- Cactus and Succulent Care for Beginners
- How to Water Succulents Outdoors
- How to Water Succulents Indoors
- More Tips for Watering Succulents
- What Damage Does Improper Watering Cause?
- How Much To Water Succulents and What Are The Best Succulent Watering Practices?
- How Often Do You Need To Water Succulents?
- How To Water Succulents In Planters With Drainage Holes?
- How Do You Water Succulents In Planters Without Drainage Holes?
- What’s The Best Water For Succulents?
- Watering Succulent Plants: How And When To Water A Succulent Plant
- When to Water a Succulent
- How Much Water Do Succulents Need?
- Secret to Sensational Succulents – How To Water Succulents! – Easy To Grow Bulbs
- How To Water Your Succulents Without Killing Them: The Complete Guide
- Because Even Desert Plants Need Water!
- Watering Basics
- Succulent Watering Tips
- Make sure to use a pot with drainage hole
- Use fast draining soil
- Always check the soil before watering
- Water at the roots. Don’t spray or water on the leaves
Cactus and Succulent Care for Beginners
OK, so you just returned from the store with your first cactus plant, or perhaps you bought one of those funny looking little plants with a tag sticking in the pot that says “Assorted Succulents.” You might be asking yourself, “how do I take care of this thing?”
The first thing to realize is that the words “cacti” and “succulent” are general terms. Cacti belong to a specific family of plants, but the species within that family come from some very different habitats. Many cacti, such as those in the genus Ferocactus, are in fact true desert dwellers. Others, such as those in the genus Echinopsis, live in the grasslands of South America, those in the genus Oreocereus live in the high Andes mountains, and those in the genus Epiphyllum live in jungles and don’t even live in the ground, but upon other plants.
When talking about succulents, it gets even crazier. The term “succulent” is completely non-scientific, and basically can refer to any plant with fleshy parts (leaves, stems, or roots), usually which are adapted for storing moisture in times of drought. These plants come from all over the world and live in all different habitats.
Why do you need to know all of this? Well, the more you know about your “Assorted Succulent” or “African Zipper Plant,” the more chance you have of being successful growing it. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has a local cactus and succulent club, visit one of their meetings, bring your plant, and be prepared to find out all kinds of things about it, like what its real name is, where plants of its type grow in the wild, and what growing conditions it likes.
If you aren’t so lucky to have a local cactus and succulent club close by, or are just too eager to get started caring for your new baby, all is not lost. There are some general rules that can be applied to those plants we call cacti and other succulents. Read on….
Watering and Fertilizing
Many people think that cacti and succulents require a small amount of water every once in a while. While its true that these plants are tough, and can usually survive under such circumstances, most certainly will not thrive.
During their growing season, these plants like regular watering and fertilizing. For most, the period of growth is from Spring into Fall. Many plants rest (stop putting on growth) from late Fall to early Spring, when temperatures are cool and daylight length is short, and during mid-Summer, when temperatures are at their peak.
How often to water and fertilize: While growing, cacti and succulents should be watered at least once a week. Some people water more often than this. During each watering, give the soil a good soaking, so that water runs out of the ‘drainage holes’ of the pots. During the growing season, a balanced fertilizer, which has been diluted to 1/4 strength, can be added to the water for each watering. (A balanced fertilizer is one that has roughly equal proportions of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. A 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength is ideal.)
When the weather cools and day-length shortens, plants enter a rest period. During that time, increase the interval between watering, and let the potting mixture dry out between watering. Some people say that during dormancy, cacti and succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shriveling. Use some common sense here. If your plants are kept indoors on a window sill in a heated room during the Winter, they will need more water than if they were over-wintered out-of-doors. In any case, do not fertilize your plants during dormancy.
There are exceptions to the above guidelines, as some cacti and, especially some succulents, are Winter growers. Again, your local cacti and succulent club can help you determine the particular growing habits of your plants.
A word about water: Tap water often can be alkaline and/or hard, meaning it contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals. Such minerals can build up in the plant’s ‘soil’ over time, causing harm. This is one good reason why your plants should periodically be ‘repotted.’ Buildup of such minerals can also cause unsightly deposits to form, especially on unglazed clay pots. Never water your plants with water that has been through a softening system that uses salt as a recharging agent, as these systems simply replace the “hardness” in the water with sodium ions.
Rain water is preferable to tap water, if you can manage to collect and store it.
Most cacti and succulents like bright light, but not all can tolerate intense, direct sunlight, especially in conjunction with high temperatures. The intensity of the light that a plant will thrive in depends on the species. A plant that is grown in optimal light conditions will “look normal” (unstressed), and is more likely to flower than one grown in sub-optimal lighting conditions. (Keep in mind that succulents, and especially cacti, have very differing ages at which they will flower. For example, even if you give your Giant Saguaro seedling (Carnegia gigantia) conditions that are optimal in every way, you will likely not see it flower in your lifetime.)
While optimal lighting conditions depend on species, there are some general signs that indicate your plant is getting either too much or too little light:
Too much light: When your plant is getting too much light, it can appear “off color,” taking on a “bleached out” look, or turning yellow or even orangish. Keep in mind that these signs can also indicate other stresses, such as disease or too much water, so use common sense when making your diagnosis.
If your plant is moved suddenly into very bright sunlight conditions, or if the weather suddenly turns hot with abundant sunshine, your plant can scorch. This can happen very rapidly and can scar the plant for the rest of its life, so be on alert for when such a condition might occur, and take precautions to prevent scorching.
Too little light: If your plant is receiving too little light, it might etiolate and/or appear to really reach for the light source. (Etiolation is the condition where a plant becomes “drawn,” for example, a cactus plant that is normally round begins to look as if it is being stretched out from the growing point at its center). Your plant will suffer if left in such light conditions for very long. When transitioning such a plant to stronger light, keep in mind that it will be especially prone to scorching, so make the transition slowly.
Note that in most cases, it is quite normal for a plant to slowly grow toward the light. What you want to avoid is the condition where it is really reaching for the light. For example, if your columnar cactus is bent toward the window at 90°, it’s trying to tell you something.
For a potted plant that slowly grows toward the light over time, you can rotate its pot to cause it to grow in a more balanced fashion. Remember, if you do this, that the side of the plant that had not been exposed to direct sunlight for a long time might scorch if you make the transition too quickly. Be careful!
Pots and Potting
Pots come in all kinds of styles, and are made of various materials.
Pot materials: The materials used most often for pots are plastic and clay/ceramic (either glazed or unglazed). Cacti and succulents can be grown successfully in pots made of either material, and choosing one over the other is usually a matter of personal preference.
Plastic pots are lighter, usually cheaper, take up less room compared to clay or ceramic pot with the same inside dimensions, and are easy to keep clean. Plants kept in plastic pots also tend to require less watering compared, especially, to those kept in unglazed clay pots.
The extra weight of clay and ceramic pots provide stability for tall or top-heavy plants. Many people also feel that a good clay or ceramic pot just plain looks better than a plastic pot. Remember that if you water with hard water, a buildup of minerals on the outside of unglazed clay pots can cause unsightly deposits to form.
Regardless of the material the pot is made of, it must allow good drainage. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to grow a cactus or succulent successfully in a pot that lacks drainage holes. If you find a pot that is perfect in every respect except for its lack of drainage holes, drill them yourself.
Styles of pots: If you know the species of cactus or other succulent you have, you can make a better choice as to what style of pot to keep it in. For example, many species of cacti have fibrous roots that remain close to the surface of the soil. Such a plant has no use for a narrow, deep pot; a shallow pot with a relatively large diameter would suit it much better. Many cacti and succulents, while appearing quite modest above the soil line, have a massive, deep, tuberous root system below the soil, and require a pot suited to that root system.
Some people like to use bonsai pots for their plants. These pots are often very attractive, and a specimen planted and skillfully staged in such a pot can be a real attention-grabber. If you have limited space, be aware that bonsai pots tend to take up a relatively large amount of space, and their price can be a real attention-grabber also.
Soil: Cactus and succulent potting mixes are sometimes available commercially, but many people like to create their own special mix for their plants. There are some basic characteristics that a potting mix for cacti and succulents should possess. Perhaps the most important characteristic is that the soil should drain very well. The best way to achieve this is by adding horticultural-grade sand and grit to the compost component of the soil. Many believe that a good starting ratio for the mix’s components are one-third compost, one-third horticultural-grade sand, and one-third grit.
For the compost component, a growing number of hobbyists believe that a peat-based compost should not be used, as it seems to contribute to pest problems like ‘root mealy bug’ and ‘fungus gnat’, and doesn’t contribute much in the way of nutrients to the plant. Many people start with a good grade commercial potting mix for the compost component, and some sift it through a screen to remove such “undesirables” as the small pieces of wood and twigs that can sometimes be found in such mixes.
All sand is not created equal. The sand component should be horticultural grade, relatively coarse, and sharp. Never use non-horticultural grade sand, such as fill sand, as this is usually not washed, and can contain, among other things, salt.
For the grit component, most people agree that horticultural pumice is the best. It is also not widely available, and can be expensive if you can find it. Some other materials that can be used include pearlite, porous gravel, and lava fines. People often have good luck using fired clay products for the grit component. These products include certain cat litters and products that are used to absorb oil spills. If using one of the clay products, you must ensure that it is a fired clay that does not break down and turn to mush when it gets wet. Check the labeling, and to be sure, test it out by putting some in a jar of water for some time to see if it breaks down. Mush in your potting mix will do your plants no good.
Like everything else discussed so far, there are no hard and fast rules for potting mixes, so you’ll need to experiment with ratios. The above ratio of components represents a good starting point.
Repotting: Ideally, your plants should be repotted every year so that you can provide them with fresh soil, inspect and address problems with their root systems, and move them to bigger pots if necessary.
“Every year; yeah right,” you’re probably saying. You’re not alone in saying that. For best health, however, your plants really should at least be repotted when they start telling you they’re not happy in their current “digs.” If your plant looks out of proportion with its pot, is pushing its way up out of the pot, has roots that are growing out through the pot’s drainage holes, or is spitting the pot, guess what….
To re-pot, invert the pot and gently tap it to loosen the soil and roots from the pot. If the plant is really root-bound, you might need to resort to breaking the pot to get the plant out.
Next, clear away the old soil from the roots. Be careful when doing this, as you want to minimize damage to the roots. A thin stick, such as a chopstick, helps in this regard. Using the stick, gently tease out the roots and remove old mix. This is a good time also to inspect the mix for ‘pests’. If any roots appear dead and dried out, they can be pruned off. Note that some people use a sharp stream of water, as from a hose, to wash the mix from the roots, rather than use the stick method.
Repot the plant into the new pot, which should be a little larger than the old one, and in pleasing proportion with the plant. First, cover the drainage holes with clay pot shards or screening (your pot does have drainage holes, right?), then place the plant in the pot with fairly dry, fresh mix. You might want to apply a top dressing, such as crushed granite, but this isn’t necessary. Now, don’t water the plant right away. Instead, allow the plant to rest out of direct sunlight for a week or two before watering it. This allows any roots that were damaged to heal, as unhealed wet roots are very susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.
Old Wife’s Tale debunked: Remember your grandmother told you to always add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of a pot when repotting, to improve drainage? Your grandma might have made the best cherry cobbler in the world, but forget this advice about pebbles. The potting mix in your pots should extend all the way down to the bottom.
A word about handling your plants: Cacti and succulents grow in some extremely hostile environments, and as such have evolved some very inventive ways of defending themselves. They will not hesitate to use those defense mechanisms when you attempt to repot or otherwise handle them.
Unless you’re REALLY tough, you’re probably wondering how in the world you are going to get a grip on your spiny cactus while you repot it. Some good “tools” that can be used include newspaper or paper towels that have been wadded up, or blocks of foam.
Beware that not all spines are created equal. Some can be especially nasty. For example, that group of cacti known as opuntias – commonly referred to as “prickly pears” – have spines that, at the microscopic level, are barbed and very easily break off and remain lodged in the skin. Opuntias also have fine spines called “glochids” which, in extreme cases, have gotten into people’s eyes and caused problems. Some other types of cacti, as some mammillarias, have hooked spines which easily grab fast to skin and clothing.
Still, other succulents are known for having poisonous or irritating sap. Plants in the genus Euphorbia are especially known for this. Be careful around them.
Cacti and succulents are, no doubt, tough plants. They are, however, not without their problems. Aphids, snails, slugs, thrips, and nematodes are among some of the guests that can leave their mark on your collection. Below is a discussion of some of the more common pests to cacti and other succulents.
Mealy Bugs: No discussion of basic cacti and succulent care would be complete without a discussion of pests, and no discussion of pests would be complete without a discussion of our little friend, the mealybug. Mealybugs, or “mealies” as the are often referred to, are tiny insects about 0.1 inch (3mm) in length, which shroud themselves in a oval-shaped, cottony covering. It is the presence of these cottony masses, en masse, on your plants which signal the fact that you’ve been invaded by mealies. Mealybugs live their entire adult lives within their cottony fortresses, happily dining on plant sap. A plant infested with mealybugs will stop growing, weaken, and often eventually succumbs to rot.
Their cottony coverings protect them from predators AND contact pesticides. Minor infestations can be handled by dabbing the offending individuals with a cotton swab that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the covering, leaving them defenseless. Systemic insecticides are often used to control widespread mealybug attacks.
Being ever resourceful, mealybugs can also attack the roots of your plants, in which case they are called “root mealies.” If you don’t see any visible pests on a plant that appears sickly, root mealies might be to blame. To eliminate, unpot the plant, and if you find any unwanted guests, wash off as much soil and critters as possible, soak the roots in a systemic insecticide, and repot.
Spider Mites: Spider mites are really, really tiny critters which are all but invisible to the unaided eye. These pests are often found in their whitish webs, which are often spun close to the plant’s surface. They dine on plant sap. Infected plants often develop yellowish spots which later turn rusty brown, scarring the plant. Weakened plants are susceptible to secondary infections, be they viral, bacterial, or fungal.
Spider mites hate being wet. Of course, so do most cacti and succulents. Overhead watering and misting is often listed as a preventative and a cure for spider mite problems.
Mites are not insects, so insecticides often have little effect on them. The use of a miticide, however, is recommended for widespread problems.
Scale: Scale are pinhead-size insects that appear as raised tan or brown spots resembling marine limpet shells. The shells are actually hard coverings that protect the insects underneath. Like many other insect pests, they dine on the plant’s sap. Outbreaks of scale can be treated similarly to mealybug infestations.
Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are often a nuisance rather than a problem. When present, they are small black flies that can often be seen on and around the surface of the soil. In some cases, mostly when seedlings are involved, their larvae can cause damage and plant loss. Many hobbyists report that fungus gnats are more common in peat-based soils.
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Oh succulents; how their popularity marches on and on! They come in a wide range of sizes, forms, colors and shapes making them appealing to almost everyone. Are you new to the fun, wacky world of these fleshy beauties? Have you ever wondered how to water succulents?
Stick around for the answer and other things good to know. I’ll answer it right now in a nutshell: it depends. Not to be vague but there are a lot of variables involved which I’ll point out down below. This post (plus the video towards the end) serves as a guide and will give you things to think about when determining how to water your succulents, whether they’re planted in the ground, in pots or growing as houseplants.
Let me start this party off by defining what I mean by succulents here. All cacti are succulents but this isn’t about cacti. This is about those fleshy little beauties you see in pots, dish gardens, terrariums, kissing balls, wreaths, and living walls, as well as growing in the garden in some more temperate climates.
These are what I’m referring to in this post – the tapestry of “fleshies” planted in this bed at Barrel & Branches nursery in Encinitas, CA.
Cacti like these Golden Barrels can handle the strong sun & crazy heat here in the Sonoran Desert. These grow without supplemental water.
I for one love succulents and have been growing them for years. I’ve grown them both indoors and outdoors in very different climate zones. My first run in with a succulent was as a kid on our farmette in Litchfield County, CT. A 4′ Jade Plant in a huge container grew in the greenhouse off of our dining room. How exotic I thought that plant was!
I grew a few succulents on my deck in San Francisco. They were just coming on the mainstream market as my many years of living in the City by the Bay were wrapping up. My passion for them really sparked when I moved south.
I lived in Santa Barbara for 10 years and grew heaps of succulents which were planted in the garden and also in containers. The coast of Southern California (San Diego right up into the Central Coast) is the ideal climate for growing succulents outdoors. The fog tends to linger until mid-morning and the temps are mild year round.
I now live in Tucson, Arizona which is far from ideal climate for growing fleshy succulents. Nevertheless, they’re sold in almost every nursery along with stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc. The Sonoran Desert is hotter in summer and colder in the winter than the California coast.
Not to mention the fact that the omnipresent intense summer sun will fry them. This applies to other places like Phoenix, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas. As you can imagine, succulents need watering more often here. On to the good stuff!
How you water your succulents is an integral part of keeping them alive.
The beautiful succulent garden at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Cororna Del Mar. It’s 2 blocks from the Pacific Ocean & definitely worth a visit if you’re in or visiting Orange County.
How to Water Succulents Outdoors
You might want to read this post I did not too long ago about how much sun succulents need. How much water succulents need goes hand in hand with how much sun (& heat) they’re getting. I’ll share my experiences and you can adjust accordingly to your climate/growing conditions.
Along the California Coast
The majority of my succulent growing experience was garnered in Santa Barbara. The summer temps average around 75F & the temps in winter rarely dip below 40F.
The succulents growing in my garden were on dip which ran once every 8-10 days in the warmer months. I watered the ones in containers approximately 7 days. The fog lessened the need for constant watering & succulents thrived here.
I started dabbling in the world of succulent gardening in San Francisco when I bought a few at the UC Davis Botanic Garden. Succulents weren’t readily available then like they are now. They grew on my east facing deck in containers and I watered them every 2-4 weeks depending on the intensity of the fog. It’s easy to overwater succulents in a climate like this!
In the Sonoran Desert
It’s a much tougher climate for succulents than in southern California. Here I grow all mine in containers in bright shade. In summer, I water those in larger pots approximately every 7 days & the ones in smaller pots every 5 days. My hanging succulents I water twice a week.
In the spring & late fall (before & after the intense heat) it’s about every 10 days. In the winter months I back the watering off to every 2 weeks; more or less depending on the temps.
My Christmas (actually Thanksgiving) Cactus, Epiphyllum guatemalense & Dancing Bones grow under a skylight in the guest bath.
How to Water Succulents Indoors
Succulents need high light (out of direct, hot sun) to do well indoors. Some do better indoors than others. That being said, how often you water them depends on how much light they’re getting & how warm your house temps are.
I water my succulents growing indoors about every 2 weeks in the summer months. In the cooler, darker winter months it’s every 3-4 weeks. They get watered less frequently than my succulents growing outdoors; & rightfully so.
My epiphytes, the Christmas Cactus, Dancing Bones & Epiphyllums, get watered every week in the summer & every other week in the winter. These get a spray down in the kitchen sink because they’re native to the tropics & subtropics. My other succulents I don’t mist or spray.
When it comes to watering succulents indoors, just know that less is more. As a guideline, it’ll be every 7-14 days in the warmers months & very 3-4 weeks in winter. You want to give them a thorough watering & let the soil dry out before watering again.
The 2 categories below will help you factor in how often you’ll need to water.
A tapestry of succulents growing in fountains at Cordova Gardens in Encinitas.
Things to Consider When Watering Succulents
The drier your environment, the more often you’ll water.
The hotter, the more often.
The more sun, the more often (just know that fleshy succulents will burn in hot, direct sun).
The smaller the pot size, the more often. This applies to low dishes too.
The more humid your environment is, the less often you’ll water.
The more fog you have, the less often.
In winter, less often. This is the time for all plants to rest.
The denser the soil mix, the less often (because it holds more water).
If there is no drain hole, the less often. Water cautiously. Here’s how to plant & water succulents in pots with no drain holes. Planting succulents in terrariums or low glass dishes is common. Again, mind the amount & frequency of the watering.
Consider the pot type. Unglazed clay & terra cotta are porous so the roots get air. The mix may dry out more often. You may have to water succulents in plastic & glazed pots (like ceramics) which aren’t porous a bit less often.
I’ve found that succulents with thin stems & smaller leaves, such as String Of Pearls, String Of Bananas & Ruby Necklace need watering more often than succulents with thick stems & leaves such as Echvererias, Paddle Plants, Aloe Vera & the like can go longer without water.
Succulents like these at Roger’s Gardens growing in driftwood will need watering more often.
Good Things to Know About Watering Succulents
There are no special watering techniques when it comes to succulents. The only thing I’d say is to water the soil & not the foliage.
I’ve never use distilled water when watering my succulents. Other plants are susceptible to the salts & can tip but I haven’t found that to be true when it comes to the fleshies.
Don’t “splash & go”. Succulents would rather get a thorough watering less often than a little bit of water here & there.
I water all my plants, including succulents, with room temperature water.
Don’t water your succulents too often – they’re very subject to root rot. They store water in their fleshy leaves, stems & roots.
Hand in hand with the above, down let them sit in a saucer full of water. It’ll keep the soil mix way too wet.
If you live in a rainy climate, you may need to grow your succulents under the cover of something like a porch . They “mush out” fast!
If you have a watering system, succulents will do much better if they’re on drip rather than spray.
Follow the weather & water accordingly. For instance, here in Tucson our winter 2 years ago warm & sunny so I watered more often. Last winter was much cooler so I watered less often.
Succulents don’t like a heavy or dense soil mix. It’s best to plant succulents in a light mix to prevent over watering. Here’s my favorite DIY succulent & cactus mix if you’re into making your own.
Or, a few online options for buying succulent & cactus mix: Bonsai Jack (this 1 is very gritty; great for those prone to overwatering!), Hoffman’s (this is more cost effective if you have a lot of succulents but you might have to add pumice or perlite) or Superfly Bonsai (another fast draining 1 like Bonsai Jack which is great for indoor succulents).
Over watering / Under watering
Just like with all plants (especially houseplants) there’s a line between too much water & too little water. If the leaves & stems are yellowed, shriveled & look dried, then your succulent is under watered. If the leaves & stems are mushy & brown, then it’s over watered. Don’t worry about the occasional lower leaf drying out on succulents is normal – it’s how they grow.
More Tips for Watering Succulents
Watering Succulents After Repotting
I water my succulents a few days before repotting them. After repotting, I let them settle in for 5-7 days before watering. From then on, I resume watering as usual.
Watering Succulent Pups
I’ll let the newly planted succulent babies settle in for 1-5 days (depending on the succulent) before watering. Then, I water them more often than I do an established plant until the roots are grown in.
Watering Succulents When on Vacation
I travel a lot. Unless you’re gone for over 3 weeks, your succulents should be fine. Most people turn down their air conditioning & heat when away lessening the chance of them going dry for an extended period.
Watering Small Succulents (2-4″ pot size)
It’s common to see succulents sold in small pots. Because the soil mass is small, it’l dry out faster. Water these more often; on the average once a week.
General guidelines for succulents in pots
In small pots, water every 7 days.
In medium pots, water every 10 days.
In large pots, water every 14 days.
Where to Water Succulents
I’ve gotten this question a couple of times. I water the soil all around the pot (not just on 1 side) & avoid getting the leaves wet. The epiphytes are different – they appreciate a spray or mist.
I love Spiral Aloes. They’re not very common & are extremely slow growing so I wanted to share this pic with you.
So, as you see there are lots of variables involved when it comes to watering succulents. The conditions they’re growing in (how humid, how hot or cold, pot size, composition of soil mix, intensity of the sun, or whether they’re inside or out, all come into play.
I hope this helps and gives you some things to think about. Just remember, when it comes to watering succulents, easy on the liquid love!
Got More Questions About Succulents? We Got Answers!
How Much Sun Do Succulents Need?
Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix for Pots
How to Transplant Succulents into Pots
Aloe Vera 101: A Round Up of Aloe Vera Plant Care Guides
You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive
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Here’s the deal on How Often to Water Succulents.
Many people think it’s best when growing succulent plants to give them a small amount of water occasionally or water every 2 weeks.
Some even try watering succulents using a spray bottle or wonder “do you have to water succulents at all?”.
These are both bad ideas.
Although succulents and cacti can survive on tiny amounts of water occasionally, this is not optimal.
So, how often do you water succulents indoors and outdoors?
We’re going to answer all your questions in this article including:
- How much water does a succulent need?
- How often do succulents need water?
- How much do you water succulents?
- How to water succulents without drainage.
- Best way to water succulents.
And many more of your succulents watering questions.
To answer the question of “How often should you water succulents?”
The answer: If you want your succulents to thrive, you should water them thoroughly and rarely.
In this article, we explain the right way to water succulents and provide smart tips to ensure your success.
What Damage Does Improper Watering Cause?
Cactus and succulents are generally very trouble-free plants, but overwatering is a sure way to cause and attract problems.
Overwatered succulents are subject to root rot and are more attractive to pests.
These plants are extremely susceptible to stem and root rot and any excess water left standing at the base of a saucer can increase the chances of rot.
You are far more likely to kill your succulents with too much water than with too little.
Even so, every living being needs water, and it is possible for a succulent to die of thirst.
Hitting the right balance between drought and flood is important.
How Much To Water Succulents and What Are The Best Succulent Watering Practices?
Throughout your succulent’s normal growing season, succulents like regular watering as well as fertilizing.
For most succulents, the growth period lasts from early spring and into the autumn. In the wintertime, succulents typically rest.
Generally speaking, you should check the moisture condition of your succulents every two or three weeks.
This is easy to do. Poke your finger into the top inch of the soil.
If no soil clings to your finger when you pull it out, you know that the soil is dry.
Another way to check on the water condition of succulents is to be familiar with how much the pot weighs when the soil is dry as opposed to how much it weighs when the soil is wet.
During the growing season, you can’t go wrong by allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings and then watering thoroughly.
During the plant‘s rest period, water less often and sparingly.
Throughout the plant’s growing season, provide succulents with very diluted (1/4 strength) balanced liquid fertilizer at every watering.
Balanced fertilizers contain equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
The best choice in fertilizer for succulents is a 10 – 10 – 10 combination that has been diluted to 1/4 the recommended strength.
Read plantcaretoday.com article on Succulent Fertilizing
How Often Do You Need To Water Succulents?
How often do I water my succulents?
The watering schedule will vary depending on the season and how much sun your plants get.
Plants kept in full sun will dry out quicker than those growing in filtered sunlight and need more water.
Generally speaking, succulents and all cacti must be watered more often during the growing season, which is spring and summer for most.
In the wintertime when the weather is cool and the days are shorter with not as much light, most succulents will rest.
They’ll remain alive, but they won’t grow at all.
During this time, water no more often than once a month.
If you overwater you’re sure to cause root rot.
Of course, if you’re keeping your succulents indoors as houseplants in a heated room, they will need to be watered more often under these growing conditions than if you’re overwintering them outside or in an unheated garage.
No matter how or where you overwinter your succulents, don’t give them any fertilizer during the winter months.
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How To Water Succulents In Planters With Drainage Holes?
Good drainage is important for healthy succulent root systems and plants.
During the growing season, check your succulent’s water condition about once a week.
If you find the soil is completely dry, soak it thoroughly. Allow enough water to run through the pots’ drainage hole, but don’t allow the pot to sit in water.
How Do You Water Succulents In Planters Without Drainage Holes?
If your planter does not have holes for drainage, be sure to familiarize yourself with the dry vs. the wet weight of the planter and substrate.
Water when it reaches its dry weight, but don’t overdo it. The substrate should be moist, not soggy.
What’s The Best Water For Succulents?
Be careful about the type of water you give your succulent plants.
If your tap water is very hard or alkaline, it will introduce a lot of minerals to your plants’ soil.
With time, the minerals will build up, and this can harm your plants.
Repotting annually with all fresh substrate can help prevent a dangerous build-up of minerals.
You may also wish to water your succulents with filtered, bottled or rainwater. If it snows where you live, melt some snow in the wintertime.
Sources: 1 | 2
DON’T OVERWATER YOUR PLANTS….THEY WILL DIE!! Water only when the soil is dry! Don’t water if the soil is wet! If it takes 2 weeks for the soil to dry, then water in 2 weeks. If it takes 2 days for the soil to dry, then you can water in 2 days!
Succulents should be watered generously in the summer as described above, BUT soil should be allowed to completely dry between watering!! . During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once a month. Overwatering and ensuing plant rot is the single most common cause of plant failure. Be aware, though, that an overwatered succulent might at first plump up and look very healthy. However, the cause of death may have already set in underground, with rot spreading upward from the root system. A succulent should never be allowed to sit in water. They love water but hate to swim! Do not keep them in trays as the excess water can cause them to rot.
Overwatering – Overwatered plants are soft and discolored. The leaves may be yellow or white and lose their color. A plant in this condition may be beyond repair, but you can still remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and rotted, cut away dead roots and repot into drier potting media. Orr take a cutting and propagate the parent plant.
Underwatering – Succulents prefer generous water during the growing season (spring and summer). An underwatered plant will first stop growing, then begin to shed leaves. Succulents are not cactus. They will begin to show stress, withered, droopy leaves etc. Alternatively, the plant may develop brown spots on the leaves. A good drink will plump them up. It’s always a good idea to contact your local Cactus & Succulent Society/Club for specific information related to your exact area.
***IF you live in a humid climate, this needs to be taken in to consideration when watering. Upon arrival and evermore, do not over soak your plants, water a bit and do not water again until the plant and soil is all the way dry to the bottom of the pot. ROT is the #1 killer of succulents~ they prefer being under watered vs. over watered!!***
Other Tips – DO NOT use a spray bottle/MISTER to spray your succulents/cactus!!! It does them no good and only causes fungal and rot problems. Succulents and cactus do not like or need moist and humid conditions. They need a good and thorough drink of water all the way through and then nothing! No matter how much you want to water them, spray them, don’t until soil is dry again! I can’t say this enough! Succulents are not houseplants or flowers that need constant water. They allow you to relax and forget about them for awhile! This is the number one problem people have, please don’t waste your money and kill your plants by overwatering, or underwatering with just a spray bottle. Overwatering and humidity are a recipe for disaster!! NEVER WATER WHEN SOIL IS STILL WET!!!!!!!!!
Regarding watering, succulents do enjoy water a bit more than their pokey/prickly cousins the cactus. Be observant. If something looks wrong, stop your current pattern of watering, reread this, and email us, Succulents and cactus are so easy to grow and so hard to kill. Your succulents and cactus should outlive you either directly or with all of their cuttings and pups!!!
Watering Succulent Plants: How And When To Water A Succulent Plant
Watering succulent plants is likely the essential part of growing them, so we want to get it right. For the long-time gardener or those who regularly grow houseplants, water requirements for succulents are much different and require a change in watering habits. Keep in mind that overwatering is the most common cause of succulent death.
When to Water a Succulent
When learning how often to water succulents, remember that many of them originate in dry, arid climates where rainfall is rare. Succulent plants store water in their roots, leaves, and stems. Wrinkling leaves after an extended dry period are sometimes an indicator of when to water a succulent. Check the soil first to make sure it is completely dry before watering.
Water these plants infrequently, and water them at night, as succulents take in water during nighttime hours and their respiration happens at this time.
How Much Water Do Succulents Need?
When watering succulent plants, water thoroughly so that it comes out of the drainage holes. This encourages roots to grow downward as they should. Light watering with droppers or spoons sometimes causes roots to reach upward for water, not a healthy situation for your beloved succulent plant. Roots of these plants sometimes spread laterally.
Avoid getting the foliage damp; this can cause leaves of the succulent to disintegrate. If you accidentally get them wet, blot the water with a paper towel.
Short containers are more easily saturated and dry out more quickly. Using proper soil with good drainage components like sand, perlite, pumice, or coir helps dry out the soil more quickly as well. In short, don’t water often and keep your plants healthy and alive.
It is not ideal to plant your succulents in a container without drainage holes, but it is something most of us sometimes do. Watering succulents with no drainage holes is tricky, but many do it successfully. Use a limited amount of water; this is where the dropper or spoon comes in. Squirt water at the base of the plants, enough to reach down and wet the short root system. If you’ve put a plant into a container without holes and you know it has a bigger root system, water accordingly.
Check your soil for moisture with your finger, down to the second joint, before watering. If you detect any moisture, wait for a few days to a week and check again. Or use an electronic moisture meter, which is designed specifically for the task.
If your soil is soggy, or a new plant you’ve brought home is in wet soil, remove the plant from the pot, remove as much of the soggy soil from the roots as possible and let it dry out for a couple of days. Repot into dry soil and don’t water again for at least a week.
Secret to Sensational Succulents – How To Water Succulents! – Easy To Grow Bulbs
Proper Watering For Your Succulents
Of course you know succulents are all the rage – and for good reason! Vibrant colors, fascinating forms, and such versatility that we use them as houseplants, garden additions and as living décor. This guide is to show you everything you need when caring for succulents!
Succulents are highly unusual plants that require little care to look terrific. But “little care” is not the same as “none at all”. And if succulents need less water than most plants – that doesn’t tell you how much to water or when. To really enjoy succulents, you need to know how to water them to keep them healthy, right? There is no simple answer to how often do you water succulents – instead, let’s review how to know when your succulent needs water or has too much. Everyone always says how easy it is to care for succulents. But then why do so many succulent plants die?
Caring for succulents truly is easy – you just need a little information.
What is a Succulent Plant?
Succulents are a vast collection of plants that have evolved to survive extreme drought by storing water in specialized cells in their leaves, stems and roots. In times of drought, these cells slowly release their moisture to be used by the rest of the plant, enabling it to survive in periods of drought. Think of these water storage cells as zillions of teeny, tiny water balloons in each succulent plant. A healthy succulent plant takes in the water in the soil, and fills each water storage cell. The “water balloons” swell to their fullest, and they retain this moisture level until it is needed.
When to Water Succulents & When to Leave Dry?
This adaptation of storing water for later use enables succulent plants to thrive even when water is scarce. Because this is the adaptation succulents have made, it tells us it is FAR better to leave your succulents too dry rather than too wet. They have adapted to survive overly dry conditions.
Signs Your Succulent Needs Water
Better dry than wet does not mean “never water” your succulent plants. Water is essential for the plant’s health, just like any other. Wrinkled, shriveled leaves indicate the succulent needs more water. As those water balloon-like cells release their stored moisture to the rest of the plant, they try to bring in more water to replace what they have lost. When they cannot get more water, and the plant continues to rely on the stores being depleted, the cells contract to smaller size, the “balloon” deflates, leaving the once plump and firm leaves collapsing and shriveling. This is a clear sign that your succulent needs more water.
Deep Drink or Little Sips?
To promote healthy roots and to work with the plant’s natural design, water deeply and then give the soil time to dry out. This is the key to watering your succulents – fewer, deeper waterings. When the soil is dry, water deeply. If the succulent is in a container with good drainage, set the container in a tray of water, and let the soil wick up the water for about five minutes. Then remove the pot from the water and let it drain. Do not water again until the soil is dry. If the succulent is in the ground or in a container too large to move, water at the soil line, rather than from over head. Be sure not to let the succulent sit in waterlogged soil. Empty any catch trays after about five minutes.
Signs Your Succulent Is Overwatered
Storing water in its cells enables the succulent to thrive even in dry soils. Healthy succulents replace the water released from storage when more is available in the soil. This is critical for the plants health.
Overwatering basically causes those water balloons to over fill and burst, resulting in deeply damaged cell structures and rotting leaves and roots. The first signs of this happening are a discoloration of the leaves as they begin to become translucent. Rather than feeling firm, they look and feel soft and squishy. Unlike plant leaves being stressed by too little water – something the leaves can recover from – these leaves will be dropped by the plant. While it is possible for a succulent to recover from this condition, it will be difficult, and it must be rescued from the wet conditions. An alternative to trying to save the overwatered succulent is to take leaves and cuttings to root and form brand new plants.
Healthy Succulent Leaves Dry Out
Plants tell us about the plant’s health. Succulents are no exception. Shrunken, shriveled leaves indicate a need for water. Soft, squishy leaves losing color show damage caused by too much water. But some succulents routinely shut down older leaves as they grow.
This is a familiar pattern with many of the “hens-and-chicks style succulents like echeveria. Lower, older leaves dry out, turn brown and eventually are sloughed off by the plant. When this is a natural part of the plant’s growth, you will note that these leaves do not shrivel up, they just thin out to a very dry, raspy feel. They do not lose coloring, it changes to brown. These leaves no longer store water, and they feel papery. These leaves can be left on the plant to be dropped at a later date, or you can remove them to keep the plant looking its best.
Succulents Need Fast Draining Soil
No discussion of how to water your succulents is complete without discussion of the right soil. Succulents need a soil that will provide fast draining for water. Not well-drained soil like most garden plants, but fast draining. It will have large sized aggregates that allow oxygen to get to the roots. There are many cactus and succulent potting mixes on the market, or you can make your own. There is no one recipe that is best. You can use a 1:1 ratio of potting mix and perlite, or one of many others you will find online. The key is to have fast drainage so the plant never sits in waterlogged soil. A good test is to take a handful of the mix you want to use for your succulents. Wet the mix, and squeeze it together. It should not form a clump, but crumble away. If it crumbles, you are ready to plant your succulents!
I dearly love succulents! I hope this article helps you to enjoy your succulent plants. I would love to hear what you think – please take a moment to leave a comment. Check back for more succulent starring posts to come. Let’s make it a Succulent Summer!
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How To Water Your Succulents Without Killing Them: The Complete Guide
Because Even Desert Plants Need Water!
“Succulents are so easy, you barely have to water them!” While we’d be the first to tell you how low-maintenance succulents are, these desert plants still need water – in moderation, of course! Read on for our Do’s and Don’t’s on watering and peep our video for more info:
- Use well-draining soil. First thing’s first! Choose any cactus soil for your succulents. Cactus soil has a higher ratio of perlite to soil than regular potting soil, allowing water to drain out quicker. This is important to avoiding root rot in your succulents. (You can even get fancy and mix in a little sand or some pebbles.)
- Water until you see a puddle. When it rains it pours! When using a pot with draining holes, water at the base of the soil until you see a slight puddle form at the bottom of the pot. No need to water again until the soil is completely dry, which can be anywhere from 7 to 14 days (longer in the winter–see below), but it never hurts to check! To check if your soil is dry, stick your finger in the drainage hole and in the top, and feel the soil. If it feels moist at all, wait a few days and check again.
- No drainage hole? Measure the soil. If you are using a pot without drainage holes, a 2:1 soil-to-water ratio may help you avoid a Water World situation. For example, if your succulent is in two cups of soil, measure one cup of water. *Tip: Feel your planter when it’s watered to get a feel for how heavy it is, that way you’ll know when it’s ready to get watered again by how light it feels. You should also stick your finger into the soil and feel around to be sure your soil mixture is completely dry.
- Humidity. Live in a place with super humid, hot summers? Your succulent may not need as much water as you think. Live in a place with dry-as-a-bone heat waves? Up the water ante! Here’s the deal: Succulents take in moisture from the air as well as their soil, so if you live in an area with very humid seasons, your succulent is already getting moisture from the air. Consider a longer period between watering during those humid seasons (about every 10 to 14 days). Conversely, soil will dry out quicker in very dry, warm environments, so if you live in a place with little to no humidity in the summertime, your succulent will likely need water every 7 to 10 days.
- Temperature. Humidity is a big factor in summertime, but in wintertime, temperature matters more. Your heating system may make the air in your home very dry, but temperatures and hours of sunlight still take a dip during this time of year. This, along with the fact that most succulents go dormant and stop or slow growing in the winter, means they’ll require more time between watering than in the warmer months. Once or twice a month is adequate. More on wintertime succulent care.
Water-Related Warning Signs
Signs: An over-watered succulent will look bloated, and its bottom leaves will start turning pale/yellow. Its leaves will feel mushy and watery, and they fall off very easily (sometimes on their own). The soil of an over-watered succulent will take a long time to dry out (more than 7-10 days) and may always feel a little damp.
Fix: Over-watered succulents are notoriously difficult to save, but it’s worth a try! First, un-pot your succulent and crumble away the dirt around its roots. Check for root rot, which presents as a black stem and dark brown/black roots. If there’s no sign of root rot, simply repot your succulent in cactus soil and wait a few weeks to water.
If you do find rot, cut off the top part of the succulent above the rotted roots or rotted stem, depending on how far up the rot has traveled. Next, leave that top part of your succulent out to callus over. Once a callus has formed where you cut, nestle it back into cactus soil and water lightly once a week. After a few weeks it will have sprouted new roots!
Signs: An under-watered succulent will feel thin, dry, and rubbery. Its leaves can easily be bent and folded, and they may appear wrinkly. The succulent may have stopped growing even in warm, sunny environments, and its soil probably dries out well before its next watering.
Fix: Don’t make a big adjustment right away. First, water your succulent. Second, shorten the time in between watering by a day or two. See how it does. If it seems strong and healthy after a few weeks, keep that schedule. If it still feels limp and rubbery, shorten the time in between watering by another day or two. Continue until you find your succulent’s sweet spot!
- Use a spray bottle – Spray bottles are great for propagating leaves, but they’re not a great tool for watering a potted succulent. Using a watering can or measuring cup with a lip.
- Panic! – Succulents are very forgiving plants. Under-watering is FAR easier to bounce back from than over-watering, so err on the side of desert-like conditions.
Alright, now let’s get those overwatered succulents replaced. After all, you’ve already got the pots and soil right?
Succulent Watering Tips
Make sure to use a pot with drainage hole
If you’re a beginner, we highly recommend using pots with drainage holes. Though it is possible to grow succulents in pots without drainage holes, the risk of rot is much higher as water may sit at the bottom of the pot and keep the soil wet for an extended amount of time. It also takes more effort and expertise as you have to carefully monitor the watering schedule and the amount of water needed to keep the succulents in their best shape and health. Luckily, you can add drainage holes to most containers with a diamond tip drill bit. For glass containers, you can add a layer of pebble and charcoal to encourage good drainage.
Terracotta pot with drainage hole |
The material of the pots is also important in keeping your succulents happy. Pots made of porous materials such as terracotta and ceramic allow water to evaporate faster than plastic or glass pots. Make sure you know the pros and cons of different pot materials before choosing one for your plants.
Use fast draining soil
Succulents rot easily if they sit in water for too long. It is extremely important to provide fast draining soil that doesn’t retain water to allow the roots to breathe. Using fast draining soil + pot with drainage holes allows you to be more carefree when watering your succulents. Fast draining soil designed specifically for succulents and cacti can be easily found in local garden centers or home improvement stores at an affordable price. You can also create your own soil mix by simply mixing light, porous potting soil + fluffy materials such as perlite or pumice.
<image source: Succulents and More>
Always check the soil before watering
Some succulent species need more water than others. Most will have wrinkles and dropping leaves when they need more water. But you should not water your succulents too often. Generally, simply check the top of the soil, if it’s completely dry, it’s time to water. Make sure to thoroughly soak the soil and then give it some time to dry out. Don’t water it again until the soil becomes completely dry.
It’s always better to underwater than overwater. Therefore, for beginners, we recommend that you water once every 2 weeks at first, then observe your succulents’ reactions and adjust the watering schedule accordingly. Learning to tell if your succulents are overwatered or underwatered might seem daunting but it can be done.
Water at the roots. Don’t spray or water on the leaves
Watering bottle |
- Don’t use spray bottles. A common watering mistake is that you can water your succulents by simply spraying water on their leaves. In fact, that only works for propagating leaves and baby plants. In adult plants, it’s the root that absorbs water and nutrition. Use watering bottles or cans that have a long small spout to water gently and directly at the root ball. Watering bottles are lightweight and have scale marks that allow you to control the amount of water you want to give your plants.
- Don’t water on the leaves or on top of the plant. Water that stays on the leaves for too long can cause the leaves to rot.
- Don’t water when it’s humid/raining or extremely hot.
- Don’t water at noon or in the afternoon. The best time to water is in the morning.
- Use rainwater, distilled water, or filtered water if possible to avoid mineral deposit. If you use tap water, leave it out overnight to allow some of the treated chemicals to dissipate into the air.
Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions for us on watering techniques. We would also love to learn effective ways you use to keep your succulents happy and healthy.
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