Why is my succulent so tall/droopy? Succulents like a certain amount of light (by “certain” we mean “usually a lot”), and when they are not receiving that amount, they can “reach” toward the light. This is called etiolation and looks like increasingly elongated leaves or stems and can also lead to the drooping of lower leaves (to maximize the surface area exposed to light).
You can stop your plant from stretching by gradually increasing its exposure to light (by placing it in a window, or in a sunnier window, or using grow lights). If this is not done gradually, you risk scorching your plant. All etiolated portions of plants are stuck like that — they cannot shrink. If this becomes an issue or is not desired for aesthetic reasons, beheading is an option.
Why is my plant changing colors? My plant turned red/orange/purple/etc., is this normal? Plants with a lot of sun exposure, a lack of water, or a sudden temperature change can develop what is called stress coloring. Stress coloring most commonly indicates that the plant is receiving adequate or more sun than is required for photosynthesis, but sometimes may also signify that the plant wants more water or has experienced a jump in temperature recently. Unstressed succulents are primarily green and will stay that way until stressed. Stressed succulents often display vibrant or muted colors varying in shade and brightness. Some jades, for example, can show red edges on their leaves, some echeverias will blush a light purple or have the very tips of their leaves turn red, and so on. If you’re curious about stress colors for your plant, type “(your plant) stress coloring” into Google or the search bar for examples.
Succulents also recycle leaves that are old or injured. When a plant does this, it draws all of the nutrients and water out of a leaf, causing the leaf to turn yellow/brown and crispy. Once these leaves are all used up by the plant, it will either shed them naturally, or you can remove them (don’t yank too hard, they should come off with a gentle tug). This is perfectly normal, and not a cause for alarm!
Lastly, some plants may become variegated in their lifetime. This just means that there’s a deviation in color from what the plant normally looks like. Typically, it’s the leaves that will show variegation, but the stems and flowers of succulents can also be variegated. Variegation may display in a total lack of chlorophyll, where the leaves turn white or yellowish, or it might be more subtle and simply be a lighter color than normal. Some plants may have a little variegation, some may have a lot, and some might put out variegated pups! Variegation isn’t harmful unless the entire plant goes variegated, because in that case, it cannot photosynthesize. Variegation can revert back to normal, though, so don’t worry!
HELP! What’s wrong with my succulent? Is this rot? Is this overwatering/underwatering? If a leaf begins to turn translucent yellow/brown and gets soft, that might be a sign of overwatering. Translucency is important- if the leaf isn’t translucent, it may just be being recycled and reused! However, translucent brown/yellow leaves could be an indicator that you’ve been watering too often or your soil’s staying too wet, both of which are bad. Keep an eye on these leaves, as they could begin to rot. Oftentimes, to fix overwatering, you should cut back on the frequency of watering, and check your soil to see how long it’s staying wet/damp. These leaves will be shed, but new leaves will take their place soon enough.
Rotting leaves are another issue. These might turn black, brown, yellow, or a combination of all three, and get very mushy. Sometimes, they will have a bad odor. A plant with rotting leaves may have stem rot, may be overwatered, or may have other issues. Be mindful of your watering, give your plants a once-over every now and again, and if rot appears, you can catch and treat it early.
Rot very often results in compromised structural integrity. A mushy/squishy/floppy plant is not always rotting. If you poke the suspected area and it crumbles, oozes, bursts, loses form, (or anything else gross) it is more than likely rot. If it simply squishes, bounces, falls off, or dents — it could be another issue or completely normal. Not all dark spots on the stem are rot! Darkened parts of stems can be normal — what’s not normal is a dark spot that caves in when you press on it with a chopstick.
- How do I propagate?
- My leaf has roots, what now?
- My leaf has a plant but no roots, what do I do?
Many genera of succulents can be propagated by leaf or cuttings. Leaves usually need to be separated from the plant with all leaf parts intact (some exceptions here — Gasteria, Haworthia, and some others may sprout from partial leaves). Left in indirect sunlight, leaves may push out roots first, a plant first, both at the same time, or neither. Any resulting plantlets will get all they need from the mother leaf — watering is not necessary, but might help keep roots from drying up (and many folks recommend it). Once roots are formed, they can be lightly covered in dirt (again to help prevent them from drying out). Once the mother leaf has been consumed so only a paper-thin husk remains, the prop can be “potted” and treated as another (very tiny) plant. The mother leaf can be removed by hand, or will eventually depart on its own.
When propagating from cuttings, be sure to let the cutting dry out and callous over for a few days in indirect light. Soon after, roots should sprout from either the cut site or from the nodes where leaves used to be. You can pot the plant immediately after it has calloused, or you can wait until roots are formed. Either way, care must be taken not to overwater. The plant may look sad while it struggles to take in water, but this does not mean watering frequency should increase.
Can this be propagated? The best way to find out is to try.
Why isn’t it working? It’s been 1/2/4/10 weeks and this leaf still hasn’t pushed out roots or a plant — what gives? Some are just like that! If the leaf isn’t translucent or rot-like, it’s probably still viable and there’s no harm in keeping it around to see if it propagates eventually. If your leaf has shriveled and died or turned to mush, that just happens sometimes too. It should be noted that misting or watering leaves serves little purpose here and may just increase the risk of rot.
My plant is sprouting a pup! What do I do! Do I need to separate it? You don’t need to separate it, but once it’s large enough to easily handle it can be cut with a sharp, sterile instrument if you desire. Both cuts — the one on the new pup AND the one on the mother plant — should be allowed to callous for a few days to help ensure no infection sets in. At this point, cuttings should be placed in direct light and can be either left bare, or potted up. Until they have roots, they will not be able to take up water and might look sad. Watering of soil at this point may help encourage roots to form, but care should be taken not to overwater as this increases the risk of rot.