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How To Tell If Your Succulent is Overwatered or Underwatered

How To Tell If Your Succulent is Overwatered or Underwatered

Are you concerned about overwatering or underwatering your succulents? If you have succulents in your home, then you might be startled seeing browning leaves, black spots, and wrinkled foliage. These are signs of overwatering and underwatering. As a green parent, you probably want your houseplants to be strong and flourishing, so when these unsightly symptoms pop up, you might become alarmed.

Succulents are known for being nearly impossible to kill. We often hear about how succulents need very little moisture, and how succulent care relies mostly on neglect. Succulents can make indoor spaces brighter, more inviting, and simply more charming. Add to this the fact that they’re incredibly easy to care for, and you have the essential ingredients for succulent craze.

While these plants are usually hassle-free, overwatering or underwatering can pose issues. Succulent soil should not be too damp. These plants hate water, and their roots will rot when exposed to wet conditions. However, this doesn’t mean you should just lightly sprinkle the soil. This can leave your plant parched and dehydrated.

We recommend using a soak and dry method when watering succulents. When watering, you should completely soak your plant. Then, after waiting two weeks, check to see if the soil is dry. If it is, then you can water your succulent again. Avoid drenching if the succulent soil is still moist. By following this method, you can make sure your plant gets just the right amount of hydration.

There are a few differences between overwatered vs. underwatered succulents. We’ve included some of them below and also added helpful tips for saving your plant from these watering issues. Continue reading to find out more!

Overwatered Succulents

Overwatering is one of the most common reasons that succulents die. Since these plants store moisture in their thick leaves and stems, you don’t need to water them often. If your green friends start looking sick, they might be feeling moisture overload. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Mushy foliage

When your plant’s leaves get more H2O than they need, the excess gets stored in storage cells. With extra liquid coursing through the plant, the leaves will swell up and become mushy and soft.
  • Discolored, drooping leaves

Leaves will start discoloring as excess moisture flows into them. They may become lighter and more translucent. When the leaves start drooping, the slightest touch will cause them to fall off. With too much moisture, they can even eventually rot from the inside and turn black.
  • Rotting roots

If you notice signs that your plant is overwatered, check the roots. If the roots are dark and shriveled up, this is a sign of rot from overwatering. 

Saving Overwatered Succulents

If you notice your succulents showing signs of excess hydration, there are a few ways to save them from wilting.

  • Air-dry the roots

Root rot is a common symptom of overwatering. If the damage isn’t extensive, you can rescue your plant. Take the plant out of its soil and leave it somewhere to dry. The plant should not be placed under the sun during this time, as direct sunlight can be stressful.
  • Use new succulent soil

If your potting soil is too wet, then that means your plant is constantly sitting in dampness. You can remedy this by changing the succulent soil. Use a dry, fresh mix.
  • Increase drainage

Using well-draining soil is essential to succulent health. To help improve drainage, you can add gravel to the mix so that excess moisture can easily trickle out.

Underwatered Succulents

Overwatering is a common reason that succulents die, but these plants shouldn’t be underwatered either. Succulents can survive with minimal water, but they still shouldn’t be completely deprived of hydration. These are signs that your succulents are dehydrated:


  • Wrinkled, shriveled leaves

Succulents store moisture in their leaves, and this can last them for weeks during droughts. When the plant is deprived of hydration, its leaves will become wrinkled and shriveled.
  • Flimsy, browning leaves

Without hydration to keep the plant lush and plump, its leaves will become flimsy. They can also turn brown. Although the leaves turn soft when underwatered, they won’t turn mushy (as in the case of overwatered plants).
  • Aerial roots

Roots will form above the soil line when the plant tries to get moisture from the air. This is your plant’s way of saying that the soil is too dry. 

Saving Underwatered Succulents

To save an underwatered succulent, the first thing you should do is water it! Don’t just lightly mist the ground of the pot. Use a watering can or cup and generously drench the soil. Be careful not to wet the leaves, as this can lead to rot. Add enough water so that it seeps out of the drainage holes. After a few days, your plant should look healthy again.

When the soil completely dries out (typically after two weeks), you can water the plant again and follow a regular watering routine. To avoid underwatering your plant, you can use a watering schedule. Track the number of times you water your succulent in a month. You can even set reminders using your phone or an app. Remember to let the soil dry between waterings. Once you find the right rhythm, your plant will be good to go again!

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