Like you, I also wondered why my succulents are turning red or changing colors. After I researched and learned more about why succulents change colors, I began to appreciate these color changes more and actually enjoyed seeing them in my plants. While these changes are usually harmless, here are a few things you should know about color changes in succulents and why they happen.
So Why Would Succulents Turn Red Or Change Colors In The First Place?
Succulents turn red in reaction to harsh environmental conditions. Pay attention to your crop and you will find that it starts to turn red or change color when confronted with one or more of these conditions:
- When the plant is exposed to a bunch of sun, especially full sun.
- When the weather rapidly turns really hot or really cold. You will notice your plant turning red or changing colors during the hot summer months and cold winter months.
- When the plant is not watered enough. When the plant is not receiving regular watering it starts to appear less green and you will notice it turning a different shade.
- When the plant is not well fed. When you do not feed or fertilize your plant regularly, you will notice the color changes in your plant.
- When the plant is in poor soil. Along with not fertilizing regularly, when your plant is sitting in infertile soil or soil that is not rich in nutrients, you will see these color changes once again.
When a succulent experiences one or more of these conditions mentioned above, the plant is actually under stress. The succulent is reacting to the extremes in the environment by exhibiting these color changes.
What Is Stress and Can It Be Harmful To The Plant?
When you realize where succulents come from and how they grow in their natural habitat, it makes sense that succulents appear to grow even more beautiful under stress. Most of the succulents come from dry, arid areas and desert conditions. Some succulents on the other hand are found in mountainous regions, rain forests, and even sea coasts.
Succulents naturally grow in regions considered uninhabitable by other plants. Their natural habitats are usually way too harsh for other plants to survive. For these reasons, succulents are highly adaptable to survive and thrive under extreme environmental conditions. So, when succulents are under pressure in growth, it is like imitating their natural environment.
The plants are not harmed by it but are in fact designed to live under these conditions. They are highly equipped to survive and thrive in environments like these.
Why Do Succulents Change Colors Under Stress?
Apart from the red, the succulents can also turn different shades of yellow, orange, purple, blue and black. This is due to the natural pigmentation present in plants that are also contained in fruits. Without being too academic, these pigments are called anthocyanins and carotenoids and are responsible for changing the color of plants. Such pigments are also present in fruits which are rich in antioxidants.
It shows us that these pigments found in fruits that are responsible for providing us with important antioxidants in our diets are also present in plants to shield them from their setting. It functions as the the plant’s built-in mechanism to protect it from extreme climate changes such as extreme heat and drought.
Although stress can bring out beautiful colors and elegance in succulents, there are other kinds of stress to look out for the warning that the plant is in danger.
How To Tell If Your Plant Is In Danger: Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
Is there really such a thing as good stress and bad stress in succulents? Well yes. Generally speaking, a stressed plant that is healthy will retain its original shape and features while changing its color. A stressed plant in trouble will appear warped, disfigured or just unwell.
Getting familiar with the type of plant you have will help you determine whether the plant is in danger or not. Some succulent plants naturally get reddish tips on their leaves when exposed to the sun or extreme heat. The plant is coping with the extreme heat by producing a red pigment called carotenoids on its foliage to protect itself from potential sunburn. We can call this ‘good stress’ because the plant is not being harmed by it but actually brings out the beauty and color of the plant.
Keep in mind that reddish tints on succulents’ leaves and stems could be a sign of an insect infestation such as spider mites, leaving red marks on the plant. The leaves would also appear warped, which signals something is wrong with the plant. We will call this ‘bad stress’ because the plant is actually being damaged and you need to take immediate action to save it.
When you see the red hues on your crop, test it to see whether or not it is a natural process or something else is bugging the plant.
Some succulents will turn a nice shade of yellow-orange when exposed to full sun, extreme heat and very dry conditions. This is the plant’s way of coping with the extreme environmental conditions to protect itself as we mentioned earlier. This is considered ‘good stress’ because the plant is not suffering and you do not need to take immediate action.
On the other hand, a plant can turn yellow from being overwatered or having constantly wet soil. Along with yellowing of the leaves you will also notice that they are soft and mushy. This is ‘bad stress’ and you need to fix the situation before it gets out of control.
Unlike ‘ bad stress, ‘ with ‘ good stress, ‘ there are no accompanying signs or symptoms such as mushy leaves to indicate that the plant is in trouble.
Some plants such as the Echeveria ‘black prince’ and Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ AKA Black Rose turn a gorgeous shade of dark purple to black under ‘good stress’. Pamper these same plants, keep them in the shade with regular watering and they will lose these beautiful pigmentation thus turning green.
However, if you see some of your succulents turning black from the bottom up with leaves falling off, this is the most obvious sign that they are under ‘bad stress’. This is when the plant begins rotting from the root up. The leaves will turn black and the stems will rot. You will need to take action immediately or you can lose the plant.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to get to know your plants so you can find out whether they’re under good or bad stress. After a while, you’d be able to tell the difference.