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Why do my succulents keep dying?

Why Do My Succulents Keep Dying? 6 Reasons - All Preventable

Why Do My Succulents Keep Dying

You get home from work today.

It was a good day.

You go through your normal routine… put on some weird pajama outfit, see what’s good on Hulu…

Then you notice IT…. and by it I mean.....ANOTHER. DEAD. SUCCULENT.

“How could this happen?!?!?!”

It’s hard to say, but I have 6 educated guesses, and 5.73 of them are 100% preventable.

Let’s go through each one and talk it out.

How Water Kills Succulents

Water is responsible for 85% of all succulent murders.

There’s 3 ways water can kill your precious plants.

1. Bottom - Up Death

Usually caused by water logging a succulent’s roots - basically the soil stays too moist for too long, and the roots just keep drinking because they don’t know any better.  

The causes the root to rot first - and work the rot up to the actual plant.

You have to remember that succulents in the wild come from dry places across the world. They have adjusted to those dry environments to thrive without water for long periods of time.

Their leaves and stems are chunky and fleshy because that’s where they hold reserves of water to account for the dry spells.

The roots are shallow and always thirsty - they will absorb as much water as you give it. They will literally drink themselves to death.

Before it dies from taking up too much water - it will do the following:

  • Turn a yellowish color
  • Then a transparent color
  • Black spots come next
  • Lastly, it will spawn into this weird, mushy, black rot mess

2. Top - Down Death

Caused by standing water left on top of the plant.

When you water your plants, it’s super important to focus on the soil.

Try to avoid giving the top of the actual plant any water - If it happens it is NBD.

You’ll just have to make sure to remove the standing water from the plant. You can use a straw, tip the plant over, or dab it with a paper towel.

I recommend the tip the plant over method myself, but, do you.

If you leave this standing water on the plant for 2-3 days, it will start to rot the part of the plant it’s on and work it’s way down.

Once rot forms, there’s little hope for the succulent to bounce back.

The only thing you can do is remove the healthy parts and try to start over.

3. Bacterial or Fungal Disease

Caused by wet soil that gets into contact with bacteria or fungus in the air.

Spores in the air can land on wet soil or succulents with an open wound, causing the bacteria or fungal spores to spread.

We’ll discuss this more in later articles, but more the reason to be careful when watering.

How Sunlight Kills Succulents

Sunlight has 2 nifty ways to kill your plants.

1. Too Much Sun

For the most part love early morning sunlight and afternoon shade.

Hot afternoon sunlight is no bueno.

This can lead to unsightly sunburn scorch marks on the plant that will not go away until it grows out.

Now, with this situation - the plant will likely be fine, but why lie… it'll be ugly.

You’ll likely want to hide this burnt plant from your friend Brian, the judge-y "why can't you take care of your plants" guy.

2. Not Enough Sun

Succulents need sunlight to keep that cute compact shape we all love.

When it doesn’t get enough, it stretches out on a desperate hunt to get some.

The leggy plant will no longer be compact from that point on.

After more days of not enough sun it will turn a very light green or white color.

Eventually with no sun, you can expect it to die off. This will take months.

They like neglect - but c'mon.  Do better. :)  

How Planters - Containers Kill Succulents

Not all containers were created equally.  Most will be fine for succulents if given the proper care and placement.

We’ll go over the types of containers that usually kill succulents:

Glass Containers

  • Doesn’t have drainage holes so it’s easy to water-log the roots in wet soil.
  • Direct sunlight on glass can bend light and magnify the sunlight to burn and kill your succulents.


  • Doesn’t have good airflow, doesn't allow soil to breath, and soil can stay wet for a long time if the drainage hole is blocked - resulting in rotted plants.

Containers with No Drainage Hole

  • If the container doesn’t have a drainage hole, be extra careful with watering.
  • The water will accumulate that can’t drain will sit at the bottom of the container and eventually rot out the plant.

How Soil Kills Succulents

Succulents want a fast draining, fast drying soil.

When it’s time to water your plants, you can soak the soil in water and trust that it won’t stay wet for long.

You want a succulent and cacti soil at a minimum. Bonus points if you grab some perlite into the mix for optimal drainage. You can find both at any home and garden store.

If you use a traditional soil - one meant for roses, grass, trees, etc - you will kill your succulent. Traditional soil holds on to moisture and stays wet longer.

How Climate / Hardiness Zones Kill Succulents

This factor mostly plays a role in the fall and winter months when temperatures get cold.

Aside from a few frost hardy succulents we offer, the rest will need to be brought indoors or into a warm greenhouse over the winter.

It’s important to remember succulents come from dry desert-like areas, where temperatures are 35+ degrees Fahrenheit.

The chunkier the leaves, the more susceptible a succulent is to frost and rotting.

As mentioned before, most succulents store water in their leaves, and since water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit… it makes sense that they would be affected.

To learn what your Hardiness zone is you can CLICK HERE. Super easy to use - just type in your zip code in the box on the left hand corner and it spits out your Zone.

That zone will determine what plants can be safely planted outdoors in your area.

Any plants outside of the zone simply means your plants will need to be brought indoors or into a greenhouse that stays warm in the cold months.

Best to plant them in containers and not your garden. This will make for easy transport indoors. 

Speaking of indoors - Avoid these indoor plant care mistakes.

Someone Else Kills Your Succulents

This is the one thing you can’t prevent. It could be a roommate, house-sitter, annoying sibling or best friend... who just doesn’t know what succulents want or need.

Initially this was my unpreventable topic, BUT after giving it some thought, you can totally prevent it.

How? You ask…

Easy: Leave them a note or have a discussion about it.

The same way you would if you were going out of town for a week, and they were watching your dog who needs to take medicine.

Tell them to leave the plants alone, when to water, what to do, and everything will be alright.

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