How to revive a succulent and nurse it back to health

These easy solutions for reviving a succulent will soon get it back to looking its best

A collection of succulents in small pots
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If you're researching how to revive a succulent, the good news is that even if your favorite plant has seen better days, all is not necessarily lost. With the right advice, you can revitalize your plant and get it growing well again. 

Succulents are favored by many houseplant growers thanks to their varied shapes, pretty foliage, and easy-going nature. The fact that succulents are so resilient makes them excellent plants for beginners. 

However, learning how to grow succulents does involve some specific care tips, and these plants can begin to suffer if they aren't looked after correctly. If your succulent is looking sickly, with leaves that are shriveled, discolored, or drooping, there are some simple steps you can take to revive it.  

Succulents in small pots against slatted wood

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How to revive a succulent in 6 easy steps

If your indoor succulent isn't looking its best, these houseplant experts have offered their top tips for nursing it back to health.

1. Diagnose the problem

The first step towards reviving your succulent is determining what's wrong with it. Zeeshan Haider, CEO and founder of GreenryEnthusiast.com (opens in new tab), advises that 'the primary factors to consider include the health of the soil, the amount of light and the amount of water the plant is receiving.'  

Indoor plant expert at Exubia (opens in new tab) James Mayo recommends paying particular attention to water levels in the soil. 'If the leaves of your succulent begin to look flat and shriveled rather than plump and juicy then it's very likely it is dying because of dehydration. On the other hand, if your succulent leaves begin to look droopy and limp then it's likely that it has been overwatered.'

two indoor succulents in pots next to a window

(Image credit: Matthew Ashmore/Alamy Stock Photo)

2. Adjust watering levels

Incorrect watering is more often than not the reason why a plant in your succulent garden begins ailing. James Mayo recommends performing the finger test (inserting your finger into the soil) to understand whether your succulent is under- or over-watered: 'If your finger is dry then it's best to top up the water supply. If it is even slightly damp then it's best to leave it another day. If your succulent has been overwatered this method also serves as a great guide as to how long you should let it dry out for.'

Underwatering is a less common problem with succulents, although it does happen. If you pick up the plant pot and it's very light, you probably need to water the plant. 

However, as Bryan Tan, Founder of GardenersGrail.com (opens in new tab), points out, 'Succulents are drought-resistant plants, so you don't need to water them very often. Water succulents when the soil is dry to the touch and make sure not to overwater or the plant can rot.' Most succulents can easily go two to three weeks without watering, especially in winter.

3. Move your succulent to a new location

Although succulents are generally low-maintenance indoor plants, they can suffer from a lack of light. Zeeshan Haider says that 'succulents require plenty of indirect sunlight and should be exposed to sunlight for at least six hours a day.' If your plant is in the shade, move it to a bright window sill and you should see it start to improve.

succulent plants in colorful pots on a shelf

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4. Give your succulent a new pot

Sometimes the issue is that your succulent has outgrown its container and needs repotting. James Mayo explains that when a succulent outgrows its pot, 'the roots will begin to grow through the holes in the drainage pot and tangle. Although this isn't an immediate issue, the plant will eventually go into shock if it is left root bound for too long.' 

Another telltale sign of when it's time to repot a succulent is when a plant is so big for its pot that it's toppling over.

A woman potting up succulents

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5. Fertilize the soil

Like all indoor plants, succulents occasionally need fertilizing. Zeeshan Haider recommends fertilizing succulents every three months, choosing a succulent-specific fertilizer (which can be bought on Amazon) (opens in new tab)

Don't overdo it, however. James Mayo warns that 'If your succulent is over-fertilized, it may begin to struggle with ''fertilizer burn'', which is characterized by the development of yellow and brown spots on its leaves. In this instance, all you need to do is lay off the fertilizer until the spots disappear.'

6. Inspect the plant for pests

Finally, make sure your succulent isn't suffering from pests. James Mayo recommends watching out for small white and brown marks on the leaves, as these can be signs of scale, aphids, or mealy bugs. 'All three can be removed using insecticidal soap [available from Amazon] (opens in new tab),' Mayo says. 'With most plants it's often much easier to simply prune the infected foliage – however, as the foliage of succulents is bunched so closely together, this can make it difficult.'

transplanting succulents

(Image credit: Yulia Naumenko/Getty Images)

Can a succulent repair itself?

Good news for indoor garden lovers: yes, a succulent can repair itself provided you figure out what the problem is. 'If you provide your succulent with the proper light, water, and fertilizer, it should be able to recover,' says Zeeshan Haider.

Bryan Tan adds: 'To repair themselves, succulents will grow new roots and leaves from the tips of their stems, which can help them survive even when the rest of the plant has been damaged.'

Give your succulent a good few weeks to recover and you should see an improvement. 

Anna writes about real estate, interior design, and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications in the US and the UK. Before embarking on her writing career, Anna taught English at university level and is the author of a book called London Writing of the 1930s. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.