How To Revive Dying Succulents (YOU MUST DO THIS NOW!)

close up of woman's hands re-plating her succulent so it doesn't die

Succulents are known for being robust and capable of surviving difficult conditions. However, they’re not immune to complications such as wilting, rotting, pest infestation, among others. Fortunately, you may be able to save your plant if you act quickly and follow the proper steps.

Here’s how to revive dying succulents: 

  1. Diagnose your succulent’s issue.
  2. Identify your plant.
  3. Prune back dead growth.
  4. Stop watering or water more.
  5. Dry your succulent out.
  6. Re-pot your succulent.
  7. Give your succulent the proper lighting.
  8. Eradicate pests.
  9. Keep your succulent warm.
  10. Fertilize properly.
  11. Propagate your succulents.

Let’s get our “plant doctor” on and discuss the above steps in greater detail.

1. Diagnose Your Succulent’s Issue

Succulents are some of the most resilient plants, especially when it comes to drought resistance. Still, they aren’t immune to problems that may cause them to drop leaves, develop fatal root conditions, suffer discoloration, or lose rigidity. 

All these symptoms indicate different problems, and you need to examine your plant well to figure out where you went wrong and what you can do to save it. 

To help speed up your diagnosis, let’s look at some of the most common reasons why succulents become weak or start to die and their symptoms:

  • Underwatering. When you underwater your succulent, begins to lose its volume, shriveling up like a raisin. Some of the underwatering symptoms you may notice include brownish to yellow discoloration, dropped leaves, stunted growth, and cracking dry soil. 
  • Overwatering. Succulents are also prone to damage from overwatering, partly because they’re adapted to survive on little water. Symptoms of overwatering include wet soil on the surface, brown spots on the leaves, and leaves that look like they’re about to burst. 
  • Root rot and infections. Root rot and infections occur as symptoms of overwatering, but they need special treatment to help the plant recover. With this condition, the water in your plant’s soil soaks the roots until they decompose. Fungal infections are similar, but they affect the stalks and foliage, appearing as fuzzy white or blue spots on the soil or the plant. A fungus may also weaken the stem, making it mushy or discolored
  • Not enough sunlight. Succulents, like any plant, need light to grow. If you’ve put your plant in a place that’s too dark, you’ll notice lightening or yellowish leaves, stunted growth, a “leggy” succulent (plants that grow tall rather than wide to reach more sun), or dropped leaves close to the soil. Left long enough without enough sun, your plant will die. 
  • Too much sunlight. Some succulents may wilt, develop brown to yellow spots on their leaves, or die when exposed to too much sun. 
  • Nutrient deficiency. Nutrient deficiency usually takes several months to manifest in your plant’s health. Symptoms include slow or stunted growth and wilting leaves. 
  • Overfertilization. Too much fertilizer isn’t ideal either. Overfertilization can burn the leaves and cells of the plant, causing discoloration, withering, black or brown spots, or death. 
  • Frostbite and cold burn. Many succulents are adapted to grow in hot, dry climates, where they store plenty of water to make it through the dry seasons. Thus, they aren’t equipped to handle cold temperatures, and many of them can start to die and develop rot-spots at 50ºF (10ºC). 
  • Pests. Pests don’t usually target succulents. But when they do, they can do quite a bit of damage. Pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and scales can feed your plant and reproduce on it, causing all kinds of damage. Some symptoms of pests are small holes in the leaves of your succulent and visible bugs or tiny egg sacs on your plant. 

2. Identify Your Plant

Treatment for: All succulent issues

Succulents come in different varieties, each with varying environmental requirements in terms of climate, sun exposure, soil composition, and rainfall. To help your succulent stay alive, you’ll need to identify it so you can figure out what you might not be providing in terms of the ideal growing conditions. 

top view of different succulents sitting on a dark wooden table as a background

If you’re unsure about what kind of succulent you have, you can always use a plant identification application like Picture This (available on Apple and Google Play). In addition to helping identify your plant species, this app lists the optimal growing conditions for most plants. It can also diagnose your plant’s issues using only a picture. So, I can’t recommend it enough. 

You can also use the tag on your plant’s pot or run a google search with a description of your succulent to help you figure out what it is and what it needs to stay healthy. 

Be sure to note the care instructions for your plant or read a bit about where the succulent naturally grows. That way, you can try to recreate the ideal conditions for your plant at home and possibly revive it. 

3. Prune Back Dead Growth

Treatment for: All succulent issues

If your succulent has any brown, dry, withering stems and leaves, you’ll need to remove them. 

Leaving dead growth on a plant is one of the easiest ways to invite fungal infections, bacteria, and pests to take over a plant. Additionally, dead leaves that are still attached may prevent your plant from sprouting new growth. 

So, before you try any other treatment, you might want to remove the saddest-looking parts of your plant using pruning shears or a sharp, clean knife. This includes leaves that have turned brown and withered, stems that show signs of rot and discoloration, and leaves with very dark patches on them.

When pruning, be sure to leave at least two or three leaves on your plant. Most plants, including succulents, can’t survive without leaves because they need nourishment from the sun. So, while removing dead leaves increases your succulent’s survival chances, removing all the leaves is a surefire way to kill it.

Women's hands pruning and saving her succulents from dying

4. Stop Watering or Water More

Treatment for: Root rot, overwatering, underwatering, fungal infections

What you need to do here will depend on what’s killing your plant. If overwatering is the issue, you’ll need to go easy on the watering. The reverse is true for under-watered plants.

Dry succulents that need more water will look shriveled up and pruney, and they may have some wilting leaves. In severe cases, the stem may wither completely, killing the plant. To determine whether you can save an under-watered succulent, check the stalk.

Watering the plant more frequently can preserve it if the stalk or stem still looks healthy. If the stalk looks brown and dry, you may need to propagate your plant to keep it alive. 

Watering once a week is usually the best way to keep succulents healthy, so try to develop a routine. If your plant looks pruned or underwatered before watering day, consider misting it with a spray bottle of dechlorinated water to keep it looking its best. 

If overwatering is the issue, the soil around your plant will be muddy, and your succulent’s upper leaves will start to get discolored and mushy. In such a case, you want to stop watering it until the leaves harden back up and the soil is dry to the touch. Then, you can resume watering. 

5. Dry Your Succulent Out

Treatment for: Root rot, overwatering, fungal infections

If your succulent is starting to rot or show signs of fungal infection, prune it first to remove as many infected leaves and stems as you can. 

Next, remove the plant from its pot and pinch off excess soil to allow the roots to dry completely. That way, the disease and rot won’t spread, and you can keep your succulent dryer when you repot it. 

To dry out your succulent, follow the steps below:

  1. Start by removing rotten or dead leaves and stems.
  2. Gently remove the plant from its pot.
  3. Tap away as much soil as you can from the roots, being careful not to break too many of them (some breakage is inevitable). 
  4. If any of the roots are spongy, foul-smelling, or covered in mold, trim them off. 
  5. It might be a good idea to coat your succulent roots in some sulfur powder at this stage to help kill bacteria and fungi, but this step isn’t always necessary. I’d recommend it increases the chances of saving the plant. 
  6. Put your plant in an empty terracotta pot and allow it to dry for two or three days. 
  7. When your succulent leaves start to wilt and pucker, it’s time to repot it. 
  8. Place your plant in a well-draining pot, preferably made of terracotta to help things stay dry, with some succulent soil. 
  9. Water your plant lightly the next day, then water it only once a week from here on out. 

6. Repot Your Succulent

Treatment for: Root rot, overwatering, overfertilization, nutrient deficiency

Repotting your plant can help it cure itself if it has experienced overwatering, fertilizer issues, or root rot. That’s because a fresh, well-draining pot of soil can help things go back to normal for your plant’s roots. 

When you repot your plant, use succulent-specific soil and an airy terracotta pot. Ensure the pot fits tightly around your plant to prevent waterlogging and fungal infections.

As your plant recovers, don’t water it for the first two weeks after repotting. The roots need  to “reset” before you resume a normal watering schedule. 

House plants, green succulents, old wooden box and blue vintage glass bottles on a wooden board

7. Give Your Succulent the Proper Lighting

Treatment for: Not enough sunlight, too much sunlight

Depending on the variety of succulents you have, it’ll need a certain amount of sun exposure. Usually, plants fall into these categories when it comes to sunlight: 

  • Full sun: 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight every day.
  • Partial sun: 3 to 6 hours of bright sun every day.
  • Shade: 3 to 6 hours of dappled shade or indirect sunlight.

Generally, succulents need full but indirect sunlight; it’s why they usually grow so well in window sills. Still, there may be variations in lighting requirements among different species, so be sure to check your specific variety’s recommended growth conditions.

If you don’t have many windows or if your plant doesn’t seem to like the light exposure in your home, you can always invest in a self-timing grow light as a supplement.

I use the Bandeiman Grow Light (available on to supplement my pants’ light exposure, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has three heads with adjustable light colors and wattage to help you fine-tune the lighting to your plants’ needs. It also has a self-timer that comes on at the same time every day, allowing your plant to get everything it needs to thrive. 

8. Eradicate Pests

Treatment for: Pests

Eradicating pests from succulents is challenging but possible with a fair bit of determination. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is to quarantine the affected succulent far from other pest-free plants in your home. Once that’s done, proceed to eradicate pests using the following steps:

  1. Remove as many bugs and eggs as you can with your hands and dispose of them in a sealed bag. 
  2. Spray your plant with rubbing alcohol or soapy water to make it toxic to your insects.
  3. Keep repeating the bug removal and spraying process every week until your plant shows signs of new growth. 

9. Keep Your Succulent Warm

Treatment for: Frostbite, cold burns

With their cactus-like water storage abilities, most succulents have adapted to living in hot, dry climates. Since they don’t often grow in colder areas, keeping them warm is crucial to survival.

Succulents generally grow best in warm temperatures between 55 and 80°F (12.78 and 26.67°C). If the temperature gets any lower, your succulent may stop growing. 

If that happens for a prolonged period, it’ll start to get cold burns that usually manifest as leaf discoloration, rotting stems, or brown patches on the leaves. 

Luckily, it’s easy to treat plants that have gotten too cold. 

Simply move them to a warmer spot and stop watering them. Allow the plant to warm up and dry out until the damaged areas develop rigid scars and trim off the damaged leaves. 

If your home gets very cold in the winter, you may want to set up an electric heater near your plants to keep that area as warm as possible. 

Tip: For the best results, keep your plant warm for the duration of the colder months and decrease your watering schedule to once every week and a half or two weeks. 

10. Fertilize Properly

Treatment for: Overfertilization, nutrient deficiency

Every plant needs certain nutrients and minerals to thrive. However, different plant species have varying needs in this regard, and that goes for succulents.

Generally, succulents need to be fertilized once a month, but this can differ depending on the fertilizer you use. 

I use Cute Farms Fertilizer (available on It’s perfect for succulents and cacti and comes in a pump bottle for easy dosage measurements. This fertilizer is super gentle and meant to be used monthly, making it perfect for busy plant-owners and people who don’t have a green thumb.

As is the case with watering, excessive fertilizer can also harm your succulents.

If you have overfertilized your succulent, you’ll notice “burns,” or brown spots on the top leaves and stem. In that case, you’ll need to repot the plant in clean, fresh soil immediately and avoid fertilizing it for at least two months. 

If/When your plant shows signs of new, healthy growth, you can put it back on a monthly fertilizing schedule. 

11. Propagate Your Succulents

Treatment for: Root rot, fungal infections, plants that have little foliage left, or rotting stems

If your succulent seems too far gone to save or if the other cures on this list didn’t cut it, don’t fret! There’s still a way to keep your plant alive.  

Propagation is a way to take a leaf or small part of your dying plant and turn it into a baby plant. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep your plant alive, as the baby plant is unlikely to have the infections and other problems that may have plagued its predecessor. 

The only exception here is a pest infestation because these can be easily carried over to the baby plants.

Succulents are incredibly easy to propagate. For most succulents, all you have to do is: 

  1. Remove a healthy green leaf or node from your dying plant using a clean, sharp blade.
  2. Prepare a spot for your cutting, placing a thin layer of dry soil on a tray or dish. 
  3. Place your cutting on top of the dry dirt and let it dry out until it develops roots at least 2 in (5.08 cm) long. 
  4. Once your plant has sturdy roots, pot it in a clean terracotta pot with fresh succulent soil.

Succulents’ magnificent ability to bounce back from anything and sprout new roots from their leaves is what makes many people love them一they’re the perfect plant to cultivate your own green thumb with. 

If you take good care of your baby succulent, it’ll last much longer than its parent. And if your baby plant starts to die, you can always repeat the propagation process.

Final Thoughts

Evidently, there are plenty of ways to save dying succulents. No matter what the issue is, from fungus to overfertilization, there’s a way to fix your succulents as long as there’s at least one green leaf left. 

I hope this “medical guide” to curing your dying succulent has helped you revive your beloved plants and taught you how to address disease in other plants you may grow in the future.

Learn even more about succulents!

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