Over-Watered Succulents: Prevention, Identification, and Saving

Over-Watered Succulents: Prevention, Identification, and Saving
Over-Watered Succulents: Prevention, Identification, and Saving

Because desert plants still need water, just not as much as you think.

We get it, you want to give your succulent all the love. It’s adorable, it makes you happy, and all it asks for in return is soil, water, light, and some extra nutrients every now and then. But water isn’t the way to your succulent’s heart, trust us. If you’re a new succulent parent, or you’ve had them for years and just don’t know what you’re doing wrong, we’re about to break it down for you.


Watering Your Succulents

When you think about watering your succulents, keep in mind: these are desert plants. They are used to no water for long periods of time, followed by heavy rains. Their soil needs time to dry out completely before they get their next “downpour.” So when you’re watering succulents at home, mimic those conditions.

How to Water:

  1. Using a watering can or cup (NOT a spray bottle), give your succulent a good soak until water drips out of the pot’s drainage hole.
  2. Don’t water it again until the soil is completely dry. Depending on the season, that can be anywhere from 7 to 30 days.

Watering Cheat Sheet:


Signs of Overwatering

Early signs: 

  • Bloated leaves that fall off with at the slightest touch, or on their own
  • Soil that never seems to dry out completely

Late-stage signs:

  • Yellow, translucent leaves that are soft and mushy to the touch (usually the bottom leaves are the first to show these signs)


Check out the picture above. The leaf on the left is from a healthy succulent. It’s totally opaque, full but firm, and has a nice deep green color. The leaf on the right is from an overwatered succulent. It’s a pale yellow, you can see light shine through it, and it’s mushy and wet.

Pro Tip: Pick up your pot after you’ve watered and feel how heavy it is. Then pick it up a week later, and again a week later. Notice how it loses weight as the soil starts to dry. As you become more familiar with the weight of dry soil, you won’t have to stick your finger in to check.


Saving Your Over-Watered Succulent

Over-watered succulents are notoriously difficult to save, but it’s worth a try! First, un-pot your succulent, crumble away the dirt around its roots, and check for root rot, which presents itself as a black stem and dark brown/black roots.


Scenario 1: No root rot. If there’s no sign of root rot, you can repot your succulent in dry cactus soil and wait a few weeks to water. If it had any mushy leaves, gently remove and toss ’em.

Scenario 2: Root rot is present. If there is root rot, you’ll treat it like a propagated cutting: 

  1. Cut off the top part of the succulent above the rotted roots or rotted stem, depending on how far up the rot has traveled
  2. Remove leaves around the base to create a small stem
  3. Leave that top part of your succulent out for a few days so a callus can form where you cut it from the roots
  4. Once a callus has formed, nestle it back into cactus soil and water lightly (just enough to wet the topsoil) once a week
  5. After a few weeks, new roots will have sprouted and you’ll have a healthy plant again!



And that’s the scoop! An under-watered succulent bounces back with ease, but the same cannot be said for your over-watered babes. Water thoroughly but infrequently and you’ll grow very happy succulents!

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As always, we’re here to answer all of your succulent care questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out.