Why Do Succulent Turn Red?

Succulents are quite easy to grow. They are very resilient and do not require much care. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have any weaknesses.

If you have succulents in your house or the garden, you might have noticed a change in their color – a little orange and red covering the tips or the entire leaf.

It makes the plant look beautiful, doesn’t it?

However, this sudden change in color is an indication that there’s something wrong with your plant. Still, most people want their succulents to develop a red hue because it gives the plant a unique look.

Let’s take a look at why succulents turn red and what causes this phenomenon:

Succulents Changing Color

Succulents changing color is quite common. It does not cause severe or extensive harm to your plants, but you still need to correct the problem.

Red is not the only color that succulents change to. There are a few other colors they adapt while surviving through different and difficult climates, such as in the desert and drought. This shows their resilience.

The most common reasons why succulents change color are stress and environmental changes. This is a way of protecting themselves from animals.

It signals predators to stay away. Think of this situation as brightly colored berries hanging in the forest that warns eaters of their toxicity levels and bitter taste.

All succulents change color, which is usually caused by direct sunlight. In this case, the succulent leaves turn pink or red.

When the plant does not get enough water, the leaves turn brown or purple. The latter change happens because the succulent is trying to hold the water left inside its cells.

If the succulent adapts to the environment, it will stay the way it is even under extreme weather conditions. A few examples of such plants include:

  • Aloe: This succulent turns slightly red when exposed to direct sunlight but is not affected on a cellular level.
  • Cactus: Cactus don’t change color when they are exposed to direct sunlight. However, they do get bleached. This change on the cellular level is a way of protecting themselves from predators and pests.

Succulents with high moisture levels do not change color at all. However, if the plant is damaged due to poor soil, overwatering or underwatering, or pests, it will turn a bright color.

If the plant adapts to colder climates, it turns pink.

The Reasons Behind Succulents Turning Red

As mentioned above, a succulent’s color-changing behavior is triggered by the environment.

All plants need sunlight to survive when the heat gets too much; they slowly start to deteriorate. When it comes to succulents, the process is a little different.

Under extreme sunlight, succulents turn red. This is caused by stress but not necessarily bad stress (more on that later).

The color change is sometimes just for show and indicates that the plant is adjusting well to its environment.

However, if the color slowly leeches into the plant and spreads all over, it means it is constantly under stress.

The succulents absorb carbon dioxide and water by photosynthesis, which is then converted into glucose and oxygen. There are three pigments involved in this process, which include:

  • Chlorophyll: Green Color
  • Carotenoid: Yellow to Orange Color
  • Anthocyanins: Purple, Red, or Blue Color

Succulent plants are born with a green shade. Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight and maintains the photosynthesis cycle, which keeps the plant healthy.

A carotenoid is found in plant cells. The pigment increases in quantity when the plant is placed under the sun. It protects the succulent from high temperatures and UV light.

Anthocyanins are responsible for a change in color and are stable when the temperature is low. This is why succulents stay green in summer and develop bold colors in winter.

As mentioned earlier, some people like these bold colors and intentionally expose their succulents to sunlight to achieve the desired results.

This process is called stressing succulents.

Succulents That Adapt Red Color

  • Kiwi Aeonium
  • Sunset Aloe
  • Red Pagoda
  • Crassula
  • Chocolate Sundae
  • Echeveria
  • Red Rubin
  • Euphorbia
  • Crosby’s Prolific
  • Kalanchoe
  • Raindrops
  • Sedum
  • Hummel’s Sunset
  • Sempervivum
  • Giant Jellybean

Succulents Changing to Red – Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

Stress is one factor that can make you thrive or put you down. The same theory applies to succulents. Good stress is nothing to be skeptical about.

If a plant is healthy, stress won’t do it any harm. It will maintain its features and original shape even while changing color. On the other hand, bad stress will disfigure and distort the plant.

To prevent your succulent from becoming a victim of bad stress, you need to first figure out what’s causing your plant stress.

Some succulents develop red tips when they are exposed to extreme heat. It shows that the succulent is coping with the weather by producing carotenoids to protect itself from the UV rays.

This is called good stress. A change in color caused by this does not damage the plant.

However, when the reddish tint reaches the stem of your succulent, then you should worry. This could indicate that your plant is suffering from an insect infestation, like spider mites.

The damage caused by these can also change the appearance of the plant.

This is called bad stress. A change in color caused by this warns you that you need to take quick action to save your succulent.

Too Much Sunlight

New plant owners always make a few mistakes when it comes to keeping their succulents alive. They assume the plant needs more sunlight and, therefore, place it out in the open.

For succulents, this can be a death sentence. Direct sunlight causes too much stress, which makes the foliage turn red or brown.

However, your first thought should never be that your succulent is dying if it has red tips.

Some adopt a red color due to their natural development, and some indicate that they are receiving poor nutrition.


Newly planted succulents need to be slowly introduced to the sun. It’s possible that they might burn under direct sunlight.

Depending on the species, you can then place them under the sun but in a shaded area for around 6 hours.

The best way to ensure that your succulent does not get too much sunlight is to rotate its location.

Your plant should get sunlight from every angle to maintain overall health. This assists in keeping your plant straight.

Poor Soil

Succulent soil is different from other plant soils. It creates the perfect growing medium, which provides the succulent with all the essential nutrients.

Succulents do well in soil that is mixed with sand. However, make sure that the ratio of sand is not too much, or this will dry out the plan and cause bad stress.

If you are using a commercial fertilizer, take a look at the ingredients list of the product. The ideal nutrient combination for succulents is 10-10-10.

This means that your plant is receiving 10% potassium, 10% nitrogen, and 10% phosphorus.

Together, these nutrients assist with leaf growth, promote protection against root rot, and fight disease.

In the concentration of the medium is too high or too low, the roots can get damaged.


As mentioned above, the best solution for this problem is to get a fertilizer with a mixture of 10-10-10.

You can also add more nutrients by using diluted fish emulsion or manure tea. However, make sure you do not overdo it, or the plant might get damaged from the inside, which is hard to fix.

Lack of Water

A common mistake that every plant owner makes is underwatering or overwatering the plant. Indoor and outdoor plants have different water requirements.

Since outdoor plants are exposed to more sunlight, they need regular watering.

On the other hand, indoor plants retain water for a long time and can be watered twice a week.

This does not apply to succulents. They are drought resistant, which makes them survive well in arid climates. However, you still need to have a watering schedule.

Ideally, you should water your succulents when the soil is dry. You can test the dryness by inserting your finger up to the second knuckle into the soil. If your finger comes out dry, water your succulent.


How often succulents should be watered depends on the species. In the non-winter months, your succulent should be watered once a week.

If the temperature falls below 40 degrees, water more often. Some succulent owners water their plants after every 14 days but as we said, take into account your plant’s size and species before making the schedule.

Here’s an example to help you understand this. A Euphorbia resinifera that is a foot tall and 5 inches wide, planted in a pot filled with pea gravel with drain holes and placed on the patio, needs 2 cups of water every week in summer and fall and 1 cup once a month in winter.

Final Thoughts

We can safely conclude that your succulents turning red is not necessarily a sign of danger. However, if the change in color is caused by bad stress, you need to take immediate action.

Consider all the factors, such as underwatering, poor soil, and sunlight, to find out if your succulent is dying or adapting to the environment.