Succulent Leaves Curling: 11 Causes with Solutions

Succulents are some of the most well-liked plants, and with good reason. They are ideal indoor houseplants since they require little maintenance to flourish. Curled succulents are often an indication that the environment is unhealthy for your plant.

Succulent Leaves Curling up

Lack of water will cause succulent leaves to curl. Underwatering and other root issues like root rot and root bound syndrome can also reduce the succulent’s access to oxygen, which in turn impacts how quickly it breathes and how much water is in its leaves.

In this post, we’ll discuss the causes of succulent leaves’ curling and bending as well as a few solutions you can try to address the issue.

When I repot my succulents, I always use Professional Growers Potting Soil Mix. I am confident that my plants will live when I repot them using this inexpensive dirt.

1. Overwatering

When the plant has access to too much water, overwatering happens. There is so much water present that it completely fills the soil’s pores, leaving no room for air to exist (oxygen).

As a result, the succulent’s roots are depleted of essential oxygen.

Because it increases the efficiency of respiration, oxygen is vital for plants (known as aerobic respiration).

When succulents are overwatered, their leaves often curl downward. Because of the excessive water demand and the deficiency of oxygen to the roots.

When a plant photosynthesizes, it produces its own carbohydrates, which are then used by the cells through respiration.

In the absence of light, plants respire more than they photosynthesize, which results in a surplus of oxygen consumption.

Oxygen must also be consumed by the roots and other non-photosynthesizing components of the succulent. Plant roots can drown in damp soil because of this in part.

The Solution:

To help you remember when to water the succulent, make a watering schedule. You might also attempt bottom watering, which evenly distributes the water by using capillary action in the soil.

To learn how to bottom water plants, read our in-depth article.

2. Underwatering

Because they have the capacity to store water in specialized cells within their fleshy leaves, stems, or roots during protracted droughts, succulents are renowned for their ability to grow in the driest of environments.

The water is then used sparingly for cellular processes over time until another chance to absorb water presents itself.

Now, we recreate drought circumstances for these succulents when we don’t water them for a while, or for any other reason.

The water reserves are then cautiously used up until they are depleted.

As the succulent’s water storage runs out over time, its cells become flaccid.

Since each adjacent cell is constrained by the use or loss of water, as the cells within the leaves lose water, they tend to sag and curl downward.

Watering may usually assist restore the water storage if you catch it in time, and you will notice the leaves regaining their former regular structure.

The Solution:

Even with succulents, a regular watering routine would help prevent underwatering.

3. Root Rot

Inadequate root system function, excessive watering, or insufficient drainage of moist soil are the main causes of root rot. Long-term exposure to too much water results in waterlogging, which obstructs the roots’ ability to breathe, causing low oxygenation and deterioration. Wikipedia

As was previously mentioned, the leaves, stems, and roots of succulents contain specialized cells that retain water. When these cells consume carbohydrates through respiration, they need oxygen.

Root rot, which closely relates to the subject of overwatering, chokes the plant by preventing it from getting enough oxygen.

Water is the byproduct of respiration, therefore root rot can reduce the amount of water that the plant’s leaves produce as a result of the reaction. The cells within the leaves will become less turgid and curl downward as a result of this decrease in water content.

The Solution:

Repotting is the remedy for root rot, as we have explained in more detail further on in this post.

4. Lack of Light

Succulents adore light—very bright light in fact—and while many prefer direct sunshine, some will tolerate some indirect sunlight.

This is exactly how they are by nature and how they have evolved to live.

When they don’t receive enough sunshine, succulents swell out. At least those at the top of the succulent will first start to turn and bend towards the direction of the light source.

As the amount of light decreases, lower or bottom leaves will begin to arch and point downward rather than upward.

The process of photosynthesis will be slowed down by a lack of sunlight. The plants will become stressed since they won’t be able to produce the necessary food.

The leaves will therefore change to a pale green or yellow color, start to curl, and face downward. In rare circumstances, the succulent will begin to lose its leaves if the light source is not replaced.

The Solution:

It would be nice to put the plant somewhere where it can get enough light, like on a porch. You can also relocate the plant sometimes so that it can get around six hours of sunlight each day. The best light is morning light.

5. Too Much Light

The fact that some people think that some plants need more sunshine than others, while others think that all plants need the same amount, is something to keep in mind when cultivating succulents. Succulents enjoy light.

Sunlight is necessary for succulents, but not in excess. Depending on the type, succulents need six hours of sunlight each day because they are light-loving plants.

The Solution:

You might need to gradually expose newly planted succulents to full sun exposure or give shade with a translucent screen because they can burn in direct sunshine.

Because of this, placing a succulent in full sunlight for an extended period of time after it has been in a modest quantity of sunshine may cause more harm than good.

The leaves will naturally curl downward as a result of being burnt and losing too much water.

6. Acclimatization

Moving a succulent from one spot to another requires acclimatization.

If your succulent has been sitting in a cold, sunny spot and you decide to move things around a bit, you should be aware that you can be doing more harm than good.

Let’s say that after spending some time on your porch, you move your succulent into direct sunshine. Even if plants are used to hot, dry settings in the natural, succulents can still get sunburned.

As a result of the heat of the day literally sucking the water from the plant and soil, the leaves will begin to bend downward.

The Solution:

This can be easily fixed by exposing the plates to full sunlight progressively over time, beginning with moderate sunlight.

Gradually move from morning light to full day light over the course of two weeks, but be careful not to expose the succulent to more than six hours of direct sunshine or you’ll find yourself back where you started.

7. Transplant Shock

Stress on your plants during installation or removal from their original container results in transplant shock.

After being transplanted, the succulent experienced this stress. It will take some time for the plant to adjust to its new surroundings.

Keep in mind that you simply took the plant out of the soil after it adapted to a new environment. For the succulent to begin utilizing the available nutrients, it must now establish a link (adapt) with the new soil.

When this doesn’t happen right away, the succulent may become stressed, which may cause the leaves to begin curling and bending downward.

Yes, it is difficult to see, but give it some time to get used to its new surroundings. But be sure to water sparingly so that soil nutrients can travel around more easily and enter the plant’s roots.

On sweltering summer days, avoid attempting to transplant plants.

The Solution:

By carefully considering the weather and the plant’s growth cycle before relocating, as well as by having the planting hole prepared to prevent having the plant’s roots exposed for an extended period of time, transplant shock can be reduced.

After the transplant has adjusted into its new location, make sure it receives enough moisture.

8. Pot Size (Under Potting)

How well the succulent grows will depend on the size of the plant pot. The plant will soon exceed its current container as time goes on, necessitating repotting.

It can eventually get rootbound, which can cause the roots to cluster and bind tightly together in the plant container, if it is not repotted as necessary.

The plant will surely experience stress if its pot is too tiny and will need to be repotted into a larger container.

In some situations, this form of stress can also cause the plant’s leaves to curl downward and eventually change color.

The Solution:

However, the new container that you use to repot a succulent needs to be big enough to hold the roots and prevent them from spreading too far in quest of nutrition.

9. Root Bound 

When plants outgrow the container they are in, they become root-bound. The plant’s roots tangle and occasionally you can detect roots poking through the ground.

Regular wilting, stunted growth, smaller new leaves, poor quality blooms or no flowers, yellowing and drooping or curled leaves, and absence of flowers are signs that a succulent is rootbound.

This is due to the fact that there would be insufficient moisture and nutrients to meet the needs of the plant when its roots grew deeper into the little pot.

The solution: 

Repotting in a bigger container will encourage growth. Plants kept in small, confined spaces adjust by growing more slowly.

Your plant will have more area to grow if you repotted it into a big pot. You may encourage the plants to grow larger more quickly by giving them more place to expand.

10. Pests

Pests, particularly those that affect succulent plants, can seriously harm plants. Scale, mealy bugs, and root mealy bugs are the three most prevalent pests. Pests like spider mites and fungus gnats are less frequent.

Mealybugs and scale both harm plants by draining plant juices, leaving feeble plants with shriveled, wrinkled leaves that occasionally bend and curl.

The solution:

Move the diseased plants away from other plants to place them in quarantine.

To get rid of mealybugs that are harming your succulent, lightly spray it with alcohol or soap water. Use a sticky fly trap for fungus gnats.

11. Soil condition

Succulents’ growth and development are heavily reliant on the soil.An excellent succulent potting soil is a well-draining potting mix. For succulents, it’s crucial to use a decent potting mix made of porous soil to avoid overwatering.

Water will tend to linger inside the soil for longer than it should if for whatever reason the soil has poor drainage characteristics.

The issue of overwatering results as a result. Lack of oxygen at the roots affects the plant’s ability to transpire.

The absence of water from the transpiration process causes the leaves to become less rigid, bend, and curl downward.

The Solution:

Using a well-drained soil that often consists of a blend of sand, potting soil, and perlite or pumice in a 3:3:0.5 ratio is an easy cure for this.

When the plant is watered, this soil combination will make sure that the proper amount of water is retained in the soil for optimum development and nutrient absorption.

How to Repot Succulents with Guaranteed Success

Make sure to use a container that is not too large when repotting or transferring succulents.

It’s crucial to avoid overfeeding succulents by providing them with more water and nutrients than they can absorb.

This can occasionally result in issues with root rot or overwatering, both of which can kill the succulent. Knowing what type of soil and how much of it the plant need is ideal.

  1. Take the plant out of the previous pot. Gently pry the soil from the pot’s sides with a stick.
  2. Water the soil gently while the plant is outside so that it can be easily removed from the roots.Note: It is advised to do this in order to expose the roots to fresh soil when placing the plant in a new pot.
  3. Fill the new plant pot with half of the succulent soil mixture (sand, potting soil, and perlite or vermiculite).
  4. Put the plant in the fresh container.
  5. Add the succulent soil mixture to the pot.
  6. To avoid transplant shock, moisten the new soil gently and let the plant a few days to settle in and acclimate.

The Conclusion

Cacti and succulent houseplants occasionally experience insect pests, but the majority of issues are bacterial or fungal illnesses brought on by overwatering.

Simple mechanical techniques can be used to control pests, such as making your own pesticides or putting out sticky traps for fungus gnats.

The lack of oxygen is the primary contributing factor to the issue, which is typically resolved by simply repotting the plant in a larger container with richer soil.

Additionally, make sure the plant gets enough sunshine without substantially altering its surroundings. In turn, this would lessen the shock of discovering why the leaves are curling.


Why are my succulent leaves curling down?

Lack of water will cause succulent leaves to curl. Underwatering and other root issues like root rot and root bound syndrome can also reduce the succulent’s access to oxygen, which in turn impacts how quickly it breathes and how much water is in its leaves.

How do you tell if a succulent is overwatered?

Discoloration and a change in the shape of the leaves are the first indications of overwatering to look out for. The leaves will turn transparent, floppy, and squishy, and unlike those that have been under-watered, they won’t be retrieved by the plant.

Why are the leaves on my succulent drooping?

Succulents that are wilting show excessive dehydration. Succulent specimens with droopy leaves indicate that the earth has been bone dry for a considerable amount of time. Although some plants can endure prolonged dryness, moisture is still necessary for their growth. Act when the succulent plant’s leaves begin to droop.

How do you treat an overwatered succulent?

Cut off any brown or black roots as they are already rotting. Dig the succulent out of the ground and remove any excess soil that has become stuck to the roots. Place the plant on a mesh or other strainer until the roots have had two to three days to air dry. Replant the roots in the pot once they have dried completely.

What does Overwatered succulent look like?

A plant that has received too much water will have soft, mushy leaves. This is what? The leaves would either turn translucent in color or appear lighter than they would on a healthy plant. A succulent that had received too much water would frequently lose leaves readily, even when only lightly handled.