When a succulent’s leaves turn yellow, the most common cause is overwatering. If a succulent’s soil is constantly wet, it can cause the roots to rot and die. When the roots are damaged, they cannot effectively take up water and nutrients. The rot will move up the stem and the leaves will become yellow, plump, soft and mushy. The leaves will fall off due to their weight and the plant will eventually die.
Once the root rot reaches the stem it is usually impossible to salvage the plant, so make sure you avoid overwatering from the start. Use well-draining soil and a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to effectively remove any excess water.
In this article, we will learn about the various causes of yellowing succulent leaves and how to remedy each one.
Why are my succulent leaves turning yellow?
The most common cause of yellowing succulent leaves is overwatering. Yellow leaves are often a sign of a stressed plant. If the yellow leaves on your succulent are soft and mushy to the touch, you are most probably watering it too much. One of the earliest signs of an overwatered plant are leaves that fall off easily after even the slightest touch. If you can see black spots on the plant’s stem, it may be too far gone to be salvageable, but you can still take the healthy looking leaves and propagate them to grow more plants.
If there are no rotten roots, transplant the succulent to a new pot that has drainage holes, using well-draining soil.
If there are black spots around the plant’s stem, you need to remove the plant from the pot and shake off as much soil as possible from its roots, as carefully as you can. Cut off any roots or stem that have rot and lay the plant out on a paper towel so it can dry out. Discard the infected soil properly.
Once the succulent is dry, plant it in a pot with drainage holes using well-draining soil. Make sure you only water the plant a week after repotting to give the roots enough time to establish themselves.
Water the succulent only when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. If the soil is still damp, wait one or two days and check it again.
Succulents come from some of the most arid places on earth, so they are adapted to high temperatures and little to no water for extended periods of time, but this does not mean that you should deprive them of all water.
Underwatered succulents can also turn yellow and dry out. The leaves in this case will also become quite brittle.
You can remedy this by simply watering the plant. Make sure the plant is in a pot with drainage holes and give all of the soil a good soak of water until you can see the excess water flow out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
Make sure you check the soil in the pot before watering. If the soil is dry, water the succulent, but if it is still damp, wait a few days and check the soil again. Even if you are trying to revive an underwatered succulent, this does not mean you should overwater it.
Not enough light
Your succulent’s leaves may also be turning yellow because you are not allowing it to get enough sunlight.
If the succulent’s leaves are yellow and its stems are getting longer and lankier, it may be going through a process called etiolation. Etiolation happens when a plant becomes so desperate for light that it compromises its body by placing all its energy and nutrients into growing in the direction of the nearest light source. This does not really harm your succulent, but it does drastically change the way it looks. It will start to look asymmetrical.
Fortunately, lack of light is very easy to fix. You just have to transfer the succulent to a part of your house where it can get at least three hours of direct sunlight a day.
The most common pest that feeds on succulents and turns its leaves yellow is the mealybug. Mealybugs like to feed on the new growth of a succulent, and this causes significant stress to the plant. They can be found in the nooks and crannies of the succulent and, if not caught early, they can take over the entire plant in no time.
You can get rid of mealybugs by using an insecticide. You can also use neem oil to kill these insects. Just apply the neem oil on the leaves once a week for a month to make sure all the mealybugs have been killed.
You are using the wrong soil or pot
If all of the above causes are ruled out, it is possible that the reason your succulent’s leaves are turning yellow is that you are using the wrong soil or the wrong pot.
Succulents do not need a lot of water because they are able to store it for long periods of time. This means they do not need to soak in wet soil. Use a well-draining succulent soil mix that you can buy, or you can simply make some of your own by mixing potting soil, sand and perlite. The sand and perlite helps keep the soil aerated. Make sure the pot has drainage holes so that any excess water is able to flow out in order to avoid overwatering.
The leaves are dying naturally
Sometimes yellow succulent leaves do not really mean that anything is wrong with your plant. It could just be that the leaves are dying naturally. When a leaf becomes old, the plant will decide to cut it off from any water and nutrients and choose to direct these to growing new leaves instead. The old leaves will turn yellow, dry up, and eventually fall off. This is all part of the plant’s life cycle and should be nothing to worry about.
Take note that it is usually the leaves closest to the base that die off naturally. If the newer leaves at the top are dying, it may be because of something else.
The most common cause of yellowing succulent leaves is overwatering. It is very easy to overwater succulents because they are adapted to getting very little water.
Other common causes of yellow succulent leaves are underwatering, insufficient light, pests, the wrong soil or pot, or the plant’s natural life cycle.
Image: istockphoto.com / Natalia Van Doninck