Why Is My Zebra Succulent Turning Yellow? (3 MUST do steps today)

a healthy zebra succulent placed in a glass cup

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Haworthia Fasciata, also known as a zebra succulent, is one of the most popular houseplants. I personally love seeing succulents on my desk. Especially when they’re in a cute pot like this one (it even comes with a matching saucer tray)!

They have such an interesting pattern that makes them stand out from the rest of your plants.

They’re also super easy to grow and maintain. 

But that doesn’t mean succulent problems don’t exist.

There is a common misconception about these plants that they only need sunlight to survive but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even though they love a lot of bright indirect lighting, too much lighting can do harm. Such as leaves turning yellow. 

If you’re wondering why is my zebra succulent turning yellow, the answer is that it’s most likely due to either overwatering or too much sunlight. Since succulents are native to drier, desert-like climates, they can be temperamental when it comes to watering and require soil with good nutrients and pots with proper drainage holes.

You may also notice that you could have an insect infestation such as aphids or mealybugs. You can use neem oil in water mixed with dish soap to kill these pests off! If this doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to call an exterminator. LOL JK! That might be doing a bit much. 

Quick zebra succulent care steps you can take now if you’re wondering what’s wrong with my succulent

  • Step One: You should move your succulent plant away from other plants that cast shadows on it.
  • Step Two: Make sure you are watering the succulents often but not too much so they don’t get overwatered and rot
    • The zebra plant will turn green again when new leaves sprout at its base. If an old, sickly-looking succulent has turned yellow, it’s probably best to discard it because of a root system issue or dying due to over-exposure to light or lack of water. There are, however, several ways to save this poor succulent!
  • Step Three: Move your succulents away from the window and place them in a spot where they won’t be affected by direct sun. Another option that I prefer is to invest in these curtains that were practically made for indoor plants.
  • Step Four: Make sure you are watering your succulents often but not too much so that it doesn’t get overwatered
    • Using this watering bottle (it’s designed for succulents) will help ensure you don’t overwater your desk size house plants
  • Step Five: Add more soil around its base to help with drainage issues or rot due to over-exposure to light or water.

Caring for houseplants can be trickier than it seems, but once you get the hang of it, there’s no stopping you from filling your space with beautiful, living decorations that require little maintenance. Keep reading to find out some dos and don’ts for caring for zebra succulents, with tips for how to make your potted pals healthy and happy. 

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Can a yellow leaf turn green again? 

It is difficult to change a yellow leaf back green again, and thus the answer to your question is not clear without closer examination. Below are three possible reasons as to why a yellow leaf may be turning green.

a zebra succulent with yellow leaves. find out why in why is my zebra succulent turning yellow article
  • Possible Reason 1: If the leaf has turned slightly brown around the outside but remains mostly green in the center, it could be due to improper exposure to water; watering plants too much or too little.
    • Improper irrigation would cause leaves or woody stems near the surface of containers to turn brown where moisture is evaporating faster than it can enter through natural means (the plant’s roots). Keep watering at ideal intervals.
  • Possible Reason 2: The oil content of some leaves will darken when exposed for prolonged periods of time to the sun.
    • This is due to a reaction of natural pigments with intense light and can be prevented by placing plants in shaded areas or using artificial lights that mimic sunlight.
  • Possible Reason 3: The leaf could also have been injured or diseased at some point, but this would not necessarily explain why it’s turning yellow because healthy leaves should turn brown before they turn yellow.
    • In this case, if you’re seeing discoloration on multiple leaves then your succulent may need treatment for whatever injury/disease has affected it.

How to treat yellow leaves on succulents:

If your succulent is turning yellow due to natural pigments reacting with intense light, it’s best to move it into a shaded area or use artificial lights that mimic sunlight – they will not react as much with other colors of the spectrum such as blue and violet which can cause plants in those lighting conditions to turn green instead of brown before they turn yellow.

If this doesn’t work then try using an overhead fan on high speed blowing down onto them while moving around so that all parts get enough airflow and some direct sun exposure (this may also solve any discoloration issue).

a mini succulent placed in a pot with pebbles

This works especially well for plants that are in a pot because they will have more room to grow and the soil can be moistened with water.

You may also want to check if you’re watering them enough – succulents need relatively high amounts of water but not too much, so make sure it’s been watered at least once every two weeks or less depending on how fast their roots dry out (these recommendations apply for indoor plants).

If your plant is turning brown then there might not be enough light getting through which could cause this color change as well. This can happen when leaves start drooping downwards towards the ground instead of curling upwards.

To fix this problem try placing it closer to an artificial light source like a window where more natural sunlight would come from.

Related: Do House Plants Attract Bugs?

Should I cut off the yellow leaves?

When it comes to yellow leaves, you have two options. You can either leave it and hope it turns green again, or remove it and wait for new growth.

I like giving chances. If it’s due to a nutrient deficiency and I know I haven’t fertilized my plant yet, I’ll fertilize it and then wait for a few days to see if it changes color before deciding to prune them off. However, if they didn’t change back in color after feeding the plants with more nutrients than needed or not at all, get out those pruning shears!

Given enough time, the leaves will fall off on their own accord, but if you want to speed that process up, keep in mind a few things:

  • Start off by gently tugging the leaves instead of clipping them with scissors or shears. This will allow you to gauge how far the issue has progressed. Don’t tear off any leaves that resist, as they may still have some life left in them. 
  • Use scissors to trim away the dead parts of the yellow leaves. It’s important to first sterilize any blade you are using with rubbing alcohol, as you would if you were dressing a wound. 
  • Look for leaves that seem decimated by little critters. If part of your plant seems particularly ravaged, snip it off completely. 
  • To remove stubborn leaves that are deeply embedded in dried or rotted material, use an X-acto knife with care so as not to damage the plant’s skin. *Be sure to cut away from yourself.*
  • Be sure to be gentle when removing the dead or yellow leaves in an effort to not damage new growth. The plant may have lost all of its nutrients, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t grow them back!
    • To make matters worse, if you pull on a branch too hard and snap it off from the base then there is no telling how long it will take for that part of your succulent to fully heal. You need only do one at a time so as not to create any more harm than necessary.

Related: Does Misting Plants Actually Help them {it’s not what you think}

How do you fix yellow succulents?

Let’s do some yellow succulent troubleshooting!

Bringing a yellow leaf plant back to life can be pretty difficult, depending on the issue that is causing your leaves to change color.  Taking time out of what you’re doing for just a little bit will help get things done and figure it all out sooner rather than later.

a haworthia succulent in an orange pot

Just take into consideration how patient make-up should be with their plants as well – if they need more watering or less watering in order to look better again then go ahead and try those changes until you find something that works best for them

Here are some common succulent problems and some quick solutions:

Overwatering

The most common cause for yellow leaves on a succulent is from overwatering. When your plant is too hydrated, the roots of the plant begin to rot, which leads to a host of issues and can cause your plant to die. It does seem a bit counterintuitive, right?

Plants need water! But an overzealous watering cycle is likely doing your succulent more harm than good. 

To fix the effects of overwatering, simply refrain from watering the plant until the soil no longer feels moist to the touch. This can take a few days, but letting the soil completely dry out is crucial to the health of the roots. There is no universal answer to how often you should water succulents, but every two to three weeks is a good range

Keep a record of when and how much you water (there are even apps that exist for this sole purpose). Each plant is going to respond differently, and the soil and pot you use will also play a role. Watch how your plant responds and tinker with your process. Remember, you only want to water when the soil feels dry. Anything else is too much.

Related: How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves {my secret weapon}

Old potting soil

If the problem is more progressed, it’s time to change your plant’s soil to fresh soil. Since the moisture in the soil is what causes the roots to rot, it may be the case that the soil is holding on to too much water. 

Traditional potting soil usually will not work for succulents. There are blends of succulent soil that are made especially for potted cactus and succulents that are grittier in texture and provide the right level of drainage. 

Check to ensure that the drain hole in your pot is large enough to allow water to escape out. If the hole is too small, it can clog up the draining process, making the soil retain water. (You can use this tool to help enlarge the drainage hole if you don’t want to buy a new pot).

3 zebra succulents in different pots next to each other

Make sure you are using a pot with large drainage holes, as this will help water move through and air, which helps to quickly dry the soil. 

Amount of lighting

Optimal lighting is one of the foundational parts of healthy plant life. Succulents prefer bright, indirect light, and having a succulent exposed to harsh direct sunlight can cause the leaves to turn yellow.

Move your succulent around to different spots and see if it responds to the change in light. Or use grow lights if your house tends to be dimmer.

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How do you tell if you’re underwatering vs. overwatering 

There are a few ways to tell, but the simplest is to look at the leaves.

Finding the right schedule for watering is crucial for the health of your succulent. You’ll have to thread the needle between too much and too little water, as both can do serious harm.

a healthy zebra succulent in a red pot
  • Underwatering
    • wilted leaves
    • zebra plant leaves browning
    • dry succulent leaves
    • have a dry, straw-like appearance underneath the leaves
    • the edges may also appear brown and curled upwards instead of lying flat on the soil surface. 
  • Overwatering
    • when the leaves of your succulents are turning soft and losing color
    • leaves are turning yellow
    • succulent leaves are shriveling
    • succulents not growing

The difference in texture will tell you whether your plant is overwatered or underwatered. 

Can succulents recover from overwatering? 

The answer is yes, its possible for plants to recover from overwatering

Succulents and cacti are very hardy plants indeed. They can recover from even the most persistent overwatering problem with a little patience and care.

  • The first step is to stop watering your succulents altogether so that they have time to dry out in their containers.
  • Next, set these plants up with good air circulation by placing them upright and near an open window where they can get some fresh air for a few days.
    • Give them sunlight if possible, but be careful not to put them too close or leave them unattended outside because this might cause other problems like sunburn or animal nibbling!
  • Finally, just wait until the soil has dried out enough before you start watering again

The goal for saving an overwatered plant is to dry the roots out enough for them to recover. If after a few days the soil has yet to dry, try this method:

  • Remove the plant from the pot and shake the wet soil from its roots. 
  • Keep the plant unpotted for up to a week, checking to see how roots respond to being dried. Make sure the plant is getting some sun but not so much that it looks burnt. 
  • Repot the plant in a pot with large drainage holes and the proper soil. 
  • Wait a while before watering again. 

Overwatering can lead to root rot, but if done early enough on the plant it’s a quick fix! Excess water flushes nutrients and minerals out of soil before they are absorbed into the roots – so be sure not to keep watering when there is standing water in pots or saucers after being watered once already.

Final thoughts on why is my zebra succulent turning yellow

The most important thing you can do is watch for the early signs and act quickly! If your succulent has started turning yellow or brown, it may be time to take action before it gets worse.

a mini zebra succulent in a terracotta pot

If you want to take care of your succulents, it’s never too late. Zebra plants are resilient and can bounce back from neglect in a few short weeks if given the right amount of water and sunlight.

The key is to not let this happen at all! Keep an eye on how much light they’re getting every day, make sure they get enough water without being over-saturated (watering once or twice per week should be sufficient), and ensure that the soil is well-drained and aerated.

These three simple steps will help maintain healthy growth for years to come so that your zebra plant doesn’t turn yellow again anytime soon.

Related: How to Save Your Haworthia From Root Rot