How to Water Your Succulents for Optimal Growth and Health

One of the things that make succulents so popular (especially amongst those with brown thumbs) is the ease with which they can be cared for, after all, they’re low maintenance and can store a lot of water in their leaves. That said though, low doesn’t mean no maintenance and proper watering is one of the things that’s crucial to your plant’s health and longevity.

Succulents are used to dry, arid conditions where they get a lot of water in one go and then have to wait weeks before they get any more. With this in mind it’s best to water your succulent thoroughly (so that all of the soil is wet) then wait until it’s completely dry before watering them again.

Watering is one of those things that is often misunderstood, even by seasoned growers, but in this article, we’ll look at how and when your succulent needs watering as well as how much water to give them.

Succulents don't need watering every week

Understanding your succulent’s watering needs

Before you can know how much water your succulent needs, as well as how often you should water it, it’s essential to understand the different factors that can play a role in determining this. After all, there is a multitude of different factors that can affect this.

Container – If your succulent is in a container with drainage holes then you can water it more often than if it was in one without. This is because the holes will allow the water to drain away from the plant.

Soil – Succulents in well-draining soil can handle more water than those that are planted in heavy, clay-type soil.

Size – The bigger the plant the more roots it’ll have and the more water it’ll need, therefore smaller plants don’t need as much water as bigger plants.

Location – Where you keep your succulent will play a role in how much water it needs too. If it’s in an area that gets a lot of heat (regardless of whether it’s from direct sun or due to central heating) then its soil will dry out quicker so will need watering more often. The same is also true of outdoor succulents.

Airflow – Like location, the amount of air that’s flowing around your plants will also affect the frequency with which they need watering. If they’re in an area with a good flow of air (or if they’re outside) then the surface water will evaporate quickly.

Humidity – The higher the humidity the longer it’ll take for the soil to dry out so, therefore, increasing the amount of time between each watering time.

Temperature – The temperature around your succulent will make a big difference to how frequently you water it, after all, the higher the temperature (especially if it’s above 40°C/104°F) the quicker the soil will dry out. Likewise, if your plant is in a more neutral or cooler area then you won’t need to water it as often.

Light – While indoor house lights (or even outdoor lights for that matter) won’t have a barring on how much water your succulents need sunlight will do. If your plants are getting plenty of direct sunlight they’ll need more watering. The reason for this is I part that the sun will dry the soil out but it’ll also mean your plants will grow quicker and growth needs water.

Time of year – During dormant (non-growing) months when your plant is effectively sleeping it won’t need as much water as it would if it was growing. While most succulents are dormant during the winter some, such as aloe and sedeveria, are winter growers so will be dormant in the summer.

How do you know when your succulent needs watering?

While your succulents obviously can’t speak to you they can tell you when they need watering if you know what to look for. Both the soil and the leaves will let you know if they need water or if they’re okay without it.

The soil itself is the best, and quickest, way of telling when your plant needs more water. If the soil is damp or moist at all then leave it and don’t water it. If, on the other hand, the soil appears dry stick your finger a couple of inches into it, if it’s completely dry then it’s time to water.

The leaves are also a good indicator of whether or not your plant needs water, although if you’re checking the soil regularly you shouldn’t need to rely on the leaves for signs. That said though if the leaves are looking dry and starting to brown (and the plant isn’t growing or in direct sunlight) then your succulent could benefit from being watered. Conversely, if the leaves look soggy, feel squishy, or are yellowish in color and starting to look translucent, then you’ve overwatered the plant, so you shouldn’t give it any more water.

Yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering your succulents

How often should you water your succulent?

The question of how often water succulents need is one of the most commonly asked questions but there’s no single answer to it. Every plant, every living condition, and every home is different and they’ll all play a role in how much water they need (and how often they need it).

As a general rule, it’s better to underwater your succulent rather than overwater it. They can survive underwatering far more than they can overwatering. Believe me, I know, I’ve killed way too many succulents with love in the early days, I say love because I was trying to care for them.

How to water a succulent

When it comes to watering succulents it’s vitally important that you allow the roots to get enough water, but not too much. This is why I like to use two different methods (top-down and bottom-up) when it comes to watering mine. Personally, I like to water them bottom up every third time.

Top-down watering

You can use any type of watering can you want but I personally prefer to use one with a small, but long spout. This allows me to not only control how much water the plant is getting but also makes it easier to get the water under the leaves and directly to the soil.

Make sure you give your succulent enough water so that it can penetrate the soil properly and get to the roots. Once you’ve finished watering the plant you should empty any water that’s accumulated in the base after. If you don’t do this then you run the risk of root rot.

Use a long but small spout to water succulents

Bottom-up watering

Watering succulents from the bottom is without a doubt the easiest way of making sure they have enough water. All you need to do is put them in a shallow tray and fill it with water, leaving it until the top of the soil is wet before removing them.

The reason this method is so effective is that it allows the roots to get the water they need, watering from the top doesn’t always give the roots enough water.

TIP If your planter has a tray or saucer then you can use that instead, just make sure you empty the water as soon as the top of the soil is damp.

Plater trays are a great way to water your succulents

Things to avoid when watering your succulents

Some people like to use spray bottles to water their plants but you should avoid doing this if you can. To start with you’re spraying the leaves more than the soil but also not enough water will get through to the soil.

You should also avoid watering the leaves of indoor succulents, or at least saturating them, especially if they have rosettes as they’ll hold the water. If the leaves stay wet for too long then there’s a danger they may start to rot. This isn’t an issue for outdoor succulents though because the air will dry them before any harm can be done.

Do indoor and outdoor succulents need watering differently?

Outdoor succulents need the same amount of water as indoor ones but you may find that you don’t need to water them as often. In part, because the morning dew and moisture in the air will help to water the soil and give the plant the hydration they need.

That said though if it’s going to rain a lot, or really heavily, then you should either move to a sheltered area or make sure they have some sort of covering to protect the from the worst of the rain.

Take home message

By understanding the needs of your succulent you can make sure you give them enough water as and when they need it. This will help them to grow healthy and strong, allowing them to thrive. 

The most important thing to remember though is that less water is always better than too much water. If in doubt don’t water, succulents are used to drought conditions so will thank you for it.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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