save dying succulent

How to Save a Dying Succulent

Oh No! Do you think your succulent is dying? Saving a dying succulent takes a few steps but can be simple. So, before you toss it, take a step back and evaluate why it is unhealthy. Once you do, in most cases, you will be able to bring it back to its vibrant life.

There are various ways to save your dying succulent, and the steps you take all depend on why they are starting to lose life. So begin with diagnosing why and then you determine the process you take to revive your succulent. Your plant may lack water, or be over-watered, sunburned, frostbitten, or infested. Each of these needs an individualized treatment plan. 

You can save your dying succulent with the processes below once you know why it is suffering. All the information is in here; just read on.

save dying succulent

Why Your Succulent is Dying

Your succulent is dying for one of many reasons. First, check for water. The main reason these plants deteriorate is from too much or too little water. If you don’t track when you water these plants, start now. These are one species that need the right amount of water, not too much or too little. So, you determined hydration is appropriate. Now what? It could be dying from climate issues or bugs. The leaves can tell you a lot. Sunburn and frostbite happen, and you can help your plant if you have not waited too long. If it is infested, you may be able to see the little buggers and take steps to remove them. Various things make your plant sick and if you catch it in time, you can save it.

Reviving Under-Watered Succulents

Saving your plant from underwatering is much easier than saving it from overwatering. They are naturally used to drought and can often survive a while with little or no water. So, no need to worry too much if this is the reason your plant looks unhappy. If you see the top leaves drying out and crinkling, it may be asking for more water. The bottom leaves will naturally dry up as the plant grows, creating new leaves on top, so no need to worry if you see them dying off. Yet, if all the leaves start to dry up your plant is losing its health.

First, soak the soil with water using a watering can or squeeze bottle. Keep pouring until you see the water drain out the bottom of the pot or you notice the ground in the yard looks very full. Still, let it dry out before watering again though. You don’t want to go from under-watered to over watered. Do the heavy soak a couple times and then go back to your normal water amount. If the heavy soaks don’t bring it back you can resort to water therapy. You can read about that in a section below.

To keep your plant from getting too thirsty, check out our article on how to water your succulent.

save dying succulent

Save a Dying Succulent from Over-Watering

Are your succulents suffering because they are overwatered? You can confirm they are if the leaves look transparent and soggy or yellow. Once you determine your plant is losing its life from overwatering, you can take steps to bring it back to health. Start with watering less and see if that helps it. If not, there are more drastic procedures you can work through.

If your water adjustments don’t help, take the plant out of the container, then gently shake as much of the wet soil off as possible. Lay it out on a flat surface with indirect light for about a week until it dries out. When you think it is completely dry, plant it in a pot with a drainage hole and use soil made for succulents. This soil drains well, keeping its new home from holding in water and getting too wet again. Lastly, wait about a week to water it for the first time. This allows it to establish its roots in the new pot and dry out just a little more. Then start your watering schedule by soaking the soil and letting it dry out entirely before soaking again. Remember, succulent plants are hardy in drought.

If your leaves are brown or black and looking like they are rotting, you will need to do a little more work. Cut off the top of the plant right above the black spots. Place the new propagations out to dry out, and once they are callused, you can replant them. Check out how to propagate succulents step by step here. Leave the rest of the plant alone and do not water it until it is completely dried out. It may not survive but you can attempt this for the bottom part of your plant that is still in the soil.

save dying succulent

Reviving Sunburned Succulents

Succulents love the sun but can still burn so be careful how long they are in direct sunlight. If you see burning which looks like patches of brown or black on the leaves it may be getting scorched. Immediately put it in the shade. Yet, if you can’t move it because it is planted in the ground, use a shade cloth to cover it and then make plans to eventually move it to a new location. This shading should help it come become healthy again.

However, if your plant has advanced burning you may not be able to save it. You can try water therapy, but there are no guarantees. If it cannot survive, learn from it and research how much sun your future succulents need before planting them.

Frostbitten Succulent Revival

Succulents can become frostbitten in below-freezing temperatures. So, if you have not protected your plant from this, you may see mushy and brown leaves. If there are only a few, cut them off where they are attached to the stem and this should help revive your plant. Yet, if the entire plant looks mushy, it may be too late and you will have to remove the whole plant. It is easy to prevent frostbite. Either plant only succulents resilient to the cold in areas that fall below freezing or cover them with a frost cloth in the colder weather.

Water-soaked spots

Save a Dying Succulent from Infestation

Check your succulents for infestations so you can treat them right away. There are many types of infestations, so you need to determine which type and treat it accordingly. You can just pull off some bugs with your fingers or tweezers if you don’t like touching bugs. Pay attention to the amount of scraping you do to your leaves and keep it to a minimum so the plant stays healthy. You can also use your hose to spray the insects off but be careful not to blast them so hard you also damage your plant. One bug that likes these plants is spider mites, and you can read specifically how to get rid of spider mites here.

Once all the insects are removed, treat the plant and area around it with insecticide appropriate for the type of bug you had. The area around the plant becomes poisonous to the insects and they die once they ingest it.

save dying succulent

Water Therapy Method

Some gardeners feel water therapy can save severely dehydrated or burned plants. Yet, you must be careful when doing this and do not do it more than once. Water therapy consists of taking your succulent entirely out of its pot and placing the roots in only water. So, there is a technique.

  • Carefully remove the plant and clean the soil off the roots by dusting. Do not shake or knock your roots against anything to get the soil to fall off.
  • Pour water into a jar or small pot you can see through
  • Place the roots in water alone. Do not emerge the leaves
  • Leave the roots in the water for approximately 2 or 3 days
  • Pull the plant out of the jar and let the roots dry completely before replanting it
  • Once you replant it, wait a few days before starting your watering cycle

Water therapy should only be used when the other methods for under-watered or sunburned succulents do not work and only do it once. If during or right after this you do not see your plant becoming healthy again, it is too damaged.


Succulents are hardy plants that can handle drought but some circumstances cause them to decay. Determining the reason your plant is suffering is essential, or you may treat it the wrong way.

Take the time to check the water, observe or even feel the leaves and go from there. Each sickness has its own remedy. Be patient with your plant; it won’t be a quick fix; it needs time to heal and then thrive again.

Now that you are a succulent healer share this with your fellow gardeners in case they need some advice for their plants. Yet, when you start with how to care for your succulent, you may not have to treat it from sickness at all.


Table of Contents