The most common reason for a succulent turning white is overwatering. When a plant is overwatered, it can result in root rot, which is a condition where the plant’s roots are constantly soaking in water so they “drown” and die. The rotten roots will soon start affecting the rest of the plant, including the stem and the leaves. The plant will become soft and discolored, and the leaves may turn yellow or white. Other reasons why your succulent is turning white are pests, powdery mildew, not enough sunlight, or sunburn.
Why is my succulent turning white?
It has been overwatered.
Overwatering a succulent can lead to root rot, which is when the roots “drown” from soaking in too much moisture. Succulents need airy soil with good drainage because they also need oxygen to survive. When a succulent is overwatered, it can become discolored and soft. The plant’s leaves will turn white or yellow. Usually when the leaves have started to lose their color, the plant can no longer be salvaged as the rot has reached most of the plant. You can still remove it from the pot to inspect the roots. Succulents with root rot will have dark brown or black roots that smell like rotten vegetables.
It has become home to pests.
If your succulent is turning white and fuzzy, it might be due to a mealybug infestation. If there are white spots or dots on the plant’s leaves, it might be because of scale bugs. Spider mites will spin their white webs on the succulent. All of these pests deplete your succulent’s nutrients and can cause a multitude of problems. Eventually, your plant will have damaged or dehydrated leaves and black mold. It is important that you catch the pest while it is on its first plant because it can very easily transfer to your other plants.
You can get rid of these pests by using neem oil spray. Neem oil spray not only kills pests but it is also a good fungicide. If you do not have neem oil, soak a cotton bud in rubbing alcohol and kill the insects one by one until they are eliminated. Be sure to keep the infested plant far away from your other plants.
It is infected with powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew can also cause your succulent to turn white. Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that grows on your plant if the conditions are ideal. The mildew can be easily confused with farina, which is a natural coating that plants produce to protect them from the sun. The best way to check whether it is farina is to read up on the type of succulent you have to find out if it produces farina. If it does not produce farina, then chances are the white stuff is powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew can start on the underside of leaves and spread to the stems and branches. Fortunately, powdery mildew cannot kill your succulents, but it can still do damage by causing the leaves to drop and taking nutrients from the plant.
Neem oil can also be used to deal with powdery mildew. Spray the neem oil on the plant until the mildew disappears. You can even continue spraying after the mildew is gone, once a week, as a preventative fungicide. Make sure you spray the neem oil at night as sunlight can cause the plant to easily burn when oil is present.
It is sunburned.
You might think that a sunburned plant would turn brown, and you would be right. But in the early stages of sun damage, the plant will turn white.
Even if succulents thrive in the driest parts of the world, they are still susceptible to sunburn. They can tolerate up to six hours of sunlight, but more than that will start to cause damage.
If you have been leaving your succulent out in the sun for long periods of time and it has begun to turn white, place it in a shaded spot to reverse the effects. If the plant is small enough and in a pot, take it indoors so you can control the amount of light it gets.
When a succulent is sun-damaged, as in the case where the leaves have become discolored, the color will most likely no longer go back to its original vibrancy. Do not worry too much about it; these damaged leaves will fall off eventually and be replaced by new leaves as long as the plant is still healthy.
It is not getting enough sunlight.
Interestingly, while succulents can become pale if given too much sunlight, they can also become white if they are not able to get enough sun.
If the leaves on your plant are looking washed out and pale, this could be a sign that you need to move your plant somewhere it can get sufficient sunlight. If your plant has started growing longer in a specific direction, it may be going through etiolation. This is when a plant is so starved for light that it starts to reach out for the nearest light source.
The remedy to this is simple. If the weather outside is pleasant and not too cold, place the plant in a spot where it gets sunlight for a few hours a day. If it is too cold outside, try using a grow light. Soon enough, the color on your plant’s leaves will come back.
It can be stressful trying to figure out why your succulents are changing color. Succulents will turn white for several possible reasons. The most common reason for this is overwatering. Other possible causes of a change in color are pests, powdery mildew, sunburn, and not enough sunlight. All of these problems have easy solutions–before you know it, your succulent will have its glorious colors back.
Image: istockphoto.com / kynny