Why Succulents Turn Brown?

You have a green thumb, but your succulents don’t seem to survive under your care.

It feels like the damage is never-ending. Kindly walk us through the damage you are seeing on your plants:

My succulent leaves are turning brown, and the color is slowly spreading. They are becoming hard and curling into themselves.

There could be two reasons behind this:

However, there are plenty of other reasons that might be causing the color change.

Succulents have a wide range of colors. Sometimes, the color depends on the type of species you have.

This effect is not a huge problem. Succulents are resilient and low maintenance.

They are known to change their color based on the pigment that increases in them.

You have a strict watering schedule, and the soil creates optimum growing conditions. So, what could be wrong?

The sun and pest infestation!

In some cases, it’s an indication of root rot as well. No matter what the cause of the damage, if you catch it early, the chances of its revival are high.

Causes of Succulents Turning Brown

Succulents look the most beautiful when standing tall with their flowers blooming. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to nurse them back to health when they lose their color.

A few of the top factors that are the cause of the brown color include:

  • Sunburn
  • Underwatering or Overwatering
  • Frost
  • Fungus Rot
  • Pests
  • Frost

Early detection is the only way to prevent your succulent from wilting, losing its leaves, and dying.


Succulents don’t need much sunlight, but the occasional exposure can cause harm when it’s too bright. If the temperature rises above 104°F, the leaves start to burn.

The color change also happens when the temperature changes too quickly.

For example, you introduced your succulent to shaded sunlight and then placed it under direct sunlight after a few weeks.

The signs of sunburn are more than just the leaves turning brown. A few others include:

  • Plant may collapse
  • Dark brown spots
  • Mushy and soft texture

Just because a cactus can survive in the desert doesn’t mean it’s made for a dry climate. The same thing applies to succulents. They still need a little maintenance.


Here are a few steps you can take to protect your succulent from sunlight:

  • Keep changing your succulent’s position. If the leaves look sunburned, place the plant in a shaded area
  • Encase your plant in a cage covered with shade cloth to block the harmful UV rays
  • Give the plants more time to acclimate

Acclimation improves your succulent’s health greatly. We might not have sunscreen to protect our succulents but making sure it receives the right amount of light can make a world of difference.

Use An LED Lamp

If your succulents are placed indoors and sensitive to sunlight, you can use artificial light to boost photosynthesis. An LED lamp is the best option in this case. Since it does not have the same intensity as sunlight, your succulent can be exposed to it every day.


Just like sunlight, cold weather can cause frostbite. The damage from this is severe. Not only does the plant turn brown, but it also loses its strength and collapses.


  • Keep your plants indoor throughout winter and use an LED lamp to give them sunlight
  • Use a frost cover to keep it warm
  • Do not place the succulents on your windowsill

The temperature range for succulents varies based on their species. Typically, succulents can survive in a range between 60°F and 80°F.

The ideal temperature for this plant species is 40°F. Some can survive at 90°F. However, below 40°F, you will notice changes in their appearance.


Succulents don’t like pests. However, pests love the brown, green leaves. Some of the most common pests that invade succulents include:

  • Mice
  • Birds
  • Slugs
  • Aphids
  • Mealybugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Deer

Amongst these, you will mostly find Mealybugs and aphids feeding on your succulents. A few brown tips do not mean that your succulent is infected.

However, if the spots have reached the stem, you must inspect your plant for pest damage.

Aphids are brown, orange, black, brown, or green in color. Mealybugs are white in color, and they look like a cloud of cotton.

People often mistake them for mold. These pests bite the plant and suck the sap out of the opening. The sap excreted is called honeydew, which is what grows into the white fuzz.


Getting rid of pests is easy. Before reaching out for commercial sprays, try DIY solutions to prevent the damage from escalating.

  • Mix 95% water, 5% Neem oil, and 5 drops of dish soap in a bowl. Mix the solution thoroughly and pour it into a spray bottle. (Do not shake the bottle too much to prevent suds from forming)
  • Mix 30% water and 70% isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray the succulents with this solution once a week
  • Use an over-the-counter pest spray

Use these solutions with caution. They will kill the bugs but also cause harm to your plant. The first remedy can be applied with a Q-tip, and the second one can be sprayed.

Since the fuzz left behind by Mealybugs won’t clean itself after its effects wear off, you need to wash it off.

Since pests spread quickly, you need to quarantine your sick succulents. Keep an eye on them and pay extra attention to any new fuzz growth.

Spray the succulents thrice for three weeks, and don’t forget to rinse them with water to remove any chemicals and oils.

Underwatering or Overwatering

Overwatering is usually a bigger problem than underwatering. New plant owners believe their plants need to be watered around the clock, causing the soil to flooding and preventing the leaves from receiving nutrients.

Overwatering causes the plant to become soft, which leads to rot. Underwatering causes your plant to shrivel up and become dry.

The good news is that the first problem can be easily solved by doing the knuckle test. Insert your finger up to the second knuckle into the soil.

If your finger comes out dry, water your succulent.

Signs of overwatering include:

  • Leaves turning yellow
  • Mushy and soft leaves
  • Leaves falling off due to wind
  • When the brown spots change to black


Most people ask, “How often should I water my succulents?”

The answer is simple: When the soil is dry. If the weather has a light breeze but is warm, your succulent will need watering once a week or month.

However, if the weather is dry and hot, you must water your plant more often.

If you have overwatered your plant, there are a couple of things you can do to revive it:

  • Do not water the plant until the soil dries out completely
  • Change the soil if it has bad aeration
  • Plant your succulent in a new pot that has drainage holes at the bottom

Overwatering can also lead to fungus infection and water worts. Hence, you need to create a watering schedule to know when to water your plant.

Moving on to underwatering, the signs are pretty clear. First, the leaves will start to dry and then curl inwards. Next, the damage will spread, and the stem will lose its color.

The succulent will eventually lose all its flowers and leaves.

The solution for underwatering is simple: Water your succulents!

The plant will immediately perk up. If it doesn’t, the damage is probably severe and too deep. You can change the soil and add nutrients to it to perk it up. It might take some time, so be patient.

Wait for at least three weeks to see the results. Don’t forget to trim the dead leaves. If the plant still does not survive, it’s time to dispose of it.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, succulents changing their color from green to brown is a cause of concern. This is not the same as succulents turning red, which does not cause severe damage to the plant.

Sometimes, the damage in the plant is hidden. We are not talking about failing to spot the signs but nurseries duping you into buying unhealthy plants.

Touch the leaves to make sure they are not spray painted. Do not purchase the plant until you have inspected it thoroughly.

The two main culprits of this color change are sunlight and underwatering.

If you have overwatered your plant, you can easily repair the damage. You can always cut off the damaged parts and replant the healthy ones.

So, if you want to ensure your succulents maintain their natural form and structure, create a watering schedule, learn about acclimation, protect them from pests and give them appropriate shade so they can thrive in all weather conditions.