Why Has My Succulent Changed Color? Causes & Solutions

Succulents are beautiful plants that are known (and loved) for their unique shapes, textures, and colors which can change throughout the year. While some people might try to encourage this color change, if you’re not one of those people, or have a succulent that’s always green, it can be worrying if the leaves start to change color which is why I decided to write this article.

When the leaves of a succulent change color it’s a sign that the plant is stressed in some way. The color the leaves change to will tell you what has stressed your succulent. Whether it’s too much or not enough water, too much sunlight (or not enough), poor quality soil, or even a bug problem.

Some succulents will change the color of their leaves as part of the natural growth cycle but if this isn’t the case then you need to know why your beautiful succulent has suddenly changed color. Knowing why your plant has changed color though is only part of the story, once you know why you then need to understand how to stop it.

Why has my succulent turned yellow?

Yellow is probably one of the most common color changes that succulents can undergo and there are a couple of reasons for this color change.

Yellow leaves on a succulent often means overwatering


Overwatering is, without doubt, the single biggest cause for a succulent’s leaves turning yellow but it’s not the only reason so you need to look for other indicators such as translucent and or soft, mushy leaves. Of course, giving your succulent too much water too often is the most obvious reason for it being overwatered but it’s not the only one. Both poorly draining soil and lack of airflow can leave the soil with an excessive amount of water.

If your soil isn’t draining the water properly then the roots will remain wet and won’t be able to breathe, likewise, if you don’t have a decent airflow then any excess water won’t be able to evaporate and we know that succulents can absorb moisture through their leaves.

How to fix an overwatered succulent 

If your succulent is showing signs of being overwatered then the best thing to do is stop watering it immediately. Once you’ve done that you need to remove all of the yellow leaves because they won’t recover. If you’ve noticed the yellow leaves early enough then removing them will fix the problem.

Do you know how much water your succulent needs? Watering for optimum health.

Lack of nutrients 

The main difference between overwatered yellow leaves and those that have changed color due to a lack of nutrients is the texture of the leaves. If they’re still firm and aren’t opaque, then they’re not getting the nutrients they need. That said though, succulents that aren’t getting the nutrients they need can take many years to show the effects, but thankfully can recover pretty quickly.

How to fix a lack of nutrients in succulents

Most potting soil already has a good amount of nutrients in it but this doesn’t last forever so you’ll need to replace the nutrients every few years. The quickest way of doing this is to give your succulent a fertilizer boost to make sure they get the nutrition they’re lacking but the best way is to repot the plant and replace all of the soil with a new fresh mix.

Not sure what soil is best for succulents? What your plants really need.

Why has my succulent turned brown?

Succulent leaves normally turn brown when they dry out and this is typically caused by either too much sun (ie the plant is sunburnt) or not enough water.

Brown leaves on a succulent is sign of sunburn or under watering

Too much sun

I know that succulents generally come from dry, arid regions that get a lot of sunlight but if they’ve been kept inside (or in the shade) for a while then suddenly exposing them to bright sun for prolonged periods of time can cause the plant a lot of stress. 

How to fix a succulent that’s getting too much sun

If your succulent’s leaves are starting to turn brown then move them into the shade for a while (or at least out of direct sunlight) and then slowly start to acclimatize them to the light. You can do this by giving them around 30 minutes of direct sunlight a day for a few days before slowly increasing it by another 30 minutes every few days. In time your succulent will be happy to live in direct sun for most of the day, although if the temperature is above 40°C/104°F for a long time you should make sure your succulent has some shade.

Sadly once the leaves have turned brown though they’ve already died so won’t recover. Some people like to leave them to fall off naturally but they can be a little unsightly so you might want to remove them yourself.

Not sure how to remove brown leaves? How, when, and why to deadhead a succulent.

Not enough water

Underwatering a succulent can also cause the leaves to dry out and turn brown but thankfully this isn’t as serious as overwatering and most succulents will survive this.

How to fix an underwatered succulent

We all know that succulents are hardy plants that can recover from a lot of neglect and underwatering is just one example of that. Being native to desert regions succulents are used to not getting enough water so, when water is scarce, they’ll take any nutrients they need away from the leaves and give it to the roots. This means that, while the leaves may die the plant itself remains healthy.

With this in mind giving your succulent a healthy watering from the bottom up will solve this problem. If the leaves have already started to shrivel up though then you probably won’t be able to save them (the leaves that is, the plant itself will survive just fine).

Why has my succulent turned red?

While people use sunlight to naturally turn their succulents red this will change the whole of the leaf as well as much of the plant. If, however, your succulent only has a few red leaves or has red patches on them then it’s more likely to be caused by spider mites, especially if it’s the younger leaves at the bottom of the plant that are showing the color change. This is a common problem but can easily be fixed.

Red patches on a succulent often mean spider mites

How to fix spider mites on succulents

Before your plant can recover you need to make sure you get rid of all of the spider mites which is a three-step process. First of all, you need to use an alcohol spray to kill as many of these little bugs as you can. Once you’ve done that you need to cover the soil and rinse the succulents in tepid water before allowing the plant to dry and then spraying it again.

After you’ve removed all of the spider mites you need to replant the succulent in a new pot with fresh potting soil. At this stage, it doesn’t hurt to spray the plant once again.

Do indoor succulents really suffer from pests? Everything you need to know about succulent bugs.

Why has my succulent turned black?

If your succulent (regardless of whether it’s the leaves or the stem) is turn black then it’s a good sign (or a bad sign really) that the roots are rotting. This is especially true of plants where the leaves are starting to droop and fall off. While mealybugs can cause root rot it can also be caused by overwatering.

A black succulent is an indication of root rot

How to fix a root rot in succulents

Regardless of whether your succulent is suffering from mealybug or rotting roots caused by overwatering the solution is still the same and involves removing the plant from the soil immediately (and throwing the old soil away).

If the plant has mealybugs then before repotting it you’ll need to wash the root, if overwatering is the cause then you’ll need to remove as much of the black parts as possible. Once you’ve done this you’ll need to place the succulent on a kitchen towel or paper tissue so that it can dry out. After a few days replant it in a new, clean pot with fresh soil. It’s also important to make sure the soil is able to drain properly otherwise you’ll be back to square one in no time at all.

NOTE: If you’re only able to save a few leaves of your succulent don’t worry, after leaving them to dry place them on top of fresh soil, and within a few weeks they’ll start to take root and your plant will be saved.

Is all succulent leaf color change bad?

While we might think of stress as only ever being a bad thing it can sometimes be used to encourage some succulents to turn beautiful and vibrant colors. From shades of red, purple, blue, and even black.

Changes in temperature, light, and even the amount of water a plant gets can help to alter the color of the leaves. For example, if a succulent is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight then pigments in the leaves will alter the color. If this is done carefully, and you monitor the plant, then this color change won’t have a negative impact on the health of your plant.

It’s also worth pointing out that some succulents won’t change color at all, some will do so naturally as they mature, turning from bright green when they’re young to a deep mutter green as they get older.

Succulents come in a huge range of colors

Take home message

While the unexpected color changes in succulents may be worrying it can, in most cases be rectified once you understand the reasons behind why it happened in the first place. That said though the best course of action is to observe your plants regularly and look for signs of color change. That way you can keep your succulent healthy and allow it to thrive.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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