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Common Problems Caring for Succulent Plants

Succulent plants are fleshy plants that store water in their tissue. This process of water storage allows the plants to thrive in dry, drought conditions. There are more than 50 succulent botanical families and include leaf succulents, stem succulents, and root succulents. Though many of these plants are quite easily cultivated, there are some common issues that arise with these plants.

Watering Issues

Watering issues are very common problems with succulent plants. These plants require a balanced amount of watering and cannot tolerate over- and under- watering. Too much or too little water will result in flower drop, wilting and shriveling leaves, stunted growth, and limp flowers. The issue should be correctly immediately. Allow overwatered plants to dry out completely before watering again. Under-watered plants should be watered more frequently. Always check the plant’s soil moisture prior to watering. Water the plant with tepid water as cold water can also cause problems, such as soft spots on stems and water logged lesions.

Mineral Deficiencies

Mineral deficiencies and increased mineral levels are another common succulent problem. These plants enjoy balanced levels of iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen. Mineral deficiencies in succulent plants will cause yellowing of stems and leaves and loss of root mass. Nitrogen and phosphorous deficiencies will result in the lack of flowering. Proper fertilization will correct these deficiencies. Repotting and pH level corrections may be required.


Determining the amount of required sunlight can be difficult to ascertain. Succulent plants require a combination of sunlight and shade for successful growth. While each succulent plant has its own lighting requirements, most will show the same signs of too much or not enough sunlight. Plants will become etiolated and grow towards the light when it does not receive enough light.

Too much sunlight, however, will result in discolored stems and leaves, along with yellowish or brownish lesions on the stems. Succulent plants that have received insufficient light should be move to a brighter, warmer area. Those that have received too much light should be moved to a shadier area which will also provide a cooler temperature.


Succulent plants are free from most predators but can be attacked by pests and disease. Mealy bugs, scale insects, and spider mites are common pests to the succulent plant. Signs of pest infestation include loss of vigorous, discoloration, and webbing. Eliminate infestations by cleaning the plant with an insecticidal soap or 5% alcohol solution. Repotting may be necessary for infestations of root mealy bugs. Root mealy bug infestations will also require pruning away of damaged roots.


Common succulent plant diseases include root rot, soft rot, dry rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spots. These diseases often result in insufficient care. Treat these diseases by pruning away infected areas and repotting the plants in well-drained soil. Adjust the watering frequency, increase air circulation around the plant and adjust humidity levels. Infected areas that result from powdery mildew should be cleaned with a baking soda solution. Leaf spot infection that cannot be removed should be treated with charcoal powder.

Woody Stems

Many mature succulents will slowly develop stems with a woody texture. This is a normal sign of aging.

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