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4 Ways to Diagnose What’s Got Your Wilting Succulent Looking so Down

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If you love having cute little cacti in your home, you’ve probably wondered how to save a dying succulent. Though these hardy plants are touted as hard to kill, even the greenest thumb could be guilty of accidentally destroying these precious sprouts. To help you salvage your succulent, we’ve put together a handy guide so you can determine why your succulent isn’t looking its best — and what you can do to return it to its former glory. 

1. Could you be overwatering your plant? 

It’s easy to overwater a plant. A fews drinks of water throughout the day might be enough for Fido, but it may be way too much water for your succulent. Fortunately, there are telltale signs of overwatering to look for, because your plant can’t communicate when it’s literally drowning. 

The main giveaway that you’re overwatering is when the leaves change color. If there’s too much H2O in the soil, there’s no room for the oxygen to sit so it can be absorbed. Plants that lack oxygen get stressed, leaving them susceptible to diseases. Root rot is a common issue for plants that are overwatered, and plants that have it will wilt despite the soil being moist. Leaves can also turn yellow as a result of moisture stress.  

To avoid overwatering your plants in the future, try the finger test. Insert your finger into the soil about an inch deep (roughly up to your knuckle) and check whether it’s damp. If it’s still moist, then your plant doesn’t need a drink.

2. OK, so maybe the issue is not enough water. 

Conversely, you may not be watering your plant enough. The problem here is that sometimes it’s difficult to tell what your succulent needs because the signs of overwatering and underwatering are similar. Wilting, discolored leaves, and stunted growth are symptoms of both conditions — so how can you tell when the issue is not enough water?

There are a few key differences between plants that need water and those that don’t. If wilted leaves are dry and cripsy around the edges, signs point to your little green pet needing more water. The soil should also be a bit harder to penetrate if you try the finger test.

The obvious solution here would be to water your plant. Make yourself a note and stick it on the fridge or set an alarm on your phone so you never forget to quench your plant’s thirst. Leaving the watering can next to your plant can also be a helpful reminder.

3. Is your plant not getting enough sun?

Remember back in science class when we learned about how plants convert sunlight to energy? It’s no surprise then that if plants don’t get enough sunlight, they can’t produce the nutrients they need to survive. Just like humans, plants need the sun’s rays to stay happy and healthy. 

Common warning signs that your plant could use some more sun are falling leaves, new leaves that are different colors than older growth (for example, fresh leaves are not as vibrant), leaves that grow toward the light more than normal, and leaves whose edges curl upwards like a cup.

If you spot these danger signs, give your plant a nice sunbath. This can be as simple as moving the pot closer to a window during the day, or adding a source of artificial light nearby. However, be careful not to put your plant at risk of overexposure to sunlight — which brings us to our next point.

4. Could it be that your plant’s getting too much sun?

Plants can suffer from what’s essentially sunburn — just like us! — so be careful where you put them. Unlike trying to determine whether your plant has too much or not enough water, it’s pretty easy to figure out whether your plant is frying to a crsip.

Check for scorched patches on your plant’s leaves, which may look washed out or mottled with white and brown splotches. Your plant may wilt at midday when the sun is strongest. Dry leaves will also shrivel up and likely fall off. 

Because too much of a good thing (sunlight) is actually a very bad thing, make sure you research the best lighting conditions for your succulent. If your plant thrives in direct sunlight, make sure its nice and comfy by the window. But if your greenery prefers some afternoon shade, designate a shadowy part of your shelf for it.

Now that you’re an expert at detecting what’s wong with your plants, you also know how to save a dying succulent. So if you forget about your plant for a few days and, lo and behold, it’s not looking so great, don’t despair — this succulent doesn’t have to become your most recent (accidental!) green victim. 

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