Why Do My Succulents Keep Dying?

Why Do My Succulents Keep Dying?

Succulent enthusiasts prefer them because they are so easy to care for and only need minimal attention. However, succulents may still be prone to pests and diseases. Some signs of a dying plant include withering and yellowish leaves, as well as mushy stems.

In this article, you can get to know the reasons your succulents keep dying and how to prevent it from happening again.

Why do my succulents keep dying?

These are the reasons succulents keep dying despite your care and attention:

1. Through a bottom-up death caused by waterlogging a succulent’s roots. 

Succulents suffer a bottom-up death when the soil stays too moist for too long and the roots are being overfed with water. As a result, the roots start to rot until the rot reaches the actual plant, from the bottom up.

Since these plants come from dry regions, they are well-adjusted to waterless conditions with the help of their fleshy leaves and stems. Inversely, their roots are shallow and always seeking water, and could end up absorbing too much. 

Plants that absorb too much water turn yellowish, become transparent, and eventually black spots start to appear that could potentially kill them.

2. Through a top-down death caused by stagnant water on top of the plant. 

This usually happens when you water the top of the plant instead of focusing on the soil. To avoid a top-down death, always focus on watering the soil. If water sits stagnant for about three days on the top of the plant, root rot will start to develop, which could ultimately lead to the death of the plant.  

3. Due to a bacterial or fungal disease.

Succulents can become afflicted with bacterial or fungal diseases due to wet soil that comes into contact with air-borne fungal spores or bacteria. 

4. If exposed to too much sunlight. 

Succulents can survive in harsh conditions, especially hot temperatures, because of their fleshy leaves and stems. However, constant exposure to direct sunlight is another story. This could lead to extreme sunburn resulting in unsightly scorch marks, especially on the leaves. 

5. If there is not enough sunlight.

Succulents, like all other plants, need sunlight to maintain their great shape and vibrant colors. When they do not get enough of it, they tend to stretch out to seek light sources, resulting in etiolated plants.

Without sufficient sunlight, plants will not be able to perform photosynthesis to fuel their metabolic activities. 

6. Due to the planters or containers used.

Certain containers, such as glass ones, are not ideal succulent planters as they do not have drainage holes. Water tends to stagnate in the soil, resulting in root rot. Glass pots could also burn and kill your plants, since glass could bend and magnify direct sunlight.

Plastic planters could also endanger succulents, as they do not have good airflow and could suffocate the soil.  

7. Due to the type of soil used for the plants. 

Succulents thrive in fast-draining soil that does not soak up moisture. The ideal soil for these plants does not stay wet too long, which makes succulent and cacti mix the perfect soil for them. Traditional soil could kill these plants since it retains moisture and stays wet for longer. 

8. Due to a cold climate or extreme temperatures.

The extreme cold of winter months could kill succulents, so the plants should be placed indoors or in a greenhouse. Since the plants are more adapted to hot and desert areas, a cold climate could lead to frost and rot.

Plant growers need to be aware of their hardiness zone, so they can identify what type of succulents to care for.

Succulent enthusiasts may also opt for cold-hardy succulents that can tolerate cold temperatures. Here are some examples of such plants:

  • Red yucca 
  • Hens and chicks 
  • Queen Victoria agave
  • Thompson’s yucca
  • Broadleaf Stonecrop 
  • Aloe Blue Elf 

Succulents also tend to become shriveled and sickly because of the presence of pests like mealybugs, aphids, spider mites and fungus gnats. Check the plants regularly for any signs of pestilence and spray them at the earliest indication with a mixture of isopropyl rubbing alcohol and water or a soapy water solution. 

How to fix dying succulents

You can fix dying succulents by making sure the plants are in a well-draining medium. Containers or planters should have drainage holes so the soil does not stay moist. Excess water causes decay and root rot and encourages fungal disease. Make sure there is adequate sunlight for your plants to prevent etiolation that could lead to stretchy and weak succulents.


Succulents can get by with minimal care and maintenance, but they also deserve prompt attention. They are prone to disease and could eventually die due to overwatering, underwatering, or being deprived of sunlight and nutrients. Make sure that your succulents are planted in containers or pots with drainage holes, in fast-draining soil. Cold and freezing weather can also harm the plants, so they should be placed indoors to avoid frost and root rot.

Image: istockphoto.com / Boyloso