Succulent leaves can turn soft due to over-watering and cold weather. Dying succulents also have leaves that are mushy, wet, and wrinkly.
Here is a quick look at each of these possible causes as well as the actions that you can take to remedy the problem.
Reasons why succulent leaves are turning soft
When you touch a healthy succulent, its leaves and stems should feel firm and rigid. If you try to bend the parts of your plant, it should offer some resistance before breaking off.
This indicates that your plant has a full store of moisture. Deprived of water, the leaves and stems look limp and bend easily.
But what if your succulent’s leaves are soft and mushy to the touch? Here is an exploration of the possible causes.
Over-watering is perhaps the number one mistake that new succulent growers make. Because of the unique ability of succulents to store water in their bodies, they do not need frequent watering like other plants. Frequent watering is detrimental to succulent health. Over-watering can result in not only the leaves turning soft but also brown.
Think of the leaves and stems of succulents as water balloons. Now each of these balloons can only store a set amount of moisture.
When you over-water your succulents, their leaves and stems become overfilled. Eventually, the cells of these plant parts become too engorged. This is why your succulent leaves feel too soft. Plus, the slightest touch can make the leaves fall off.
Apart from feeling soft and mushy, the leaves may exhibit other symptoms. These include yellowish color and black spots.
Left unchecked, over-watering can lead to rotting. A rotting succulent has noticeably brown or black stems that feel and look and feel mushy.
As the situation progresses, the plant dissolves and eventually dies.
Over-watering is often compounded by the use of poor-draining soil which keeps the plant’s roots constantly wet. Additionally, when the soil is always wet, air cannot get to the roots.
After some time, your succulent’s roots wither and become soft. And when the roots cannot function optimally, the leaves begin to feel soft.
1. Saving an over-watered succulent
If the damage is not extensive, it is possible to save your succulent. But, you need to act fast.
First, check the roots of your plants so that you can evaluate the extent of the damage. If there is a minimal amount of roots that are affected by rot, you can cut these off using either a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.
Remove the soil from the roots until you see the white tissues. If the succulent has soft or dead leaves, be sure to remove these as well.
Afterward, place your succulent in an area in your home that has adequate light and airflow. Do not put it under direct sunlight which can cause sunburn. This will give your plant ample time to heal itself.
Once your succulent has recovered, you can replant it. Make sure that you use a fast-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.
At this point, your succulent will enter its growth phase. You can water it thoroughly but allow the soil to dry out partially in between each watering session.
2. How to avoid over-watering succulents
Succulents should be watered deeply but infrequently. Plus, you should only water your plants when the soil in their containers is dry.
As much as possible, avoid watering your succulents from the top as you would usually do with other types of plants. This will only allow the water to pool on top of the plant.
The better way to water a potted succulent is to place the container over a saucer filled with water. The soil can then absorb water through the pot’s drainage holes.
After some time, the water should reach the top portion of the soil. When this happens, you should remove the saucer from under the pot.
This watering method ensures that the soil is evenly moisturized while preventing over-watering.
Although there are succulent varieties that can be grown outdoors all year round, some cannot survive freezing temperatures.
Tender succulents are vulnerable to frost damage. During freezing temperatures, the water stored in the plant’s cells expands and eventually bursts. In turn, this makes the succulent leaves feel soft and mushy.
Initially, the leaf tips will exhibit damage from frost burn. Left for hours under freezing temperature, the leaves become extensively damaged eventually leading to the collapse of the whole plant.
What to do with frost-damaged succulents
If you notice that your succulents’ leaves are suffering from the freezing temperature, the first thing that you need to do is to relocate your plants.
Afterward, allow your affected succulents to dry off completely. This can take anywhere between a few days to several weeks.
During this time, the affected plants will recover by themselves. The mushy parts will eventually dry out and you will notice scabs forming on the damaged parts.
Do not water your succulents during this time. You will only worsen the problem.
Once the damaged parts are completely dry, you can cut these off. Sometimes, you will only need to cut off small parts. If the frost damage is extensive, you may need to cut off a substantial part from leaves.
If the frost damage has reached the stem, you might not be able to save the whole plant. However, you can cut the healthy parts, let these callous, and replant these.
Why you should touch your succulents regularly
As you progress in your journey as a succulent grower, you become more familiar with the appearance of your plants. With a single glance, you can notice subtle changes in your plants.
However, there is a case to be made for touching your plants regularly.
When you are starting, you should learn how a healthy plant feels like when you touch it. Healthy succulents should feel firm and rigid.
You should also learn how to compare the feel of succulents which have been recently watered and those that need to be watered again. When you have just watered your succulent, you notice that it has become fuller and firmer to the touch.
As you become familiar with the feel of a healthy, well-nourished succulent, you will be able to take better care of your plants.
Saving your succulent
Soft and mushy leaves indicate that your succulent is in danger. With quick action, you can help your plant recover.
This is why it is crucial for succulent owners, not only to learn what a healthy plant looks like. More importantly, succulent collectors should learn how a healthy plant feels like.
Image: istockphoto.com / Andrey Zhuravlev