Why are Succulent Leaves Turning Black- Practical Reasons and Solutions

Succulents plants are easy to care for and require low maintenance and there is an interesting fact that you can plant succulents in rock because they are highly adaptable to harsh climatic conditions. Nevertheless, they are susceptible to few watering dosages, and these sensitivities result in varying colorization. So, why are succulent leaves turning black?

Succulents are plants with varying forms, blossoms, and colors. And if their leaves are turning black, then there is a big problem. But don’t worry about that! This article will help you understand the leading causes of black spots on succulent leaves and effective solutions.

What are Succulent Plants?

They are unusual plants with fleshy, thick, and puffy parts, especially the leaves, that store water. Most of them have a deep root system to adapt in arid or semi-arid regions. The most common adaptation in succulents is the proper timing of the closing and opening of the stomata.

They flourish well in extremely harsh conditions with low humidity. And, they can withstand hot temperatures, but freezing can cause death due to excess water stored in their thick leaves. Nevertheless, some strong species such as sempervivums can withstand cold temperatures.

Succulents have one extraordinary quality, and that is their capability to propagate effortlessly. Most of them can produce new plants from fallen leaves. And as they grow larger, pups start to sprout from them. Therefore, it is imperative to know if your succulent is either hardy or a tropical variety.

You have heard numerous times from different sources that they are easy to care for and maintain. But that’s not the case on your side, because you might be facing problems with yours, especially discoloration of the leaves.

Well, now you know what succulents are and their adaptation mechanism. Do you know what is resulting in black spots on succulent leaves?

Why are Succulent Leaves Turning Black?

The fact is that succulents require low maintenance, but they are also susceptible to disease and pest infestation. If you are growing them in your garden or indoors, there are high chances that you have experienced various challenges with them. The most common problem is succulents turning black.

In contrast, what is the cause of black spots? There are 5 primary causes: overwatering, sunburn, fungi infection, pests, and frost. Therefore, if you notice any of these, act with speed to salvage the situation. Remember to handle them with care.

Overwatering

If you have been propagating succulents for quite a while now, you must know that overwatering them is not the best thing to do for your plants. In fact, it is one of the primary causes of black spots. These plants store excess water in their stems, leaves, and roots, enabling them to survive harsh conditions such as drought.  

Nevertheless, overwatering causes the tissues to rapture after exceeding the full water storage capacity. If the leaves appear soft to touch, and you notice them becoming translucent, then it’s due to excess irrigation. If you continue with the practice, the leaves start to have some black spots, thus making your plants weak. 

Another effect of overwatering that leads to dark spots is root rot. The roots become soft and mushy, which can eventually lead to the death of your succulents.

Solution

If you notice any of these effects, the good news is, you still have enough time to save your plants. The first thing you must do is, stop watering them immediately for about two weeks; this is to allow your succulents to dry out. Before the next watering session, ensure the soil is dry.

You can also remove the mother plant from the pot and examine its roots. If the roots are healthy, you trim the affected leaves, cut off the stems, and transplant them in dry potting soil. 

Ensure the soil is well-aerated and drained; leave your plants there for a few days without watering them. After three or five days, start to water them but proceed with extreme moderation. Consequently, if you feel the roots are soft, it means they are already dead and weak.

Therefore, obtain some healthy leaf and stem cuttings from the mother plants and transplant them. But before you do that, allow the end of the cuttings to heal first. Then you can dispose of both the dead soil and mother plant because they are infected too.

Sunburn

You are probably wondering how the sun’s effect can affect your succulents. Even though the sun is one of their healthy growth conditions, too much of it affects them negatively. The leaves become dry with patchy dark spots on their surface.

This occurs when your plants receive intense sunlight before acclimatizing. Different species have varying tolerance levels. Most of them tend to be significantly affected under high temperatures above 45 degrees (C).

Succulents show varying symptoms and react differently under hot climatic conditions. Some can collapse into a mushy heap, and others get the black spots. And they can’t disappear until you provide the necessary solution.

Solution

You cannot reverse the damage once the succulents have been affected by the sun. All you can do is eliminate the damaged leaves. Always ensure that your plants receive the right amount of sunlight, exceptionally bright distilled light. 

If the species you are propagating prefers direct sunlight, you should subject them to that condition. If you don’t do it right, it can cause scorching, leading to severe damage. You must be very careful when doing this because you don’t want to damage your beautiful houseplants.

If you see any discoloration, especially the white color, it’s an indication that your succulents have been sunburnt. You should move them indoors or look for a spot with partial shade if propagating outdoors to inhibit further damage.

When the plants are strong enough, expose them to morning sunlight for about three to four hours per day. By doing this, you give them a chance of healing pretty much faster from the burn. It also enables them to adjust to intense sunlight conditions.

Fungus Infection and Rot Warts

Black spot fungus on succulents is due to fungus infection and root rot. When this occurs, you’ll see dark spots on the surface of the leaves. Such kind of problem is common in areas with a humid climate.

Solution

If you stay in areas with high humidity, you should water your succulents at least once every week. If you do this, you can prevent the leaves from shriveling. Do spray them with water because these plants don’t absorb water in that manner.

Moreover, ensure that you grow your succulents in a well-aerated and properly-drained potting mix. Don’t take soil that holds water for long; it will only make the situation worse. If you notice the leaves and stems have dark spots, trim the damaged parts and repot them.

Pest Infestation

Succulents turning black is a sign of pest attack. Various insects such as mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, snails, and slugs always feed on your plants’ leaves. Thus creating a very large region of dead tissues, resulting in smoky black mold.

Unfortunately, the only way to salvage the plants is to cut off the dead leaves and burn them to avoid spreading the pest to other healthy succulents.

For instance, snails and slugs create small holes on the leaves that later turn into black spots. They hide in between rocks and beneath the pots, the feed on your succulents during the night. It’s very difficult to catch ad kill them.

On the other hand, mealybugs and aphids discharge sticky white fluids on the leaf surface, making them look extremely ugly. These pests always like hiding beneath the soft and thick-fleshy leaves, thus inhibiting your succulents from thriving and eventually die.

Solution

If you want to deal with mealybugs:

  1. Squash them away using toothpicks.
  2. Cut off the affected leaves and examine the entire plant for bugs left.
  3. Once you have eliminated them and isolated the dead leaves, observe them more closely for few weeks to prevent further outbreaks.

Another effective way of doing away with these harmful mealybugs is spraying an isopropyl concentration solution. To eliminate these bugs, ensure you wash them off the leaf surface.

Ants also cause black spots on succulents when they spread to gather honeydew. Moreover, ants always protect the aphids and bugs from other predators such as ladybugs. Eliminating these ants is a difficult task.

If you want to eradicate their queen, ensure you spray pyrethrum solution on the ground. Don’t use sugary recipes because it’s not effective. Snails always munch the leaf surface, thus resulting in succulent leaves turning black. The best way to kill them is to create beer traps to drink and eventually die.

Frost Damages

Frost damages also another cause succulent leaves turning black. Most species of these plants cannot tolerate freezing temperatures, which eventually lead to their death. You know that most of them thrive in warm weather conditions.

When there is a drop in temperature below the freezing point, if you leave your succulents outdoors, there is an excellent chance of turning black; thus, they won’t survive for quite long. Similarly, when the leaves have been damaged by the sun, they can’t return to their normal condition and colors.

You’ll have to wait for new growth to take over and remove the dead leaves from the mother plant after the damage has occurred. Therefore, these plants cannot withstand cold temperature conditions; they kill them much faster than a bullet.

Solution

If winter is about to set in or you are expecting cold weather front, you should bring your plants indoors during this season to prevent them from dying or developing dark spots. Moreover, keep in mind that, when propagating your succulents indoors, ensure you place them away from the cold windows.

If you happen to see black spots on your succulents, cut off the affected areas, such as leaves, stems, and roots, and then make sure the parts remaining are in good health and shape. In addition, you can also protect them with a frost cloth. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How can I eliminate black spots on succulent leaves?

Unfortunately, they don’t go away quickly because they spread faster on the plant. The best thing you can do is to get rid of the damaged parts, especially the leaves and stems. And, if you are dealing with scorched spots due to sunburn, remove only the individual stems or leaves.

If you feel the spots are soft and mushy, it is due to overwatering. You should remove the affected leaves and transplant the plant in dry or well-aerated soil.

Q2. Can the leaves of my succulents grow back?

Definitely yes, if most of the leaves were seriously affected due to overwatering, your plants will ultimately recover, so long as they are rotten. You need to give them a chance to dry completely, and you will see the leaves sprout.

Succulents are adaptable to arid conditions as natural habitat. They store excess water, which they can draw if they are under-watered. When under-watering is prolonged, they shed off their leaves from bottom to top to reserve energy and water. This is their survival technique.

Q3. What can I do if my succulents start to turn black?

The first thing you need to do is to suspend your watering schedule for about seven to ten days to check if the conditions can improve for the better or not. You can resume watering after checking the condition of the soil; ensure it’s scorched.

If there is no improvement, report them in fresh soil and keep them under a shade for at least three days. This is the healing process. Remove any traces of old potting mix or soil off the roots. Examine the roots if they are rotten; if affected, remove them using sterilized pruning shears.

Conclusion – Succulent Leaves Turning Black

Succulents hate extremely wet potting mix or soil, and they are susceptible to overwatering. You should know that you need a different approach when it comes to watering these plants. Therefore, ensure you employ necessary precautions such as use a pot with good drainage holes, succulent-friendly potting mix, or soil.

In addition, you should only water them when the soil is parched. Succulents can withstand extreme environments, so subject them to favorable sunny conditions to reduce the damage. Pay close attention to the signals the succulents give you upfront.

Now, if you notice succulent leaves turning black, you know it can be due to overwatering, sunburn, pest infestation, frost damages, and fungus. The article also provides you necessary solutions to each of these problems.

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