Why are There Bumps on My Succulent? (5 Most Common Causes)
Most succulents don’t come with lumps and bumps. From aloes, bonsais, and popular succulents, I can think of a few reasons why this can happen. Whether these bumps are natural or a sign of something more sinister, depends entirely on the cause.
Bumps on succulents can be a result of 1) natural for some species, 2) edema, 3) scales, 4) aloe gall mites, and 5) crown gall. Most of these issues can be prevented by properly watering the plants and growing them in sterilized potting mediums.
While some varieties naturally have bump-like growths, these lumps could be a sign of something worse. To help ease your anxieties, here are the most common reasons why succulents can develop bumps.
1. Natural For Some Species
Some succulents, like Echeveria ‘raindrops’, naturally develop bumps on their foliage. This unique growth is not harmful to the plant and is no cause for alarm.
This is probably the best-case scenario and luckily, one of the most common reasons.
In case your succulent is perfectly healthy and does not display any issues, these lumps may be normal growth. Many succulents have bumps on their leaves due to their natural design.
Although it may be alarming at first, this is perfectly normal!
For instance, Echeveria ‘raindrops’ is a popular variety that develops small raised bumps on the end of its leaves.
This raindrop-like design is highly sought after. Some gardeners have a hard time triggering their Echeveria ‘raindrops’ to develop this attractive feature, so if you managed to do so, congratulations!
Here is a quick list of other succulents and hybrids with similar bumpy designs:
- Echeveria ‘Speed Bumps’
- Faucaria felina ‘Super Warty’
- Haworthia cooperi
- Pseudolithos migiurtinus
Small bumps on foliage are a common symptom of edema. These non-fatal blisters are caused by overwatering, forming when moisture is trapped in the leaves. Edema can be prevented by increasing air circulation and keeping the succulent roots dry.
Being overwatered is not something most succulents handle well. Edema is a classic sign you’re overwatering. It frequently occurs when the plant has absorbed too much water.
Rather than evaporate from the leaf surface, excess water can get trapped inside the foliage and create tiny bumps that look like pimples.
Thankfully, it’s neither infectious nor deadly. However, improper watering can lead to edema spreading on the foliage and hindering photosynthesis.
I often saw it when I first started caring for succulents, including jade plants and snake plants.
Discover How to Properly Water Your Snake Plants (Your Final Guide!)
While it cannot be treated, this plant-equivalent of prickly heat rash can be prevented.
Aside from watering them properly, keep your succulents in well-ventilated rooms and fast-draining mediums to keep them dry.
Scales are flat and tiny insects that can be mistaken for bumps. These insects can be scraped off and will slowly kill succulents over time. Physical removal is the best way to eradicate them without damaging the plant.
Moving forward, if these strange bumps are not by natural design and not caused by edema, they could be pest-related.
If the bumps can be scraped off and the plant is in poor health or has stunted growth, your succulent is probably infested with scales.
Scales have a wide range of hosts and can even be seen on cacti. These tan or translucent insects have flat bodies that allow them to cling to plants and feed off their sap.
Now, the type of treatment you use will depend on your succulents. Chemical treatments and sprays can strip away the farina or protective wax on many succulents.
With succulents like these, you’ll have to rely mainly on physical removal. Scrape off what scales you can find and keep the infested plant isolated until you’re certain they’re scale-free.
Otherwise, for succulents without wax coatings, the scales can easily be wiped off with rubbing alcohol or neem oil sprays. This cold-pressed neem oil on Amazon is excellent for eliminating pests and is what I frequently recommend!
4. Aloe Gall Mites
Aloe gall mites cause aloe succulents to grow incurable bumpy mutations on their stems. These microscopic pests travel easily, so infected plants must be discarded. Infestation can only be avoided by using systemic pesticides regularly for prevention.
While they are inside the plant, aloe gall mites produce a substance that causes their host to form bumpy and disfigured growths.
These strange and unsightly mutations typically pierce out of the stem between the leaves.
Aceria aloinis cannot be treated with topical insecticides. Although systemic pesticides can reduce mite population, the damage cannot be reversed and the infected plant can be a danger to other succulents.
In case you’d like to try to save the plant, you can separate the healthy growth, soak it with pesticide, and keep it away from other plants as you continue to treat it.
Keep in mind though, these mites are microscopic and can only be detected by the bumpy mutations they produce. In many cases, it’s best to get rid of the entire plant to save your other aloes.
5. Crown Gall
Crown gall produces swollen bumps on woody plant tissue. Although it is not common, it can infect mature or bonsai succulents. These tumorous growths cannot be cured. Discard the plant and soil to prevent further contamination.
Last but not least, let’s talk about crown gall. These unattractive bumps are typically found on trees and can also be seen on bonsais or the woody trunks of established succulents.
However, there are some rare cases where plant owners have found crown gall on their indoor Echeveria, Crassulas, and more. The irregular and tumor-like growths can be green, tan, black, or red.
This bacterial virus enters the plant through wounds made from pruning. The galls produced by the virus will slowly destroy the plant tissue.
The bacteria (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) can even survive in the soil for years. Unfortunately, it cannot be fully eradicated or cured.
Even herbicides will only work to help protect healthy succulents from crown gall, rather than save infected ones.
Once this virus is spotted, it’s best to dispose of the infected plants and soil. Clean your gardening tools thoroughly to prevent any of the bacteria from spreading.
2 Key Ways to Prevent Bumps From Forming on Succulents
The best ways to prevent bumps from growing on succulents is to 1) use sterilized mediums and 2) avoid overwatering.
These bumps aren’t always easy to get rid of. However, preventing them can be close to effortless and can make a world of difference, especially if you’re struggling with a disease-based cause.
1. Use Sterilized Mediums
Succulents are less likely to develop bumps when grown in sterile potting mediums. To avoid pathogens and insects, sterilize the soil and its amendments with hot water and avoid using contaminated mediums for healthy plants.
Scales, mites, and bacteria can all lay in and infest potting soil. They can spread to different pots and succulents without you even realizing it!
Naturally, the best way to prevent and treat this is to ensure everything you use is properly sterilized, especially your potting mediums.
Find out the 8 Ways to Sterilize Soil (Easy Steps You Can Do at Home)
Pumice, lava rock, and gravel can be treated with hot water baths for 30 minutes and left in the sun for further sterilization.
These gritty soil amendments for succulents may not retain a lot of contaminated moisture, but they provide many cracks and crevices for insects and bacteria to reside.
If you suspect any of your succulents are infected with mites or disease, avoid reusing their soil.
By keeping your tools and potting mediums as clean as possible, you’ll have a much easier time keeping your succulents healthy and bump-free!
2. Avoid Overwatering
To maintain healthy succulents, only water them after the soil has fully dried to prevent overwatering. Doing so ensures that succulents grow a stronger resistance to bump-causing insects or diseases.
It’s always best to work in concert with the watering needs of your plants. Succulents, although they don’t need as much water, are not exempt from this.
Regularly oversaturating their roots with water can lead to edema and leave the succulents vulnerable to other issues like scales.
Each plant is different, although it’s generally best to keep your succulents dry and only water them when the soil is completely moisture-free. A consistent watering routine can make a difference and help your succulent stay healthy for the long term!
Pro Tip: Succulents grow best in well-drained cactus or succulent soil. Use fans to help keep indoor succulents dry and increase ventilation.
Is it normal for succulents to have bumps?
If the succulents naturally have bumpy growth, this design is normal. However, the most common cause behind succulents developing bumps is edema which is not normal. This is often the result of overwatering and poor air circulation and is not normal.
Is it possible for bumps on succulents to disappear?
The only case where bumps on succulents can be removed is when the bumps are actually scales. Unfortunately, these bumps are usually caused by viruses and edema and cannot be reversed. Succulents with natural bumps will generally continue growing.
Summary of Why Succulents Have Bumps
Succulents do not usually grow bumps. However, some varieties naturally produce bumps. Oftentimes though, the abnormal bumps are formed by edema, scales, aloe gall mites, and crown gall.
Unless the bumps are natural or made of scales, they generally cannot be removed—especially if they’re caused by pathogens. Watering the succulents properly and growing them in potting mediums free of contaminants is the best way to prevent bumps from forming.
- “Cacti and succulents” by Deborah L. Brown in University of Minnesota
- “Oedema (Edema)” by n/a in Utah State University
- “Curative and Preventive Control of Aceria aloinis (Acari: Eriophyidae) in Southern California” by L. E. Villavicencio, J. A. Bethke, B. Dahlke, B. Vander Mey, and L. Corkidi in National Library of Medicine
- “Managing crown gall” by Jan Byrne in Michigan State University Extension