When it comes to succulent troubles, many gardeners think of succulent melting or mealy bugs. These two common issues aren't related. However, if your succulent is displaying irregular melting, it's likely a sign that mealy bugs have become a problem.

If you're not sure if your succulent is experiencing regular melting or irregular melting, let's dive in together:

What is irregular succulent melting?


Succulent melting, sometimes referred to as succulent mush, typically occurs when the stems and leaves of a succulent become disorganized and appear semi-translucent. When touched, the leaves may feel soft and contain a lot of moisture. In most cases, succulent leaf melting occurs from the bottom up.

Irregular succulent melting, on the other hand, breaks the rules. In this scenario, succulent leaves may exhibit a random melting pattern with no clear order. You can see a clear comparison in the image below:


Why do succulents experience irregular melting?


You may be guessing it's due to overwatering, heat, or fungal infections, but none are the primary culprits. The leading cause of irregular succulent melting is mealy bugs. Interestingly, this situation often arises within 1-2 days after watering infected succulents.

These mealy bugs carefully hide deep within the leaves, making them difficult to detect. However, when you water the succulent, any wounds caused by mealy bugs quickly become apparent. This uneven distribution of mealy bugs within the succulent leaves is why the succulent meltings irregularly.

If your succulent displays symptoms of irregular melting, carefully inspect the junctions between the leaves and stems. If you spot some white powdery bugs, those are mealy bugs.


How to rescue succulents with irregular melting


Succulents showing irregular melting typically have dense foliage, such as Echeveria and Graptopetalum. But don't worry too much! Follow my guide, and you can successfully rescue succulents with irregular melting.

1. Stop watering and increase ventilation to allow the soil to dry out quickly.

2. Remove melted leaves and check for mealy bugs.

3. Isolate infected succulents from healthy plants.

4. Use insecticides and plant fungicides, repeating the process after one week.

5. Recheck the succulents in a week; if insects are still present, continue treatment.


Other causes of succulent melting


Recall when succulent melting typically occurs. Is it after watering when the succulent absorbs too much water and can't evaporate it? Succulents are prone to melting only when they're saturated with water. In this state, two factors are most likely to cause leaf melting:

1. High temperatures cause cell fluid expansion, leading to cell wall rupture and leaf melting.

2. Low temperatures cause cell fluid to freeze, forming ice crystals that rupture cell walls and lead to leaf melting.

This explains why succulents are most susceptible to melting in summer and winter.



Succulent melting Doesn't Equal Rotting!


Here's a heads-up: succulent melting isn't the same as succulent rotting. Succulent melting goes through a couple of stages. First, it's transparent, then it turns black. This process might confuse many succulent gardeners into thinking their plants are starting to rot.

Succulent rotting is caused by bacterial invasion, usually occurring in the stems and roots. The easiest way to distinguish between succulent rotting and melting is to remove the melting leaves and observe if the growth points on the stems start turning black. If they remain healthy and white, your plant is still in the clear. But if they start turning black, the plant is infected and needs the infected areas removed to prevent the rot from spreading and endangering the succulent's life.



It's essential to note that if you don't remove melting leaves promptly, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Bacteria can then enter through the connection between the leaves and stems, leading to plant rot. So, remember to remove those melting leaves!


Prevention is Key! Say Goodbye to Succulent melting in Advance!


While succulent melting usually doesn't threaten the plant's life, the significant loss and shedding of leaves can be disheartening and affect the succulent's beauty. Since taking these preventive measures, I've seen a substantial decrease in succulent melting in my garden.

1. Apply phosphorus and potassium fertilizer before high temperatures to enhance succulent resistance.

2. Use some fungicides for prevention.

3. Control watering and increase sunlight when temperatures exceed 30°C or drop below 5°C.

4. Maintain good ventilation.



Final Thoughts


Succulent melting is indeed a common topic in succulent gardening. Fellow gardeners, don't be too anxious or self-blaming. With an understanding of the causes, treatment methods, and prevention of succulent melting, you'll surely be able to care for your succulents more confidently.

1 thought on “Succulent Irregular Melting? Beware of Mealy Bugs!

Tammy Capo

Thank you for this. I live in Louisiana where it is HOT and HUMID, I wondered about this issue and did not understand why it was happening so often to my beautiful plants. Now I get it and will be looking for this issue.

July 7, 2024 at 23:27pm

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