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How To Water Succulents: The Definitive Guide

How to Water Succulents

Succulents store extra water in their leaves, stems, or roots, allowing them to go long periods without being watered (sometimes a month or more). 

Many people don’t realize that they still need to be watered regularly when you bring them into your home or garden because they have a reputation for being drought-tolerant and growing in arid conditions.

It’s not a good idea to force your succulents to go without water for weeks or months at a time if you want them to thrive. No matter where you end up planting them, there are a few tips for how often to water succulents that will keep them from drying out and from overwatering.

Must-Know Tips for Watering Succulents

Succulents are not like other types of plants. As a result, if you try to water them like other plants, especially other house plants, they will die!

However, this does not mean you can ignore them entirely.

These two extremes are what give the impression that succulents are challenging to grow. However, with this simple watering method, you will be able to provide enough water for your succulents to thrive.

Keep a Record

One of the best pieces of advice for helping your succulents thrive and getting your watering schedule “just right” is to keep track of when you’ve watered.

Knowing when you last watered will help you determine whether or not it’s time to water again.

There are numerous excellent methods for keeping track of this, including pen and paper, an excel spreadsheet, and phone notes.

How to Water Succulents Indoors

Succulents require more water in the early spring when the plant begins to grow actively. Water requirements may be reduced in the summer and even more so in the winter. 
When the light decreases during the winter months and most succulents go dormant, so do their water needs. 
The “soak and dry” method is the best way to water succulents. Soak the soil thoroughly, then allow it to dry before watering again completely. Also, make certain that the succulents are planted in well-draining soil in a pot with a drainage hole.
Popular indoor plants include sedums, Sempervivum (also known as hens-and-chicks), jade plants, kalanchoe, aloe vera, and Sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s-tongue). Law’s Cacti, which require less water than other succulents, are also considered succulents.
 
Rather than a few squirts of water here and there, soak these water-thrifty plants until the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure to empty any excess moisture from the saucer beneath the plant pot; excess moisture will rot the roots. Then, allow the soil to dry before watering again completely. After a week, check the soil; if it still feels moist, wait another week.
Water your succulents when the soil is dry in the winter. This could be as infrequent as once per month, depending on the condition of your home. 
The size of the container will also determine the frequency with which the container is watered. The more moisture a container can hold, the larger it is. Small, shallow pots may require more frequent watering.

How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers

Summer is an excellent time to move potted succulents outside. 
Though they enjoy the sun, allow them to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing them in a partially shaded area before moving them to a sunnier location. 
From late morning to midafternoon, keep them out of direct sunlight. 
Outdoor plants, on average, require more water than indoor plants. Again, the frequency with which succulents need water is determined by their surroundings. 
Begin by checking in every week, paying attention to the state of the potting soil and whether it’s bone dry or still moist. Succulents (and cacti) grown in shallow containers may require regular watering.
 
Watch this video to know how to grow succulents in container.

How to Water Succulents in the Ground

Succulents, particularly sedums, can grow in the ground as well. Depending on the climate in your area, they may require weekly watering. Established plants have a more robust root system and can withstand dry conditions better than new plants.
Succulents, whether hardy or annual, require well-drained soil to thrive. If your soil remains too moist, try using a raised bed or mounding up the soil in the areas where you plant succulents. One- to two-foot mounds of well-aged compost mixed with perlite will help plants thrive even if they are not in their native environment. Succulents are happy when they have good soil, good soaking, and good drainage.
Water should not be allowed to accumulate on top of the leaves of indoor succulents. It can cause rot if it sits on a leaf for an extended period.
Use a small spout watering can (like this one) or a squeeze bottle (like the one in this super handy tool kit).
This is less of an issue for outdoor succulents because there is more airflow, and the water dries out faster.

Pour water over the soil around your succulents, if possible, until it is completely soaked.

DO NOT WATER YOUR SUCCULENTS AGAIN UNTIL THE SOIL HAS DRIED FROM TOP TO BOTTOM OF THE POT.

Succulents dislike sitting in wet soil for more than a couple of days.

So Then Comes The Question....

Succulents should be watered only after the soil has completely dried out. There is no one-size-fits-all watering schedule for every succulent in every climate.

Many indoor succulent growers find that watering 14 - 21 days a week is an ideal frequency for keeping their succulents alive. Use this timeline as a guideline and make changes as needed.

The best time to water your succulents is when the leaves show the first signs of under-watering.

Because most succulents rot when overwatered, it's best to wait for a signal from your succulent before watering.

But, at the very least, don't water again until the soil is arid.

Remember that keeping track of your watering schedule is essential.

Succulents are typically found in areas where the soil drains quickly, and rainfall is heavy but infrequent. Consider cacti (a succulent) in the desert... They experience flash floods, with storms lasting 24 to 28 hours, followed by weeks without any water at all.

While your succulents, especially those grown indoors, do not require such a strict watering schedule, they will benefit from the "soak and dry" method.

The succulent has easy access to water thanks to deep watering. During the "drought" period between waterings, the succulent will grow new roots searching for more water.

The soak and dry method encourage the succulent to grow an extensive, healthy root system that can withstand more extended periods of drought than most other plants.

DO NOT WATER WITH A SPRAY BOTTLE

Constant watering with small amounts of water, such as with a spray bottle, results in a weak root system that cannot withstand long periods of drought.

That means that if you don’t water your succulent for a few days, it will die. The succulent will die if you don’t get the water deep enough when spraying with a spray bottle. Please do not do it.

Soak and dry… soak and dry… soak and dry… soak and dry… soak and dry…

The Right Soil Is Crucial For Watering Success

At the beginning of the article, we mentioned that you should plant your succulents in well-draining soil AND a pot with a drainage hole.

Succulents rot quickly if left in wet soil for an extended period. Within 2-3 days, your soil should be mostly dry, especially in the top half of the pot.

So, what causes soil to be “well-draining”?

We’ve dedicated an entire post to discussing the ideal succulent soil mix. You can read about it here.

The short answer is that well-draining soil appears “gritty” due to the presence of 14″ (6mm) particles. Two-thirds of the soil should be inorganic (rock), and one-third should be organic (pine bark, coconut coir, etc.).

Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil - Jacks Gritty Mix

Succulents do not do well in traditional soil. It remains wet for far too long. We also don’t recommend using most of the “Cactus and Succulent” soils available at most nurseries. They are often too organic and will not drain quickly enough.

If you’re new to succulents or have already killed a few succulents due to overwatering, we highly recommend picking up a bag of Jack’s Gritty Mix for your succulents.

This is where 95 percent (or more) of my succulents are planted, and they are thriving!

Besides that, please see the soil post for suggestions on other materials and modify different store-bought soils to make them work better for succulents.

Use a Pot With a Drainage Hole

Another important aspect of this watering method is the use of a pot with a drainage hole.

Remember how we said succulents don’t like to sit in wet soil for long periods? If your pot does not have a drainage hole, it is difficult for the soil to dry completely.

The hole in the bottom of the pot allows excess water to drain away from your succulent roots. It also allows more air to flow through the soil, allowing it to dry out faster.

You may use Mesh tape to cover the drain holes.

If you’re just getting started with succulents, a pot with a drainage hole will come in handy.

How should I water the succulent leaves or babies I’m propagating?

When you’re propagating, this is the one time–and the only time–that it’s okay you should use a spray bottle to water your succulents is!

Even so, we recommend using a squeeze bottle (like the one in our favorite tool kit) to wet the soil thoroughly.

You can water succulent leaves every day, whether you’re propagating them indoors or outdoors. You want to keep the soil damp (but not sopping wet) so that the leaves can get plenty of water.

Use a spray bottle to spray the top of the soil (or use the squeeze bottle above). The leaves, like the roots of large succulent plants, absorb water from the air around them, so spraying the soil with a spray bottle is usually sufficient.

Keep an eye on your roots; if they don’t get enough water, they may dry out.

Watch your succulents for indicators

Now that you’ve learned about the soak and dry method, it’s time to put it to use!

Pay attention to the cues that your succulent gives you. It will begin to change whether it requires more or less water. 

Finally, if in doubt, go without!

It is much easier to save your succulents from overwatering than from underwatering.

Read this article to know more about when your succulents need water.

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