What Does It Mean When A Succulent Turns Red?

Succulents are amongst some of the most common plants in gardens and homes.

They are easy to care for, don’t require a lot of maintenance, and are pretty resilient.

Their ability to stay green throughout the year is what makes it so visually appealing and the reason their demand is so high.

But succulents turn red sometimes, making their owners confused as to why their color has changed so drastically. 

So, we are here to answer your question about why a succulent turns red and what you should do about it.

Why Do Succulents Turn Red?

If you own a collection of plants, it is only normal to spend a lot of your time caring for them, and it’s natural to feel worried even with the slightest changes in your plants. 

However, succulents turning red is not a very serious problem, but it could cause your succulents to die if proper actions are not taken. 

The reason why succulents turn red is that they respond to the environmental conditions around them. It can be due to several external conditions, including:

  • Exposure to the sun
  • Low nourishment
  • Extremely hot or cold temperatures
  • Bad quality soil, and 
  • Under watering

It is basically the way succulents adapt to different environments. 

While the succulents look extremely beautiful with a red tint on their leaves or bright red fiery colors, these color changes are actually caused by stress.

It is a reaction to external changes that will help them survive; however, prolonged stress can eventually cause succulents to die. 

Let’s dive deeper into the science behind the succulents turning red.

As we all learned back in school that the green color in plants comes from a chemical called chlorophyll, it isn’t the only chemical responsible for the shades of the leaves and stems.

Succulents contain two other essential chemicals called anthocyanins and carotenoids.

  • The luscious green color appears as a result of photosynthesis when chlorophyll in the plants absorbs sunlight. This is when the succulents receive healthy sunlight, not direct heat, and are kept under a shade.
  • However, what happens when succulents are overly exposed to the sun is that the production of carotenoids increases in order to protect themselves from excessive ultraviolet rays and heat. The carotenoid changes the succulents from green to yellow or orange. 
  • Contrarily, when temperatures are lower than normal, like during the autumn season, the chemical anthocyanins become more dominant, causing the leaves to turn blue, purple, or red. These chemicals are the primary reason for all the vibrant hues you can see during the fall season. 
  • Did you know these pigments are also found in fruits and contain lots of antioxidants? 

How to Tell if the Stress in Succulents is Good or Bad?

Although stress can produce some lovely and vibrant colors in succulents, there is a fine line between a succulent that is healthy and undergoing stress or a succulent that is over-stressed and hurting.

But for succulents, stress doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.

Contrary to popular belief, succulents are extremely resilient. If you learn more about their natural habitat, you will find that they are used to extremely harsh conditions.

Areas where normally plants can’t survive are where you will find these succulents thriving. 

The succulent has natural capabilities to survive and adapt to harsh conditions like deserts, mountainous regions, rain forests, or sea coasts. 

So how can you tell whether the change in a succulent’s color is healthy or not?

Good Stress

In general, when a succulent maintains a largely consistent appearance despite being under stress, you can conclude that it is doing reasonably well.

With the exception of its altered hue, it retains the same form and shows no obvious differences.

Inspect your succulents; you will notice that the tips of the leaves start turning red due to exposure to the sun.

This is a sign that your plant is responding healthily to the environmental change around it. It is SUPPOSED to turn red in response to extreme temperatures. 

Under “good stress,” succulent species, including the Aeonium arboreum “Black Rose” and the Echeveria “black prince,” change from a lovely hue of deep purple to black.

These same plants, when nurtured, taken care of, watered, and placed in a shade, will go back to their original green color.

Bad Stress

When you notice that along with the color of your succulent, the rest of the appearance has also altered, and it looks mushy and weak, it is a sign the plant is overstressed.

This is when you need to take a closer look at what may be hurting your succulents. 

Since all succulents do not change color and you notice red spots on them, it is an indication of your plant being at risk.

Reddish tinges on the stems and leaves of succulents may indicate the presence of spider mites, which create red stains on the plant.

Additionally, the leaves will be crooked, which would indicate that something was amiss with the succulent.

You will have to take quick action to protect your plant from this form of bad stress.

In addition to the coloration, other deformities may indicate a sign of bad stress. 

Sometimes, you may also notice a yellowish tint which indicates the plant is being overwatered. If this is accompanied by black spots, it means the succulent is rotting.

You will have to take immediate action; otherwise, you will lose your plant.

Embrace the Red

Stressing your succulents is not important if you don’t like the idea of it. However, stress is a part of the succulents’ nature and helps them thrive and grow to their full beauty. 

If you have succulents and would like to see them in their true and natural appearance, the following are a few things you can do to stress them and get their lovely, vibrant red hues.

  • Exposure to Extreme Temperatures

The ideal temperature for succulents to thrive is between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Species will vary in their personal preferences, with a few capable of enduring temperatures as high as 90 degrees or as low as 40 degrees. 

Succulents that are fragile or tender and are native to dry environments develop deeper hues when exposed to heat.

However, tough succulents are native to alpine temperatures. And when exposed to temperature ranges between zero and forty degrees can cause significant changes in hue.

Even so, you must take extra care while subjecting your succulents to stress because you don’t want to harm them.

They could become too cold or too hot and quickly over stress causing more harm than good. 

  • Increase Exposure to the Sun

The longer you place your succulent indoors, the greener they become, particularly if there is very little sunlight where you live. 

Therefore, if you want you’re succulent to turn a beautiful reddish hue, you will have to expose it to more direct sunlight. 

The maximum length of time your succulent should be in the sun for it to turn red is over 6 hours. 

  • Don’t Overwater Your Succulent

As a succulent owner, you should know that it does not need that much water.

It isn’t always bad to frequently water them if you want them to be healthy; however, things can usually go the other way due to overwatering them.

They can become mushy and susceptible to fungus. 

Moreover, if you want them to turn a reddish color, you will have to reduce the watering.

The lesser the water you provide your succulents with, the more their leaves turn red.

This is due to a reaction that causes the leaves to turn red in order to hold on to more water.

You will have to water your plant a minimum of once or twice a week to achieve that beautiful red color.

  • The Correct Soil Mixture

Utilizing the proper potting mix will assist in encouraging a shift in your succulent’s hue.

Preferably, your succulent potting mix should contain around 50% inorganic compounds.

The potting mix won’t drain properly if the soil contains an excessive amount of organic matter.

Perlite and pumice are two ingredients that many succulent farmers vouch for in their potting mixtures.

Both these inorganic materials have many advantages, including defense against root rot, enhanced soil drainage, and enhanced root health.

  • Use the Right Pot

You will need a pot that has drainage holes underneath. But in addition to choosing the perfect kind of pot, you must also choose the correct size for your plant.

You will need a pot that is big enough to allow for the succulents’ roots to develop. This is important so that it is strong enough to tolerate the stress healthily without being hurt.

On the other hand, if the pot is too large, the succulent won’t be able to keep up the root’s rapid growth. Larger pots also absorb and store more moisture. This makes your plant more susceptible to decay.

Wrap Up

Now you know that when a succulent turns red, it is only a natural process and not really a cause for concern.

Nonetheless, you still have to pay careful attention to the type of stress that is causing the coloration and take action accordingly.

Keep in mind to only stress your succulents for a few months a year to keep them thriving and healthy.

If you notice any curling or burning of your leaves, you will know that it is too much, and now is the time to nurture and pamper your succulents.