Why are My Succulent Leaves Shriveling?

Last Updated on November 23, 2022 by Stephanie

Why succulents leaves shrink is due to the fact that they are too watered or not enough. The soil must dry between periods of watering. If the soil is wet, the leaves are subjected to stress and cause them to shrink, turn yellow, and soft. The stress of watering can cause succulents to shrink and then change color to brown.

How can you differentiate between succulents that shrivel because of under Watering or over Watering

The main distinction between succulents that shrivel due to excessive or insufficient water is that the over-watered succulent leaves can also change color, becoming black, or translucent, and exhibit an amorphous texture, whereas the leaves that are not watered shrivel up and then change to brown.

Another way to determine if your succulent has suffered from excessive irrigation is to check your soil to see if it is moist. Make use of your fingers to feel the soil in the bottom of the pot via the drainage hole and see whether you detect moisture.

When the ground is damp , you should water it more often to prevent shriveled leaves. If dry, then you are not being adequately watered.

It is also possible to tell by how heavy the pot by the weight of it. If it seems lighter than you would have expected, its usually due to the soil being dry. If it is heavier than normal this could be due to the soil holding excessive water.

Continue reading to learn ways to revive succulent leaves caused by the inability to water them or due to excessive moisture around your roots.

succulents in pale pink pot

How to Resurrect Succulents Using Shrunk Leaves due to under Watering

The Succulent is indigenous to deserts and are adaptable to conditions of drought however they may be affected by water shortages when they are not properly cared for.

If its been longer than two weeks since you last watered and your succulent leaves are shrinking up , then water deficiency is the most likely reason.

They store water in their fleshy, thick leaves as an adaptation to the environments that are desert-like across the globe The leaves shrinking is typically the first sign that your succulent is not being water.

The good thing is that even if your leaves appear to be only slightly shriveled, it is very likely that the succulent will recover with regular watering schedule that is more suitable.

The frequency at which you need to water your succulents will depend on a variety of variables, so its difficult to provide general advice regarding watering, but generally the practice of watering your succulents each two weeks seems sufficient in the majority of situations, however this could vary greatly.

In general, your succulent will be back to its original and lush look after approximately two cycles of watering, if you water with a deep soak.

But do take into consideration the factors that can cause drying to increase or increase the amount of moisture in the succulent, which can cause the leaves to shrink For example:

  • Air and heat sources circulation. Succulents have a habit of growing at room temperature , but when they are located near a source of heat, this can increase the rate of evaporation out of the soil, which can cause the succulent to shrink. Cooling currents in the air can reduce the humidity of your succulent, which is beneficial in preventing the shriveling of your succulent because of too much humidity when you live in humid environments.
  • The humidity and temperature of the climate. The more hot and dyed the climate you live in, will increase the demand for water, so be on the lookout for signs early of the leaves shrinking as a signal to water your succulent. Succulents can be adapted to low levels of humidity, and flourish in these conditions. The high humidity can create problems when it comes to over-watering since it reduces the amount of water that is absorbed to the leaf.
  • Sun exposure and the intensity of the sun. Succulents have different requirements for sunlight, with some preferring direct light that is bright and others preferring more tolerant to full or partial sun. If your succulent needs sunlight, then morning sun is not as intense and temperatures tend to be cooler, whereas afternoon sun is more intensity and more heat, and both can dry out your succulent faster as well as cause it to shrink.

A bit of experimentation is necessary to determine the ideal frequency of water for your succulents in your own circumstances. Remember that its simpler to revive an drowned succulent than an overwatered plant, so keeping your succulent in the dry zone is the best option.

If your leaves are becoming swollen and its been a while since you last watering, give your succulent a good soak, and it will begin to show signs of recovery in the next week.

Noting the time you last watered your plant on your smartphone or using the help of a pen can be useful.

(Read my article on how often should you water succulents to find out how to water succulents at various times of the year and under different conditions).

Too much watering can cause shriveled leaves

Some people miss the point that succulents dont require lots of water. They also dont water the plant enough.

If you are watering too lightly your top one inch two of your soil may be damp, but the water doesnt penetrate down to the roots of your succulents where it is needed.

The water then evaporates from the soil, and the roots of your succulent dont have the chance to absorb any moisture, which can cause an imbalance. The first indication of stress is typically leaf shriveling, and the color of the leaves may begin to appear a bit brown after a prolonged time of drought.

While they shouldnt be watered frequently succulents require a good soak to ensure that the water drips from the bottom of the pot, ensuring that the water gets to the roots.

The soil is then allowed to dry for around 14 days (this will vary based on the climate of your area) before watering it again.

This method of watering mimics the cycle of moisture in the succulents desert habitat where they get an occasional downpour of rain, followed by drought-like conditions.

The solution.

Make sure to water your succulents in a way that the water flows from the bottom in the container (which must be fitted with drain holes) to make sure youve watered your succulent in the correct amount of water to stop it from shrinking because of dehydration.

Shriveling is typically the first indication of stress caused by excessive watering, however the succulent will be able to recover quickly with the right amount of water.

Succulents Shriveling due to Over Watering and Excess Moisture

While shriveling is typically related to an over watered succulent, it could be an indication of soil that is too moist close to the root for a prolonged period of.

The leaves of succulents that are overwatered may turn yellow or have translucent, that has a soft texture, and the appearance of droop, which is a clear indication of excessive the watering.

A lot of moisture around the roots, which results in shrinking can be caused by:

  • The succulent is being watered too often. If you water your succulents more often than every week, youre likely to be overwatering your plant, which could cause it to shrink and alter hue.
  • Potting soil is a reservoir of moisture and remains wet for long periods. Succulents need that the soil dry out between watering sessions. If the soil used for potting retained in water, it could cause succulents to shrink and possibly rot.
  • Pots that do not have drainage holes in their base. Succulents must be placed in pots that have drainage holes at the base , to let excess water escape.
  • Saucers as well as trays. There are times when people place containers and saucers under pots to stop water spilling. If they arent cleaned frequently, water may collect on in the base of the container, causing the soil to become damp, which can cause water stress , which can cause the leaves to shrink.
  • Conditions or climates that are humid. The high humidity can decrease the speed at which the succulent sheds its water via the leaf (transpiration). Loss of water through leaves is among the primary ways that succulents control the balance of moisture therefore high humidity could lead to the succulents shrinking due to stress caused by water. The higher levels of humidity could also result from steam coming emanating from kitchens and bathrooms.

The soil must dry between periods of irrigation, as this mimics how much moisture is distributed that is found in the desert habitat of succulents.

It is therefore essential to water your succulent in the right way and consider any other reasons for excessive moisture around the roots which can lead to stress.

Hydrophobic Soil Removing Water from the Roots of Succulents

Many people follow the guidelines of giving their succulents a an adequate soak and at the right frequency of watering, but the succulent continues to shrivel like its too dry.

It is usually because succulents are in the potting mix which contains peat, which turns water repellent (repels water) as it dries.

As the soil begins to dry out (as it should be between the time you water your succulents) certain potting mixes may be baked to create a tough texture that doesnt let water infiltrate and reach the root that support your plant.

Instead, the water is expelled and flows across the soil, and then down the sides of your pot, and then out the bottom of the pot.

It could give an appearance that the plant is properly maintained, but in reality , the soil beneath on the top and in the area around it is dry even after watering.

The result is an extended period of drought , which dries the leaves of your succulents, causing they shrink.

The solution.

Repot your succulent and then add suitable soil for potting.

Succulents thrive in extremely grippy soil in their natural habitat. It drains quickly and doesnt hold water around the roots.

Repot your succulent using the right mix of succulents and cacti (available at garden centers and on Amazon) which recreates the nature of drainage in the soil that succulents thrive in their natural habitat.

A specially formulated succulent potting soil maintains an aerated, porous structure even when its bone dry.

This stops the soil from becoming hydrophobic, allowing water to penetrate the soil in a way that allows it and reach roots, without it escaping from the surface, which can cause drought.

The soil of succulents is richer in organic material (such as sand and grit in the correct size of particles) that drains at an optimal rate. It also mimics the nutritional profile of the soil that succulents thrive in naturally.

With the correct soil mix, your succulent roots will be able to absorb the water they need while also draining efficiently to ensure that your roots do not fall prey to root decay.

How to Resurrect an Over watered Succulent by removing the leaves and securing it with a

If your succulent leaves are shrinking and changing color from brown to or even translucent, take the steps below…

  • Reduce the amount of frequency of watering. The most important thing is to decrease your frequency in order to allow your soil time to dry out. You should be able to tell the time when your succulent soil is drying out. For this, see whether you touch the dirt through the drainage hole and find any signs of moisture. If the soil remains slightly damp, wait several days until its dry before you water. This will help you create an effective watering schedule so that you prevent over-watering.
  • Re-seed the garden. In the event that your soil has become not draining, change the soil to the special succulent and cactus soil that lets water drain away from the roots faster to prevent over-watering and the shriveled leaves.
  • Repot the succulent in a way that there are drainage holes in its base to allow proper drainage. Certain succulents are sold in decorative pots that dont have drainage holes. This prevents the water from draining and creates excessive moisture around the roots.
  • Transfer your succulent to a cooler space if you can. They are often afflicted by water stress when they are situated in bathrooms. Make sure to place your succulent in a space that is not artificially humid. A breeze coming from windows that are open can be helpful.

If you follow these tips, succulents can benefit from a watering schedule that is suitable for their needs and the leaves will transform their appearance from a shriveled look to a firm, green appearance.

If your succulents leaves dont look better after two weeks and begin to change color, then to save the plant, you must remove any areas that are becoming black and attempt to reproduce the succulent by cuttings and any healthy portions from the plants.

The propagation of succulents is simple since they reproduce vegetatively through their leaves, which grow into roots. Cuttings are also a great source of propagation. an extremely high rate of success. Check out this YouTube video to learn tips on how to save your succulents:

Key Takeaways:

  • Why succulents leaves shrink is due to them not getting enough water or they have too much moisture surrounding the roots. The shriveling of leaves is the initial indication of an over watered succulent. The leaves of succulents that are over watered shrivel and then turn yellow, with an emollient texture.
  • Succulents need to be watered every one or two weeks, with a good soak to prevent shriveled leaves because of insufficient watering. Plant your succulents in a draining soil.
  • Let succulents dry out between watering sessions and then plant them in a draining soil mix, or in an terrarium with drainage holes at the base to prevent succulents from shriveling because of excessive watering.
  • Shrunk succulents that have been watered can be easily revived through increasing frequency and duration of irrigation, hydrating more thoroughly and altering the soil of the potting. The succulents that have been over watered should allow to air dry out before watering them again.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)