There is one basic tenant to how to water succulents: water when the soil is dry. Unlike standard houseplants, that like the soil to be damp at all times, succulents want the soil to dry out completely before you water it again.
There’s more than that though. For you to get the perfect results, from cactus blooms to lush green or dusty purple leaves, your succulent’s watering schedule is the most important part of its care.
How Often Should Succulents be Watered
Water When Soil is Dry
The soil your succulent is planted in needs to dry out in between watering. If it doesn’t, your succulent will quickly develop root rot, fungal issues, and mold. Worse, you could make it more susceptible to insects like mealybugs or aphids.
Succulents typically grow in environments that go through periods of drought followed by large amounts of rain. So they are adapted to survive drought by storing water in their fleshy leaves and then absorb a lot of water very fast.
Should Succulents be Watered Regularly
Despite their reputation as needing no water, succulents do need to be watered regularly. At first, you’ll need to monitor your succulent closely until you develop a watering schedule. Watch for dry soil.
Once you know how long it takes for your succulent to dry out its soil, you’ll be able to follow the same schedule over and over. For most succulents, they will need to be watered once every few weeks to once every few months. But there are a number of different factors involved in that.
5 Factors that Affect How Often Succulents Should be Watered
The season that the succulent is in will affect how quickly it goes through water. If the succulent is in the growing season, it will be actively trying to get larger or bloom. This makes it go through water faster.
Succulents in the dormant season will not need to be watered as much. They are essentially sleeping as far as plants go. Because of that, they won’t be actively trying to grow and will not need as much water as they do in their active growing season.
Succulents actually have a very small root system usually, despite having a large plant above the surface. Most people tend to plant their succulents in pots that are larger than necessary. If your succulent is in a large pot, it will need to be watered more so that more water gets around the root system.
Amount of Light
It is logical that the amount of light will change how to water a succulent. Succulents in hot sun will need to be watered more regularly because the evaporation will dry out the soil faster. If your succulent is in less sunlight, you can water it less often.
Ambient air humidity will affect your watering schedule the same way the amount of light will and for the same reason: evaporation. Many succulents, especially desert varieties, cannot tolerate being in high humidity environments because the soil doesn’t dry out enough between when you water.
But if you have a tropical succulent that does tolerate it, you can water it less if it is in a humid room, such as the bathroom or the laundry room. Make sure that if you put your succulent in a higher humidity environment, you keep an eye on it for root rot and mold.
Succulents in areas of higher airflow will also need water more regularly. Areas of high airflow are those around a window, near a heating vent, or near an air intake vent. The airflow around these areas will cause the soil your succulent is potted in to dry out faster and you’ll need to water more often.
Do You Water Succulents from the Top or Bottom
This is a great debate among gardeners, regardless of if they grow succulents or other houseplants. Some are dead set on watering from the top and some are dead set on watering from the bottom. There are benefits to both.
How to Water Succulents from the Top
- Dip your finger into the soil to make sure it’s dried out enough
- The soil should be dry up to about the first knuckle of your finger
- Put water into a bottle
- NEVER spray or put water on the leaves of your succulent
- Water your succulent deeply and thoroughly
- Water may actually leak out the bottom of the pot
When you water your succulents from the top, you don’t have to move the plant so it’s easier. And, as long as you use a squeeze bottle or tube, you can control the amount of water your succulent gets without getting the leaves wet.
How to Water Succulents from the Bottom
Watering succulents from the bottom allows you to easily avoid getting the leaves wet. This helps to prevent root rot and insect invasion from mealybugs. Watering from the bottom will also allow you to more thoroughly soak the soil which is similar to how succulents are used to being watered.
It is very easy to overwater succulents when you water them from the bottom. Make sure to allow them plenty of time to dry out before putting them back where they typically sit.
- Fill a large sink or tub with 3-4 inches of water
- You don’t want your plants to float
- Set your plants into the tub slowly to make sure they don’t bob around
- If you put your plants in too roughly, you can crack their pot
- Let the plants sit in the water for 2 hours or until the soil is wet
- It’s better to underwater than overwater. When in doubt, pull them out
- Drain the water and leave the plants in the tub to let the extra water drain out
- DO NOT set the plant back in a saucer where the water will collect or you will overwater your succulent
How to Water Succulents Indoors and Outdoors
Succulents are pretty similar to water whether they are kept as indoor plants or outdoor plants. In general, let them dry out in between and water them deeply to encourage root growth. However, there are a few key differences.
How to Water Indoor Succulents if Your Container Doesn’t Have Drainage
Let’s just get this out of the way fast: you shouldn’t have a succulent in a container without drainage. But if you do, you need to water it very carefully. You need to make absolutely sure that the soil is dried out between the times you water it.
If your pot doesn’t have good drainage holes in the bottom, you’re going to need to help your succulent drain the soil after you water it. Once you water the soil deeply, gently tip the pot over and allow as much of the water to drain off as possible.
How to Water Succulents Outdoors
Succulents planted in the ground are more likely to be underwatered than overwatered. Make sure to keep an eye out for shriveled leaves or dropping leaves that may indicate underwatering.
The obvious difference is in areas with clay soil. Because clay soil offers very little drainage, you should prepare the planting correctly. Put down a layer of sand or gravel to help with drainage before you plant your succulent outdoors.
How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers
Watering succulents in containers outdoors can be difficult but not that different than watering succulents indoors. The same rules apply when looking at how to water succulents. Make sure that the soil dries out between watering and make sure to water thoroughly when you do.
Succulents in containers can go either way and be either overwatered or underwatered. Watch carefully for shriveled leaves that would indicate underwatering, or yellowing leaves that could indicate overwatering.
Watering Succulents in Different Seasons
With succulents, it isn’t as simple as watering one way in winter and one way in summer. Most succulents are actively growing in the summer and dormant in the winter. If you don’t know which succulent you have, or how to water it, that’s a good place to start.
How to Water Succulents in Growth
When your succulent is growing, it needs more resources to do so, including water. For your succulent to grow or produce flowers to its fullest potential, you need to water your plant more and more often during this stage of development.
How to Water Succulents in Dormancy
Watering succulents when they are dormant is actually pretty easy. At this point, they need to sleep so they only need to be watered about half as much compared to their growth period. Keep a sharp eye out to make sure they don’t exhibit signs of underwatering.
When you are trying to learn how to water succulents, it can be confusing. When in doubt, underwater rather than overwater. Let the soil dry in between when you water the plant. And, when you do water, water deeply. Having well drained soil helps to water succulents correctly. The one type suggested over and over is Bonsai Jack succulent soil. But you can also mix your own soil if you follow some of the recipes online.