If you’re noticing your succulent’s leaves falling off, don’t panic! Leaf drop is a common issue succulent owners face, but it often has an easy fix. Here are some common reasons why succulent leaves fall off and what you can do about it:
Excess moisture is the number one reason for succulent leaf drop. Succulents hold water in their leaves and stems, so they need less frequent watering than other plants. If the soil stays wet for too long, the roots can rot and the leaves will often turn mushy and fall off.
Check the soil before watering – if it’s still damp 2-3 inches below the surface, hold off. Allow the soil to fully dry out between waterings. Make sure your succulent has a fast-draining soil mix and drainage holes in the container. Water less in winter when growth is slower.
On the flip side, not watering enough can also cause leaf drop in succulents. If the plant goes too long without water, it will start to dry out and sacrifice some of its leaves to conserve moisture. The leaves often become wrinkled and crispy looking before falling off.
Water your succulent when the soil is fully dry all the way through. In hot or dry conditions, this may need to be as often as every 1-2 weeks. In winter, you can go longer between waterings. Check soil moisture and look for wrinkling as signs to water.
Too much direct sun can scorch succulent leaves, especially in summer. If leaves are turning brown or red at the tips, the plant is getting too much light. Slowly acclimate it to increasing sunlight to prevent burning.
Move the plant to a spot with bright, indirect light. Dappled sun under a sheer curtain or beneath a larger plant is ideal. If needed, apply a sheer shade cloth during the hottest parts of the day to filter intense sunlight.
Sucking insects like mealybugs, aphids and thrips can all cause succulent leaf drop. These pests pierce the leaves to feed on the sap, causing tissue damage and leaf loss over time.
Check under leaves and along stems for signs of insects. Use horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps to treat infestations. Isolate affected plants and remove badly damaged leaves to help control the spread.
Like any plant, succulents need nutrients to stay healthy. Without enough fertilizer, the plant can’t support all of its leaves and will shed some of them.
Use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 or 1/2 strength every 2-4 weeks during the growing season. Or top-dress annually with a slow-release granular fertilizer made for succulents and cacti.
If temperatures dip well below freezing in winter or spike into extreme heat in summer, succulents can experience leaf drop. Sudden changes in temperature can shock the plant, causing damage.
Make sure outdoor succulents are in an area with some temperature protection, like next to the house or under an overhang. Move potted plants indoors if extreme cold or heat is forecasted. Acclimate indoor succulents slowly to temperature changes.
Normal Leaf Drop
It’s also normal for succulents to lose some older leaves. As new growth appears, the plant will jettison a few of the old leaves. This is nothing to worry about unless it’s excessive.
Gently remove shriveled leaves at the base. As long as there is new growth and no signs of pests or rot, some natural leaf loss is to be expected.
How to Stop Excessive Leaf Drop
If your succulent is losing more leaves than seems normal, review its care and make adjustments:
- Allow soil to dry between waterings and reduce watering frequency.
- Give more sun if leaves are wrinkling or turning yellow.
- Move to a shadier spot if leaves are scorched.
- Treat any pests you find immediately.
- Fertilize every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
- Keep away from heat and AC vents.
With a dry soil mix, plenty of sun, and proper watering, your succulent should stop dropping leaves and start looking lush again!
When to Worry About Leaf Drop
While some leaf loss is normal, pay attention if:
- Leaves are rapidly falling off from the center or bottom of the plant
- Many leaves turn brown or mushy before falling
- Bare stems remain after leaf drop
- You see signs of rot like black, mushy leaves
- The plant stops producing new growth
If you notice these red flags, the problem is more serious than normal leaf loss. Rapid leaf drop can indicate rot from overwatering, severe underwatering, pest infestation, disease or another cultural issue.
How to Help a Stressed Succulent
If excessive leaf drop has left your succulent stressed, focus on restorative care:
- Remove all shriveled or rotted leaves and stems.
- Inspect roots and cut off any that are black or mushy.
- Repot in fresh, dry soil mix if needed.
- Hold off watering until plant stabilizes, 1-2 weeks.
- Move to a warm, sunny location.
- Fertilize with a diluted balanced fertilizer.
- Be patient – it takes time to recover from stress.
With attentive care and time to grow, even a severely stressed succulent can regain its form and start thriving. Baby plants or offshoots may also appear at the base to take the place of the original plant.
How to Propagate Succulents from Leaves
You can propagate new succulent plants from fallen leaves. Choose healthy leaves that:
- Are not shriveled or rotted
- Have no visible insect damage
- Have either broken cleanly off the stem or were intentionally removed
Follow these steps for propagation:
- Let leaves dry out for a few days after falling or being removed.
- Place on well-draining soil mix or paper towels.
- Mist soil occasionally to provide humidity without overwatering.
- Many leaves will sprout baby rosettes at the base in 1-2 weeks.
- Keep new plants in a sunny spot and care for like adult succulents.
With this propagation method, one fallen succulent leaf can produce an entirely new plant for free!
Common Causes of Succulent Leaf Drop
Here is a quick summary of the most common reasons your succulent is losing leaves:
|Wet soil, soft leaves, black rot
|Water less frequently, improve drainage
|Wrinkled, crispy leaves
|Water when soil is fully dry
|Red, brown scorched leaf tips
|Provide shade from hot afternoon sun
|Bugs on leaves, yellow spots or stippling
|Treat with horticultural oils or insecticidal soap
|Slow growth, pale leaves
|Fertilize every 2-4 weeks during growing season
|Sudden leaf drop during heat or cold
|Protect from temperature extremes
Catching issues early and making suitable adjustments to care is key to keeping your succulents happy and healthy with minimal leaf loss.
It’s normal for succulents to lose a few older leaves here and there. But if leaves are rapidly dropping or the plant is losing its form, something is wrong. Most cases of excessive leaf drop can be traced back to cultural issues like over or underwatering, sunburn, pests or temperature stress. With some attentive care, you can get your succulent back to good health.
Always start by assessing basic care and making sure your plant has what it needs to thrive – proper sunlight, infrequent watering, warm temperatures and good drainage. Catching issues early and making small adjustments is key. With a little time and TLC, your succulent will be looking lush and lovely again in no time!