How to Water Succulents: Everything You Need To Know

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Watering both outdoor and indoor succulents correctly is something that most new growers struggle with. Many succulents die because they’ve either been overwatered or underwatered, so it’s important to get the balance just right.

Just because succulents are hardy plants that don’t need a lot of care, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be watered occasionally. Even though these succulent plants are used to growing in quite arid regions that receive very intermittent rainfall, they do appreciate a little care when it comes to their watering.

The most important thing to remember is to only water your succulent when the soil is completely dry and to never let your plant sit in water. If the succulent roots are damp for any length of time, they will rot and your plant will die.

So, when it comes to caring for succulents indoors, this brings us to the question of how often succulents should be watered.

How Often Do Succulents Need To Be Watered?

Of course, there’s no definitive answer to this question because it depends on many different factors. The time that it takes for the soil to dry out in between watering will depend on the following four scenarios or factors.

The Season

Or more precisely, the plant’s main growing season. Most succulents do the majority of their growth during spring and summer. This means that they’re going to need more water more often so that they can keep all their new growth hydrated. 

Remember that all those new stems and leaves are going to need to fill with water so that they can be succulent. Plus, if the temperature is warmer, the soil is going to dry out much faster.

This is true both for plants grown in pots and whether you plant succulents outdoors in rock gardens. Therefore, you might find that your individual succulents may need to be watered once a week or even more often if the weather is very hot and dry.

Conversely, in the wintertime, most succulents are dormant and don’t do any growing at all. During this time, some may only need water once a month. This may also depend on how dry the air is in your home if your plants are living indoors. What this means is that you may need to water succulents indoors less frequently than you have to water succulents outdoors.

The Size Of The Pot

You would imagine that the soil in a small pot or container will dry out much quicker than the soil in a much larger pot. Therefore, tiny succulents in tiny pots will require water more frequently than a large collection of succulents in a very large pot.

Even shallow pots that are larger will often dry out much faster because the surface of the soil is much greater. 

The Amount Of Light Your Plant Gets

If your succulents are outside in the sunshine all day, they’re going to need more water than succulents that are growing indoors. Sun-grown succulents will transpire more often and lose some of the water stored in their stems and leaves. Plus, the soil will dry out faster in the heat of the sun.

Conversely, succulents that are growing in partly shady conditions aren’t going to need as much water as those growing in full sun.

The Humidity Level Around Your Plants

If your plants are living in a fairly humid environment, they’re going to need less water than plants that live in a dry atmosphere. This is because plants that live in high humidity will often take moisture from the air.

Just remember that you should only water your succulents when the soil has dried out completely. Therefore, frequent watering is not necessary.

As a general guide, succulents that are grown indoors during the warmer months will most likely only need to be watered every 7 to 21 days. It all depends on how much light they’re getting and the size of the container.

Then in winter, these plants will only require water around every 4 to 6 weeks. Again, it depends on how dry the indoor air is and how large or small the container is.

Using The Soak And Dry Method

Did you know that there is a right and wrong way to water your succulents? To understand this better, you need to go back to where most succulents grow naturally. Most plants originate from dry desert areas.

Unlike other plants, they don’t receive a lot of rainfall but the small amount of rain that they do get comes down in buckets in a very short amount of time. That’s why the “soak and dry” method is what’s recommended when it comes to watering succulents because these plants store water in their leaves and stems.

So, what is the soak and dry method? Here’s how to water your succulents using this method:

  • Wait until the soil in the pot is completely bone dry.
  • Take your plants outside or to the sink.
  • Using a small watering can with a long spout or a squeeze bottle, totally soak the plant at the soil level only. This ensures your plants get a deep watering. Avoid getting the succulent leaves wet. You want to totally saturate the soil mix until you see excess water coming out of the drainage holes in the base of the pot.
  • Let the pot drain completely until no more water is coming out of the drainage holes.
  • Place the plant back in its original spot and let the soil dry out completely again.
  • Repeat the procedure once the soil has become completely dry again.

If your succulent pots are sitting in saucers and you water them where they are, make sure that you empty all of the water out of each saucer after about half an hour or so. It’s really important not to let the roots of your plants sit in water if you want to promote a healthy root system.

If you follow this method with all your succulents, you’re going to have happily growing plants that are getting just the right amount of water that they need.

How Can You Tell When Your Succulent Needs To Be Watered?

Your succulents will show you some signs when they need to be watered. Here’s what to look out for:

  • The leaves on your plant are starting to show signs of wrinkling
  • When you gently squeeze one of the leaves, it will feel soft and a little limp and flat, rather than firm and fleshy.
  • Some succulents will even shed unnecessary growth in order to conserve moisture.
  • When you pick up the pot, it feels quite light. This is because dry soil is much lighter than wet soil. To get a better feel for this, pick up your pot after you’ve just watered. This will help you to tell the difference between the weight of the pot when the soil is wet as opposed to when the soil is dry.
  • You can also use a wooden skewer to check if the soil is dry. Just push the skewer into the soil right down to the base of the pot. If the skewer comes out dry and clean, then your plants need to be watered. On the other hand, if the skewer comes out with dirt clinging to it, then the soil still has some moisture in it.
  • Some people even find it useful to invest in a moisture meter. These devices have a prong that you poke down into the soil and the display will then register whether there is moisture in the soil or not.

The most important thing to remember when your plant is showing water stress is not to overcompensate with overwatering. Just give your plant a good drench of water, let all the excess drain away, and then don’t water again until the soil is completely dry.

How Long Can Succulents Survive Without Water?

This depends entirely on the climate and whether the succulents are growing indoors or outside. 

For example, succulents that are grown outside during the summer in a relatively hot climate will only last around 1 to 3 weeks without water. This is because they’re exposed to the elements and the soil will dry out much faster.

On the other hand, a succulent plant that is grown indoors or outdoors in cooler climates can go without watering for around 1 to 3 months. This is because the soil will stay damp for longer periods of time and the plants aren’t exposed to direct sun or wind.

Interestingly, succulent growers who live in coastal areas such as Southern California, never have to water the succulents that they grow outdoors. This is because there’s so much humidity in the air that the plants get all the moisture that they need just from this.

Another important fact to remember is that larger succulents can last much longer without water than smaller ones. This is because large succulents have a higher water retention capacity in their stems and leaves. 

Remember too that succulents become dormant over the winter months and may not need water for a couple of months. During this time, you should carefully monitor your plants to ensure that you don’t see any signs of wrinkling in the leaves.

How Can You Tell If You’ve Overwatered Your Succulent?

It’s not that difficult to tell if you’ve overwatered your succulents. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • The leaves on your plant become soft and mushy. They almost become translucent. Generally, you’ll notice this first on the lower leaves of the plant.
  • You may also notice some leaves that are turning black. This means that they’ve been infected with leaf or root rot.
  • You’ll find that yellow leaves will start to drop off the plant because they’ve become over-saturated with water. In fact, an overwatered plant will drop its leaves quite readily even if you just bump the plant slightly.

Can A Succulent Come Back From Overwatering?

Most times, when a succulent has been overwatered, it will be almost impossible for it to bounce back. However, there are things that you can do to try and save the plant from an early death.

Firstly, if the entire plant has become soft and mushy, then there’s nothing that you can do. On the other hand, if the succulent is only starting to show signs of overwatering by way of some soft and mushy lower leaves, here’s what you can do to dry it out:

  • Take the plant out of the pot and remove the wet soil from around the roots.
  • Leave the plant in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight for around 3 to 7 days so that it can dry out.
  • Once the plant is dry, repot it using a fresh succulent mix.
  • Wait for about 1 week before you give the plant any water.

You can also salvage some of the leaves of the plant and propagate them to produce new plants. Make sure that you choose nice healthy leaves that are plump and have no damage.

This way, even if you aren’t able to save the original plant, you’ll have some new plants to replace it.

Watering Succulents That You’re Propagating

The only exception to watering succulents is when you want to propagate new succulent plants. In this situation, you want the soil to be damp until each leaf or stem section has grown some roots or new growth.

This is the only time that you are allowed to use spray bottles filled with water on your succulents. In order to keep the succulent soil moist, you want to mist your propagating trays or small pots on a fairly regular basis. 

Even during this time, it’s wise to only mist the soil and avoid getting water on the leaves or stems that you’re trying to propagate.

However, as soon as you see new growth starting to appear, put away the spray bottle and only water the soil when it becomes dry.

Watering Succulents In Pots Without A Drainage Hole

Although it’s highly recommended that you grow all of your succulents in pots that have good drainage holes, some people do like to grow them in glass or ceramic containers that don’t have drainage holes. This is possible but it takes a lot more effort to ensure that you’re not overwatering your plants.

If at all possible, add some drainage holes to the container that you want to use with the use of a diamond drill. However, if you don’t want to drill holes in the container, here are some other things that you can do.

Use The Container As An Outer Pot Only 

This means planting your succulent into a smaller pot that does have drainage holes and then placing this pot into the container that you want to display your plants in. 

If you’re using a glass container, you can simply surround the inner pot with pebbles so that it’s not visible. However, this will mean removing the inner pot every time you want to water your plant so that it can drain well.

How Much Water Do Succulents Need?

If you really want to plant straight into a container with no drainage holes, you’re going to have to be extremely careful with how much water you use every time. Here’s what to do.

  • When the soil is completely dry, take a squeeze bottle that has measurements on the side and carefully measure how much water you’re giving your plant to moisten the soil completely.
  • After half an hour or so, check to see if there is any water pooling at the bottom of the pot.
  • If there is, carefully tip the plant over the sink, holding the plant in place so that it doesn’t fall out, and pour away any excess water.
  • If this is awkward or not possible, grab some paper towel and push it down the sides of the pot to soak up as much water as possible. You can also use a long syringe to remove the excess water if you have one.
  • Monitor your plant carefully to ensure it’s not showing signs of overwatering and don’t water again until the soil is perfectly dry.
  • This time, give your plant less water and repeat the steps above until you reach the perfect level of water that you can give without overwatering.

Conclusion

Succulents are hardy plants that don’t need a lot of care or maintenance. However, it’s important to get their water needs just right. You see, both indoor and outdoor succulents are drought-tolerant and have a special method of holding moisture in their stems, roots, and leaves. This allows them to survive in arid desert regions.

The most important thing to remember is to only water your plant when the soil is completely dry and to never let your succulents sit in water. It’s much easier to rescue a plant that has been under watered than one that has been overwatered.

Once you have some experience in growing succulents, you should find it fairly easy to get their watering schedule just right.