Wrinkled Echeveria Leaves – Causes and Fix

Wrinkled Echeveria Leaves - Causes and Fix

Plant owners love adding Echeveria succulents to their collections because these are low-maintenance plants that require very little attention. Being native to some of the driest places on earth, they are drought-tolerant and resilient in high-temperature conditions. They have beautifully symmetrical shapes and always add the perfect vigor to any space they are in.

When an echeveria’s leaves are wrinkled, it means that the plant is being affected by a change in its environment that is causing it stress. You will need to correctly identify and address this problem in order to revive your plant.

The most common causes of wrinkled echeveria leaves are insufficient light, too much light, not enough water, too much water, root rot, the plant adapting to a new environment, transplant stress, the wrong pot, pests, and poor soil quality.

In this article, we will discuss each of these causes of wrinkled echeveria leaves, and how to fix them.

Why are my echeveria leaves becoming wrinkled?

Not enough light

Remember that these plants naturally grow in deserts or desert-like places, so they are used to living with little to no shade and under direct sunlight for most of the day.

If you keep the plant in a room with low light conditions, you will notice that the leaves will start to droop and wrinkle the longer they are subjected to this light deprivation. These plants need light in order to photosynthesize and produce food for themselves. An inability to photosynthesize will stress the plant, hence the droopy, wrinkled leaves. In the worst cases, the plant will begin to drop its leaves in an attempt to survive.

Fortunately, treating wrinkled leaves due to light deprivation is simple enough: just move the plant to another spot where it can get plenty of bright light. If you cannot place the plant outside, at least place it near a window that lets in a lot of bright, indirect light. Make sure the plant gets at least six hours of bright light per day to keep it happy.

In the winter, when light is scarce, place the plant under a grow light so that it can still get the light it needs every day.

Too much light

Yes, echeveria plants love light because it is what they get in their natural habitat, but too much sunlight can also cause problems for the plant. If the plant is kept under direct sunlight from morning until afternoon, this can lead to irreparable sun damage. The heat from the sun will burn the foliage and affect the plant’s overall aesthetic. The sunlight will also dry out the soil much too fast, which could cause drought stress for the plant.

If your echeveria has been growing indoors for the first few months of its life and you wish to move it outside, introduce it gradually to the outdoors. Never place the plant directly under the sun, because this is stressful. In the first couple of days, place it on the terrace or the porch to help it adjust. Increase the number of hours that the plant is outside little by little, until you are sure it can handle an entire morning outside in the sun.

If you keep the plant indoors and the only window available is letting in harsh light throughout the day, you can use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light.

Not enough water

Succulents can store water in their fleshy leaves and stems, but even though echeverias are drought-tolerant succulents, that does not mean you can entirely neglect their watering needs. The plant will eventually use up all of the water in its body and it will dry out, resulting in wrinkled leaves. The wrinkling is due to the cells in the leaves losing all of their moisture, because it is this moisture that makes healthy leaves plump and sturdy.

The best way to save your underwatered echeveria is to water the soil in the pot as soon as possible. Just make sure that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom so that any excess water can flow out.

Avoid underwatering the plant again by knowing how to tell when the plant needs water. Do this by touching the soil in the pot. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.

Too much water

One of the most common mistakes an echeveria owner makes is being too eager when caring for the plant, and giving it more water than it needs.

Overwatering can happen by giving the plant more water than necessary each time you water it, or watering it more often than it needs. It can also happen if the pot has no drainage holes at the bottom or if the potting mix is not well-draining and holds onto the water a little too well. All these situations end up with the plant’s roots soaking in waterlogged soil for long periods of time. The roots can no longer get oxygen because they are constantly wet, so they drown and die.

These plants need oxygen because the food that they produce through photosynthesis can only be used with the help of oxygen, through the process of respiration. When the roots are compromised, they are also unable to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, which they need to survive. The plant will therefore be stressed, and this will be evident in the condition of its leaves, which will wrinkle and curl.

Fix an overwatered echeveria by immediately refraining from giving it any more water. Allow the soil to dry out completely so that the roots are also able to dry.

Good watering techniques will help avoid overwatering. As mentioned above, only water the plant when the top two inches of soil in the pot are dry. Do not water it if the soil is still damp to the touch.

Root rot

Overwatering and root rot usually go hand in hand. Overwatering is essentially the early stages of root rot, which happens when the plant has been overwatered for long enough that the tips of the roots are dead because they have drowned. The dead roots will start to rot and become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens, such as bacteria and fungi. These pathogens will make the rot even more aggressive, and it will spread to the rest of the roots, the stems, and eventually the leaves. The leaves will become wrinkly, soft and mushy.

Save an echeveria plant with root rot by removing it from the pot and washing off the old, contaminated soil from the roots. If there are any brown or black roots, those are rotten and will need to be removed with a sterilized knife or pair of scissors. Spray fungicide on the remaining healthy roots and let the plant air-dry for several hours. Once the plant is dry, prepare a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom and fill it with a well-draining potting mix. Replant the echeveria in the pot and make sure the potting mix is loose and airy. Do not water the plant after repotting, because the soil should still be slightly moist anyway.

Wait until the soil is completely dry before watering the plant again.

The plant was recently moved

If you have just bought the plant from a greenhouse or nursery, it is normal for the leaves to become wrinkled or droopy after a few days. This is because the plant has just come from an environment where its living conditions were near-perfect, and has suddenly been taken from that utopia into a place where the living conditions are more unstable. The temperature, humidity, water and light are different from what the plant has been accustomed to for the past months.

The only thing you can do in this situation is to support the plant as it adapts to its new home. Try to give it an environment that is as close as possible to its natural habitat, and after a few weeks it will adjust to its new home and should recover completely with no lasting problems.

Transplant stress

If your echeveria is looking like it has outgrown its pot, you may need to repot it. This is something you will have to do every couple of years in order to give the plant’s roots the space they need to grow.

Repotting or transplanting is a traumatic and stressful experience for any plant because it is being torn from the soil it has grown in for years. Placing the plant in new soil that has different components to the old soil will come as a shock to it. So, do not be surprised if the plant looks a little wilted and wrinkly during the first couple of days or weeks after the procedure.

While the plant acclimatizes to the new soil and the new pot, take extra care of it so that it recovers quickly.

Repot the plant only when it is 100 percent healthy. If it has other issues that it is dealing with, repotting it will only add to the stress it is already experiencing.

Wrong pot

Another reason the echeveria may have wrinkled leaves is if you are using the incorrect kind of pot for it.

If you use a pot that is too big, you will be putting a lot of soil into the pot. The more soil is in the pot, the more water will be retained in the soil. This makes the plant more susceptible to overwatering and even root rot, which will cause stress and the wrinkling of the leaves.

When you repot the plant, make sure the new pot is only one size bigger than the old one. Using a pot that is too big, in the hopes that you will not need to repot your echeveria as often, will only lead to problems for the plant in the future. A pot that is too large will also require the plant to grow much longer roots just to be able to reach the nutrients in the soil near the bottom of the pot. This will use up valuable resources that the plant could have used for other growing needs.

Choose a pot that is just the right size for the plant, and avoid pots that are made of plastic or steel. These materials are too dense and will not allow the passage of air and water, basically suffocating the plant. Use pots made of clay or terracotta instead, because they are more porous and airy and will allow the plant’s roots to breathe and dry out quickly, lessening the chances of overwatering and root rot.

Make sure the pot you choose has drainage holes at the bottom so that any excess water from watering will simply flow out, rather than stagnate at the bottom.

The plant is rootbound

Another reason you need to repot your echeveria from time to time is to avoid it becoming rootbound. This condition develops when the pot has become too small for the plant. You might have forgotten to repot the plant for too long, so that the roots are now growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom, the leaves are droopy and wrinkled, and the plant’s growth has become stunted.

The roots will be crowded in the small pot and the soil will be completely depleted of nutrients. There will be more roots than soil in the pot, so very little water will be retained and the plant can become easily underwatered.

Save your plant by checking the bottom of the pot once in a while to see if the roots have begun to grow out of it. Repot the plant in a bigger pot, but make sure that the new pot is not too big. Always use well-draining soil to avoid overwatering and root rot.


A pest infestation can also cause the leaves of your plant to become wrinkled.

The commonly seen pests on echeveria plants are mealybugs, scale insects, fungus gnats and spider mites. These pests cause damage to the plant’s leaves by sucking and feeding on their sap, or juices, drying them out.

Remove the infested plant from your other plants to quarantine it. This is so that the pests do not spread to your healthy plants while you are treating the infestation. Treatment can take several weeks to several months. You can use a garden hose to dislodge the pests from the echeveria; you can also use pesticide, but make sure you use one that is made specifically for succulents. You can put rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and wipe the plant down to kill the pests, or use a solution of one tablespoon of neem oil in a gallon of water and spray this on the plant. Repeat the treatment once a week for a month until you are sure that all of the pests have been eradicated. Only then can you put the plant back near your other plants.

Poor soil quality

Choosing the right soil for your echeveria is very important to the plant’s overall health. Echeveria plants like soil that is well-draining, loose and airy to prevent overwatering and root rot. If the soil is too dense and compact, it will retain water too well. This can lead to stressful conditions and manifest in symptoms such as curling and wrinkling leaves.

Choose potting soil that contains sand and perlite, because these components will increase the soil’s drainage capacity. They will allow excess water to pass through easily and for just the right amount of water to be retained.


Wrinkled echeveria leaves are a sign that there is an environmental factor causing plant stress. This will need to be identified and resolved as soon as possible.

The most common causes of wrinkled echeveria leaves are insufficient light, too much light, not enough water, too much water, root rot, the plant adapting to a new environment, transplant stress, the wrong pot, pests, and poor soil quality.

The sooner you are able to narrow down the cause of the problem, the faster the plant will be able to recover and regain its beautiful aesthetic.

Image: istockphoto.com / Susan Perry