Why Are My Succulents Turning Yellow?

Succulents make elegant houseplants. They’re easy to care for, yet growing them is not without worries. Why are my succulents turning yellow? You may ask this at some point.

Besides the natural shedding of old leaves, yellow succulents can mean several things. Your succulents can be receiving too much or too little water, sunlight, or nutrients. Poor drainage can also be the reason. Lastly, the presence of pests may be doing the damage.

In this article, I’ll give you an in-depth explanation of the reasons why your succulent turns yellow. Plus, I’ll provide you with helpful tips to avoid and remedy such situations.

Let’s dive in!

1.  Natural Cycle


Succulents will eventually shed older leaves. This period in their natural life cycle is signaled by a change in color. After that, they’ll dry out or wilt and then fall off.

That said, yellow leaves aren’t necessarily alarming. This is even more true if they’re located at the bottom. These are the oldest of the bunch, so they’ll wither first. If the top portion is healthy, your plant should be good.

In this case, you simply need to prune away these dried leaves to support new growth. They usually detach easily even with a light touch. If not, use clean, sharp shears to trim them off the plant.

2.  Overwatering

Succulents have adapted to dry climates. They’re able to do so by storing excess water in their leaves. As such, they prefer lower soil moisture levels than most plants.

This requirement makes overwatering problematic and stressful to your plants. Too much water in the soil prevents the roots from getting enough oxygen. If not resolved quickly, this can result in root rot.

Moreover, the leaves will abnormally swell to hold the extra water. They may exhibit discolorations as well.

Hence, if you see your succulents with yellow leaves that appear swollen and soft to the touch, this may be due to overwatering.

It’s also helpful to assess if the condition has worsened to root rot. Other indications include mushy stems and a rotten odor coming off from the soil.

What you can do is halt watering activities and observe how the plants react. Remove dead parts or roots as necessary.

If you notice new growth after a while, re-start your watering routine. Do this gradually, beginning with a once-in-two-week cycle, then see how it goes.

Remember, when kept in ideal temperatures, you only need to water your succulents once a week. Make sure the soil is really dry before doing so.

You can increase the frequency, though, during warmer days or push back during winter.

Related: Why Are My Succulents Turning Red?

3.  Underwatering

Despite their fondness for dry conditions, succulents still need water to survive.

For instance, sufficient water helps maintain the turgidity and structure of plants. So, if you see deformed or wrinkly yellow leaves, this means underwatering is the culprit.

However, you can take care of this easily by sprinkling some water into the soil.

4.  Lack of Sunlight

Too much sunlight

Insufficient sunlight is another cause of discolorations, including yellowing. This is because chlorophyll—the green pigment responsible for plants’ vibrant colors—is produced with the aid of the sun’s energy.

When your plants receive less, production of these pigments slows down. In most cases, they should have full sun for at least four hours. Otherwise, they may start to lose their color.

This is more notable in succulents with deeper tones since they need to maintain higher levels of pigmentation.

If you have your succulents indoors or in other shaded areas, you may want to reevaluate if they’re in an optimum location.

Thin and leggy stems are also clear signs that they need more sun. As such, move your plant to a more suitable location.Take note, though, that temperature changes should be introduced gradually.

5.  Too Much Sunlight

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can be equally damaging to your succulents. This can cause yellowing of the leaves, sunburn, and withering.

Additionally, high temperatures have been linked to the degradation of chlorophyll. As a result, succulents exhibit color changes when subjected to such conditions.

In the summer, you can give your succulents the hours of sun they need, then keep them in shaded areas afterward. Make sure to avoid peak temperatures.

6.  Presence of Pests

Infestation is another possible reason why your succulent leaves are turning yellow. Some of these troubling pests are mealybugs, red spider mites, and aphids.

As they start to chew on the leaves, small spots will be visible. In the long run, the leaves may turn yellow.

These tiny insects are somehow difficult to spot. But, if you look closely, you can see some indications that they’re there.

For example, mealybugs look like cottony spots on your plant. Red spider mites, on the other hand, leave fine webbings.

As for aphids, they don’t usually move as they suck on the leaves. Where they are, ants are usually there, too.

Treat mealybugs using a combination of rubbing alcohol and dish soap. Spray this solution on the entire plant or visibly-affected areas.

With red spider mites, daily application of miticide is necessary. Take note, as well, to avoid sunlight a few weeks after treatment.

For aphids, you need a high-pressure hose to pre-rinse the plant. Then, spray with soapy water or an insecticide.

Also Check: When to Water Succulents After Repotting

7.  Too Much Fertilizer

Fertilizing helps your succulents thrive by giving additional nutrients. But too much supplementation is harmful.

At high levels, fertilizer affects the desired water movement from the soil to the roots. Instead of this normal flow, which promotes water uptake, the opposite happens.

This dries out your succulent and can manifest in the discoloration of leaves. Yellowing and wilting typically appear in the lower plant leaves.

You may observe other things, such as the browning of tips and margins, leaf drops, and slow growth.

To treat an over-fertilized succulent, first remove the white crust on the soil surface, if there is any. This portion signifies the presence of soluble salts that can deem the next step ineffective.

After that, leach out the excess fertilizer from the roots and the soil. Fill the container with water, allow it to drain, and repeat four times.

For plants in the ground, flush with running water from a hose. Then, allow the soil to dry and remove dead foliage.

For future supplementation, remember to give only the recommended amount or less at the start of the growing season. Using liquid succulent-friendly food is a better option than pellets.

8.  Planting in the Wrong Pot or Potting Mix

Planting a succulent

Your pot and potting medium can make or break your succulents.

Since these plants thrive on very little water, they need well-draining soil. Plus, your containers should have sufficient drainage holes. Combined, these will facilitate the removal of any excess water that can cause rotting.

If you have pots with enough holes, but the draining seems slow, then changing the potting mix is the right move. A soil-sand-perlite combination will do.

9.  Nutrient Deficiency

The lack of nutrients can affect plant processes, including the production of pigments in the leaves. As a result, you can observe yellow-colored leaves and other hues.

Nutrient levels lower over time. If your succulent has been in the soil for quite some time, then best to transfer it to a different pot and give it a fresh mix.

Moreover, you should consider the pot size. It should be big enough to house the root system, which will allow better nutrient absorption.


Why are my succulents turning yellow? I tackled this issue by looking into several growth conditions and natural occurrences.

The possible causes include insufficient water, nutrients, and sunlight. An excess of these same variables can result in similar discolorations.

Poor drainage due to unsuitable soil mixes and pots is another reason to consider.

However, some color changes are part of the natural cycle. They signal the shedding of older leaves to create new growths.