My succulent died. Tell me how to not kill my next succulent
August 14, 2014 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I've had this succulent for a few months and all was well. Suddenly, after looking totally normal the whole time, I returned from a few days out of town to find it in a very sad state.

I removed the longest branches that had completely wilted and fall over/broken off. What remains can be seen in these pictures.

Was it over-watered? I think I poured about a quarter cup of water in every other week or so. Under-sunned? It was kept in near-direct sunlight. Something else entirely? And what the heck is that reddish liquid?? Thanks!
posted by arm426 to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think I poured about a quarter cup of water in every other week or so.

That's much too often. About that much water once every 3 months is more like it, or maybe even longer.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:30 PM on August 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Overwatered. Succulents want very little water and sandy, well-draining soil. Leave it alone and it'll probably come back just fine. The red is from the rot.
posted by quince at 7:31 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not how much you water at any given time, it's how long you go in between watering. When you do water, don't do drips and drabs! Give the thing a huge, big thorough soaking. Really. And then let it dry alllllll the way out.
But really, looking at those photos, it's not your watering habits. It's your soil. Potting soil is just far too heavy for aloes. As soon as you can, head to your favorite gardening center and buy a small bag of pumice (unfortunately the big box stores don't always carry it, though maybe you'll be lucky). Pumice, NOT perlite. They're both light, volcanic minerals, but pumice lasts much longer than perlite.
Un-pot that aloe, and REMOVE all the soil from the roots - gently! Discard any rotted pieces completely. Take your fresh potting soil and cut it 50/50 with pumice (even 60/40 pumice heavy!). Re-pot it. Give it a nice, good soaking. Place it in as much sun as you can and let it dry out 100% before you water again.
That pot has a drainage hole, right? Right?!
posted by missmary6 at 8:21 PM on August 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah, that potting soil's just too thick for it. It holds water and stays moist, rotting the roots. (And even if you let potting soil dry out, it gets kinda clumpy and hard.) After they've taken on water, succulents like to spread through dry but more crumbly, sandy soil. Cut the potting soil with something, even just sand, and don't water again until the soil's quite dry. And make sure the drainage out the bottom of the pot is good—don't let the planter sit and soak in any water that has drained through after watering.

From my experience, you basically can't kill most succulents by NOT watering them. They bounce back from desiccation amazingly well. But if you over water them for too long, they'll rot and die on you fast.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 8:45 PM on August 14, 2014

I used to have succulents that did well by simulating a drought/flood environment.

So I would never water them for months, they were undercover and caught no rain but plenty of sun, then every so often (maybe twice or 3 times a year?) soak them in water, actually in my laundry tub, for a few days, so all the soil was saturated, turned to mud in fact.

Sometimes use this opportunity to re-pot them too. Then no water at all for another 3 or 6 months. Repeat. They loved it.

I used the past tense because I moved interstate and gave all my plants away. I'm giving the same treatment now to a Daciena and its not complaining too much, despite pining for the rainforest, I guess.
posted by evil_esto at 1:33 AM on August 15, 2014

BTW, mine were much bigger 'outdoor size' plants than the ones in your pics. But still potted. Sorry if thats confusing.
posted by evil_esto at 1:36 AM on August 15, 2014

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