How Often To Water Cactus

If you were to ask anyone to describe the cacti plants in the simplest way, they will most possibly include the words; thick, spiked, and desert. And in that simple definition, you will conclude that these plants are sturdy plants that can survive unrelenting climatic conditions. Nothing here is disputable. As a matter of fact, every character mentioned so far is correct. However, it’s not the only description these lovely plants deserve.

Most people actually fail to realize that cacti are a very vast and broad family of plants with more than 100 differing species under its belt. One kind is unique to the next, but all share a similarity of having thick, plump, fleshy stems. And another awesome thing about them is that they can survive almost all environments making suitable for household planting. As long as all their needs are met, they could add sparkle to your house window sill or your office desktop. Check out “9 Types of Cacti” to see more kinds of cacti out there.

How Often To Water Cactus
Spiral Cactus @ohiotropics

Why Cacti Love Water So Much!

Just like other plants, cacti need water for their survival. Their characteristic, fleshy appearance is as a result of the presence of h20 within its cells. The mere factor that they are hardy plants and are quite low-maintenance presents itself as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that, for one with not so much time for plant care in their hands, they can still keep the little beauties. And a curse in that there is a thin line between under and overwatering them. Take a look at “When You Should Water Your Succulents” for more tips on watering your cactus. And many are the times we face the predicament on how often to water them. Well, we assure you that it is not as mindbending as you presume, but more straightforward than you could ever imagine!

Be sure to check out our Ebook “The Correct Way to Water Succulents” for a full guide to watering your succulents.

Factors That Influence The Watering Schedule Of Your Cactus

The Soil Composition

These plants flourish in a well-draining, sufficiently ventilated coarse, gritty, loose, sandy soil. The soil must be light-weight with a minimal composition of organic matter. And we all know that mixing water and decomposing matter is a bad idea. It promotes root rot, eventually killing your cactus crop. The porous nature of your soil mix encourages fast water flowing such that the soil dries faster, allowing proper aeration. This means the more granular your soil mix is, the more frequent the watering.

Don’t know what root rot is? Well take a look at “What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix It?” for more info to protecting your succulents from rotting.

How Often To Water Cactus
Flowering Cactus @amazing__plants

The Season

Of the four seasons, cacti thrive in the warmer ones: summer and spring when the watering is mostly done. This is because, during these seasons, the atmosphere is hotter. Consequently, the evaporation of water from the soil and the plant itself is at its highest. The colder seasons, however, the air is cooler, and evaporation is on the lower side; hence, the soil will lose less water. Undespitudedly, the watering is more frequent during the warmer seasons as compared to the colder seasons.

Check out how some succulents are able to survive in desert conditions like parts of Mexico in “5 Most Popular Succulents From Mexico“.

The Cacti Growing Cycle

Every plant has a time in their life cycle that the growth is most active and durations when they go into dormancy. The productive seasons is when the plant grows upwards, blooms and even produces seeds giving rise to new offsprings. On the other hand, during their dormancy, the growth slows down and preserves its energy getting ready for the active periods. And this influences how often one should water the cactus. This, consequently, goes without saying that irrigation is more frequent during its production cycle.

Additionally, younger cacti require more water because of their faster growth rate. Thinking of growing those succulent at home? Check out “How to Successfully Grow Indoor Succulents” for more.

Location Of The Cacti

This simply entails where the plant has been cultivated; indoors, outdoors, in a planter, or the ground. Cactus grown outside will be watered more regularly because of moving air which carries moisture from the soil. As compared to its counterpart grown indoors, where the wind does not move more freely in the confinements of walls. Cacti borne in containers and the ground are both watered when the soil becomes dry. But the rate at which the dirt dries will be determined by other weather conditions. Notwithstanding, watering must be done to bypass the drying off of your plant. Take a look at “5 Succulents You can Grow in a Coffee Mug” for techniques in growing your succulent in different places.

How Often To Water Cactus
Echeveria Setosa Deminuta @nurcan.srbs

Exposure To Light

It has been known that illumination goes hand in hand with the production of heat energy. This means that the more the exposure, the more radiation is produced, and the faster the transpiration and evaporation. A cactus plant and the soil exposed longer will, therefore, lose more water. And that dictates that the irrigation will be done more often since the soil will dry faster. Plants bred under grow lights will go by the same principle. The more the exposure, the more the watering. Do you grow your cactus under a grow light? Check out “Best Grow Lights Reviewed by Succulent Lovers”.

Be sure to check out our Ebook “Best Lighting Practices for Succulent Growth” for a full tutorial in lighting for your plants.

Humidity

The higher the humidity, the lower the rate of evaporation. And the lower the humidity, the higher the dissipation. Humid air contains a large amount of moisture within itself, which simply means there will be no space for evaporated water to occupy. And the vice-versa is so in a lower humid atmosphere.

Size Of Cacti Plant

Bigger cacti have a smaller surface area to volume ratio, which decreases the amount of water that is evaporated. More miniature cactus, on the other hand, lose more water, meaning they will require more watering. Want to know more about larger sized cacti, go to “3 Popular Large Succulents You Don’t Have” for more.

Type and Size Of Pot

The size of the pot will determine the number of times you will water your cactus in a week. Bigger containers with more soil mix will obviously need a higher water volume to wet the entire pot. Although one should make sure the soil is porous not to harbor any extra water.

What the container will also influence is the rate at which you will water your crops. For instance, terracotta pots have porous walls that seep up water, which is evaporated through their walls. This dramatically reduces the time the potting mix takes to dry out completely.

Plastic containers, on the other hand, trap moisture, increasing the time duration between watering.

Be sure to also check out “Choosing the Right Pot for Your Succulents” or “How to Repot a Cactus Plant” for more helpful info to sizing your succulents.

How Often To Water Cactus
Indoor Garden @tiendafloralia

Just like other succulents, cacti plants should never be misted using spray bottles. Instead, they are watered in two ways. First, the pot is put inside a saucer with water and let to soak water up. The second method, and most common is watering the crop by soaking the soil surface. You should never water the plant overhead. Water contact with the plant should be at a minimum to avoid the onset of mold.

Thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments below how you maintain your cactus during the summer or spring season. Be sure to also check out related content for your gardening needs in “Repotting Succulents— the Right Way“, “6 Best Fertilizers for Succulents”, or “Best Gardening Tools for Succulents“.

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on “All the Types of Succulents for Indoor & Outdoor” or even “6 Most Important Tips to Grow Succulents”  today! 

Happy planting! 🌵

When You Should Water Your Succulents

Everyone praises succulents as being really easy to care for, so it’s kind of 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 really only have to straighten out one thing to become a succulent maven – watering.

How often to water succulents?

Here’s a little-known secret for succulent care – the amount that you water your succulents isn’t nearly as important as how often you water them.

It makes sense if you consider why succulents are so sensitive to water.

Since most succulents and cacti are native to dry, desert-y 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 special version of photosynthesis (called CAM photosynthesis) where they only open their pores at night to minimize water loss.

These plants are really good at retaining water. So good, in fact, that they can accidentally drown themselves. Plants actually breathe mostly 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, being constantly wet 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 in the sense that they get too much water – rather, they get watered too often. It’s absolutely crucial that the soil is given time to dry out between waterings.

So how often do you actually water a succulent or cactus? A good rule of thumb is to water once every 10 days. You should still check to be sure that the soil is dry (and has been for a couple days) before you water again.

How much to water succulents?

Now we know when to water our succulents and cacti, but not how much.

To figure this out, we go back to the desert these plants came from. It does actually rain in the desert, contrary to common belief. However, that only happens a couple 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 too, 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 all the way through.

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

Proper succulent watering technique

When you should water your succulents

While throwing your plant in the sink is certainly a viable method, you can practice some more applied techniques for an even better effect.

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

Mold and mildew can form in the crevices of a plant (like where the leaves meet the stem). It also provides a nice habitat for pests, who generally prefer moist environments. We recommend using a succulent watering bottle with bend watering mouth for easy control during the watering process! We really 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 a liquid like water on leaves while the plant 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 few enough plants (or just really enjoy watering), you should water each plant individually by pouring water at the base of the stem. Make sure to get the rest of the pot as well. If you are new to plants, we highly recommend this planting & watering tool kit by Mkono!

Avoid overwatering

Water isn’t the only factor in the watering equation, actually. Soil plays a big part.

One of the qualities of soil is how much water it retains. Soil mixtures that have a lot of organic matter (stuff like peat moss, coconut coir, etc.) tend to hold a lot of water. Mixtures that mostly have 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 in the same day. That’s why watering in the morning is ideal – it has the whole day to evaporate.

So, grab some soil specific to succulents and cacti next time you’re out. Your plants will thank you. A quick DIY solution is to just buy a bag of perlite and mix it half and half with any other kind of soil. It’s not perfect, but it will dramatically increase drainage.

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.

Note also that many succulents you buy (especially from big box stores) actually have a poor soil mix when they’re sold to you. You’ll probably want to repot them as soon as you’re able.

And speaking of pots – the second most important factor in preventing overwatering is having adequate drainage. That means use pots with a drainage hole. That means that teacups and terrariums aren’t optimal containers for succulents and cacti.

Without proper drainage at the bottom of a pot, water tends to pool and the roots stay wet for longer. That’s dangerous. And, no, gravel in the bottom of a pot does not constitute drainage. The water is still there. It doesn’t go anywhere.

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 our 12 minimalistic ways to plant succulents). Just know that they might not survive it for very long or be very happy for the duration. So much for that Pinterest photo shoot you had planned, eh?

When you should water your succulents and how often

Tips for succulent watering

  • Different plants have different needs. Sometimes wildly so. Kalanchoe, for example, are pretty thirsty succulents. 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 err on the side of underwatering. Succulents and cacti are literally 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. That means that 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.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you got some pointers on how to keep your plant family healthy! Also, don’t forget you can receive 2 FREE Audio books 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 too?

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

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