Why Succulent Leaves Turning Brown, Yellow, Black

Why Succulent Leaves Turning Brown, Yellow, Black?

Succulents are a group of plants with some of the most diverse forms, colors and blooms. 

These easy to care for indoor and outdoor specimens are a dream for the busy gardener.

What is a succulent plant? Succulents are specialized plants that store water in their leaves and/or stems. 

They are remarkably adapted to harsh climates where water is scarce or comes sporadically. 

Merriam Webster defines a succulent as “full of juice” or “juicy.” Read on for some fun succulent plant info so you can get started collecting the myriad of varieties available in this special class of plant.

You may  like How to Save an Overwatered Succulent

While most types of succulents require warm temperatures, moderately dry, well-draining soil and sunlight, some can withstand cooler or even downright cold temperatures. 

These hardy succulents are able to withstand brief freezes and fend off frost damage.

Occasionally, cold snaps will force a plant into dormancy, but well established hardy types will spring back when warm weather returns. 

It is important to know if your succulent is a tropical or hardy variety in instances where it is planted outdoors.

You’ve probably heard from numerous sources that succulent plants are hardy and easy to care for and yet you find yourself encountering problems with your succulents. Perhaps one of the most common problems that come up with succulents is leaf discoloration.

Why are my succulent leaves turning brown

With so much diversity among succulent plants, one common bond they share is that they are all adapted to drought.

Its thick stems and leaves store water, which helps to maintain them during dry periods. But these same thick stems and leaves are also susceptible to diseases and disorders that discolor them with brown spots.

Although the leaves of succulent plants are thick, fleshy, and filled with water, this does not mean that you need to water them more than other plants.

The opposite is rather true.

Succulents work best when your soil dries between waterings. If they remain in damp or waterlogged soils, the succulents suffer from edema, which causes brown, quilted spots on the leaves.

Sometimes the spots form on the underside of the leaves, making it more difficult to notice this disorder.

Brown spots are particularly noticeable in the white areas of variegated succulents, such as the tricolor jade plant (Crassula ovata “Tricolor”)

The most common reason for succulent leaves to turn brown is because of sunburn.

If you recently moved your plant around and placed it in a bright spot, or if there has recently been a heat wave or intense heat and you notice that your plants have brown spots on their leaves, these spots are probably sunburn.

While aesthetically not pretty, the brown spots from sunburn don’t really harm the plant too much, though they do leave a permanent mark on the leaves.

These spots will not go away, but the leaves will eventually fall off as new leaves grow.

Small baby plants, or newly propagated plants, are more susceptible to sunburn than mature plants.

The simple solution is to move the plant to a shadier location or provide some shade if you start noticing that they are getting sunburned.

Succulents are sensitive to too much fertilizer and generally need infrequent or dilute fertilizer applications.

For example, kalanchoes only need a light dose of fertilizer each year. If you give your succulent plants too much fertilizer, the salts contained in the fertilizers build up in the soil and can burn the roots.


Leaves can also turn brown from underwatering. An underwatered plant that’s also sunburned will have a shriveled appearance plus burned leaves.

The amount of water stored in the leaves and stems of succulents can help the plants last at least a month in drought condition.

It can be confusing to distinguish between dying old leaves and shriveled underwatered leaves.

Dry leaves caused by underwatering are softer to the touch than when fully hydrated, but don’t look translucent and soggy like overwatered leaves.

As the moisture pressure inside the tissue of the leaves and stems reduces, there will be wrinkles on the skin, and the leaves will look droopy with sagging tips.

Dying old leaves are always the lower leaves at the bottom of the plant. Instead of shriveling up and discolor, they become brown and thin out to a very dry, crispy, papery feel.

Dead old leaves will eventually be dropped, or can be removed to keep the plant looking its best. 

So to fix the underwater I quite simple. Give the plant a good drink and let the water reach its roots so it can be absorbed by the plant. 

Why are my succulent leaves turning yellow

Your first sign of overwatered succulents is likely to be when the leaves change color and begin to look a bit translucent.

This is due to the excess water bursting the walls of the water-storage cells.

No longer neatly stored within specialized cells, the water runs through the leaf, diluting its color, and making the leaf feel squishy as it begins to rot. Soon, these are succulent leaves falling off the plant.

Overwatering leads to succulent rot and is the quickest way to kill succulent plants.

The sooner you recognize an overwatered succulent, the sooner you can take action to save it.

The small amount of root structure compared to the size of the top growth demonstrates a problem.

Go ahead and dig up your succulent to get a better look at the root structure.

Succulents are far more tolerant of this than other plants, and it’s a good way to be certain of what is happening.

If you discover or suspect root rot, remove excess soil, rinsing the roots if the soil is muddy.

If you discover rot, discard the used soil and thoroughly wash out the container.

So basically the solution is to Cut back on watering right away. Allow the plant to dry out completely before watering again.

If possible change the soil.

When dealing with an overwatered succulent that has developed succulent rot, whether of leaves, stem or roots, it’s important to separate the rotting tissue from healthy plant.

Discard used soil and any bad parts of the plant. In this case, with little root structure, and part of the stem and lower leaves rotting, only the top of the plant was still healthy.

First, remove all signs of rot. Remove the leaves, and cut off the stem that has any rot.

Then, look inside the stem you have remaining, to check for any signs of rot in the core of the stem.

Continue cutting it back until all signs of rot are removed. In doing this, Terran removed healthy leaves from the stem. These healthy leaves were able to be propagated from their meristem tissue.

Lack of nutrients

Some garden soils and potting composts suffer from a lack of nutrient content, leading to deficiency symptoms in the plants growing in them.

Plants can also suffer deficiencies where the growing conditions are poor and the plants are unable to take up nutrients present in the soil. Very acid or alkaline conditions, dryness and waterlogging can all make it difficult for plants to take up soil nutrients.

Nutrient deficiencies cause symptoms such as leaf yellowing or browning, sometimes in distinctive patterns.

This may be accompanied by stunted growth and poor flowering or fruiting.

This will not happen right away and can take years to develop. Succulents can stay in the same pot for quite some time before you need to repot or replenish lost nutrients.

The plants can feed off those nutrients for quite some time but eventually the nutrients run out and will need to be replaced.

To fix this in the long term, mulching with organic matter (such as well rotted garden compost or manure) provides a steady trickle of nitrogen to stabilise levels.

In the short term, applying high nitrogen fertilisers such as sulphate of ammonia or poultry manure pellets will remedy the problem.

But a quick solution is to repot the plant in fresh potting mix.

If your succulent has been sitting in the same pot and potting mix for years, you can repot to provide the plant with needed nutrients. 

You can also apply fertilizer as a quick solution to add nutrients that’s been lost.

Why are my succulent leaves turning black

If you’ve been growing succulents for a while, chances are you’ve already encountered some issues with these plants.

The most common are black spots on the leaves or even on the stems.

But what is the cause of black spots on succulents? There are four main causes of black spots: sunburn, excessive watering, and insects and viruses / fungi.

As soon as you notice black dots on the leaves of your succulents, you must act because something is wrong with your plant.

Excess irrigation

If you feel that they are soft when you touch the leaves of your succulents, this means that the plant has received too much water. He is choking.

Succulents store extra water in their leaves, roots, and stems so they can survive the arid conditions of their native desert, but too much water causes the leaf tissues to exceed their water storage capacity so they swell and explode.

Black spots are a fungus that has developed in damaged plant tissue.

Solution: You may not be able to retrieve your succulent, but you can try.

Take the plant out of the pot and check its roots to see if they are still healthy. If so, cut all the damaged leaves and stems and replant the succulents in dry soil.

Let it rest for a few days on a new well-drained substrate but without watering it.

After two or three days you can start watering it, but less or less often than you were doing previously.

If the roots are soft, it means that they are dead and the plant is a lost cause.

You can trim some cuttings from the remaining healthy parts of the plant.

Before transplanting those cuttings into new pots, let the ends heal.

You should dispose of both the dead mother plant and the soil where it was planted because both are likely infected with fungi that caused the plant to rot.


Yes, although succulents like the sun, too much can kill or negatively affect them.

This can especially happen when a shade succulent variety receives too much intense light before it has time to acclimatize.

If you buy a plant that has been in partial shade in a nursery and place it on your sunny deck, for example, or move a succulent indoors outdoors, you could cause leaf burns.

Solution: You can retrieve a sunburned succulent with some ease.

Remove the burned leaves, because they will not cure, and put the plant in the shade.

You should give your succulent a couple of days to adjust to full sun, so put it in the sun for three or four hours in the morning on the first day and increase the time of exposure to the sun by one to two hours per day.

At night, take the plant indoors or place it in the shade.

By the fourth or fifth day, your succulent will adjust and you can let the sun shine without worrying about the leaves of your succulents being sunburned.

Insect pests

If the spots are small and look like freckles, insects may be the problem.

Mealybugs, mites, and aphids feed on the leaves of succulents, leaving small areas of dead tissue that later develop sooty black mold.

Solution: remove the damaged leaves and throw them away.

To kill the insects, clean the leaves with cotton balls moistened with alcohol or use a potassium soap or an insecticide.

Repeat the treatment every day until the small insects disappear.


If the spots are on the underside of the leaves, they can be the black ring virus.

Orthotospovirus, the same one that causes tomato wilt, can also infect succulents.

Solution: There is no cure.

Cut the affected leaves off the plant and sterilize your scissors with alcohol when you’re done so you don’t spread the disease to other plants.


Do succulent leaves grow back?

Yes. If you lost a lot of leaves from overwatering, the plant will eventually recover as long as it is not rotting. When given a chance to dry out, you will soon notice new growth or tiny leaves along the stems.

How to avoid overwatering succulent?

How you water your succulents that are outdoors will differ from how you water plants that are kept indoors. Outdoor plants usually receive more sunlight and tend to dry out faster.

Indoor plants are more protected from the elements and therefore do not dry out as fast and do not need to be watered as much.

A good tip is to always check the soil. And remember that some succulents need more water than others.

Watering also has a lot to do with the time of the year. In the summer, plants will need more water because of the heat and sun.

During winter the plant does not need to be watered as much. 

Do succulent leaves grow back?

Yes. If you lost a lot of leaves from overwatering, the plant will eventually recover as long as it is not rotting.

When given a chance to dry out, you will soon notice new growth or tiny leaves along the stems.

Succulents are highly adaptable to drought conditions due to its native habitat. Under drought conditions, or when underwatered, succulents draw water from their own storage.

When prolonged underwatering occurs, the plant will shed its leaves from the bottom up to conserve water and energy. This is a survival mechanism that the plant has.

Should I plant all my succulents together?

It depends this is a yes and no answer. It’s all about the care but in general.

There aren’t many plants that like this arrangement, including succulents.

Overcrowding is one of the best ways to encourage mold and insect infestations.

The second issue is that, although succulents do very well getting by on slim pickings, they still need food and water.

Too much competition means they’ll probably miss out. 

If your succulents arrive in a crowded arrangement, pluck them out carefully and give them each their own spacious mini desert dune.


All succulents (and all plants for that matter) benefit from a complete soaking, until water comes out of the bottom of the pot. For succulents, wait until the soil is bone dry — and then some — to water again.

Succulents are designed to withstand one of the most extreme environments on planet earth, so standard potting soil just won’t cut it.

Once you get your succulent baby home, change its soil to a desert-dweller mix, combining half potting soil with something inorganic like perlite.

This super well-draining, low-nutrient soil will work for most succulents whether they’re used to thriving in the high and dry Andes or the broiling bottom lands of Death Valley.