Grow succulents in water


1. Soil

What kind of soil should I plant my succulents in?

Succulents love well draining soil. I’ve been buying a Palm & Cactus mix from Lowes for sometime now and it has been great. In the dryer summer months, I’ve found that my soil drys a little too quickly. If you feel like your soil is just not retaining water long enough, you can mix your cactus soil with a bit of regular potting soil to increase the water retention to your liking. Sometimes, I like to keep my plants in containers without drainage holes, such as tea cups, mason jars and baby food jars. In this case, I will either layer the bottom of the container with pebbles or add sand to the soil to help with drainage issues.

2. Water

How much and when should I water my succulents?

There is a common misconception that succulents don’t need much water. While it’s true that they can go longer periods of time without it, they will not “thrive” in a drought-like situation. I learned this the hard way when I first started my collection. I would go weeks without watering and my plants were not growing. They weren’t dying either. My mom on the other hand, would water her plants frequently and her plants were flourishing! I decided she was on to something and began watering my plants more often. Now, my general rule of thumb is water when the soil is dry. For me, that is about once a week during hotter months and a little less when the weather cools. When I water, I water the soil not the plant. (I’ve heard that letting water settle on the leaves can cause rot, in addition to leaving unsightly markings.) I give it a good soak so that the water runs out of the bottom of the pot. (For plants without drainage holes, I don’t soak. I give more of a “sip.”) I see a lot of people killing their succulents by overwatering. You can avoid this by making sure the soil is totally dry between waterings.

3. Sunlight

How much sunlight do succulents need?

In general, succulents do best in bright but indirect sunlight. I’ve found that different species can tolerate different amounts of light, but most of my plants tend to suffer in extended periods of direct sunlight. To avoid burning and scorching your plants, keep them in a place where they get a lot of shade but still receive adequate light. My healthiest plants are outside on window sills where they are protected from direct sunlight by small over hangs. Like I said, some plants can tolerate direct sunlight better than others. You just need to experiment with your plants to see what works best where you live. If your plants are not getting enough light they may become leggy and stretch toward the light. If your plants are stretching out or bending toward the light, you can slowly move them to a brighter spot or rotate the pot from time to time to keep them growing straight up. You might also like to propagate your leggy succulents. (See my post on Propagating Succulents for more info.)

This is the first part of a two post series we’ll be doing to teach you how to easily grow and care for succulents. If you haven’t already guessed from our instagram feed, succulents are our favorite plants. They’re really easy to keep and grow if you just follow a few easy steps. Today, we’ll be sharing with you the basics of picking and growing healthy succulents, and Thursday we’ll share with you some tricks that will help you go above and beyond.

First things first, pick a happy and healthy looking plant.
When you’re shopping for a succulent select a plant that has fat, green, pert leaves. This is the easiest way to tell that the succulent you’re picking is healthy. If the leaves are brown, wilted, or drooping, this doesn’t mean the plant will immediately die, but is showing signs that it hasn’t been well cared for. Set yourself up for success and pick a plant that is already healthy to bring home.

One of the recent trends in succulents is that you may find a plant that has been painted or has decorations (like a face) glued on to it. While this is partially a matter of personal taste, I would stay away from purchasing these plants. Paint on the leaves can prevent the plant from absorbing enough sunlight and glued on decorations can hide or cause damage to the leaves.

One thing to remember about succulents is that being another color is not a sign that the plant is unhealthy. Some growers will intentionally under water or expose their plants to too much light to create stress colors. These colors also don’t mean that the plant is in imminent danger, but is something for more advanced growers to try. Also, if you buy a plant that is showing stress colors, it may go back to being green shortly after you take it home and care for it properly.

Choose the right soil.
For growing your succulents or cacti, you want to get a good well draining soil for your plants. You can buy a pre-made mix or make your own. Most gardening stores and nurseries will carry this and can help you find one based on how you’re keeping your plants or even one made specially for your region. If you want to make your own, there are plenty of tutorials you can find online to help you out.

Pick a pot with good drainage.
Once you’ve got your plant and your well-draining soil, you’ll need to get a pot or planter that also helps with the water drainage. Pick a plant with either a hole in the bottom for drainage or an unglazed ceramic pot that will help wick away moisture.

How to Grow and Care for Succulents Indoors

Why Succulents?

These tough plants are great indoors because they’re adapted to survive dry conditions. In winter especially, homes offer dry interior air to houseplants, which is why many don’t survive. Low relative humidity isn’t a houseplant’s friend. Succulents, though, with their water-storing ways, endure dry air without ugly side effects.


Most succulents, in an indoor setting, will crave the brightest light possible, especially during winter in northern climates. Place them near a south- or east-facing window. This same setting works during the warmer parts of the year. Alternately, you can shift them outside during spring and summer. Choose a protected location where plants receive bright, indirect light. Research your specific species to ensure you’re providing ideal light.


In their native settings, succulents typically grow in sandy, well-drained soil. Duplicate that footing for potted plants by blending your own soil mix – half potting soil, half sand. To test how well the mixture drains, wet it, then squeeze it in your hand. If it falls apart, you have a mixture succulents will love.


When you purchase a succulent, slip the pot into a pretty cachepot, and you’ll have instant décor. Or you can transplant these easy-grows-it plants into ornamental containers. Most houseplant types have shallow roots, so you can tuck them into shallow bowls or squat pots. Succulents can’t stand overly moist soil. Make sure containers have drainage holes to allow excess water to exit.


The fastest way to kill a succulent is with too much TLC – and too much water. Unlike typical houseplants, these tough plants stash water in their leaves or roots, which act like a reservoir to slake the plant’s thirst. To avoid overwatering, water only enough to keep leaves from withering.

Clues that a plant needs watering include shrinking or puckering leaves or normally shiny leaves that appear dull. If you suspect it’s time to water, shove a finger into soil two knuckles deep to make sure it’s dry.

When you water, apply enough so it runs out drainage holes. Empty the drainage saucer so plants don’t sit in water overnight. About 95% of houseplants need soil to dry out almost completely before watering.


Succulents experience strongest growth during spring and summer. Growth slows in fall, and winter is a time of rest. Fertilize lightly or not at all during winter. In warmer months, feed plants 3-4 times. Use a standard houseplant fertilizer for most, but keep in mind that it is easy to over fertilize these plants. In most cases, they should be fed lightly or about half what you would feed a regular houseplant.

Planting Partners

You can combine several types in the same container to create a dish garden. The secret to success lies in plant selection. Be sure you’re mixing and matching plants with similar growth rates and care requirements.

Can’t get enough succulents? Fortunately, these adorable plants are super easy to propagate from cuttings!


Succulent cuttings are often used in temporary arrangements, but they can also re-grow into rooted, long-lasting plants. Propagation is an affordable, easy way to multiply your succulent collection or re-use decorative cuttings after an event. Even with proper diligence, some cuttings may not take root, but this guide can greatly increase the rate of success.

Propagating Stem Cuttings

1. Prepare the Pot

You can grow cuttings in a temporary pot while they establish roots or plant them directly in a permanent container. Either way, you’ll want a pot that has a drainage hole and is large enough to leave 2″-3″ of space around each cutting.

Fill the container with a gritty, well-draining soil to protect your succulents from standing water and root rot. Most garden centers sell a cactus/succulent potting soil. You can also make your own with 3 parts potting soil, 2 parts coarse, salt-free sand, and 1 part perlite or pumice. Ultimate Guide to Succulent Soil

2. Plant the Cuttings

Plant the cut end of a stem 1″-2″ into the soil. If the succulent has leaves, you may need to remove some to expose the bottom section of stem. The lowest leaves should sit just above the soil without touching it. Compress the soil lightly to get the cutting to stand upright.

For stemmed succulents, remove any leaves necessary to expose 1″-2″ of stem for planting
Place rosette cuttings as-is on top of soil.

3. Pick the Right Location

Pick a location for your young succulents that gets bright, indirect light (not full, outdoor sun) and plenty of airflow. Cuttings need sunlight to grow new roots, but they can dry out quickly in direct sun. Good airflow helps prevent infestations of mealy bugs and gnats on indoor succulents.

4. Water

Unlike mature succulents, cuttings will need regular moisture until they can grow roots. Water frequently enough to keep the soil from drying out, but not so often that you see standing water. Depending on temperature and humidity, actual frequency is usually 2-4 times per week.

5. Care for Rooted Succulents

After 2-4 weeks, a very gentle pull will tell you if a cutting has rooted. To care for rooted succulents, transition to deeper, less frequent watering. Only water once the soil has fully dried, about 2-4 times per month. Re-pot, if desired, and gradually move the succulent to its preferred light conditions. Take 1-2 weeks to increase light exposure, giving the plant time to adapt. Continue caring for your succulent and watch for above-ground growth in the following months.



What about propagating leaf cuttings?

Though usually more challenging, some soft succulents will re-root from leaves. Be sure to select thick, healthy leaves near the base. Remove the leaves and let them dry indoors or in the shade for 4-7 days. Once the cut end is calloused, plant the leaves upright, cut side down in light, gritty soil. Water as you would a stem cutting and watch for new growth in the following months.

Can I plant cuttings outdoors?

Rooting cuttings outdoors is challenging because environmental conditions are more variable. If you live in the right hardiness zone for the succulent, you can try planting a cutting outdoors during the growing season. Pick a location that receives partial or indirect sun. Follow the guidelines above and pay extra attention to moisture levels. Be aware that some cuttings might not survive.

Do I need to fertilize?

Fertilizer is not necessary, and too much can burn young or unrooted succulents. Mature, rooted succulents can tolerate low-Nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer in the spring growing season.

Should I apply a rooting hormone?

Not necessary. Succulents have a high concentration of meristem cells and do not need supplemental hormones to re-root.

Where can I find more information?

Mountain Crest Gardens has a large collection of books on propagating, cultivating, and using succulents. For more info on propagation, we recommend:

  • The Secrets to Propagating Succulents (eBook) by Cassidy Tuttle
  • Plant Parenting by Leslie Halleck


Succulent Water Propagation – How To Grow Succulents In Water

For those who have problems getting succulent cuttings to sprout roots in soil, there is another option. While it is not guaranteed to be successful, there is the option of rooting succulents in water. Water root propagation has reportedly worked well for some growers.

Can You Root Succulents in Water?

The success of succulent water propagation may depend on the type of succulent you’re trying to root. Many jades, sempervivums, and echeverias take well to water rooting. If you decide to give this a try, follow the easy steps listed below to maximize your success:

  • Allow succulent cutting ends to callous. This takes a few days to a week and prevents the cutting from taking up too much water and rot.
  • Use distilled water or rainwater. If you must use tap water, let it sit for 48 hours so the salts and chemicals can evaporate. Fluoride is especially harmful to young cuttings, traveling through the plant in the water and settling on leaf edges. This makes the leaf edges brown, which spreads if you continue to give the plant fluoridated water.
  • Keep the water level just below the plant’s stem. When you’re ready to root the calloused cutting, let it hover just above the water, not touching. This creates stimulation to encourage roots to develop. Wait patiently, a few weeks, until a root system grows.

  • Place under a grow light or a bright light situation outside. Keep this project out of direct sunlight.

Can You Grow Succulents in Water Permanently?

If you like the looks of your succulent in the water container, you can keep it there. Change the water as needed. Some gardeners have said they grow succulents in water regularly with good results. Others leave the stem in the water and let it root, although this is not recommended.

Some sources say the roots that grow in water are different from those that grow in soil. If you root in water and move to soil, keep this in mind. A new set of soil roots will take time to develop.

Must-Know Tips for Watering Succulents

Succulents are marvels of nature that store extra water in their leaves, stems, or roots. Because they have a reputation for growing in arid conditions, many people fail to realize that when we bring them into our home and garden environments, they do need to be watered regularly. We share what you need to know on how to water succulents and keep them thriving.

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Planting Succulents in Pots

Sedums, Sempervivum (commonly called hens-and-chicks), jade plants, kalanchoe, aloe vera, and Sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue) are popular choices for indoor plants. Succulents also include cacti, which, generally, may need less water than other succulents.

Succulents like well-drained soil. According to Lane, a good quality potting soil mixed with either a material such as perlite or PermaTill will help ensure good drainage. He recommends two parts soil to one part drainage material. In addition to quality potting media, make sure your containers have drainage holes because too much moisture can result in rotten roots.

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How to Water Succulents Indoors

Rather than giving your succulents sips of water here and there, give them a good soaking—to the point the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer beneath the plant pot. Then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Horticulturist Bryce Lane with North Carolina State University recommends checking the soil a week after watering; if it’s still moist, wait another week.

Succulents require more water in the early spring when the plant is growing. Water needs may lessen in the summer and even more so during the winter. When the light decreases during the winter months and most succulents are in a dormant period, their water requirements also decrease. During winter, water your succulents when the soil is dry. This could be as infrequently as once per month but will depend on your conditions.

The frequency of watering will also depend on the light and growing conditions in your area, as well as the size of the container. The larger the container, the more moisture it can hold. Small, shallow pots may need to be watered more frequently.

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How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers

Summer is a good time to move potted succulents outdoors. Though they love sun, give them a chance to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing them in a partially shaded area before moving to a sunnier location. Keep them out of intense sunlight from late morning to midafternoon. Outdoor plants generally require more water than indoor plants. Again, your conditions will dictate how often succulents will need water. Start by checking on a weekly basis, paying attention to the condition of the potting media and whether it’s bone dry or moist.

Succulents, including cacti, which are grown in shallow containers, may need water every few days.

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How to Water Succulents in the Ground

Succulents, particularly sedums, grow quite well in the ground. They, too, may need to be watered weekly, depending on conditions. Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions much better than new plants.

Whether you grow hardy or annual succulents, they need to be in well-drained soil. “Standing water is a prescription for disaster,” Lane says. As with houseplants, soil conditions and water needs go hand-in-hand. Lane recommends replacing existing soil and making sure the subsoil drains well. Or, perhaps an easier approach is to raise the bed or mound the soil in the areas where you plant succulents. One- to 2-foot mounds of organic based compost mixed with perlite or PermaTill will help ensure plants thrive even if they are in conditions that are different from their native areas.

Good soil, a good soaking, and good drainage equal happy plants.

  • By Leah Chester-Davis

Keeping your succulents alive

Succulents are harder to keep as indoor plants than many realize. The most common predicament is how to water a succulent, and which soil to plant them in. So let’s clear it up. Starting at the roots. If you remember only one thing from this post, remember this: Your goal when watering all plants is to let soil dry out enough so oxygen gets to the roots.

Now, take a look at one of your hair follicles, look at how thin and fragile it is. Succulent roots are the exact same.

Below is an example of what roots from the an echeveria stalk look like. And to the left, roots from a propagated echeveria leaf.

The thinness of these roots make them very sensitive to over watering, which is the most common problem for indoor succulents. Too much water soaks the roots and they can’t absorb essential oxygen to stay alive. And then your succulent looks like these sad guys:

Considering the fragility of the roots helps to hold back from too much watering. It’s helpful to think about the fact that most succulents grow in hot, dry climates, where they usually get water from condensation in the air – via clouds – versus lots of water at once from rain or runoff.

Here’s how to avoid over watering:

  1. Avoid pouring water directly onto the foliage of your succulents.
  2. Avoid planting your succulents in moisture retaining soil. Succulents should be planted in porous soil (see below).
  3. Water your succulent in sips – pour a little onto the soil, watch it absorb. Pour another sip, watch it absorb, until water drips from the bottom of your planter. You succulent should be in a planter with a drainage hole.
  4. Fill your sink with an inch or two of water, place your succulent (in it’s planter), into the sink, drainage hole down. Let it sit for 2-5 minutes to allow the soil to absorb the water from below. This is a great way to avoid over watering and force the roots to seek out the water.
  5. For those who live through cold seasons, decrease watering in the winter months. The soil needs longer to dry out.
  6. In the summer, succulents in sunny, hot windows need more water because their soil will dry out faster.

A good rule of thumb: it’s always better to under water succulents, than over water.

Pictured below, is what a succulent looks like when it is thirsty. The foliage starts to wrinkle, from the tips and travels inward. Succulents that are under watered are much easier to bring back to life than those pictured above. This echeveria could use a good watering, slowly pour sips of water directly into the soil versus misting from the spray bottle.

And lastly, succulents thrive best in in porous soil that drains really well. Mix gravel or bark chips into the soil. We call these soil additives and they look like this:

When your soil is porous, water never sits and soaks the roots and oxygen flows easily through.

Succulents planted in moisture retaining soils take longer to dry out which makes it harder for oxygen to reach the roots. Root rot then occurs leading to the eventual succulent death.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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