The True Reason Why Succulents Turn Red, Yellow or Brown

There are many factors that can lead to color changing. All of them related to the environment. There is no right answer to the reason for it to happend.

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Jimena Bolívar

April 19, 2021

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Having succulents changing colors to red, yellow, or brown can make you afraid that there’s something wrong going on with your beloved succulents. But you’re about to find out that this isn’t always a bad sign, it could be a good one indeed.

Succulents turn red, yellow, or brown for different reasons, all related to the environment they’re in. Each color has its meaning and some of them are even positive and mean your succulent is growing healthy.

red succulent

Brown Succulents

Brown leaves can mean many things, from under watering to overwatering and even sun damage. The difference between them will be the signs the plant will give among the color changing.

If your succulent is under-watered it’ll feel dry and crispy to the touch. If that’s the case water it until the water comes out by the drainage holes of the pot. Make this your watering routine, watering until the soil is wet (not drown) every time you feel that it’s dry.

To know if it’s time to water your succulent make the finger test of sticking your finger 2 inches down the surface of the soil, if it feels wet or colder than the surface then it’s not time to water yet.

There are some other tools you can use to know if your soil needs water, but the finger test is one of the most accurate ones and won’t cost you a penny.

Most succulent parents will mistake by overwatering or underwatering their babies at least once, so don’t feel guilty if it happens to you.

Overwatering is very common to people who are used to other kinds of plants and/or have made a succulent suffer from underwatering it. Overwatered succulents will ask for help too, you just have to know which are the signs of it.

Overwatered succulents will become mushy and soggy and turn yellow or transparent before turning brown. Overwatering succulents isn’t something you’d like to do since it can cause root rot, increase the chances of pests and plagues on your succulent.

You probably heard that succulents do like a lot of sun, and then placed yours at the sunniest spot in your place. The problem is that the plant probably wasn’t ready to get all that exposure and started to be damaged.

The truth is that even though most succulents like a lot of the sun, they don’t like it directly for several hours.

Sun damage can happen even to succulents that so love sunlight, this is why you should never start exposing a succulent to full sun. You should start exposing it gradually, so it gets used to sunlight and decreases the chance of being sunburned.

Providing your succulent with not enough sunlight may affect your succulents too, making it change its appearance, which is called etiolation. To solve this you just have to place your succulent where it can get more sun, maybe just turning it to the window from time to time.

Sun damage begins as white patches, after turning into brown. If that’s the case, you need to move your succulent to a place where there’s less direct light.

Red and Yellow Succulents

When a succulent turns its colors to red and yellow is mainly because of the carotenoids, these substances are released when the succulents are under stress to protect them. Being stressed doesn’t mean they’re distressed. A little stress can even contribute to its health.

Even though color changing can mean the environment is too hot or that the nutrition isn’t adequate, every succulent will respond differently. Unless the color changes drastically, you have nothing to worry about.

Yellow leaves can be a sign of overwatering. This can be easily solved if you un-pot your succulent, put it in a quiet place to dry for a few days, and then re-pot it in new soil that is dry.

Some succulents won’t change the color even under a lot of stress, others will change colors, but the colors will mean different things for each of them. Each succulent is a single being and you need to read the signs yours is sending to you.

But here’s a list of some succulents that will change colors to red or yellow when stressed:

  • Aeonium
  • Aloe
  • Crassula
  • Echeveria
  • Euphorbia
  • Kalanchoe
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum

Even though carotenoids are meant to protect the plant, succulents are meant to thrive under extreme conditions so don’t overreact to a light color changing to yellow or red.

If this happens first of all means that your succulent is healthy enough to protect itself, which is awesome. But also means it’s adapting to the environment and you just need to wait and let mother nature do its work.

If you believe your plant is overstressed, then you can try first by changing its soil to a more nurturing one.


Every information you get about your succulent is important, but no information will replace eagerly observation of how your succulent behaves under the unique environment it’s in.

Even in the same city people who cultivate the same succulent can have them in a completely different environment, one could be outdoors and the other indoors in a pot with or without a drainage hole (which changes the environment too, as you can read in this article).

red and yellow succulent

So no one is better than you to understand your succulents and know what they need more or less of.

Understand that being a parent of succulents does also require a lot of effort, but is highly rewarding. Once you get the hang of it you’ll get addicted to increasing more and more your collection of baby succulents, which is so pretty and so dear to take care of.

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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