How to Water Succulents Properly (Without Overdoing It)

Published July 11, 2022
Woman watering succulent plant

Watering succulents can be tricky. It's very important to avoid over watering them, as they will not survive if they are kept too wet. However, they also can't stay dry. The key to effectively watering succulents is to let them dry out between waterings. A variety of factors impact how long it will take a plant's soil to dry out, so there isn't a certain number of days a succulent should go between waterings. Review the instructions below to find out how to water succulents properly.

How to Tell When a Succulent Needs Water

Succulents are drought-resistant plants that should only be watered when they are very dry. The best way to know if a succulent needs water is to check the dryness of the soil. Use one of the following methods to tell if a succulent needs to be watered:

  • Moisture meter: Use a moisture meter to determine when a succulent needs water. This simple device measures moistness on a scale of one (dryest) to 10 (wettest). When the meter moistness level is one or two, the plant needs water.
  • Stick/chopstick method: Alternately, poke a skewer or chopstick into the soil and leave it there for about five minutes. When you remove it, look to see if there is a water line on it. If there is not, the soil is dry, and the plant needs to be watered.

You should also keep an eye on the leaves of succulent plants. When they are not getting enough water, their leaves will shrivel, dry up, become flat, and/or turn brown. If you notice this happening to a succulent, check the soil to be sure a lack of water is the issue before adding more water.

How to Water Succulents in Pots With Drainage Holes

Succulents should ideally be planted in a well-draining growing medium so water does not build up in the container. If water builds up in the container or the soil stays too moist, the plant's roots will rot. It's best to use the "soak and dry" watering method with most cacti, regardless of whether you keep them indoors or outside.

  1. Test the soil (see above) to determine if the soil is dry enough for the succulent to need water. If the soil is not dry, do not water the plant. If it is dry, follow the steps below.
  2. Gently pour water directly onto the soil using a watering can, squeeze bottle, measuring cup, drinking glass, or any other similar container. Do not use a sprayer or mister.
  3. Pour water onto the soil until water runs out of the drainage hole in the pot. Stop as soon as this happens. This will ensure that the soil gets soaked.
  4. Do not water again until the soil is completely dry.

How to Water Succulents From the Bottom

Bottom watering is an option for succulents planted in containers with drainage holes. When the soil is completely dry, get a bowl, tub, or a similar container that is large enough to hold the potted succulents you want to water. Put enough water into the container so that the water reaches the middle of the plant containers when placed in the water. Put the containers)in the water and let sit for five to ten minutes. This will allow the root(s) to soak in water from the bottom up.

How to Water Potted Succulents Without Drainage

When you water succulents in a no-drainage container, carefully add water so that it only seeps down about two to three inches. There is no drainage hole at the bottom of the container for the water to run through, so it's important to avoid fully saturating the growing medium. Note: If you are growing a succulent in a no-drainage pot, it's important to place a layer of gravel or pebbles at the bottom of the container before filling the rest of the way with a mixture of potting soil and perlite.

How to Water Succulents in Moss

Moss repels water when it is dry, so if you are growing a succulent in moss, you won't be able to simply pour in water until the container drains. Instead, you'll need to soak the moss several times first so it will absorb the water. Thenm, rather than wait for the moss to get completely dry before watering, you should water your cactus while the moss is slightly damp. This will make it easier for the moss to absorb the water, so you won't have to pour water into the container as many times. Note: If the plant's container doesn't have drainage holes, you will need to pour the water out once you finish watering.

How to Water Epiphytic Cactus Plants

Epiphytic cacti (such as Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and dancing bones) are not desert plants. Instead, they are native to high-altitude tropical rainforests that are humid and get a lot of rain. As a result, they need more water than other cacti. It's fine to water these cacti when they're still damp, though it is also okay to let them dry out before watering them. It's also important to mist epiphytic cacti because they need humidity. Squirt these succulents gently with water from a spray bottle at least once a week. If you're in a particularly dry area, more frequent spraying is a good idea.

How to Water Succulents in the Winter

Most succulents, including epiphytic cacti, go dormant during the winter months. During winter, you should water succulents only when the soil is very dry. It will take cacti longer to dry out in winter than during the summer. You will not need to water them as often during the winter months as you do the rest of the year.

Grow Beautiful Succulents

Now that you know how to properly water succulents planted in a variety of different ways, you have all the information you need to give these plants enough water without providing too much. Armed with this information, you're prepared to do a great job growing beautiful succulents.

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How to Water Succulents Properly (Without Overdoing It)