Why Do Succulent Leaves Turn Soft?

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Succulent plants or succulents derive their name from the Latin word “succus” which translates to juice. 

The fleshy, thickened, or juicy new leaves and stems with water-storing tissues are an identifying characteristic of these plants which look beautiful growing in rosettes.

soft succulent leavessoft succulent leaves

Succulents have this in-built mechanism to store water and survive the full sun, arid conditions, low rainfall, and warm climate.

There are more than 25 plant families, including Aizoaceae, Cactaceae, and Crassulaceae, with various species of succulents. 

Healthy plants have a unique appearance, evergreen foliage, long lifespan, and little maintenance make them ideal ornamental houseplants and must-have outdoor garden plants.

Some well-liked succulents are:

Although succulents can thrive on scarce water resources and lots of sun exposure, the trickiest part in growing these plants such as Echeveria are their watering requirements. 

Succulent plants often experience a variety of problems if they are overwatered or left to survive prolonged drought conditions.

What Is The Condition?

Leaves of succulents can swell up and become soft when over-watered. 

Puffy stems and mushy, wrinkly, and wet leaves indicate the succulent is dying. 

Cold weather also turns the succulent leaves soft. 

As leaves of a potted succulent plant turn soft, it is a tell-tale sign the soil is too wet for healthy growth.

Winter season is usually the time when succulents are dormant and prefer underwatering. 

Not cutting back on watering during these months can cause squishy and shriveled leaves.

What Damage Does It Cause?

Soft leaves often indicate the underlying problem with the roots. 

Since succulents have a well-established water storage system, excess moisture in the soil or pools of water resting around them makes them bloat and crack.

  • Root rot is the most common damage caused by wet soil lingering at the bottom of the pot.
  • Poorly draining soil inhibits air from reaching the roots. 
  • Consequently, the roots become soggy and withered. 
  • Without healthy roots, the leaves turn soft and flaccid. 

If left unattended or untreated, it will attract a succulent mealybug infestation but ultimately lead to the succulent’s death.

How To Control The Condition?

To prevent succulent leaves from turning soft, you should ensure the saucers, containers, and soil are well-drained. 

  • Throw away any excess water from the saucers and dig out the plant to inspect the extent to which the dying succulent has suffered root rot.
  • If the soft rot is not extensive, amputate it with a sharp knife or scissors dipped in alcohol. 
  • Cut the brown, mushy roots until clean and white tissues are visible. 
  • Get rid of the soft bottom leaves or any dead leaves.

Place the overwatered succulent at a spot getting enough light and lots of air but don’t sunburn the leaves.

  • Without enough light, the plant will go through etiolation.
  • The plant will heal on its own and will get ready for repotting. 
  • Change the soil and use a well-draining succulent potting mix. Check out our Succulent soil mix article for more info.
  • The condition is prevented by monitoring your succulent’s growth and water requirements. 

During the growing phase of new plants, water succulents thoroughly on some days and let the soil dry out partially on other days.

  • Check the top layer of the soil to know whether your succulent needs much water. 
  • Immerse your finger 1” to 2” inches deep in the container and feel the moisture in the soil. 
  • If the soil is moist, avoid overwatering.
  • During dormant months the soil should remain dry at least halfway down the container. 

Use a wooden stick to check the level of moisture in the soil. 

In case you are unsure about the watering needs of the plant, do not water the plant as succulents are drought-tolerant and would prefer to remain in dry soil with little water but keep an eye on it because it’s possible for the plant to be underwatered.

Furthermore, use a well-draining potting mix. 

Purchase a potting soil mix available in the market for cacti and succulents or create your own by mixing organic matter, like peat, compost, or coarse sand particles with equal parts of perlite, lava fines, or horticultural pumice.

Ensure your plant has a pot with 1” inch of extra growing space. 

Sempervivum and other sedum grow rapidly and easily; hence, they require a bigger pot every year.

  • Refrain from watering these plants by using a top-down method as this can make the water accumulate in the bottom of the plant. 
  • Place the pots in a saucer filled with water so it can get absorbed by the plant through the drainage holes at the bottom of the bot. 
  • Once the moisture reaches the upper layer of the soil, remove the pot from the saucer and let the water drain. 

This method would keep the plant uniformly moisturized and keep new growth healthy.

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