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Cacti & Succulents, Gardening Tips

How Often To Water Succulents: A Quick Guide

Unsure how often to water succulents? Our guide explains how to estimate when it’s time to top them up and when it’s best to wait!

You finally got it: your first succulent! Or second, or third, or maybe you’ve lost track. You love them, but you just can’t keep your precious succulents alive! Do you know how often to water succulents? What’s causing this sad state?

The top cause of death in succulents is improper watering. This is likely because store-bought succulents usually don’t have an ID tag, let alone instructions. Without that, how are you supposed to know how often to water succulents? Luckily, we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll get down to the gritty details of succulent watering. If you haven’t picked out a plant yet, check out our article on the top 6 indoor succulents.

Useful Products For Watering Your Succulents:

Before You Begin: What’s A Succulent?

How Often To Water Succulents
Overwatering is the number one cause of succulent problems. Source: PanNaturalArt

The term ‘succulent’ applies to any fleshy plant that stores ample amounts of water. So, this term isn’t an actual species, but a descriptor. Water-storing plants are built for desert climates. Cacti are succulents, as well as the cute and chunky plants we’re all familiar with. 

Because the desert is their natural habitat, succulents store water to get them through drought. They build this storage during the desert’s occasional, yet heavy, rainfall. All you have to do to help your succulent thrive is mimic this regimen.

The “Soak and Dry” Method

So, how often do you water succulents? The answer to this is a tried and tested procedure.

The desert-mimicking watering method that succulents love is called “Soak and dry”. It’s easy. Initially, you give your succulent a deep watering (heavy rainfall). Then, you let it be until the soil has completely dried out. Remember, this is the drought part, so that soil better be bone dry before you water again. Put simply, only water when the soil is dry.

Watering succulents with this method works great because of the way it encourages root growth. Strong and healthy roots are the lifeblood of any plant – especially desert dwellers. As the soil dries out, the succulent sends its roots deep into the soil, searching for water. Then, when the rain comes, they’re fully prepared to drink their fill.

Over and Underwatering

Watering can
Use a watering can with a narrow tip to water at the plant’s base. Source: laura.bell

When it comes to succulents, underwatering is the preferred mistake. Overwatering is so dangerous that it’s the top cause of death in household succulents!

In plants, water is stored in the vacuole, a feature of each individual cell. When overwatered, the vacuoles overfill and may break, like a balloon. This damage is irreparable and ruins the structure and function of the leaf.

On the outside, overwatered plants turn yellow or brown and become mushy. In some plants, the leaves will fall off easily – even before they show outward signs of damage.

Prevent overwatering by waiting until the soil is completely dry before watering. Also, use well-draining soil so your plant is never sitting in water.

Underwatering is much easier for succulents to bounce back from. The vacuoles, still like a balloon, will deflate if they don’t get enough water. All it takes to fix it is to fill them back up. However, this won’t work if the succulent has already died of dehydration.

When your succulent needs more water, the leaves will shrivel up and the stem will wilt. If allowed to continue, the plant will wrinkle itself dry, turning brown or black.

How Often to Water a Succulent

So how often can you expect the soil to dry out? This is dependent on a number of environmental factors, as follows:

Dries SlowerDries FasterWhy?
Dry climateHumidity adds more moisture to the mix.
Fall and
Spring and
The seasons bring a change in temperature and plant
Kept indoorsKept
The amount of airflow affects moisture levels.
Low temp. High temp. The temperature will affect evaporation.
The container size determines how much water there is
to begin with.

Your succulent’s build also plays a role in its water demands. Generally, large and/or thick leaves have more space for water storage, so they tolerate long droughts. Thin and/or small leaves have less storage space and will need more frequent waterings. 

For example, Aloe brevifolia has big chunky leaves that store water for a long time. It’s recommended to extend the drought by letting it sit in dry soil for a few days. String of Buttons, on the other hand, has small leaves and is perfectly happy with a typical “Soak and dry”.

There are exceptions, such as Blue Chalksticks, which has small leaves yet guzzles up water. This is why it’s important to watch your succulent for signs of over or underwatering. After a few waterings, you’ll get the hang of what it wants.

Other Recommendations

Succulents in cute pots
Less is more with your succulents. Let them dry before watering. Source: julietinsummer

Here are some quick tips for watering your succulent perfectly:

  • Water at the roots, keeping the leaves dry. A long-spout watering can does this beautifully.
  • Accurately check the moisture by sticking your finger an inch deep into the soil.
  • Alternatively, use a toothpick to check the soil. If it comes up dirty, the soil is still wet.
  • Drainage holes are a must. Without them, root rot is imminent.
  • Frequently empty the drainage tray under your pot.
  • Tap water can cause mineral buildup in the soil. If you use this, repot your succulent every year.
  • If you are clustering different succulents together, keep in mind that they may have various watering needs.
  • Don’t use a spray bottle! Save that for propagation.

Now that you know how to water succulents, it’s time to grab your watering can! Just remember to “soak and dry”, be observant, and have fun. We doubt you’ll lose a succulent again.

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