How To Save An Overwatered Succulent - Backyard Boss
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How To Save An Overwatered Succulent

Succulent plants, including those like aloe vera, cacti, and haworthia, store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. The plants are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, but too much water can quickly cause things to turn sour. Whether you consider yourself well-versed in the world of succulent care or a novice, it can be tricky to properly water your plants. Not to mention, sometimes you don’t spot a problem until it’s too late.

It’s best to know when your plant is telling you it’s had enough to drink, but what are the signs of overwatering? And what can you do to bring a struggling plant back to life? Find out everything there is to know about saving an overwatered succulent and how to avoid the problem in the future.

Signs Of Overwatering

overwatered stems of snake plant
Image credits: Bilalstock via Shutterstock

The first step in saving your plant is getting to the root of the problem. The signs of overwatering can also point to other issues like too much sunlight or lack or nutrients. To understand the issue think about your watering schedule along with other environmental factors. If you think overwatering is the issue inspect your plant for the following.

  • Soggy soil
  • Browning or yellowing leaves
  • Falling foliage
  • Mushy and shriveled foliage


If the soil is soggy, water is pooling at the top of the container, or your plant has been sitting in a tray of water for an extended time, you found the problem! Generally you should allow succulent soil to completely dry out before watering it again. When this happens the roots can die off or rot.

When the succulent leaves turn a brown or yellow color this can point to under or overwatering. Underwatered foliage will be crispy, while the latter results in mushy leaves and squishy stems. Worst case, the leaves will start to fall off — this is a sign of overwatering as well.

With too much water, you may also notice pests such as gnats, moldy soil, and yellow and brown spots on leaves.

Tools You’ll Need

Houseplant care tools
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To save an overwatered succulent, there are a few tools you’ll need to help you struggling green friends. Fortunately, they are quite basic and most indoor gardeners already own them!

  • Gardening gloves
  • New pot with drainage
  • Fresh, well-draining soil
  • Sharp pruning shears or scissors
  • Glass or propagation container
  • Clean water
  • Stiff brush
  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Bleach

How To Save An Overwatered Succulent

With the proper tools in hand and the knowledge that your succulent is suffering from overwatering, it’s time to get to saving! There are two main ways to bring your plants back to life.


Succulent pulled out of pot resting on table ready for repotting
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If you fear that you have overwatered your succulent, repotting is the best solution. Start by removing the plant from its current pot and wipe away as much soil as possible from the root system. Remember to use the proper protective gloves when gardening, especially if you are repotting a spiky cactus.

Inspect the plant, keeping an eye out for root rot. This nuisance appears as brown and mushy roots that have a bad scent. Snip away any dead, rotten, or damaged roots and foliage using a pair of clean and sharp pruning shears or scissors. Succulents require pots with excellent drainage, such as terracotta and clay, along with well-draining potting soil.

Use a mixture with either perlite, pumice, or sand. There are many pre-made mixtures available, but you can also make your own. Add the soil to the pot, leaving enough room for the plant’s roots. Then, place the plant in the pot, topping with extra soil. Finally, give your freshly potted succulent a new home on a sunny windowsill with good airflow.

Pro Tip: If you are going to reuse a pot, make sure to clean the pot with a stiff brush, warm water, and liquid dish soap. Then, soak it in one part bleach to nine parts water for at least 30 minutes — rinse, and dry thoroughly. This removes any bacteria from the previous plant that could cause any future problems.


Image credits: denise1203 via Shutterstock

If you remove your succulent from its pot and discover a root system that is much too far gone, with very little healthy roots, repotting likely won’t do the trick. Fortunately, propagation is an option. Using pruning shears or scissors, snip away all of the dead foliage and roots. You want to find a healthy section of the plant that has not been contaminated.

With most succulents, such as burro’s tail, you can propagate leaves or stem cuttings. When you make your cut allow the wound to callus over for a few days. Then, place the leaves cut-side down on a layer of moist potting soil in a shallow container and keep in bright, indirect light. Pot in 2-inch containers once roots form. Or plant in a mixture of peat and perlite in a 2-inch pot. Keep the mixture moist and in bright indirect light over the next few weeks and repot once roots form.

You can also take 3-inch stem cuttings and place in water. This way you can watch the roots grow right before your eyes!

Watering Tips

Woman watering succulent plant at home
Image credits: Pixel-Shot via Shutterstock

When it comes to watering succulent plants, there is a lot to consider. Pay attention to temperature and humidity levels inside your home, and also whether or not it’s the growing season for your specific plant. Succulents tend to grow throughout the summer and go dormant in winter. When they are actively growing and temperatures are higher they require watering more regularly.

As a general rule of thumb, most succulents prefer to dry out before their next watering. You can check the soil about an inch deep; if it’s still wet, wait a little longer, but if it is dry, it’s time to douse it. Always research the specific plant’s needs to ensure you are watering properly and use a pot with a drainage hole, as well as well-draining soil.

To The Rescue!

Succulents are generally easy to grow, but they can be difficult if you tend to overwater houseplants. With that said, hope is not lost and you can save your plants. Plus, you can learn how to avoid the issue in the future! If you want to try your hand with plants that can tolerate a little extra water, consider pothos or philodendron.

Do you have any tips for saving overwatering succulents? Share your experience in the comments below!