What is this succulent and why is it dying?
June 10, 2015 2:10 PM   Subscribe

What is this succulent and why is it dying? We bought it in this arrangement a month ago. I'm pretty sure we over-watered it. Is there any way to save it?
posted by Baby_Balrog to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be Gold Thread Sedum? It looks like a sedum to me. It could have gotten burned if it was receiving a lot of direct, intense sun.

Sedum is really easy to grow from cuttings ... you could try clipping off one of the ends that look healthy and putting it into a little vase of water. Once it grows roots you can replant it.
posted by Ostara at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2015

That's totally it! I'll try popping a healthy bit into some water. Thanks!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:47 PM on June 10, 2015

I'd add that a lot of sedums (like this one) wax and wane in growth and dieback pretty routinely outside. We have some growing in our yard and it goes away when it wants (after blooming, when things get dry) and comes back again when it wants (when things get wet and cool again).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:57 PM on June 10, 2015

Hard to say exactly from the picture, but yeah, I'd say she's over-watered.

It might live depending the condition of the roots. Over-watered succulents can recover if there isn't too much root rot left unabated for too long. Gently dig her out, take a look at the roots. Healthy ones should look and feel firm and be a nice creamy white/yellow on the inside if you cut them. Rotted roots will look....rotten - dark, mushy, loosing their shape. If there's no rot just mix some very dry succulent soil into the existing pot until it feels like loose, slightly damp sand. Don't water again until the soil at the bottom of the pot is dry. To test you can stick finger in the drain hole or use a Qtip stuck in the drain hole for 10-15 min. If Qtip is at all damp don't water until it's dry.

If you have some healthy root the plant is probably salvageable. Clip or cut off any obviously rotten roots. One you've hit healthy root take a very clean, very sharp exacto knife and cut a small piece of healthy root off to make sure you've removed all the rotten bits and help prevent spreading rot bacteria that can damage the plant further. Replant what's left in succulent soil. With my succulents I hedge my tendency to over-water repotted plants by starting with bone dry soil and misting it with a spray bottle until it feels right - damp but still loose and sandy.

If you have extensive root and stem rot then your next step is to try to propagate. Don't stick a stem in water and hope roots will grow. That's fine for many houseplants but will kill a succulent. Cut as long a piece of healthy tip or stem as you can find. Judging from your picture I'd say go for the tips. Strip off the bottom leaves and plop it into moist (but not wet!) succulent soil. Try to get a few nodes (where the leaves attach to the stem) underground, this will help new roots develop faster. In a few weeks you'll either have roots or a dead stem.

Even if you decide not to try to salvage her, do get the sedum out of the pot and check on those roots. The others look good, but you don't want rot spreading to the other plants.
posted by space_cookie at 6:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't root a sedum in water! This is Sedum spathulifolium 'Aureum.' It changes color depending on how much light it receives; it will be a brilliant yellow in full sun, or a bright green in more shade. If you are keeping this arrangement inside, full sun should be just fine. If you have it outside on a deck or patio, you might want to give it a kiss of shade in the afternoon. If it doesn't get enough sun it will be leggy and stretched out, as opposed to the preferable, tight growth of enough sunlight. Your sedum doesn't have sun bleach; it's in a fine amount of sun.

To save it, I would unpot the whole arrangement, gently separate the sedum, and shake off as much soil as you can without damaging the roots. Most succulents are planted in far too heavy soil for their drainage needs, especially now with succulents being so wildly popular. They're available from everyone and their brother, and hardly anyone is using the appropriate (and more expensive) soil. I would head to a gardening center and buy a small bag of pumice. If pumice isn't available, perlite will do in a pinch, or small pea gravel. Mix the pumice and potting soil 50/50. Gently repot the sedum in a container with drainage holes (that arrangement has a drainage hole, too, right?!?) and give it a liiiight watering in. Then leave it until the soil just hits dry. Sedums actually like a little MORE water than some other succulents. They may want to reach the soil being dry, but they definitely don't want to be left that way.

Also, many people incorrectly think they shouldn't water a succulent like a "regular" plant. Nonsense! Succulents, too, should be watered fully, until the soil is saturated and water runs out the bottom. It isn't how much water you give it at one time, but the length of time in between waterings that differentiates a succulent from a more thirsty plant. You will have a much stronger root system if you give it a thorough watering each time. Keep in mind your succulents will need more waterings during a hot summer with long days, and fewer waterings in the winter.
posted by missmary6 at 10:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Okay! I, uh, will do all of these things! Except for unpotting the entire thing, I'm sorry missmary6 but that freaks me out too much.
I'll get on this stuff asap. I really like the little guy. Dunno what happened.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:21 PM on June 11, 2015

I should add that missmary6 is quite right about watering. The little kabuki dance I do with the soil and the misting and all is only when I'm re-potting plants into a collection or moving a wet plant into a new home. I usually wait a few days re-potting before giving plants a good soak in their new digs. I like having a baseline of dryness to start with - but it's a personal preference and not at all a plant-centric requirement.

If the sedum isn't gonna make it and you're not up for propagating you can always replace them with a few plants from a nursery. I would. And I love messing with these guys. It's neat watching starts grow, but I'd be too impatient to wait for something lovely to fill that sad little hole.

You may not need to re-pot. If you're really into this arrangement you could take a cup of soil into a good nursery and ask them if it seems okay. If they say no....you can pay them to re-plant it for you in more succulent friendly, better quality soil. Most good nurseries have inexpensive re-potting services.
posted by space_cookie at 7:16 PM on June 11, 2015

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