Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Dying echeveria - unknown cause?

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NeoLeo87
Aug 24, 2017 8:19 AM CST
Hi forum,

Just joined, because I'm concerned about this succulent that we got several months ago, along with a jade (gollum) succulent. They are watered the same time, and only every few days (though I'm honestly not sure how often, since my girlfriend has been tending to them for a month).

A month ago, we noticed the leaves started getting wrinkly, and falling off. Some, upon gentle touching, fell right off too. I took the succulent out of its pot (not sure if that harmed the roots or stressed the plant) and repotted with more of what it already had - "Miracle-Gro Cactus Palm & Citrus cutting mix, fast draining formula." I did this because I noticed the original "square" shaped soil it came in was so high to the surface of the pot. I figured repotting with fresh soil might help. I should note; this bag of soil has been left open and outside for months, and we live in New Orleans where it constantly rains (and yes it has rained in the bag of soil), so I don't know if the soil repotting was a poor idea or not.

Fast forward to now. There's barely any leaves left. Also, the bottom trunk looks like its shriveling (but still firm). I noticed the soil is wet, and cautioned my girlfriend not to water it (I don't think she checks for soil dryness/dampness before watering). From what I understand, echeveria are sensitive to overwatering.

--In the below photos, notice the bottom trunk of the plant, and one of the top leaves is now wrinkly as well.--

What are the steps I should take to save this succulent? Should I wait a few days for soil to dry? Immediately re-pot with different soil? Cut off the head and propagate? Is there any hope left?

Thanks for your responses.

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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Aug 24, 2017 5:10 PM CST
Hello NeoLeo87, it is normal for the plant to drop its older, lower leaves. Depending on the prevalent temperature on your side, at times echeverias will go somewhat dormant as temperatures goes very high. It also tends to grow tall when it is trying to seek more light. It is best grown outdoors in part sun/shade. But if it is not possible to grow outdoors, just make sure it gets as much bright light it can, be mindful of watering since your container is glazed. It holds the water longer indoors compared to using clay containers, and I do hope the current container has drainage holes.

It would be nice if you can further add pumice, perlite or poultry grit (insoluble crushed granite) to make your mix grittier. I find Miracle Gro soil uses water retentive stuff that further holds water.

I am not certain if what you have is an echeveria, it maybe another type of sedum. But whichever it is, they display similar growing habit and needs.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Aug 24, 2017 6:36 PM CST
Stop repotting. Tell your girlfriend to stop watering - let the soil dry an inch down.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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NeoLeo87
Aug 25, 2017 12:23 PM CST
Update: 8/25/17

Thanks for the replies, tarev & daisyl. I decided to put the succulent outside, on the back porch (see pics below), though this means it will get direct sunlight. I've read that most succulents shouldn't get direct sunlight, and this plant has always been indoors. It's also hot outside (90 right now). I'm assuming the heat and sunlight won't be the biggest concern? It will be a harsh change from 72 degrees indoors.

I would also like to know when I should try to propagate, in case it doesn't recover. All the leaves are wrinkly, and the bottom trunk is getting purple/wrinkly too (see pics below).

The soil is dry on top, but just beneath the surface it's still moist. Does this mean the roots are not absorbing the water?

Just wondering how long I should wait for this succulent to recover, or if I should just try to propagate and grow a new one.

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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
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purpleinopp
Aug 25, 2017 12:27 PM CST
I think this plant is in grave danger of literally baking to death. It could be acclimated to unlimited, direct exposure, but this requires a gradual process, over weeks of time. Baby steps.
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Aug 25, 2017 1:52 PM CST
NeoLeo87 when you bring out a plant that has been growing indoors, it has to be done gradually. Please position your plant NOT in direct sun, just in part shade for now. It has to acclimate to the outdoor conditions. The leaves and stem may have stored water in them, but they can still burn badly from intense direct sun especially when temps are too high.

I am thinking your plant has gone somewhat partially dormant too. Just try to water around the plant, not too near the base of the plant and observe. With succulents, because they are typically slow growing, it takes awhile to see the effect. When it is in distress, best to put in some shade, but still with bright light around it to help it recover. The stomates of the leaves are closed during the day, so it is just holding off any active gas exchange till night time.

You can twist off a leaf or two and set it aside on top of soil, but put it in shade. Though I usually do this in Spring, in my area it is already too hot, very dry and distressful for my plants during summer time. So I delay propagation when temperatures cool down a bit to the 75F 85F, since at this time in my area it is hitting 90F and into the triple digits.

Don't know where you are located, so be observant of the outdoor temperature, humidity levels and light duration.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Aug 25, 2017 5:25 PM CST
It takes less than an hour for a un-acclimated plant to sunburn. I also suspect your plant is suffering from root rot. All that watering is taking its toll.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Aug 25, 2017 6:26 PM CST
Hello NeoLeo87, I have here some photos of my other echeverias. Just to help you understand how they behave at times especially during summer time. In my area, it is extremely hot and dry where we enter a long period of no rain for about 5 to 6 months and our hot temps soars easily to triple digits.

I grow my succulents outdoors, and at this time some of them enter dormancy due to the excessive heat. But lately I have noticed once the temps are extremely high always during daytime like 90F and higher, I can safely spritz some of its exposed stems. Normally I do not do that before, afraid to induce rotting, but it seems it helps induce some root formation at some nodes. At times it is best to observe how the plant reacts.

Graptoveria - it is somewhat dormant right now, and I know this because it has dropped lower leaves and the rosette of leaves is of a tighter growth. But observe the exposed neck, I have been spritzing it during early mornings while the sun is not hitting it, and now it shows some roots. I have just not cut it off, I can put it in soil now, but just delaying it till our incoming heat wave dissipates after 5 days.
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The next one is Echeveria nodulusa, but the lower part of the stem has long looked shrunken. Earlier onset of summer we had this nasty heat wave and as much as I tried to give it some watering to help the roots, the heat was just intense. That area gets part sun/part shade but my location is quite inland, so our heat is more intense.
Anyways, I just let it be and the plant manifestes dormancy due to the heat, so I just waited to see how it will go. Eventually I lightly spritz the exposed stems, and I see now new roots actively forming. I do the spritzing early in the day again before the sun hits them. And it seems to work. Again leaving it alone for now, till our next bout of heat wave ends.
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Echeveria sleepy - it was growing too lanky so I have to cut it off, and I stuck some of the stem in soil in early Spring, it is now growing new rosettes. I have placed the container in part shade all this time to protect it from excessive direct sun:
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Do understand that I can get away with spritzing here since I know our humidity level is very low at 40% to 10%. So it easily dries off the spritzing I do. So try to gauge too your humidity levels, it is an important factor too when it comes to succulents since they ably store water in their leaves and stems. Too much water and rot will set in fast.

NeoLeo87
Aug 26, 2017 12:27 PM CST
Update: 8/26/17

Thank you tarev, daisyl, purpleinopp for those quick and insightful comments. I brought the succulent back inside the moment I read the first reply (was only left out for about 20 minutes).

Tarev, those pics and descriptions are really useful. Thanks for sharing. I see a lot of similarities with our succulent (wrinkly purple stem, lost all its leaves, etc). I'm hoping this is just a sign of dormancy and that we can get it bouncing back. Also, I live in New Orleans. It's very hot and humid here.

However, as daisyl suggested, I'm worried this could be root rot. The stem appears to get more wrinkly each day, and while the soil is drying, its still moist about an inch down. The leaves are still getting wrinkly too (see pics below).

Today is a very hot day. I should note that my girlfriend's sun room has no AC, so it gets very hot in there. My house, where they used to stay, has good AC and stays around 73F. It seems the gollum succulent is thriving in these conditions, but this (possibly) evheveria is more sensitive.

Should I just take it to my house, so there is less heat? Should I give it another window that gets more sunlight?

Thanks for all the help. We appreciate it.


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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Aug 26, 2017 1:07 PM CST
I think the stem is rotten. The only hope for survival is to re-root the top. Its easy, honest! Use a sharp knife and cut the stem above the wiggly part. If there is brown in the stem, cut again. The stem tissue must be green - brown indicates rot. Also, wipe or spray your knife with alcohol after each cut so you don't infect good tissue. After you are done cutting, lay the cutting in a cool, shady spot for a couple days until the cut scabs over. Then plant it up to the bottom of the bottom leaves.

If the stem left in the pot has green tissue below the rotten spot, leave it in the pot as it will re-sprout. Any leftover leaves will also grow new plants if you lay them on the surface of the soil.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Aug 26, 2017 6:37 PM CST
Hello NeoLeo87 since you say it is very hot and humid, just position the plant in a shady side in your garden. If temps are too hot like going above 90F I find these plants slowing down in growth going semi dormant. Just got to wait till temps in your growing area cool down some more down to the 75F-85 F range. Keeping. It outdoors is still best because at night it will open it's stomates to do more of it's gas exchange. It is somewhat frustrating wait but got to be patient with it. At least there is some humidity so plant can get some moisture in the air at night. Be patient they grow and adjust to excessive weather/temperature changes very slowly.. I prefer to cut off rosettes like that when conditions are cooler during Spring or Fall, the extreme heat of summer is so distressing for them.

NeoLeo87
Aug 28, 2017 2:12 PM CST
Update: 8/28/17

Per daisyl's post, I have decided to propagate the plant. I started by cutting off the top - and yes, there was a lot of brown rot. Even up to the very top, sadly. I took all the leaves, placed them on paper towel. (See pics below)

Are they supposed to just sit there? I read and saw a few people put them on soil, but others put them on water, and let them grow to be water-based succulents. I'm willing to try either method, but I don't want to leave them without soil or water for too long.

Tarev, we don't have any garden. We live in New Orleans, at apartments, and the weather is terrible. It's hurricane season, so conditions are bad for more than just scorching humidity.

Daisyl's suggestion seems to be the right path for now, I just hope I can propagate these leaves the proper way. If anyone has a link, or advice on steps to help these grow, my girlfriend and I would sure appreciate it.

Again, thanks for all your help.

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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Aug 28, 2017 3:57 PM CST
There's an ongoing discussion with a lot of pics about leaf propagation here:
https://garden.org/thread/go/6...

In nature, the leaf would be knocked by a critter and fall near the base of the mama, so that is what I usually do - lay the leaves in a spot similar to the conditions in which the mama plant is doing well. All of the things you mentioned can work, in theory. There are no guarantees for any specific individual leaves. If they feel firm and have a normal color, they "work" 99% of the time for me. Let us know if you've caught onto the problem in time to save your plant this way.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.

NeoLeo87
Aug 29, 2017 1:13 PM CST
Update: 8/29/17

I've done some thinking, and I might know why the succulent suffered root rot (if that's what it is). I have a bag of Miracle Gro for cacti and succulents sitting on the back porch. It's been left open for months, and rained on several times. I think bacteria must have gotten in the soil, and when introduced to the pot, it did more damage. I'm sure overwatering could have played a role too.

I bought some gritty mix online from "Bonzai jack." I would post a link, but new members can't do that here I guess. Not sure how good it is, but it should deliver in 3-5 days.

In the meantime, where should I place the leaves? Can they go 3-5 days without soil or water? The soil I have, as I mentioned, is no good. The leaves are currently turning a dark purple (see pics below).

Maybe I can put them on a container that has water in it? Somewhere near sunlight?

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Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Aug 29, 2017 1:33 PM CST

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Lay the leaves on top of soil in a container that is wider than deep, with soil that is airy and fast-draining. The best soil is water absorbent but not water retentive. Both features are important for the health of your succulent, though you can correct somewhat with how you water. Put the pot in a bright location. Indoors that would be hours of daily sun, given mild temps and good air flow. Outdoors that would be bright shade or filtered light. Minimum direct sun, maximum ambient brightness.

Water well when the soil is going dry, not much sooner. The new plantlets will sprout from the base of the leaves and appear as a tiny new rosette there, around the same time the leaf puts roots down into the soil. The moisture in the leaf will provide the water for the new rosette until those roots are functional, which usually requires a wait of several weeks. Do not disturb the leaves during this period, looking for roots. It will be obvious when the magic has happened. Smiling Bigger, plumper leaves will give you a better probability of success.

Only after the new plantlets are a reasonable size (say the size of the original leaf) should you consider moving them into direct sun. Again, indoors the story is different... indoor sun is not direct if it passes through regular window glass, because glass filters out some of the UV and makes it much kinder to plants.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 29, 2017 1:39 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
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DaisyI
Aug 29, 2017 1:35 PM CST
If the leaves are solid feeling, they are fine for now. Keep them in a shady spot. Sometimes, with high humidity (I think you have that covered), they will sprout just lying around. Don't worry about the length of time until your new soil arrives. When you get it, barely moisten the soil and lay the leaves on top. Try to make sure the end where the leaf was attached to the mother plant is in contact with the soil - just firm it down a little bit. Then wait.

The leaves don't need moisture until they root as they have no roots to absorb the moisture. If the soil surface is wet, you are inviting your leaves to rot. Watch carefully but don't touch as roots grow before leaves do. If you start to suspect some are rooting, a very small amount of water would help but don't overdo it!

I personally like Miracle Gro Cactus and Palm soil but I add extra perlite (1/3 to 1/2 perlite, depending upon what I am planting). I'm also notoriously bad at remembering to water - that might be my secret to success. Smiling
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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NeoLeo87
Sep 2, 2017 12:09 PM CST
Update: 9/2/17

My soil finally arrived. But is it good for these leaflets? Is this even technically "soil?" (See pics below)

I'm not sure how much moisture this soil can hold, but if anyone here thinks this is good, I will moisten it in a shallow dish and place the leaflets down. Otherwise, I can go to Home Depot and get something else.

Leaflets are still holding firmness and color, and it's been 5 days since they've sat out. So that's good. I really don't think I should return them to the mother plant, since it completely died (see pics). That said, is it safe to introduce these leaflets to a new kind of soil?


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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Sep 2, 2017 12:21 PM CST

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Go get something else. And if it's mostly organic (like peat and compost, usually) then you can mix in the grit. It's all good. That's a useful size. The mix I use is half organic, half pumice. You might go for something in that range.

Avoid trying to root your leaves on the soil where the mother plant died. Get rid of that or use it for something else. Totally new soil would be much better, just for reasons of hygiene.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Sep 2, 2017 12:22 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
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DaisyI
Sep 2, 2017 12:43 PM CST
Wow! Bonsai Jack certainly has the 'gritty' down. I Just don't even know what to think. I have heard of people in Florida and other very wet places who keep their cactus outside using clay pellets (Bonsai Block® and Monto Clay® are the attractive version of clay pellets).

I would get another bag of cactus soil from the store - Miracle Gro Cactus and Palm will do - and use Bonsai Jack's soil as the grit (in place of Perlite). Maybe mix half and half.

You should never re-use potting soil as it might be carrying all sorts of diseases, rot and whatever, not to mention worn out.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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[Last edited by DaisyI - Sep 2, 2017 12:44 PM (+)]
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NeoLeo87
Sep 3, 2017 2:14 PM CST
Update: 9/3/17

Let the propagating begin!

I went out and bought some cactus/palm soil, mixed it with 1/2 gritty mix, and placed it on a plastic lid. Baja suggested a container that is wider than it is deep. But is this too shallow? And does it need drainage underneath? Right now it's just a simple Tupperware lid. (Pics below)

I'm not sure what the best window placement would be. I currently have them in a window that does not get direct sunlight (worried about sun burning the leaves). But will this indirect light be suitable? (Again, pics below)

The soil was already a bit moist when opening the bag...this is normal, right? Anyway, soil was lightly sprayed with water (to moisten, NOT to make wet) and leaflets are gently pressed into soil, with the ends facing down

If I'm doing anything wrong - or right - please let me know. Otherwise, these babies can sit and grow!

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