how to water succulents

How to Water Succulents

Are you confused about the best methods and times to water your succulents? You are not the only one. Many people are asking these very same things so here we are going to answer them for you. These plants thrive on a completely different watering schedule and need than most plants. These plants store water in their leaves, roots, and stems. This helps them survive longer between waterings. Also, they will show you what they need early enough so you can adjust the amount of water and your timing.

The most important rule to follow when watering your succulent is to soak the soil around it. Then wait for the soil to go completely dry. Follow this cycle over and over. Yes, you heard correctly, completely bone dry before watering again. They want to drink up every last bit of water before they get more. This helps their roots to grow deep and strong.  Waiting makes them reach towards the bottom of where they are planted to pull out the last of the moisture.

They are very easy to care for once you get the routine down. You do have to adjust it a little between growing and dormant season since the amount they need will change. Check out the details of how to keep your plant healthy and strong with the tips below.

Related: How to Care for Succulents

How to Water Succulents

Watering Your Succulent

Succulents are native to the desert. Even though the deserts are dry, when there is rain it is usually in heavy downpours. Emulate the rainfall by pouring water all over your plant and soil with a watering can or squeeze bottle. Watering this way is called the “soak and dry” method. Some may say don’t pour on the leaves, yet in a natural habitat, the leaves endure water so it is good for them. Although, check them a day later to ensure they dry so the leaves don’t start to rot. They prefer large portions of water they can drink until it is gone rather than a little water more often.  Some gardeners think a spray bottle will suffice, don’t use these. Spray bottles mist rather than pour which is not enough water each time. Once your succulent uses all the water available to them you can then give them more.

How to Water Succulents

Indoors

For the plants inside your home, they will either be in a pot with a drainage hole or one without. How much water and how often you water depending on which type of container your plants are in. Ones with drainage holes are easier than ones without. 

  • For your plants in a pot with a drainage hole follow these steps. Pour water all over your plant and soil.  Keep pouring until you will see water coming out of the bottom drainage hole of the pot. This tells you that your soil is soaked enough for the succulent to drink from. Keep an eye on the leaves to make sure the water does not sit on them for days, possibly causing rot.  After you water, feel the soil every few days through the drainage hole on the bottom. When you no longer feel any moisture it is time to water again.
  • If your plant is in a pot with no drainage hole you need to measure out the right amount of water since it won’t drain out.  A good rule of thumb is to use about ½ the amount of water in comparison to the soil in the pot. Then pour the water all over the plant and soil. Once all your water is gone, pick up the pot to feel its weight. Then every couple of days pick up the pot again until you notice the weight is not changing each time you lift it. When the weight feels consistent for a couple of days the water is gone and it is time to water again.
watering succulents

Outdoors in a Container

Outdoor plants often need more water than indoor plants because of the sun and heat they are exposed to. Although, your individual succulents will indicate when they need more water. For plants in a pot with a drainage hole pour your water over the top and onto the soil until you see it drain out the bottom. The same process as indoor plants in a pot with drain holes.  After you water, check about a week later by feeling from through the drain hols in the bottom of the container. Then continue checking until the potting soil is bone dry to the touch. If you planted your succulent in a pot with no drain hole remember to use the same measuring method as with indoor pots. The amount of water is ½ the amount of soil in the pot. Pick up the pot right after watering to feel its weight. Then continue to pick it up every so often until you notice the weight does not change for a few days. If the pot is too heavy to pick up, use your finger in the topsoil pushing it into the 2nd knuckle. When that soil is dry you may water again. Your plant will also show signs it is thirsty when the leaves wrinkle or start to go flat. If you don’t like using your finger you can buy a moisture meter to test your soil. You won’t need to water your deeper pots as often since you are able to provide more water each time you do so.

Related: Tips for Growing Succulents Outdoors

watering succulents

In the Ground

When watering your plants in the ground, the initial process is the same. Pour water over the plant and surrounding soil. Determining when to water again is more difficult since you can’t feel the bottom of the soil or weight the pot. So it is very important to ensure the plant does not sit in water and rot by having well drained soil. There are two ways to do this. One way is by putting your plants in a raised bed. The other is creating 1 – 2 foot mounds of soil for them to establish their roots. Once you have watered you can check the soil as you do the soil in a pot without a drainage hole. Use your finger pusing down to the 2nd knuckle or buy a moisture meter. Established plants are very strong and tolerate drought well. Plus your plants will indicate when they need more water. So if you are not sure it is time, wait until your succlent’s leves show a little wrinkling or seem to be getting flatter.

Related: How to plant succulents

How to Water Succulents

How Often Should You Water Succulents?

Only water when the soil is completely dry. No matter what people tell you, there is not a specific time table to water your plant. Always go with dryer than you think is needed if you are not sure. It is much easier to bring back a succulent that is too dry than revive one that is starting to rot. There is no one exact answer for how often to water, except for the dryness, because it depends on so many variables.

  • Is it growing season or resting season?
  • Is your plant inside or outside?
  • What is your climate like?
  • How big is your plant?
  • How big is the pot?
  • Did you plant it in the ground?
  • What type of soil is your plant growing in?

Growing season versus rest season for these plants means more water versus less. They use up their water faster during the growing season, spring and summer. Then in the winter they are dormant and need less water. Your plant will start to rot and die off if you keep watering it in the winter at the same rate you did in the summer. Adjust your seasonal watering based on how often the soil dries out.

Do you have your plants indoors or outdoors? Indoor succulents have less airflow and are in a controlled environment. So, it takes the soil longer to dry out. Yet, outdoor plants get much more air and sun. With this natural environment, the soil drys out faster so you will most likely need to water more often. Plus whether you live in a climate that is dry or one that is humid can affect how often your plant needs water from you.

An obvious thought is if your plant is larger you need to give it more water and in this case, you are correct. Although they will also drink up the water faster as well. They have deeper and thicker roots to soak up all that moisture. So, if you have varying sizes of plants check the larger ones more often as they will most likely drink faster.

Related: Aerial Roots on Succulents

How to Water Succulents

The size of the pot your plant is in makes a difference. The larger the pot means more water each time so the longer it will take for the plant to use up that water. Of course, this goes along with the size of your plant. A large plant in a large pot will go through the water faster than a small plant in a large pot. Also, whether the pot has a drainage hole can add to how often you need to water it. Drainage holes allow a little more air flow increasing the dry out.

Did you plant your succulent in the ground? If so, the ground could be getting water from other natural sources so you may not need to water as often. Keep an eye on its leaves for signs of thirst.

The type of soil affects how often they need water also. If you add pea gravel or a rockier soil to the bottom of your pot it lifts up the roots allowing for extra water. It also lets air in so it dries out easy. If you haven’t added something like this and your plant is easy to re-pot, do it.

You will know how often to water based on each situation above. Once you have learned the needs of your individual plants it becomes easy to care for them.

watering succulents

How Much Water do Succulents Need?

This is another question that has varying answers. It depends on your succulent’s location, size, and if you potted it or in planted it in the ground. If your plant is in a pot with a drainage hole it needs enough water to soak the soil and drain out the bottom. Once you see it draining, you know that is enough water for that time. When you have it in a pot with no drainage hole there is a different technique. A good rule of thumb to determine how much water is figure out what is ½ of the amount of soil in the pot. Use this amount and soak it based on that estimate.

Now, if you planted it directly into the ground, the use of water varies. It could use more faster if is dry and sunny or take longer if it is humid or has rained. One way to measure them is using a moisture meter. Yet, if you don’t want to buy one you can tell they need more water when their leaves look wrinkled and flat. Don’t worry, this does not mean it is too late or that you need to do anything different. It is just the plant telling you it is thirsty. Each plant needs a different amount of water so get in tune with their individuality and you will be an expert.

Watering Propagating Succulents

Watering Propagating Succulents

Ok, you keep hearing how imporatant it is to let the soil dry out completely before you water your succulent. Well, propogated succlents have different needs than established ones. Yet, before watering any propogation, all the ends need to callus. Do not skip this step! You don’t want any water getting into the plant allowing any fungus or pathogens in. There are 3 types of propogations. Leaf, cuttings and offsets.

Leaf propogations can start in a paper try or shallow soil. Water the soil, not the leaf. When you keep the soil damp it should coax out the roots. Once you see the root you can water that part of the soil the root is growing on or in. Then let is dry out some before adding more water. You don’t want it bone dry like with established plants. Treat the new succulents like babies and care for them gently with light moisture and in an appropriate size pot.

propagating

Cuttings are another type of propagation. First, lay them out or place them upright in a pot with no soil so the plants can dry out. Onced callused there are 2 ways to water.

  • One option is to place them in a clear container with water, ensuring the leaves are above the water. If the leaves cannot hold the plant up on the rim of the container place plastic wrap around the top. Then poke holes and put the stem through. You can put the very tip of the stem either in the water or just above it. Place in a warm location. Keep an eye on the water and roots. You want to replace the water every couple days to prevent algae or mold from growing. As the roots grow, when they get about 2 – 5 inches long you can remove them and plant them in well drained soil.
  • Another option is to place them in a pot in shallow soil and water about 3 times per month. Make sure you allow the soil to dry but not as completely as you would an established plant. You will be able to tell the plant is taking root if you tug lightly on it after a couple weeks and it holds on.

Offsets are larger propogations than leafs or cuttings. You can pot them and then you should wait a couple days to water them. This gives your plant’s roots a little time to get used to the new pot. Then like an established plant, allow the soil to dry between.

Watering babies varies on the way you propagated them. Putting cuttings in water contradicts the watering methods used for established plants. Yet, this works well for the new succulent. Following the processes above allows your plant to grow healthy creating strong roots.

plants

Takeaways

Succulents are a unique addition to any house or garden. They are easy to care for once you get your technique down. Water to capacity, let dry out completely and then water again. Your plants will let you know if they have too little or too much water so if you are not sure it is time to water, wait. It is much easier to rehydrate the plants then save it from rot when there is too much water.

Now you know the distinctive way to water your plants. With this you will have thriving succulents anywhere you plant them. So if you are an experienced or novice gardener you can enjoy their beauty amongst your plants. Feel free to share this with your fellow gardeners who have not quite mastered watering these plants.