Why Are My Succulents Turning Brown?

When succulents live in a favorable environment, they can thrive and withstand harsh conditions from time to time. However, this doesn’t make them resistant to issues such as wilting and rotting.

So, why are my succulents turning brown?

Succulents turn brown for numerous reasons, but the most common causes are sunburn, root rot, and pest infestations.

Luckily, these issues are reversible!

In this article, I’ll delve into why succulents turn brown and several tips to prevent that from happening, so read on!

8 Reasons Why Succulents Turn Brown

Below are the common causes why succulents turn brown:

1.   Sunburn

Succulent in the sun

Despite being plants famous for dwelling in dry areas like deserts, succulents can get sunburned, too. This is a widespread issue not only for this plant but also for others.

Sunburn happens when the succulent gets prolonged exposure to a dry environment and scorching sun. The plant’s leaves will turn brown, and they might become brittle to the extent that they’ll break if you touch them.

It even worsens if the plant doesn’t have a water source, because it has no choice but to transpire faster. Considering that it uses the water stored in its body, it dries itself up more quickly.

2.   Nutrient Deficiency

Aside from water, sunlight, and good soil, succulents need nutrients to thrive and grow properly. When they don’t get enough minerals, this leads to deformed growth and discoloration.

Succulents specifically need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and iron. The plant utilizes these minerals for protein synthesis because these minerals are growth regulators.

Furthermore, magnesium and iron are vital for their role in the formation of chlorophyll and chloroplasts.

If your succulent doesn’t get enough of these nutrients, its leaves will turn brown. On top of that, your plant will look burnt or have purple spots on the underside of its leaves.

3.   Overwatering

Overwatering succulents is a common mistake that plant owners make.

Whenever you overwater your succulent, you deprive it of the oxygen it needs to survive. Additionally, when the soil is excessively moist, it becomes a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria that might lead to other issues such as root rot and leaf spots.

The leaves of the succulent usually turn brown or yellow as a result. Plus, they’ll become mushy and limp. There are also instances wherein the plant will shed its leaves.

Furthermore, it’s common for your succulent to show root rot symptoms, like emitting a foul odor, when it’s overwatered.

4.   Underwatering

Under watering succulents

Succulents experience drought, too, which is a significant stressor. The lack of moisture completely exhausts the plant’s stored water because it constantly transpires at a fast rate to continue photosynthesis.

Depriving your succulent of enough water leads to stunted growth and complete dryness. Its leaves will shrivel, become flaccid, and bend easily. Moreover, they’ll develop brown edges that feel crispy to the touch.

It’s also common for an underwatered succulent to drop its dry leaves. Since this happens to an overwatered plant, too, it’s best to look at other symptoms that are exclusive to this issue.

5.   Edema

An issue that’s closely related to overwatering succulents is edema. It’s a disorder that develops when the plants’ roots absorb water faster than it can transpire through the leaves.

It presents itself through sacs that form in the succulent leaves. Over time, the blisters erupt, and they turn into brown warts.

Edema is prevalent among succulents and other plants during late winter. That time of the year, the air is cool and moist, while the soil is warm. As such, the water absorption is faster, but the transpiration process is slower due to the excess moisture in the air.

Luckily, edema is only a cosmetic disorder, so it doesn’t affect the health of your succulents. However, if you’re nitpicky about the appearance of your plant, it might be a huge issue.

Read more: How Often to Fertilize Succulents?

6.   Root Rot

When the soil around succulents gets bombarded with moisture, it faces risks for fungi and bacteria. These pathogens often cause root rot, an issue that follows when you overwater the plant.

If your succulent roots get penetrated by the pathogens, they’ll start turning brown. They’ll also soften and often develop root lesions that vary in size and color.

Moreover, when the rot worsens, it’ll spread to the plant’s leaves, giving it a yellow or brown tinge. Not only that, but your succulent will also emit a foul odor.

If left untreated for a long time, there’s a possibility that your succulent will collapse because of the softening of stems and leaves.

7.   Pest Infestation

Similar to other plants, succulents get infested by pests. It’s a common occurrence, especially if your plant lives in an environment favorable to insects such as aphids and mealybugs.

For instance, mealybugs often infest overwatered or overfertilized plants. It’s because high nitrogen content in the soil encourages mealybug egg production.

These pests suck the sap of your plant, resulting in stunted growth, browning or yellowing of the leaves, and death.

Mealybugs, aphids, and other pests are likely to reproduce hundreds if not thousands of eggs in a day or two.

8.   Leaves Are Naturally Dying

If you think that your succulent is healthy, but its leaves are turning brown, you shouldn’t worry because it might be completely normal.

Succulents shed because they need to get nutrients to produce new leaves.

The browning of leaves on a healthy plant only means that it’s thriving and constantly growing.

Tips to Prevent Your Succulent From Turning Brown

Once you’ve assessed your plant’s problem, it’s time to know its solutions. That said, the following are some tips to prevent your succulent from turning brown:

1.   Provide Shade

If you’re keeping your succulent indoors, you shouldn’t put it in an area that receives direct sunlight. Instead, you should place it somewhere in your house that has the right shade but still gets light during the daytime, like near a window.

On the other hand, if you’ve planted your succulent outdoors, you should transplant it to a shadier area.

2.   Use the Right Fertilizer


As mentioned earlier, succulents need potassium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients. So, it’s necessary to use the right fertilizer for your plant to help it remain healthy.

On top of that, you should feed them fertilizer regularly. You can incorporate it whenever you water the succulents or when you feel like they need a boost of nutrients.

3.   Provide Proper Drainage

To prevent overwatering your plants, you should provide proper drainage. This doesn’t only apply to the pot but also the soil. It’s because some substrates have high clay content, which is a no-no as they become sticky when watered and don’t drain well.

That said, you can create your substrate by using sandy soil mixed with organic mulch and manure for added nutrients.

Of course, you should also use a well-draining pot along with the right soil. Providing proper drainage reduces the risk of root rot.

4.   Regularly Inspect Your Succulent

You should keep a close eye on your succulents to ensure that they’re thriving and pest-free.

If your plant gets infested by pests, take action immediately by using a potent pesticide. It’s also ideal to isolate the plant so that the pests won’t affect your other succulents.

Also Check: How to Make Succulents Grow Faster – Beginner’s Guide

Final Thoughts

Why are my succulents turning brown?

It might be because your succulent is underwatered or overwatered, sunburned, or experiencing a pest infestation. Other common causes include root rot and edema.

Taking immediate action once you’ve determined the issue is essential because your succulents’ life is on the line. If you leave them untreated for a long time, they might die eventually.