How Often Do You Water Succulents? The Complete Guide On Watering For Succulents

When you should water you succulents?

Everyone praises succulents as easy to care for, so it’s embarrassing when one dies on you. Don’t worry, you (probably) don’t have a brown thumb. There are a few misconceptions about how to care for succulents well. You only have to straighten out one thing to become a succulent maven – watering.

How Often Do You Water Succulents?

Here’s a little-known secret for succulent care – the amount you water succulents isn’t nearly as significant as how often to water succulents. It makes sense if you consider why succulents are so sensitive to water.

Since most succulents and cacti are native to dry, desert conditions, they have adaptations to prevent water loss. That thick waxy sheen on the leaves is called a “cuticle,” and it prevents water from evaporating out of the leaves. Succulents even have a particular version of photosynthesis (CAM photosynthesis) where they only open their pores at night to minimize water loss.

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Watering Ground Succulents: IG@nedsinanoqui

These plants are good at retaining water. So good that they can accidentally drown themselves. Plants breathe primarily through their roots, believe it or not. If those roots are wet, they can’t breathe.

Succulent roots have evolved to act like every drop of water might be the last. They cling jealously to all the water they can find in their soil. Unfortunately, if the soil is constantly wet, it leads to root rot – a deadly illness for most plants (and succulents are particularly susceptible).

The number one killer of succulents is overwatering. But not because they get too much water – they get watered too often. The soil must be given time to dry out between waterings.

So how often do you water a succulent or cactus? A good rule of thumb is to water once every 10 days. You should still check to ensure the soil is dry (and has been for a couple of days) before you water it again. For you not to forget your watering schedule, as well as to avoid underwatering and overwatering, you can use a tool called Succulent Tracker App (on Apple Store & Google Play).

How Much To Water Succulents?

Now we know when to water succulents, but not how much. To figure this out, we go back to the desert these plants came from. It does rain in the desert, contrary to common belief. However, that only happens a couple of times a year. And in the desert, the saying “When it rains, it pours.” is very accurate. The sky just dumps buckets of water.

Succulents like to be watered this way, albeit a bit more often. Forget about the eyedroppers and spray bottles. Put those ‘succers’ under the faucet and drench them. You should water until the water begins to run out of the bottom of the pot. That’s how you know you’ve soaked the soil through.

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Watering Succulents Indoor Image: IG@sunnyplants_com

And that part is essential – you want to ensure that all the soil is thoroughly wetted. Only a little water doesn’t penetrate more than the top couple of inches of soil. That forces the succulent to grow roots upwards instead of downwards. That leads to weak roots, poor stability, and an ineffective anchor for the succulent. A recipe for disaster.

The Proper Technique Of How To Water Succulents

While throwing your succulent in the sink is viable, you can practice some more applied techniques for an even better effect. First, you need to check if the soil is dry. Bryce Lane, a horticulturist from North Carolina State University, checks the soil after a week of watering to see if it is dry. If it is not, wait one or two more weeks.

Watering for succulents indoors and outdoors can be different. Succulents planted indoors need more water in the spring. You can reduce the amount of water during the summer and even more during the winter. Outdoor succulents require more water than indoor succulents because water will dry faster when exposed to sunlight and air. Squeeze bottles and spout watering cans are best for watering outdoor succulents.

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Watering Succulent Image

We already mentioned that all the soil in the pot needs to be drenched. That’s still true. If possible, you should try to avoid getting water on the leaves. This opens the door to a few problems:

  1. Mold and mildew can form in the crevices of a plant (like where the leaves meet the stem). It also provides an excellent habitat for pests who prefer moist environments. We recommend using a succulent watering bottle with a bent mouth for easy control during the watering process! We like this one by Mkono.
  2. Plants can’t drink through their leaves. That’s what roots are for. Any water on a leaf is being wasted.
  3. Occasionally, plants, even succulents, suffer from sunburn. When you leave liquid-like water on leaves while the succulent is exposed to bright sunlight, there’s a chance that the water will act like a magnifying glass and burn the leaf.

So, if you have enough plants (or just really enjoy watering), you should water each succulents individually by pouring water at the base of the stem. Make sure to get the rest of the pot as well. We highly recommend this planting & watering tool kit if you are new to plants.

Avoid Underwatering & Overwatering

#1. The Signs Of Underwatering & How To Deal With It

Even though succulents are recommended to be dry before watering, ensure that you do not dehydrate them in the process. Once you notice any wrinkles and wilted leaves, it is a sign that you need to water your succulents.

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Wilting Leaves needs water: Reddit@u/hbangar99

As succulent cells transfer their stored moisture to other parts, they also try to accumulate more water to compensate for the lost amount. But then, if the water is not available to replace what was lost, the cells begin to contract gradually, making the leaves that used to flourish shrivel.

#2. The Signs Of Overwatering & How To Deal With It

The danger of overwatering succulents is that it damages the cell structure, roots, and leaves.
The first and most common sign of overwatering to take note of is discoloration. Once you notice the leaves are becoming soft, translucent, and squishy, know that you have been overwatering the succulents. Unlike under-watered succulent leaves that contract overwatered succulents, leaves will be dropped.

While succulents can recover from overwatering, it is not all that easy. A great way to save overwatered succulents is to plant a new one with the cuttings to root and leaves.

The Importance Of Having The Right Soil Mix

Water isn’t the only factor in the watering equation. Soil plays a big part. One of the qualities of soil is how much water it retains. Soil mixtures with a lot of organic matter (peat moss, coconut coir, etc.) hold much water. On the other hand, mixtures with mostly minerals or inorganic matter (such as perlite or sand) don’t absorb water.

Succulents and cacti require quick-draining soil. You want the soil to dry out as quickly as possible after it’s watered, ideally on the same day. That’s why watering in the morning is ideal – it has the whole day to evaporate. If you do not have any local places to pick up some quick-draining soil, we highly recommend this quick-draining soil from Superfly Bonsai on Amazon. Otherwise, you can do it yourself using this guide.

When you should water your succulents and how often

Note: Many succulents you buy (especially from big box stores) have a poor soil mix when sold.

And speaking of pots – the second most crucial factor in preventing overwatering has adequate drainage. That means using pots with a drainage hole. That means teacups and terrariums aren’t optimal containers for succulents and cacti.

We’re not saying you can never put them in those cutesy containers. (By the way, if you’re having trouble finding inspiration for planting succulents check out these minimalistic ways to plant succulents). Just know that they might not survive it for very long or be very happy for the duration.

Additional Tips

  • Different plants have different needs: Sometimes wildly so. Kalanchoe, for example, is a pretty thirsty succulent. They begin to wilt after a week without water. The famous “butt plants,” Lithops, can only be watered three or four times a year, or they promptly die. (psst: if you are looking for Lithops Seeds, we recommend these by Micro Landscape Design).
  • Always be on the side of underwatering: Succulents and cacti are designed to be thirsty sometimes. They can almost always bounce back from lack of water… but recovering from too much water is a dicey prospect at best.
  • If you have a community pot (a pot with multiple species of plants), water to the lowest common denominator: You should water only when the “driest” plants start to get thirsty. We are following the same advice as above – it’s better for succulents to be thirsty for a while rather than overwatering.
When you should water your succulents

Thanks for reading!

We hope you have some pointers on keeping your succulent family healthy! Also, don’t forget you can receive 2 FREE Audiobooks of your choice from our sponsor at Audible.com. We’ve got 2 books we listen to about propagation and watering succulents, what are you thinking of listening to?

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If you enjoyed reading our blog about When You Should Water Your Succulents, check out our other blogs. I think you’ll enjoy this one: 6 Best Indoor Succulents.

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Enjoyed learning about When You Should Water Your Succulents? If so, you’ll enjoy the ebook about The Correct Way to Water Succulents. With this ebook, you’ll find more detailed answers to help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

14 thoughts on “How Often Do You Water Succulents? The Complete Guide On Watering For Succulents

  1. Your article doesn’t mention one thing about sunlight. Is the above for growing plants outdoors only? Sunlight is a huge factor when it comes to succulents taking up water. A drainage hole does no good if a succulent is hanging out indoors in low light.

  2. Awsome advice ???
    All I have are cactus and succulents ! I’m obsessed ? I just lost a 17 year old…:( i usually skip that one between watering,,it’s in a porcine bowl.. I’m devestated ? Lol
    Great article ♥️?

  3. I am much thankful for well said reccomendations and friendly advice especially to newly engage hobby or business on succulents and cactus. I engaged for almost 3 years as my hobby and as my partime backyard business. Now, I am happy with this article of yours to widen my ideas on proper caring and watering CnS.. I’m Looking for updates more articles on CnS or any related plants best for interior and exposed to sunlight plants. Thank you & God bless!

  4. Loved this article! Great advice! I have killed a lot of my succulents due to over watering! I am new to this hobby and this information will help me greatly! Thank you!

  5. So far,so good,haven’t had any of my many cactus die, yet. Love the article and I’m doing the right thing,for them so far. One question,how cold is to cold outside at night. I live in Georgia. I plan on putting a Green house cover on them, this winter.

    Thanks

  6. Thank you so much for these wonderful tips that will definitely help me take care of my cactus & succulents. My planters are mud pots that will absorb the water pretty quickly. Will that kill my plants?

  7. It’s crazy how many people think proper succulent watering means spraying with a spray bottle…that is SO not the case and it drives me crazy! Great article!

  8. Your ” water until it flows out of the bottom” advice may be true in some circumstances but running water rapidly on my potted plants in porous soil quickly runs out of the bottom. The soil is not wet through. In my 40 years of gardening including 3 years exclusively with succulents, how much water at once and for how long the water should flow are major factors in watering.

    1. It’s great to hear this wonderful tip from you! I think the density & characteristics of soil layers are different to some extent. However, the amount of water and the time for water to flow are important, like you say. I hope all the readers who read this article will scroll down here to see this valuable opinion.

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