please help with echeveria

pandanwaffles(8a)August 4, 2014

Hi, I'm a newbie when it comes to succulents so I pretty much have no idea what I'm doing. I bought what I think is some type of echeveria two months ago and decided to repot it about three weeks ago because the pot I bought it in seemed too small for how big the plant had grown. I noticed shortly after repotting that some of the leaves started turning brown and now I'm worried that I've ruined/am killing it by not knowing what I was doing. I used cacti/succulent potting mix and added some tiny pebbles to the mix for extra drainage because I read somewhere to do that. Did I use the wrong type of mix or repot it wrong or maybe it isn't getting enough sun? the roots seemed fine when I looked at them. And it also seems to have stopped turning brown over the past week, which is good, but I'd like to learn now to get this poor plant back to good health and learn how to care for these plants. Also, the plant had a kind of chalky white substance on it and I was wondering if that is supposed to be on it or should I clean it off?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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Hello! You came to the right place for advice, there are some really experienced growers here :) I can tell you that the brown spots are sunburn; these plants do need lots of light, but when we first purchase them they have often been indoors or in a shaded area and therefore need to be adjusted slowly over the course of a week or two. Putting pebbles in is generally not recommended; there are other substances that better serve the purpose of drainage. If you used a cactus/succulent mix right out of the bag, you will want to at the very least amend that with 50-70% perlite, which should be available at any nursery or hardware store like Home Depot. There are better mixes out there that you can read about on this forum, but that is a good start.

As for the chalky white substance, I'm not sure what you mean; the plant does have something called bloom on it that gives it that nice soft blue color; if you touch it, you will notice it comes off and you have left a fingerprint behind. This is part of the plant and you want it to be there :)

On a final note, be sure you are using a pot with a drainage hole! Well-draining soil does nothing if water cannot flow out of the pot.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 7:56PM
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Thank you sooo much! I really appreciate the reply. Now about the mix with perlite you were talking about, would it be okay to repot it again after just repotting it recently? I don't want to shock the plant too much, but I'd really like to get it into a more sufficient mix than what it's in now whenever it's okay so I don't cause any further damage.

This is the pot I currently have it in. It has holes all over the side, I figure that would be okay for drainage? If not, I'll definitely get something better for it soon.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 8:20PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

That is a nice pot but intended for orchids. With watering, your mix will wash through the holes. The previous reference is to a bottom hole for drainage.

As stated the white material protects the leaves from harsh conditions. The "Glaucous" color or powdery bloom as stated is normal and once disturbed will not be replaced; a permanent mark will be left behind until that leave dies.

I'm not certain the discoloration is sunburn. I totally agree about gradually acclimating newly purchased plants into bright light situations if they have been in a low light environment. I would try to remove a discolored leave and see if it is soft and mushy. Try to look at the stem in the area of these leaves and see if it is also discolored. If this is the case, you have rot and should cut the stem back to fresh tissue and callous and replant. If it turns out to be sunburn, not to worry, the main plant will continue to thrive and the discolored leaves will eventually fall off.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 8:56PM
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I removed a discolored leaf, and it was soft and mushy. A few of them are. But the stem area wasn't discolored, I think because the leaves aren't entirely discolored. I think that it may be rot though. I tried waiting it out for a few weeks and seeing if it got any better, but it has gotten worse. I think I need to remove the bottom two rows of leaves all together since they're all pretty bad. But after doing that, if the roots seem okay should I just repot it as is? Or should I cut the roots and stem down and see if it'll regrow them? I've never done that before, so I'm afraid I won't be able to get it to grow roots back.

Here's a picture of it in its current state:

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:12PM
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Crenda SWFL 10A

Did you remove all of the old soil from the roots when you repotted? I have found (through sad experience) that this is a very good idea.

I would not wait any longer. Remove it from the pot and remove all dirt from the roots. If the roots look good, you can repot in a grittier mix - like the perlite and C&S. If they don't look good, then surgery may be required.

Also remove the mushy leaves. You may end up with the small rosette in the middle, but it will grow back. Watch for any mealies when you remove the mushy leaves. I recently had a similar, sudden situation like yours and I found little mealy bugs down where the leaf meets the stem.

Good luck! Fingers crossed for nice roots!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Thanks Crenda! You're really helping me out here. Everyone on this message board is pretty awesome. I hope I'll eventually have all the knowledge you guys have when it comes to succulents!

I think when I first repotted it I tried but probably didn't do the best job of getting all the soil off the roots. I figured it was "good enough" and proceeded to repot it as it was. Obviously that was a mistake. But I just removed it from its pot right now, and am having a hard time getting all of the soil off the roots. It's all pretty clumped together unfortunately. I don't want to damage the root system trying to get all the soil untangled. But I was looking at the leaves I removed and didn't find any evidence of mealy bugs, so that's good.

Here is a picture of the state the roots are in right now. They're super dry since I didn't want to water it too much and further any possible rot:


I managed to get through all that clumped up soil and now can see my roots. That's the best that I could do:

This post was edited by pandanwaffles on Mon, Aug 18, 14 at 22:54

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 10:28PM
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That looks much better, you did good job of cleaning the roots. Roots seem to be in good shape too. (That hard clump of soil around roots was dried-up peat, which is next to impossible to re-wet).

You got good advice from bikerdoc & crenda & spapa; repot into a grittier mix.
You mentioned adding 'small pebbles' - what were they?

If you can't get anything better, get a bag of perlite, sift it (you can use kitchen sieve) & use the larger particles. Mix at least 50% of perlite with C&S soil you have (you could use more). It will add good drainage to your potting mix. Rinse sifted perlite before using, make sure you don't breath the dust.
Don't plant too deep.

You should search this site for 'gritty mix' to learn what ingredients to use & how to mix - you probably end up buying more plants!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:22AM
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Crenda SWFL 10A

Yea! Good roots and no critters. No surgery required.

When you repot into a gritty mix like Rina mentioned, be sure to let your plant rest a few days before watering. The roots may be bruised and injured from removing the old soil.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:25AM
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With the 50/50 mix, the soil is so light that I feel like my plants will have a hard time staying up. I have a few little golden sedums that I need to repot and I feel like they'll just fall over in their pot because the soil is so light.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Crenda SWFL 10A

I know what you mean. It takes a little getting used to. I have used bamboo skewers or chopsticks to help prop the plant until the roots have stabilized it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:08PM
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That's a fantastic idea, Crenda! I'll definitely give that a try. Do you use any kind of string to tie around the chopsticks and plant?

I've got to say, I'm a little intimidated by the whole gritty mix thing. I've done some reading on it and there are all these different opinions and experiences from it. Don't you have to fertilize often and water even more often? I thought I had read that, but obviously I know in the end that gritty mix is a ton more beneficial. If I were to repot some succulents soon, would it be okay to switch to a gritty mix sometime next spring?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:38PM
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Yes, you may have to water more often - but don't forget, cacti&succulents don't need water as often as other 'houseplants'.
Are your plants inside or outside? If out, they probably dry out faster.
Use skewer to check how wet the soil is, by sticking it in about halfway into pot - if it comes out with particles sticking to it, it is still wet enough - don't water.

I wonder what kind of 'small pebbles' did you use - you mentioned that in your original post.

Crenda suggested what to do to keep plant more stable, another thing you can do is to support the plant with decorative rocks, or use some kind of top-dressing - it will help to support plants + keeps the perlite from floating. I use larger-sized chicken grit for top-dressing, or pea gravel, you can use decorative pebbles etc. See the photo-different rocks were put in originally to support plant, I just left them there even if not needed anymore since I like the look.
This is just the way I do it - not "the only way".

Mix of C&S soil + 50% perlite will serve well until next spring & it is much better than just soil from the bag. And will give you time to read more & get more comfortable with the idea.

This post was edited by rina_ on Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 11:41

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:04AM
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So it's been a little while since I repotted my echeveria and it seems so have been doing better than it was. I took your advice and am using some little pebbles as a top dressing. But the edges of its leaves have turned a little pink. Is that a sign of something going wrong? It wasn't like that before.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 7:07PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Pink is good. Means it's getting good light and showing its color.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 7:17PM
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Oh, that's great news! What a relief. Do all echeveria get the pink edges, or is it limited to a specific one?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 7:46PM
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I don't know if I'm posting in the right area but I'm new at gardening and I put my cacti and succulents on my widow seal and this morning I opened the window my dog ran by and somehow the widow shut on my echeveria it's pretty bad I just want to know how to save it :(

    Bookmark   September 9, 2014 at 12:49PM
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Not much you can do about broken leaves, they will not heal. But eventually will be replaced as the plant grows (will not regrow existing leaves, but old ones eventually dry up & fall off anyway), so you just need to be patient until then. It may take a while...the broken leaves will probably start getting brownish/dry around the broken parts. If too unsightly, just remove them.
Otherwise your plant should be OK. If inside & not getting enough light, the stem may start stretching (etiolate) but that's not because of the damage.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2014 at 1:28PM
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