Black Spots on Succulents

Sunburns and fungus and virus, oh my. Here’s what to do when black spots spoil your succulents.

August 12, 2019
BP_HCOCL112_Succulent-Close_s4x3

BP_HCOCL112_Succulent-Close_s4x3

Those pesky black spots! Is this succulent overwatered, virus-infected or sunburned? Find out below.

Those pesky black spots! Is this succulent overwatered, virus-infected or sunburned? Find out below.

Last week your jade plant was gorgeous. This week, there are black spots on its leaves. Gah! What’s happening? Succulents are supposed to be easy to grow and hard to kill and yours looks terrible. Here are some possible problems.

Overwatering

If the spots are mushy, the plant has gotten too much water. It’s drowning. See, succulents store extra water in their leaves, roots and stems so they can survive the arid conditions of their native desert. Too much water overfills the plant’s water storage tissue and causes it to bloat and explode. The black spots are a fungus that has developed in the damaged plant tissue.

Solution: You may not be able to save your succulent. Unpot the plant and check its roots to see if they are still healthy. If they are, trim off all damaged leaves and stems and repot the succulent in dry soil. Go lighter on the watering this time. If the roots are mushy, they’re dead and the plant’s a lost cause. Trim some cuttings off any remaining healthy parts of the plant, let the cut ends callous over and root them in new soil. Yep, just start over by making a new plant. Throw out the mother plant along with the soil it was in because both are probably infected by fungus from the plant rot.

Sunburn

If the spots on the leaves are dry, the leaves may be sunburned. Yep, your sun-loving succulent can get too much sun. This happens when the plant is put in strong light before it’s had time to acclimate to it. If you buy a plant that’s been in partial shade at a nursery and put it on your sunny deck, or move an indoor succulent outdoors, you could end up with burned leaves.

Solution: You can save a sunburned succulent. Remove the burned leaves, because they won’t heal, and put the plant in the shade. You need to give your succulent a couple of days to adjust to full sun, so put it in the sun for three or four hours in the morning on the first day, and increase its sun time by one to two hours per day. Bring the plant inside or place it in full shade at night. By the fourth or fifth day, your succulent will be adjusted, and you can let the sun shine in with no worries of sunburned succulent.

10 Secrets for Super Succulents

See All Photos

Succulents are having a moment because they’re beautiful and they have a rep for being easy to grow. You can kill these hardy little plants, though, if you don’t play by their rules. Here are some tips for keeping them happy.

Shop This Look

Bugs

If the spots are small and look like a cascade of freckles, insects may be the problem. Mealybugs, spider mites and aphids feed on succulent leaves, leaving little areas of dead tissue that then grow sooty black mold.

Solution: Remove the damaged leaves and throw them away. To kill the bugs, wipe the leaves with cotton balls dipped in rubbing alcohol, or use insecticidal soap. Repeat the treatment daily till the little buggers are gone.

Virus

If the spots are on the underside of the leaves, they may be black ring virus. Tospovirus, the same one that causes tomato wilt, can also infect succulents.

Solution: There’s no cure. Cut the affected leaves off the plant and sterilize your clippers with alcohol when you’re done so you don’t spread the disease to other plants.

Get the Most Out of Your Succulents

How to Transplant Succulents

Most succulents have very shallow roots, making them easy to dig carefully and replant.

Do Succulents Need Sun?

Succulents are pretty low maintenance compared with other plants, but they do have certain requirements for light.

Best Soil for Succulents in Pots

No two gardeners use the same potting mix for succulents, but they all start with similar basic ingredients.

Next Up

Killer Plants

Some plants -- such as black walnut -- like to squelch the growth of other plants. Here's how to have a garden where all the plants get along.

Effective Fungicides

Got fungal disease on your favorite garden roses or vegetables? Master gardener Paul James offers simple and easy-to-use fungicide treatments to resolve these pesky problems.

How Often Do You Water Succulents?

These tough plants don’t need daily water. Here’s how to give them the amount they need to keep them thriving.

Q&A: Wilting Tomatoes

Here is a tip on how to take care of your wilting tomatoes.

How to Care for a Cactus

Cacti are easy to grow as long as you play by their rules.

6 Things That Can Go Wrong With Succulents

Too much water and not enough sun are big-time problems for these desert natives.

Common Agave Pests

Plants that seem the most cast iron can indeed have an Achilles' heel. Just like so many mighty giants of history it is often the littlest things that ultimately bring them down.

Avoiding Pests and Disease in the Garden

Paul James reveals his secrets for controlling pest and disease problems.

Garden Invaders

Be on the lookout for these invasive pests and learn how to avoid them.

Rust Fungus on Roses

What to do if you find rust on your rose bush.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Music City Fix

6:30am | 5:30c

My Lottery Dream Home

10:30am | 9:30c

My Lottery Dream Home

11:30am | 10:30c

Fixer Upper

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

5:30pm | 4:30c

Flip or Flop

6:30pm | 5:30c

Flip or Flop

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Flip or Flop

8pm | 7c

Flip or Flop

8:30pm | 7:30c

Flip or Flop

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

Going for Sold

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12am | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Flip or Flop

3:30am | 2:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.