What's Wrong With My Succulent? Tips & Tricks for Plant Care

by Joe N. Pollifrone 12/20/2021

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Succulents are some of the most popular houseplants because they are easy to care for. However, there are some very common problems that you might encounter when keeping succulents despite their low-maintenance demands. Each variety has slightly different needs, but here we will go over some of the most common issues and how to avoid them.


Succulents may be desert-native, but that does not mean they all thrive in direct sunlight. In fact, most succulents prefer bright but indirect light and can get damaged by harsh UV rays. If you notice brown spots or dry discoloration on your succulent’s leaves, it might be sunburn. If you find your succulent has sun damage, carefully remove the damaged leaves and find a new spot where the plant won’t burn. North or south-facing windows are great for succulents because they’ll get plenty of light all day without risk of damage.


“Low-maintenance” does not mean you can completely ignore a succulent. Though they are drought-resistant plants, they need enough water in order to survive and grow. The easiest way to tell if your succulent needs more water is if the upper leaves look shriveled and dry. You might also notice a usually vibrant succulent looking dull or gray when it needs more water. Luckily, this is an easy problem to remedy. All you need to do is to soak the soil completely and then allow it to drain. You should see the appearance change gradually once the plant has quenched its thirst.


Succulents frequently top the “hard to kill” list of houseplants, but the most common reason succulents die is from too much water. Desert native plants like succulents and cacti are extremely efficient in their water consumption and can store it for long periods of time. Watering your succulents too frequently can lead to root rot which will eventually kill the whole plant. If you notice the underside of the plant turning brown, it might be a sign of rot. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to save the plant once the roots have decayed, but it’s easy to prevent the issue entirely. The soil must dry out completely between waterings. You should also make sure you use the right soil: go for succulent or cactus-specific soil that drains well rather than soil that retains moisture.


Sometimes your succulents might grow unevenly in one direction. If you notice your succulents stretching one way or the other, it means it’s trying to get more light. Plants will typically grow toward their light source, so if you have succulents facing the same direction in the same spot without ever being moved, you might find them getting stretched or “leggy.” The simplest way to avoid this is to rotate them frequently or find a new spot for them where the light is more consistent. You can also use special LED grow lights indoors to create a perfectly symmetrical lighting environment if you don’t get enough sunlight through your windows. Just make sure that if you change the amount of light for a leggy succulent that you do so gradually and watch out for sun damage.

Each type of succulent is a little different in terms of ideal light and water situation, but all share the risk of the above issues. The most important thing to remember when caring for succulents is not to drown them or expose them to extreme heat or cold. Otherwise, let the plant tell you what it needs and adjust accordingly.

About the Author

Joe N. Pollifrone

For over 30 years, Joe Pollifrone has practiced real estate full-time as a licensed Real Estate Broker in California. Joe’s vast sales experience includes duplexes, tri-plexes, four-plexes, apartment buildings, land, condominiums, townhomes, fixer-uppers, estate properties, and bank-owned properties (REOs). He also is active in selling non-owner occupied properties and is well-versed in 1031 tax-deferred exchanges, property management, tenant/landlord issues, and local laws. During Joe’s career to date, he has sold in excess of $200,000,000 of real estate, including over $32,000,000 in REOs. 

Joe brought his deep experience to Sereno Group Willow Glen as a Broker Associate in 2012. He was the Sales Manager and lead a top-producing office. Joe would mentor new Sereno hires, making sure that they’re comfortable with the ethos of the office, plugged into Sereno’s network of contacts, and well-versed in the technology required of today’s real estate professionals. 

Joe prides himself on his proven ability to negotiate, extensive knowledge of contracts, and securing close of escrows in a timely manner. Both he and his clients credit his success to effective communication skills, honesty, and hard work. Joe is a native of San Jose and resides in Willow Glen with his wife of twenty-seven years, Kimi, his daughters Milan and Micaela and their two Goldendoodles, Tony-Luca and Marco.