Why is My Succulent Turning Gray?

Why is my succulent turning gray

If your succulent leaves are turning gray, this is because there is too much moisture around the roots of your succulent due to over watering or slow draining soils. Succulents can turn gray if they are moved from a sunny location to an area of shade or as a reaction to cold temperatures.

Keep reading for more on why your succulent has turned gray and how you can revive it…

Succulent Turning Gray Too Much Moisture around the Roots

Succulents can turn gray for several of reasons but the most common reason for succulents turning gray is because of too much moisture around the roots which is caused by:

  • Over watering.
  • Slow draining potting soils.
  • Pots without drainage holes in the base.
  • Humidity of the room.

If too much moisture around the roots is the cause of the gray leaves then this usually the succulent also has the symptoms of:

  • Leaves that feel soft and mushy rather then firm.
  • A drooping appearance.
  • Gray leaves can turn yellow, translucent or even black and drop off.

All succulents originate in arid climates and are specifically adapted to growing in harsh conditions with gritty, stony soil and infrequent rainfall.

Therefore to grow succulents successfully it is important replicate the conditions of their native environment with the optimal watering regime and well draining, gritty soil as succulents are very susceptible to over watering.

To water succulents correctly and avoid the leaves turning gray it is important to let the soil dry out somewhat between bouts of watering.

Succulents thrive when the soil is thoroughly watered and then allowed to dry out completely as this emulates their natural watering conditions in their native habitat of a heavy down pour of rain followed by a period of drought.

If you are watering your succulent more frequently then once every two weeks, it is likely you are over watering your succulent plant and this is the reason for the leaves turning gray as a sign of stress.

Slow Draining soils.

Over watering your succulent is not the only reason for gray leaves and too much moisture around the roots, as slow draining soils are also a problem.

Succulents grow often on hill sides and in rocky locations where the soil is very porous and drains quickly.

If your succulent’s roots are sat in damp soil for too long then this increases the risk of your leaves turning gray as a sign of stress as it mimics the effects of over watering and can cause root rot.

Pots without drainage

Succulents should always be planted in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape out the bottom so that the soil can dry.

If you use a tray or saucer underneath your pot to prevent water spilling in your home then it is important to ensure that it is emptied regularly so that the soil can dry out properly between bouts of watering.

Sometimes succulents come in a standard plastic pot with drainage holes and a decorative outer pot without drainage holes when sold.

This causes water to pool around the roots and submerges the roots of your drought tolerant desert plant causing leaves to potentially turn gray.

Decorative pots without drainage holes in the base of the pot.
Decorative pots without drainage holes in the base.

Ensure that the drainage holes in the base do not become blocked with compacted soil or with a tangle of roots which can slow drainage.

Rooms with high humidity

Succulents are specifically adapted to growing in arid conditions. Therefore they are not tolerant of high humidity as this is contrary to their preferred conditions of lower humidity in deserts and dry mountainous areas.

Rooms in your home such as bathrooms and kitchen can be exceptionally humid at different times of the day.

Humidity reduces the succulents rate of transpiration (water loss) from the leaves, which is the plants primary way of regulating its moisture balance to help the leaves stay healthy and firm and avoid stress from too much water in the soil.

How to Revive Succulents with Gray Leaves

  • The key to reviving succulents with gray leaves is to scale back the watering. The exact frequency of watering often depends on factor such as temperature of your room, humidity and light intensity. However generally watering once every 14 days is advisable for most succulents with a generous soak. Let the soil around the succulent dry out before watering again.
  • Replace the soil. Succulents require soil that drains much quicker then most conventional potting soils to prevent the leaves turning gray, yellow or translucent. Re-pot your succulent with a special succulent and cactus potting soil (which are available from garden centers and on Amazon). Special succulent potting soil recreates the soil conditions of a succulents native environment with more favorable drainage characteristics to avoid water stress and leaves turning gray.
A gritty succulent soil mix creates a porous, well draining potting medium for succulents.
A gritty succulent soil mix creates a porous, well draining potting medium for succulents.
  • Re-pot your succulent into a pot with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to drain away from the roots. If you use a saucer or tray underneath your pots to prevent watering spilling then empty they tray regularly to prevent water from pooling around the bottom of your succulent which can keep the soil too damp.
  • Move your succulent from any rooms with artificially increased humidity. Succulents prefer low humidity and can suffer if in a bathroom of kitchen so move it to any room that is low in humidity and has some bright indirect such for sun sensitive succulents such as String of pearls plant or full sun for succulents such as Aloe Vera.

With a watering cycle that suits your succulent, well draining soil, pots with good drainage and lower humidity, your succulent has can dry out from its previously over watered state and restore its preferred moisture balance.

This should help your succulent leaves recover from their gray appearance and restore a green color to their leaves.

However if your succulent leaves start to turn black, or develop brown spots then I recommend taking a cutting or propagating a leaf of your succulent from a healthy part of the plant as if it is turning black then the rot can spread and kill the succulent.

Propagating succulents is very easy and is a great way to grow extra plants at no extra cost. Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate succulents:

Succulents Turn Gray due to Lack of Sun and Cold temperatures

Succulents tend to turn light green if they are in too much shade but they can turn gray if they have been moved from an area of intense sun to an area of comparatively less sun and more shade.

Some varieties such as Jade plants turn red as a reaction to sun in order too prevent sun burn. If it it is placed in an area of shade from an area of full sun then the drastic change in light intensity can cause the succulent leaves to look somewhat gray.

If you plan to move a succulent form one place to another when there is a contrast in the hours of sun and the intensity of sun then the correct best practice is to move the succulent for a few hours a day over the course of 3 weeks to gradually expose the succulent to either more or less light so there isn’t such a sudden contrast.

Bear in mind that different succulents have different tolerances for light with some preferring bright indirect light, some prefer partial shade and some succulent varieties require full sun so check the label of your plant to determine the species to find out its light requirements so you can place it in its preferred conditions accordingly.

Most succulents also require room temperatures of at least 59°F (15°C) in order to stay healthy.

If room temperatures go below this temperature then the succulents leaves turning gray is usually the first sign of stress as this is contrary to the preferred consistently warm environment.

Move the succulent to a warmer room if possible and the leaves should revive from their gray appearance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Succulent leaves turn gray because of too much moisture around the roots caused by over watering and slow draining soil. Succulents can turn gray because of too much shade and as a sign of stress due to cold temperatures.
  • Succulents are adapted to arid conditions and do not tolerate being in damp soil which can turn the leaves yellow, brown, black or gray depending on the variety of succulent and the extent of the stress.
  • Succulents require room temperatures of 59°F (15°C) or more to avoid stress which can turn the leaves gray.
  • Water succulents once every 14 days, plant in a well draining soil mix, in a pot with drainage holes in the base. Ensure the room has low humidity and warm temperatures with the correct light for your particular succulent variety to revive your succulent so it can recover from the stress which caused the leaves to turn gray.

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