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Why Do Succulents Turn Yellow?

Yellowing leaves is one among few other problems succulents face. So what’s up with that? Let’s uncover this mystery together!

Quite a lot of things can cause yellow leaves in succulents. But overwatering is by far the leading culprit. Generally, succulents can do just well with spaced-out watering – it’s part of who they are. So being a bit too heavy-handed here is sure to cause some not-so-nice results.

But what exactly does overwatering in the case of succulents look like? And what other factors can lead to your succulent’s leaves turning yellow? Let’s take a look.

Overwatering – the Most Common Problem for Succulent Owners

If you’re just starting out with owning a succulent, you’re more likely to kill it with too much attention, especially on the watering side. It’s only natural.

Most people treat their succulents like other common houseplants by watering as much as they can. This, they falsely assume, will keep these succulents thriving. But that’s far from the truth.

Unlike most houseplants, succulents grow best when their roots are allowed to completely dry between watering – about 1-2 weeks for most climates. This is how they survive in the arid and semi-arid areas they call home.

So if you’ve been going a bit hard with the watering, it might be time you stepped back for a while.

But since yellow leaves can be caused by several other factors, how can you be sure that your plant is dealing with the effects of overwatering?

How to Tell a Plant Is Overwatered

Yellowing leaves from overwatering are usually accompanied by other signs. You can use these to pinpoint that you’ve actually been drenching your plant a little too much.

Signs of overwatering succulents include:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Squishy leaves
  • Rotting stem
  • Some leaves might turn pale/transparent
  • Leaves of some succulent plant species start splitting.

If you can spot these on your succulent, then it’s time for some quick action. Your plant is about to fall victim to the most common cause of succulents death which is overwatering.

How to Treat Overwatering in Succulents

Your next step will depend on just how severe the problem is – how long you’ve been overwatering and the other accompanying signs.

If the yellowing is just beginning, immediately stopping watering can help. Just hold back until the soil dries up and the plant recovers from the effects of the excess water.

On the other hand, more signs like squishy, splitting, and pale/transparent leaves might necessitate some more action than just stopping to water. Re-potting the plant will be the best solution.

Here’s a quick walkthrough on repotting a severely overwatered succulent:

  • Remove the plant from the current pot and rid the roots of all the wet soil.
  • Allow the plant enough time to dry – for up to one week. Be sure to keep in a well-lit spot but away from direct sunlight.
  • Replant the succulent in a well-draining mix and wait for another week before you begin watering. Be sure to keep up with an ideal schedule this time – only water when the soil mix is dry.

But what if your overwatered succulent is rotting? Can it be saved? Unfortunately, you can’t. But the good news is you don’t have to lose the whole plant.

Saving a Rotting Succulent Due to Overwatering

Most succulents can be propagated by stem/leaf cuttings. So you can use this to your advantage in case yours is rotting away due to overwatering.

Propagating rotting succulents from leaf/stem cuttings:

  • Inspect your plant to determine if there are any leaves to salvage (there should be).
  • Using a sharp pair of scissors or knife, cut these off as close to the stem as possible. Be sure to cut several good leaves – the more the leaves the better.
  • Keep the leaves somewhere dry so that the cut part can heal (callus). This prevents another rotting.
  • Place the callused leaf cuttings on top of a potting medium. Don’t water for now.
  • Keep the set up in a well-lit spot but away from direct sunlight.
  • When the leaf cuttings have developed roots, use a spray bottle to mist the soil mix every time it dries.

That’s enough about overwatering and yellow succulents. Remember, the problem can be due to other factors.

Succulents Turning Yellow – Other Possible Causes

Besides overwatering, the following are just as likely to turn your succulent yellow. So be sure to investigate them too. Take a look.

Bad Soil Mix

Succulents need a fast-draining soil mix to keep their roots dry most of the time. That means regular potting soil is a no-no – at least if you want healthy succulent plants.

The regular potting soil retains water for far longer than it’s ideal for succulents. Even if you keep the watering sessions 1-2 weeks apart, you’ll still end up overwatering your plant(s).

Of course, you’ll have to repot the succulent into a succulent mix that drains fast enough.


Succulents don’t usually have a pest problem but infestation does occur. Common ones include spider mites and mealybugs.

These feed on your succulent’s tissues causing general distress that can lead to yellowing. That’s why it’s important to inspect your plant often to pick up these pesky little things before they can multiply.

There are quite a few pesticide options out there but dilute rubbing alcohol (70%) is pretty effective. Just grab a spray bottle and sprinkle some of it on the affected areas.

Bad Container

Not every pot is ideal for nurturing succulents – at least not healthy ones. An inappropriate pot has the same effect as overwatering and a bad soil mix.

Just like planting medium, a succulent pot is also very specific and should promote fast draining and root aeration. That should be easy for pots made of ceramic and terra cotta.

And for better drainage, be sure to have a pot with holes at the bottom.


Underwatering is just as much of a problem as overwatering. This is a given since every other living thing needs enough water to survive. It’s just that succulents don’t need much of it compared to other plants.

Both underwatering and overwatering can cause yellowing but the accompanying signs are different. While overwatering causes squishy leaves, underwatering leads to shriveling as the plant tends towards drying.

You better grab the watering can if you see that. But remember to follow the rule of the thumb when watering succulents – the topsoil must dry before watering again.

Low Light

Most succulents love soaking in the rays. It’s how some of them bring out their best colors. Sunlight also promotes a more compact growth.

Without enough light, your succulents will have elongated stems and spaced out yellow leaves. You might have to start over by propagating the succulent from stem cuttings if it has grown too long.

Otherwise, moving it to a well-lit spot is enough to encourage healthy growth. But don’t go all-in at first. Sudden bright light can have adverse effects on a plant that’s coming from poor lighting conditions.

Move it gradually until it’s at the ideal spot. Remember to also rotate the pot. This allows the plant to get enough light all around.

Final Thoughts

Succulents turn yellow mostly due to overwatering. This is a common problem among first-time succulent plant owners.

There are different remedies depending on how severe the situation is. You can stop watering for some time, repot the plant, or start over again by propagating the healthy leaves in case the plant is rotten.

If you’re sure that you aren’t overwatering your plant, be sure to check for other possible problems and fix them as soon as possible.