How to Water Succulents

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Succulents are low-maintenance plants. Most people think you don’t need to water them much because of their high drought tolerance. However, they do need water.

The trick is learning how much water a succulent plant needs, when to water them, and how. After all, these plants don’t survive if they are under-watered or over-watered. And yes, there are people who think succulents are like regular house plants and should be watered the same way.

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With this essential guide, learn everything you need to know on how to water succulents the right way.

How to Water Your Succulents: The Complete Guide

Regularly watering your succulent plants is ideal. While these kinds of plants can survive for longer periods without being watered, they won’t look their best. Let’s face it: no dehydrated plant looks great.

However, there are many factors that determine how you should water your succulents. The first step is to keep a record.

Keep Record

To learn how to water succulents just right, you need to keep a record. Note when you water your succulent. This will help you figure out when you need to water next. You can also take a photo of your plant for easy comparison between waterings.

Take note of the leaves too. Since succulents store water in their stems and leaves, the latter will give you clues on how much water the plant needs.

Soggy, yellow, or translucent leaves mean you’ve been over-watering. If you notice this, don’t water again until the soil feels dry. The soil should be dry several inches deep.

Dry, crispy, or brown leaves are an indicator that your plant needs water ASAP and that you have been under-watering. To remedy this, water your succulent well. When the soil feels dry, about one to two inches deep, you can water your plant again.

Something else you should know: if there are dry leaves at the bottom of the plant, you shouldn’t be worried. This is part of the natural growth process and you can simply tug off these leaves and throw them away.

You can keep a record the old-fashioned way with a notebook and pen. Alternatively, there are many apps made specifically for this purpose so you can easily keep track of your watering schedule. You can also keep notes on your phone or create a spreadsheet on your computer.

The Soak-and-Dry Method

The soak-and-dry method is one of the best ways to water your succulents. How does this method work?

This watering method requires that you only water the plant when the soil is completely dry. When watering the dry soil, you soak the soil completely. Wait for the soil to dry. Then water. And repeat.

The most crucial part of the soak-and-dry method is ensuring your plant is in a pot that drains well.

Other considerations to keep in mind with this method is whether your plants are indoors or outdoors. For indoor succulents, try to not let the water get on top of the leaves, as this can cause the leaves to rot. For the best results, use a squeeze bottle or a small spout watering can.

For outdoor plants, this isn’t a big deal. There is a lot more airflow outside, and so, any water on the plant leaves will dry fairly quickly.

Why Is the Soak-and-Dry So Effective?

Naturally, succulents live in areas where there is lots of infrequent water or rain, and where the drainage of the soil is great. Imagine a cactus in the desert. There may be lots of heavy rain for a full 24 hours, and this may be followed by a long dry spell.

Your succulents, whether they are indoors or outdoors, won’t benefit from this extreme watering schedule, but the soak-and-dry method is similar. This is why it is so effective.

Deep watering your plant gives it lots of water. During the drought, which is the period between waterings, your succulent will sprout new roots and try to look for more water. Thus, this watering method helps your plant develop a root system that is healthy and large. A healthy root system enables your succulent to go without water for a longer period of time.

A final tip with the soak-and-dry method is to not use a spray bottle when watering your plant. A spray bottle doesn’t effectively water the soil, and for this method, you want to water the soil completely. Soak it, remember?

How Often Should You Water Your Succulents?

With the soak-and-dry method of watering your succulent, you should only water your plant once the soil is completely dry, from the top to the bottom.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula we can share on how often you need to water your plants because every succulent behaves uniquely in different climates. Plus, there are other factors involved too: indoors vs outdoors, the type of succulent, etc.

Growers with indoor succulents may find that they need to water every two to three weeks, so every 14 to 21 days. It is a good idea to start with this watering schedule. Then, adjust how frequently you water as you note how long it takes for the soil to dry, how your plant looks, and so on.

Succulents can rot easily when they are overwatered. As such, it’s best to check your plant or the soil for signs that it needs to be watered. Apart from soil dryness, you can also consider the succulent’s leaves. Do they show signs of being under-watered? If they do, they will be dark, crispy, or brown.

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Tips for Watering Your Succulents

Let’s look at the top three tips for watering your succulents. You should look at the soil, the pot, and changes to your plant. More details below!

Make Sure You Have the Right Soil

The right soil is crucial to the growth success of your succulent. You need a pot that drains well and soil that drains well.

If a succulent is in wet soil for too long, the plant will rot. Ideally, you want the top half of your soil to be mostly dry within two to three days after you’ve soaked it.

Well-draining soil is gritty in texture to ensure the water doesn’t pool. It typically has one-quarter-of-an-inch particles that are well-spaced. About two-thirds of the soil could be turface or inorganic absorption rock, and the other third should be organic material. The organic part of the soil can consist of coconut coir, pine bark fines, etc.

Another option is to use a three-part mixing ratio. You can use three cups of gardening soil, three cups of sand, and one-and-a-half cups of pumice or perlite.

For the gardening soil mix, you can choose a mix that is suitable for indoor plants. Your other option is to choose a gardening mix that is best for cacti and succulents.

The sand you choose should be coarse. Fine sand will not help your soil to drain well and it may end up suffocating your succulent roots. The perlite or pumice helps with water drainage.

Plant Your Succulents in Pots With Drainage Holes

Aside from needing soil that drains well, you want to plant your succulent in a pot that has drainage holes or one big draining hole. This is for the same reason mentioned above: your succulent shouldn’t be left in wet soil for long periods of time. It is very important for the soil to drain water well, and this happens when your pot has drainage holes.

While the hole at the bottom of your pot allows the extra water to drain away from the roots of your succulent, it also ensures there is airflow through the soil. This air further helps your soil to dry in between waters.

What About a Pot for Your Succulent With No Drain Hole?

If you do happen to have a pot with no hole to drain the additional water, then it is vital to measure how much water you are using. Different kinds of soil have different ways and times for how long they retain water. As such, keep a close eye on your succulent and make note of any changes.

In general, however, to water your succulent in a pot with no drainage, water your plant half of the volume of your soil. For example, if your pot holds two cups of soil, you would measure out one cup of water, and then water your plant with only this one cup.

Keep a record of your watering schedule and how your plant looks every day. You may need to give your succulent more or less water. Or, water less frequently depending on how healthy the plant looks. Similar to the soak-and-dry method, only water your plant when the soil is completely dry.

Keep an Eye out for Any Changes to Your Succulents

You’ve bought your succulents. They’ve been planted in the right soil that is well-draining and they are in a pot with a drainage hole. You know all about the best method to water your succulent plants: the soak-and-dry method.

So, what else do you need to know?

It bears repeating how important it is to keep a close eye on your plants. Once you start watering your succulents, carefully track any changes to the plant as this will tell you how well you are watering them. The plants will give you indications of whether you have been over-watering or under-watering. This helps you fine-tune when you should be watering your succulents.

Remember, it is much easier to save your plant if you have been under-watering in comparison to giving it too much water.

Now, what do the different changes in your succulents mean? And what should you do?

Dying Leaves on the Bottom of Your Succulent

If you see any dried-out leaves on your plant, remember that this is a natural part of a plant’s life cycle. It is most likely the bottom leaves that are dried out and dying.

If the dried leaves come off easily or they are completely dead, you can pull them off and throw them away. Keep your plant in its pot and don’t disturb the root system.

Dead Leaves on the Upper Part of Your Succulent

If you find dead leaves on the upper parts, this typically means you have over-watered your succulent. Another sign that you’ve been watering too much is seeing leaves that are mushy or soggy and yellow and transparent.

Don’t worry. You can still save your plant. While a black stem means your plant is dying, you can propagate some leaves.

To save your succulent from being over-watered, wait until the soil is completely dry before you water. Also check your soil and the drainage hole in your pot.

Wrinkly and Dry Upper Leaves on Your Succulent

If the leaves on the upper part of your succulent are dry, wrinkly, or crispy, it likely means you have been under-watering or your soil isn’t retaining enough moisture.

The solution is easy. Give your succulents more water and soak the soil. Note changes over the next few days and keep a record. Then adjust how much water you give.

If your succulent is too shriveled up, it may be too late to save it.

The Final Succulent Word

There you have it: a complete guide on how to water succulents. You’ve learned to adjust your watering if you see bottom dry leaves, top dry leaves, or top soggy leaves.

A few key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Keep a record of how your plant looks and exactly when you water and how much.
  • Use well-draining soil and a pot with a drainage hole.
  • Use the soak-and-dry method to water your succulents.
  • It is better to under-water your succulents than to over-water. If you under-water, simply soak the soil, note changes and how your plant perks up, and only water again when the soil is completely dry.
  • If you over-watered, wait for the soil to dry, and only then give your succulent water.

Happy succulent planting!


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