Most succulents are easy to care for, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. However, if you’re new to the world of succulents, it can be disheartening if your plant doesn’t appear to be doing well.
If you’re noticing succulent leaves falling off and nothing seems to help, don’t worry. You can usually easily nurse your plant back to health: you just have to pinpoint the cause of the issue to be able to correct it.
So, why are succulent leaves falling off?
The easiest way to figure out why your succulent leaves are falling off is to take a good look at what the foliage looks like before it dislodges.
Are the leaves crispy, or are they soft? Are they brown, or more of a pale yellow color?
Take a peek at your succulent’s leaves and compare your findings with the list below.
The Causes of Succulent Leaves Falling Off
Cause #1: Regular leaf loss
It can be easy to panic if you notice your succulent dropping leaves, especially if you’re new to the ins and outs of growing houseplants.
Did you know that almost all houseplants will naturally shed their bottom leaves while they grow?
These leaves have lost their function, as they are now shaded by higher growth near the crown of the plant. If your succulent is only losing the occasional leaf near the bottom of its stem, there is actually probably no reason to worry.
Associated with: succulent leaves turning brown and crispy.
The plant tends to reabsorb as much energy from the leaves as possible before dropping them, so unless you find this very unsightly, you can leave them on until they fall off by themselves.
Tip: A succulent leaf knocked off the mother plant is not necessarily lost. Succulents are very hardy, and lost leaves can sometimes still be propagated.
Cause #2: Succulent leaves falling off because of heat shock
Most succulents are naturally found in harsh habitats where they are exposed to plenty of direct sun with little surrounding foliage to provide shade. This doesn’t mean they are indestructible, however.
An enclosed, sunny area like a patio or windowsill can reach scorching temperatures during summertime, leaving your succulents suffering. This is especially problematic if the plant is new and hasn’t had time to adjust to such a hot environment yet.
Associated with: wilted leaves that may or may not have turned a shade of red or orange.
What to do: The leaves drop easily when disturbed. If you see these symptoms, it might be time to move the plants to a more shaded location or improvise some sun protection for them.
Cause #3: Succulent leaves falling off because of cold shock
Many beginning succulent growers are surprised to find how hardy some succulents can be when it comes to low temperatures. Select species have evolved to withstand temps around or even below freezing! Most don’t respond well to frost at all, though, and a few digits below freezing can already cause trouble.
Associated with: succulent leaves drooping and turning black before dropping.
What to do: If you see this happening the damage has already been done, and all you can do now is try to control it.
Move the plant to a more protected location that isn’t too drastically different in temperature. From outside to a garage would be a good option: from outside to a warm place like your living room is often too extreme.
If you have to keep your succulents outside during cold weather, keep in mind that watering is absolutely out of the question during frost risk. The plants have the best chance of surviving when kept bone dry.
Cause #4: Succulent leaves falling off because of overwatering
We all love our succulents, but it’s important not to love them to death. Overwatering is one of the main causes of succulent leaves falling off, as excess water causes the leaf’s cell walls to swell to the point of bursting.
Associated with: succulent leaves turning soft.
This is somewhat confusing because an underwatered succulent leaf can also seem slightly soft and squishy. The yellow coloration on the leaves is a dead giveaway, though, as are signs of root rot when you lift the plant out of its pot.
What to do: Your succulent can still recover in most cases. Reduce watering and read up on proper succulent watering practices.
You should never add more water before the plant’s soil has gone entirely dry, which takes different amounts of time depending on how much light it receives and the size of its root system.
Drainage is critical, so always grow your succulents in a gritty soil mix and a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom.
Cause #5: Succulent leaves falling off because of underwatering
Although overwatering is a much more common cause of succulent leaves falling off than underwatering, the latter does happen.
If you forget your outdoor succulents during a few hot days, you might find them looking quite sad by the time you arrive with the watering can.
Associated with: succulent leaves shriveling.
An underwatered succulent will scream for help with soft, shriveled leaves. Contrary to overwatered leaves, there is little change in color to be noted. The leaves will fall off at light touch, and ones that are too far gone will continue to shrivel and brown despite the plant being watered.
Wrinkled, shrunken leaves are a tell-tale sign of underwatering in succulents.
What to do: Unless you’ve severely underwatered your succulent, it will usually bounce back. Remember to keep a closer eye on it next time. A single sunny day can dry the soil in a small pot dramatically!
If you want to find out more about how to keep your succulents alive and happy, check out Florina’s complete guide to cacti and succulents care!
Finding fallen leaves around your succulent’s pot is alarming, but in many cases, the plant can be rescued with small adjustments in its care.
Study the fallen leaves and retrace your steps to figure out where things went wrong. Just don’t take any drastic actions: slow and steady are the keywords when it comes to caring for all houseplants!