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How to Spot and Revive an Underwatered Succulent

Are you trying to figure out if you have an overwatered succulent or an underwatered succulent Once you know what to look for it’s super easy!

An Underwatered Succulent Plant

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Growing succulents is great for so many reasons.

They are pretty drought tolerant, some can grow indoors, there are hundreds to choose from, and there are just so many fun things you can do with them.

My favorite thing is making succulent topped pumpkins.

But on the other hand, there are a few things that can cause challenges such as, overwatering, growing them in the wrong location and underwatering.

So in this article I’ll go over one of the less common problems which is under watering. As well as how you can save your succulent plant and water better in the future.

Signs of an Underwatered Succulent

The first thing you should know is that it is actually much more likely that your succulent plant would be overwatered.

Which makes sense when you think about the fact that succulents are mostly drought tolerant plants and are able to store water in their leaves and stems. 

In their natural habitat they are usually found in areas that have high temperatures and low rainfall, so most can’t handle too much water.

So now you might be thinking “well how much water is too much?”

Don’t worry I’ll go over more about how to water your succulents below.

First, lets go over signs that you can look for which mean your succulent in underwatered.

1.) Succulent leaves shriveling.

When you notice that the leaves are starting to shrivel like in this photo below, your plant needs water.

A Shriveling Succulent Plant

Thankfully since the succulent isn’t completely shriveled up it’s usually pretty easy to get it back to normal.

Water at the base of the plant thoroughly until the soil is nice and wet, then repeat a couple times a week until the succulent has perked back up.

2.) You notice crispy brown spots all throughout the plant.

There are certain succulents like Crassula Muscosa also known as “Watch chain” that don’t have typical leaves.

You can see in the picture below what a normal healthy plant looks like compared to an under watered plant.

A Healthy Succulent Compared to an Underwatered Succulent

The one on the right I had forgot about in the green house all spring but after a few good waterings it was back to normal.

3.) Your succulent is completely dried up.

At this point unfortunately, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to save it.

But you should still give the succulent plant a good drink of water a few times a week for the next 2-3 weeks to see if any of the leaves start to come back.

After that if nothing happens you might have to get rid of it.

Dried Out Leaves Only at the Bottom

When you notice that there are leaves drying up only at the bottom of your succulent plant don’t worry!

It’s perfectly normal!

A Succulent Plant With Leaves Drying Up at the Bottom of the Plant

Succulents naturally grow in new leaves and the older ones die.

So if the crispy dried out leaves are just at the bottom there is nothing to worry about.

If you notice the upper leaves drying out then it’s likely a sign that your plant needs more water.

How to Water Succulents

Before getting into a good watering schedule the first thing you need to do is make sure you have good succulent soil and a pot with drainage.

Succulent soil needs to drain well. If the soil retains water and stays wet for too long your succulents may get root rot.

Especially succulents such as Echeverias that are sensitive to overwatering.

So when it comes to choosing your succulent soil you can either make your own or buy an already mixed version such as Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil and Cactus Mix.

Then, the next important thing is the pot.

If the pot you are using doesn’t have a drain hole the succulent may do okay for awhile but it is eventually going to have problems.

The water has to drain out so the soil can dry out between waterings.

So if your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole don’t worry. I have an article that teaches you how to drill your own drain hole and it’s super easy!

Check out some of these adorable garden pots on Etsy that already have drainage! 

Now when you are ready to water here are my tips:

  1. If you aren’t sure if it’s too soon to water WAIT. An underwatered succulent can be revived but usually never an overwatered one.
  2. Check the soil with your finger. If it’s completely dried out it should be time to water.
  3. Water at the bottom of the plant instead of from above. The succulent leaves don’t need to get wet, just the roots.
  4. Water deeply and less frequent versus just a drizzle all the time. I give my succulents a good watering until the water drains out the bottom of the pot.
  5. When you water deeply you can usually go at least a week before watering again.
  6. Pay close attention and test out how frequent you need to water, everybody will be a little different.
  7. Start with watering once every two weeks, then go to once a week, then if it appears that the soil is drying out really quick go ahead and water twice a week.

Other Common Succulent Problems

If your succulents aren’t growing well it could be from a few of these issues.

1.) Overwatering

When a succulent is overwatered the leaves will often appear transparent and yellow and they will feel mushy to touch.

In the beginning phase of being overwatered, leaves will fall off super easy with the slightest touch.

So if you notice any of these signs back off on the frequency of your watering schedule.

2.) Pests

A super common pest on succulent plants are mealy bugs.

They usually appear as a white cotton looking substance on the leaves and stems of your plants.

So if you notice this check out my article Mealybugs on Succulents: How to Identify and Kill Them.

3.) Spots on the Leaves

If you notice spots on the leaves it could be from a few things such as overwatering, sunburn, or pests.

You’ll have to just investigate a bit further to see what’s causing it.

All in all, if you start with good succulent soil, have a pot that drains, and get a good watering schedule your succulents should grow beautifully!

Check out this great variety pack of succulents to plant next! 

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An Underwatered Succulent Plant


  1. I’m just starting out with succulents. I had a few this summer but I am bringing them in this winter. Are succulents perrenials?

    1. Hi Pat,

      Yes, they are. Some are frost tolerant and others are not and so you have to look up the variety. But for the most part, you are safest to protect them from the frost because they’ll keep growing.

  2. I had a large aloe Vera stem break off, thus no roots. How do I go about attempting to salvage this piece?

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