Why Are My Succulents Turning Brown?

Why Are My Succulents Turning Brown?

The most common reason why the leaves on your succulent are turning brown is due to sun damage, which is caused by leaving it in the sun for longer than required. Just make sure you place your plant in a spot that has sunlight exposure in the morning and shade in the afternoon. This controls the plant’s sun exposure without needing constant supervision.

Another cause of browning succulent leaves is underwatering. Succulents, especially the ones with long, thin leaves, will curl and fold their leaves if they are running low on water.

What are the reasons why my succulent’s leaves are turning brown?

Sun damage or sunburn

This is the most common cause of succulents getting brown or black spots on their leaves.

It happens when the plant is left outside for too long. Even cacti and succulents that are native to deserts and places with arid climates will still need a break from the sunlight. If the leaves are burnt, there really is nothing you can do to bring them back to life, the best you can do is to wait for those leaves to fall and for new ones to grow in.

When a succulent is still young, do not expose them to direct sunlight. They will do just fine in a spot where they get indirect sunlight until it matures for several weeks.

If an outdoor plant looks to be sun damaged, transfer it to a smaller pot and bring it indoors until it can recover fully. If you do not want to transplant your succulent, you can try creating some shade for your plant by planting shrubs and taller plants around it.

When your succulent is almost fully recovered, slowly reintroduce it to direct sunlight. Add one hour to the sunlight exposure each day until you can have an estimate as to the correct number of hours.

You are underwatering your succulent

Another common reason for browning succulents is underwatering your plants. The best way to know if your plant is underwatered is to take a close look at its leaves. If the leaves are yellow or brown and the tips are shriveled and wrinkled, it is most likely underwatered.

A succulent’s leaves will turn brown when the plant’s water stores are depleted. Succulents keep the water they absorb from soil inside their stems and leaves. If the plant is down to its last bits of moisture, it will let go of its leaves and stems in order to conserve the little water and energy it has left.

For plants like the aloe vera, with its long and thin leaves, the tips of its leaves will dry up and curl inward as its way of choosing which parts of its body it will prioritize giving water to.

The same goes for flowering succulents. If you notice that a succulent that normally flowers in June is not producing flowers, it is a sign of dehydration.

The way to remedy an underwatered plant is simply to  water it. First, pour water into the soil around the plant and wait for it to be fully absorbed by the soil. Then add even more water until you see the excess water draining from the holes under the pot. Do not water your plant everyday, instead only do so if the soil feels dry to the touch.

Keep repeating this every two  weeks until you find the right balance of how often to water your plant. You will know if your plant seems healthy and happy. If two weeks between watering seems like a long time, try watering every 12 days, and observe the plant.

You can prevent underwatering your plants by soaking the soil when you water it instead of using a spray bottle. Succulents absorb water from the soil, so that’s where the water needs to be.

The leaves are just naturally dying

Succulents, just like other plants, need to get rid of their older leaves to make room for new ones. It is normal for the bottom leaves of your succulent to die. You can help out your plant by pulling off the dying leaves, or pruning.

As long as you can see that the leaves in the center portion of the plant are green and healthy, there should be nothing to worry about. In fact, this means your succulent is thriving.

Tips on making sure your succulents are healthy

Choose healthy plants when buying

When you are browsing through a succulent nursery, make sure you do not get roped into buying unhealthy plants. Nurseries will usually put the unhealthy succulents on sale to get rid of stock.

Some nurseries will even go as far as spray painting the discolorations on the plants to cover them up. Others will dress them up with glitter or fake flowers to dupe you into buying their plants. Make sure you inspect each plant before purchasing so you do not accidentally take home a sick plant.

Buy an LED lamp

An LED lamp is not that expensive, but can mean a world of difference to your plants. Succulents make great interior decor, but they often don’t get ample sunlight where they are placed. Buying an LED lamp to give your indoor plants their required light every day can greatly help in their growth and overall health.

Buy an appropriate planter or pot for your plant

Do your research regarding any newly purchased plant to make sure that you know all of its specific care instructions. There are thousands of succulent species and they all have unique needs. One of the most important needs to cater to is the size of the container you will be planting it in. 

If a container is too big, you might end up overwatering the plant because of all the water in the soil. Overwatering can cause root rot and make your plant susceptible to fungal problems.

If a container is too small, it can cause root containment and stunt the plant’s growth because the soil will quickly run out of nutrients and the roots will have no space to grow and thrive.


The main reasons your succulent’s leaves are turning brown are because it is sunburnt, or it is underwatered and the tips of the leaves are turning brown, or this is just your plant’s natural cycle and is simply changing its old leaves into new ones.

Image: istockphoto.com / everydayplus