Why Is My Succulent Going Soft? Great Tips To Avoid That

As a succulent plant owner, you might be aware that your plants can "go soft" and lose their shape. This is natural, but it is also not something you want to happen all the time. There are things you can do to ensure that your succulents remain firm and strong for as long as possible, and we'll go over those tips here.
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Over the past few years, succulents have grown quickly in popularity. These delightful little plants are easy to take care of and often have many surprises in store for the person who owns them. It is no small wonder that people are flocking to these pretty little plants. 

If a succulent is going soft, then there are many potential explanations that range from getting the wrong amount of water to a nutrient imbalance. Sunlight and temperature can also play a role in the overall health of a succulent and determine whether a succulent is going soft or not.  

Whether you currently own a succulent that is experiencing problems or are considering getting one and want to know the warning signs of an unhealthy plant, this article will help further your understanding of this charming plant. Read on to learn more about soft succulents and how to help them. 

Why is My Succulent Going Soft? 

Succulents can go soft for any number of reasons, the most common of which is being over-watered. Whether or not this is the reason, succulents are hardy little plants and can often be saved.

If saving your succulent is not an option, you should consider a process called propagating, which is to regrow a new succulent plant from the cutting of another one. Succulents are notoriously easy to propagate, so do not let this process intimidate you.

Since succulents are hardy little plants, chances are very good that you will be able to save yours if it is too soft. Most of the causes are easy fixes.

Below are various reasons a succulent can go soft and how to save it when this happens.

Your Succulent is Being Watered Too Much

Since succulents are typically found in dry climates, they do not require much water. The general rule of thumb is to water your succulent once a week, though there can be variations on that. It is also highly recommended to use pots designed for succulents, as these typically have extra drainage holes in the bottom to prevent overwatering.

Overwatering is one of the most common reasons succulents go soft and their leaves become squishier.

If your succulent has been watered too much, its leaves will start to become significantly more squishy than they should be. Colors can start to fade, as well. The plant can also get extremely droopy, sometimes to the point of laying flat in its pot.

Overwatering can also cause stem or root rot. Depending on the location, this could be fatal for your plant, but there are remedies to try.

Dig Up and Repot Your Succulent

An overwatered succulent can typically be fixed. You need to dig up your succulent and remove any signs of rot. These will present similar to bruises on a banana, so it is easy to spot. After the rot is removed, rinse your succulent’s roots and pat dry. Set your plant in a warm, dry area for up to a week, but avoid direct sunlight with the roots exposed. Once it starts to look healthier, you can pot it again.

To save an overwatered succulent, consider repotting the plant in fresh soil.

After repotting, wait at least a week before watering again. It will take time for your succulent to use all the extra water it has already absorbed into its leaves before it is ready for more. You do not want to add to the problem again right after fixing it.

As the succulent goes through the drying-out process, it will push some of the excess water back into the now dry soil, so you will see some dampening happen. When the soil stays dry, it is safe to begin watering. Be sure to only water it about once per week to avoid over-watering again.

If too much of your root system is rotted, the plant will not keep growing. Even if this is the case, it does not mean that you lost your succulent for good. This is where learning how to propagate can come in handy. 

Your Succulent is Not Being Watered Enough

An underwatered succulent can also feel squishy, but there are a few differences from an overwatered plant. Typically, the succulent will develop wrinkles in its leaves and they will droop. A thirsty succulent will not usually change colors, so you really want to make sure that you are watching for those wrinkles to appear.

Succulents can also go soft when they are not provided with enough water.

While the leaf itself can feel soft, the protective outer layer of the leaf will feel rubbery and thick. This is because it is trying to protect its water from being evaporated with more vigor than usual.

Water Your Succulent 

Saving a succulent without enough water is much easier than saving an overwatered one, particularly because you do not have to dig up the plant. To fix this problem, follow these easy steps:

  • Pour water into your succulent’s pot until it is saturated. Water will start coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. 
  • Immediately repeat this process two or three times, letting the water completely drain between each watering.
  • Wait a few days and see if your succulent perks up. This should happen relatively quickly after a heavy watering.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of overwatering. You do not want to go from one extreme to the other, as that can easily kill your succulent. If you notice that the leaves are plumped back to normal but the soil is still saturated, re-pot your succulent in dry soil to prevent problems before they happen.

Done right, your succulent’s wrinkles will disappear and the leaves will plump up again. After this happens, you can resume the normal once per week watering schedule after the soil becomes drier.

Your Succulent Has the Wrong Nutrient Balance

Succulents need a somewhat precise balance of nutrients to thrive. Most potting soils handle this with ease, making it a non-issue for the grower. Occasionally, problems can crop up, particularly if you are not repotting your succulent regularly or using a good fertilizer.

Using the wrong fertilizer is another reason succulents go soft as they receive improper balance of nutrients.

The nutrients that a succulent is dependent on are:

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous
  • Nitrogen

When these nutrients are out of balance, the plant can become droopy and soft. You might also notice that the leaves are yellowing or your plant is not flowering like it should. Its overall unhealthy pallor is easy to spot.

Repot Your Succulent with Fresh Soil 

The most ideal fix for a nutrient deficient plant is to repot it in fresh soil. Since potting soils are already enriched with nutrients, this should solve the problem. If repotting is not possible for any reason, such as an outdoor garden, applying a succulent-safe fertilizer should also help.

After repotting or fertilizing, your succulent should begin to perk up within a few days. This process typically takes a bit longer than when your succulent is too dry, so be patient.

The Temperature is Too Cold

Since succulents are hot-weather plants, cold air can be fatal to them. Particularly when exposed to frost, the succulent will become soft when it starts thawing out. In addition, they often become droopy or discolored.

Succulents become soft when they are exposed to cold temperatures.

The aftereffects of exposure to cold temperatures can easily mimic an overwatered plant, so you should take care to examine the conditions your plant has been in before treating. Since the treatments for these two problems are somewhat different, you want to make sure that you are not further harming your succulent by treating it the wrong way.

Cut off Damaged Areas of Your Succulent 

Cut off all damaged areas of your succulent with a knife dipped in rubbing alcohol, paying special attention to particularly soft parts. After you have successfully pruned it, make sure to keep your succulent out of direct sunlight while it heals. The areas that have been cut are susceptible to sunburn.

Your Succulent Has Fungi or Mildew Growth

Fungi and mildew both thrive in warm, moist conditions. Since succulents are typically from dry climates, they do not have the greatest built-in protections against these threats. It falls to you to keep them safe from these threats to their health.

The first sign of this infection is a white, gray, or black powdery substance coating all or parts of your succulent. They will then begin to soften and, after that, die. You may also see some discoloration in the leaves or stem.

It is important to catch this early because both fungus and bacteria spread extremely easily to other succulents nearby. If you do not act quickly, your entire succulent garden can easily die out from this type of exposure.

Eliminate the Mildew or Fungus and Lower Humidity

If your succulents are showing signs of fungi or mildew, the atmosphere is too humid for them. First, you need to treat them with a spray to kill the mildew or fungus. Varieties that are sold for roses are typically good options, though you should research brands before purchasing. 

After eradicating the mildew or fungus, you need to ensure that it does not happen again. The best way to do this is with a dehumidifier if your plants are indoors. However, if you grow yours outdoors and they keep mildewing, your climate may be wrong for these plants. Moving them inside may be your best option.

Too Much or Too Little Sunlight

Too much light can cause sunburned areas on the plant, as well as rot that causes the plant to go soft. This can easily happen if you have recently treated your succulent for some other ailment and placed it in direct sunlight too soon. Young succulents are also susceptible. 

Too much sunlight can cause sunburn and your succulents will eventually go soft.

Too little light causes its own problems. The succulent will begin to grow upward in search of light, with the leaves becoming more spaced on the stem. It will start to look abnormally long and spindly, losing a lot of the cute designs that succulent leaves often present. When you know what you are looking for, this ailment is easy to spot.

Change Your Succulent’s Amount of Sunlight Exposure

Fixing either too much or too little light is easy. If your plant has too much light, keep it in a sunny area, but move it out of direct sunlight. Over time, the sunburned patches will heal. If rot has set in, you should treat that the same as you would a plant that has been watered too much.

For a plant that is getting too little sunlight, move it gradually into the sun. You should begin by placing it in a well-light area, but out of direct sunlight. After about a week, move it into an area that sees periods of direct sunlight in a day, then eventually moving it to a sunny location.

If your succulent is receiving either too much or too little sunlight, you can easily fix the issue by changing its spot.

When moving a succulent into sunlight, it is important to make sure that your variation does well in that atmosphere. Some succulents need to be in indirect light to thrive, particularly those with thin protective coatings on their leaves.

If your succulent has become very spindly due to lack of sun, you can cut the top of the succulent off the stem. Place it in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight for a week or two until it grows roots, then pot it. The spindly leftover bottom part can be discarded.

Other Common Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Plant

While this article focuses on a plant that has gone soft, there are other warning signs that you should be on the lookout for when you have your own succulents.

These warning signs include:

  • While some succulents are known for varying shades and some are naturally blotchy, a succulent that shows abnormal color changes is most likely in trouble. This can present as yellowing, blotchiness, burned patches, or faded colors.
  • Some succulents naturally stay small, while others will grow as large as their environment will let them. If your succulent is not growing as it should, there may be a problem. 
  • Sections of your succulent that look like a bruised banana are showing signs of rot. There are various reasons for this and this problem should be treated immediately if you want to save your plant.
  • Signs of insect damage can present as discoloration or missing pieces. Organic pesticides can help this.
  • Succulents that begin drooping have something going on. This is most likely related to the root system if there are no visible problems.
  • A succulent variety that is supposed to flower but does not may have something going on. This is not typically a severe issue and could be due to any number of minor things. Even so, it is best to look into it.

Catching these issues early on means a better chance of saving your succulent if something goes wrong. 

What a Healthy Succulent Looks Like

A healthy succulent will appear plump in the leaves without much give when gently pinched between two fingers. Your succulent’s leaves should have an almost waxy sheen to them, which is their built-in protection against their stored water evaporating in the sun’s often harsh rays.

Typically, there should not be wrinkles on your succulent, though there are some varieties that naturally appear wrinkled. In addition, the more healthy your succulent is, the more vibrant its colors will be. Your succulent should appear hardy rather than wilted.

Tips to Properly Care for a Succulent

The first step to taking care of any plant is to research it. Succulents can vary depending on what kind they are, so you should make sure that you know how to take care of your plant. Of course, this is true for any species, not just succulents.

  • Most succulents do well with being watered on a once weekly basis. The soil should feel moist after watering, but not saturated.
  • Different succulent types require different light, whether direct or indirect. Placing your succulent in the right conditions will help it thrive.
  • Preventing insects and growths such as fungi or bacteria is an important part of caring for succulents, as they are particularly susceptible to these.
  • Since succulents hail from hot, dry climates, it is very important to make sure that your environment is warm and dry enough for a succulent to thrive.
  • Regularly replacing potting soil will help keep your succulents from suffering from nutrient deficiency.
  • Keep your succulent away from pets. Some varieties are even poisonous, so this is as much for your pet’s benefit as your succulent’s.
  • Make sure that your succulents are kept in a pot with adequate drainage. There are many pots on the market designed specifically for succulents that have extra drainage holes in the bottom.

Succulents are known for being easy plants to take care of. You may not feel this way after reading an article all about potential problems, but the truth is that these problems are not constant. As long as you are taking basic care steps, your succulents should thrive with very little interference from you.

Final Thoughts

Succulents are an incredibly diverse type of plant and can be a joy to grow. The more you learn about them, the more interesting things you can do. Once you learn the basics, these can be some of the easiest plants to keep healthy and beautiful.

Even if your succulent has gone soft, following these troubleshooting options will help you maintain a healthy plant for a long time to come. You will be on your way to a beautiful succulent garden in no time.

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