How to Revive a Succulent

Succulents are beautiful, low-maintenance plants that can thrive indoors and outdoors. Their ability to store water in their leaves and stems makes them more drought-resistant than other plants. However, even hardy succulents can get stressed, resulting in drooping, wrinkling, or changing color. Don’t give up on your succulent just yet! With some detective work and tender loving care, you can nurse it back to health. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to revive a struggling succulent so it can return to its former glory.

Signs Your Succulent Needs Reviving

Before taking action to revive your succulent, it’s important to identify what factors may be causing it stress. Here are some common signs that your succulent needs a little TLC:

  • Drooping or wrinkled leaves – This is a sign of under-watering. The leaves are using up stored moisture faster than the roots can take it up.
  • Overly plump or translucent leaves – If the leaves appear swollen or jelly-like, this indicates overwatering. Too much moisture causes the cells to expand.
  • Changing colors – Succulents turning red, orange, yellow, brown, or black are showing signs of sun, temperature, or water stress.
  • Leaf drop – Lower leaves naturally die off over time. But excessive leaf drop means the plant is struggling.
  • Leggy growth – A succulent stretching out with long gaps between leaves needs more sunlight.
  • Root rot – Look for mushy, discolored roots. This fatal disease is caused by overwatering.
  • Pests – Mealybugs, aphids, or spider mites can attack weakened plants. Check for insects or webbing.

If you notice any combination of these issues, it’s time to take steps to get your succulent healthy again. Catching problems early gives you the best chance of reviving it.

Assess Growing Conditions

Before attempting to treat any apparent issues with your succulent, investigate what may have caused the plant stress in the first place. Evaluating its current care and environment can help pinpoint problems.

Here are some key factors to consider about the conditions your succulent has been living in:


Light is the most common reason succulents become stretched out or change color. These sun-loving plants should get several hours of direct sunlight per day. If the light levels are too low, growth and photosynthesis slow down. Try moving the plant to a brighter location. Just introduce it gradually to prevent sunburn.


Too much or too little moisture causes more issues for succulents than any other factor. Overwatering promotes rot while underwatering leads to shriveling. Carefully assess your watering schedule and drainage. Make sure the soil dries out between waterings and that the pot has drainage holes.

Temperature & Humidity

Succulents prefer warm, dry conditions. Cool temperatures and excess moisture in the air can lead to rot or fungal diseases. Avoid placing plants in cold drafts or steamy bathrooms. Use a portable heater or dehumidifier if needed.


Dense, heavy soils that lack drainage contribute to overwatering. A sandy, gritty mix is better suited for succulent roots. Re-potting in a well-aerated substrate may be beneficial if soil compaction is an issue.


Excess fertilizer can accumulate in the soil and burn roots. Flushing the soil or re-potting in fresh mix can help. But go easy on nutrients overall, as succulents don’t need much.


Insects or fungi may complicate revival efforts. Treat infestations first before addressing other issues. Be sure to isolate affected plants to prevent spreading.

Treat the Root Cause

Once you gain insight into what environmental factors may be impacting your plant, you can take corrective action to fix the root cause. This will give your succulent the best chance at bouncing back.

Adjust Sunlight

If light stress is the issue, gradually move the plant to a location with its preferred levels of sun. A south or west-facing window is often ideal. Acclimate it over 7-10 days to avoid sunburn. Provide shade if outdoors.

Improve Drainage

Amend dense, compacted soil by adding perlite or small rocks to improve drainage and aeration. Repot into a planter with drainage holes using a suitable gritty mix.

Alter Watering Habits

Scale back on watering plants showing signs of excess moisture. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and pour water directly on the roots, not the leaves. Increase water for shriveled succulents, but do so gradually.

Regulate Temperature

Move plants away from drafty windows, AC vents, and other sources of temperature extremes. Use grow lights to provide warmth. Place pots on heat mats or use a portable heater or fan as needed.

Control Pests

Isolate and treat infested plants. Remove mealybugs and spider mites with alcohol spray or insecticidal soap. Apply fungicide for fungi. Dispose of plants with unstoppable root rot.

Fertilize Sparingly

Succulents are sensitive to salt buildup from excess fertilizer. Flush the soil to remove buildup. Avoid using high-nitrogen or time-release fertilizer and limit feeding to only during the spring and summer months.

Direct Treatment Methods

In addition to troubleshooting care issues, you can take direct action to revive struggling succulents using these treatment methods:

Groom Away Dead Growth

Carefully trim off any dead or dying leaves using clean, sharp scissors or shears. Sever any rotten roots with sterilized tools. This grooms the plant for fresh, healthy new growth.

Behead Leggy Plants

Remove top rosettes from a leggy, stretched out plant and replant just the rosette. Discard the stem and old roots. This gives you a compact “reset”.

Take Stem Cuttings

Sever healthy stems and root them in fresh soil. Or, remove lower leaves and stick the bare stem right in the soil. New plants will generate from the cuttings.

Apply Fungicide

Treat stem or root rot by spraying with copper-based fungicide. Dispose of plants that show widespread infection.

Repot Annually

Refresh the soil and roots by repotting annually in spring. Gently remove old soil and trim damaged roots before re-potting in fresh cactus mix.

Shield Harsh Sun

Shelter recovering sun-stressed plants from afternoon sun or use shade cloth. Gradual exposure over 7-10 days helps adapt them to increasing light.

Post-Recovery Care Tips

Once your revival efforts get your succulent back on track, avoid future setbacks by adhering to these post-recovery care tips:

  • Allow freshly watered soil to dry for 1-2 weeks before the next watering.
  • Water deeply only when leaves look wrinkled, then let excess drain out.
  • Mist leaves occasionally for humidity-loving tropical succulents.
  • Remove spent blossoms and old leaves promptly to encourage new growth.
  • Resume fertilizing 3-4 weeks after recovery when new growth emerges.
  • Turn pots periodically for even sunlight absorption on all sides.
  • Keep 1-2” between succulents in a shared planter to prevent overcrowding.
  • Rotate indoor succulents outdoors seasonally for a change of environment.
  • Repot annually in springtime using fresh commercially blended cactus mix.
  • Inspect regularly for signs of renewed stress and intervene promptly.

FAQs About Reviving Succulents

How long does it take for a succulent to recover?

With proper care, most stressed succulents begin showing signs of recovery within 2-6 weeks. Full recovery can take 2-3 months. Severely distressed plants may need 3-6 months to regain health. Have patience!

What is the fastest way to revive a dying succulent?

Taking stem or leaf cuttings is the quickest way to propagate new “restarted” succulent plants. Taking 3-4 inch cuttings and letting the ends callous over before re-planting boosts success. Rooting hormone can accelerate growth.

Should I cut off dead succulent leaves?

Yes, promptly remove any dead, dying, yellowed or browned foliage from a struggling succulent using clean shears. This grooms the plant for fresh growth and prevents decaying matter from compromising it.

How do you revive a leggy succulent?

Leggy succulents can be revived by taking stem cuttings of rosettes and replanting them, or beheading the plant and letting it regrow fresh compact heads from the cut stem. Provide bright light to prevent repeat stretching.

What causes succulent leaves to turn black?

Overwatering is the primary cause of succulent leaves turning black. Insufficient sunlight, cold temperatures, or bacterial/fungal infections can also result in blackened leaves. Remove damaged foliage promptly to prevent spread.

How do I know if my succulent is dead?

If all the leaves are shriveled or mushy and stems/roots are rotted, it’s likely too late. But if firm healthy leaves remain and roots/stems show signs of life, rapid intervention can still revive it. When in doubt, try to save it!

Enjoy Your Revived Succulents

Don’t be discouraged if your succulent shows signs of stress. With attentive care and treatment, most plants can make a comeback. Just be sure to address the underlying cause, whether it’s insufficient light, overwatering, pests or other factors. Then give some needed TLC with pruning, propagation, fresh soil and more. Keep up consistent care and your revived succulents will once again beautify your indoor or outdoor space with their unique shapes and colors.