and feel deflated.

Signs of over-watering

Succulents can surprise you with the amount of water they can store in their leaves and stems, enabling them to survive sustained periods without moisture.

However, storing an excessive amount of moisture can be detrimental to succulents. When a succulent’s water storage capacity has been breached, its tissues begin to swell up. Over time, these tissues can burst.

But how do you know if you have been over-watering your plants?

The leaves of an over-watered succulent will also look shriveled. The key difference between over and under-watered succulents is that in over-watered succulents, the leaves are soft and mushy. Additionally, the leaves take on a translucent color. You can instantly notice that your over-watered succulent looks sick.

If this situation continues, your succulent will begin to rot, starting with its leaves. Eventually, the translucent color of the leaves will turn into black. 

Typically, this change in color begins at the lower portion of the plant, with the discoloration moving upward. 

In turn, this can mean any of two things: you have a rotting succulent or fungi have taken advantage of the situation and have infested your plant.

Just like under-watered succulents, over-watered succulents also drop leaves that have become too engorged with water. However, there is a big difference between these two situations.

Over-watered succulents can easily drop their leaves. Even the slightest touch is more than enough to remove a leaf from the affected plant. In under-watered succulents, you will see that the leaves are dried up and have a brown color.  

Saving your succulent from watering mishaps

Is it possible to save an over or under-watered succulent?

That depends on whether your succulent is over or under-watered. You will also need to factor in the severity of the case.

Reviving under-watered succulents

Between an over and under-watered succulent, the latter is easier to deal with. But what exactly are the steps you need to take to revive your plant if you have under-watered it?

One of the most important things that you need to do is to stay calm. The worst thing that you can do is to panic and compensate by overwatering your succulent.

Instead of panicking, give your plant its usual dose of water. Do not water it again until the soil in its pot is completely dry.

Later on, you will notice that your succulent will begin to perk up and look more lively.

This is an opportune time to adjust your watering habits. For example, if you usually water your succulent once a month, you may need to water it more frequently, like every two weeks.

Reviving over-watered succulents

Saving an over-watered succulent is trickier. You need to act fast to turn things around for the affected plant.

For less severe cases, you can start by stopping yourself from watering the plant. You need to give it time to recover and allow the soil to wick away excess moisture. 

It is also a good idea to relocate the plant to an area where it can receive adequate sunlight and airflow. Both of these can facilitate quicker drying of the soil. 

From time to time, check the soil in the pot. If it seems like it is not drying, you might have used the wrong potting mix for your plant.

In such a case, you should remove your plant from its pot. Remove excess soil from the roots and allow the plant to air dry for a couple of days, preferably in a shaded spot in your home.

Afterward, you can repot your plant in a container with drainage holes and the appropriate potting mix.

But what if your plants look like they are dying from being over-watered? Is revival still an option?

There is no definite answer to this question. You have to look at the plant and assess the damage wrought by over-watering.

In some cases, succulent owners found success in reviving their plants by removing rotten or dead parts. In other instances, succulent owners took away the green parts from affected plants for propagation.

Technically, propagation does not mean that you are saving the original plant. However, propagation is always a better option when you have a dying plant. Having a new plant is always better than having a dead plant.

Mastering proper watering technique

When it comes to succulents, it can be difficult to nail down the proper watering. This is why many people who are new to the hobby contend with dead succulents in a matter of weeks.

There is no specific formula for watering succulents. This is because there are numerous factors to consider, including the type of succulent you own, the climate in your area, and the prevailing temperature during a particular season. There is also a marked difference in the water requirements of a plant in its growth phase compared to one that is dormant.

But for beginners, or even advanced succulent owners, the rule of thumb to follow is to water succulents only when the soil is dry. And the easiest way to check if the soil is dry is to feel it. Ideally, the upper portion of the soil should be dry before you water your plants.

Never mist your succulents. This is unnecessary and potentially harmful. The only exception to this rule is if you are propagating your succulents.

Erring on the side of caution

Watering is a vital task that you need to learn to keep your succulents happy. However, it is crucial to find the right balance. Too much or too little can be harmful to succulents. If you are unsure about the water requirements of a particular succulent, err on the side of under-watering and then make the necessary adjustments later on.

Image: Istockphoto / bbbrrn

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