Wondering when to water succulents? These plants generally need less watering than other houseplants, so getting it right can seem like a challenge.
One of the best houseplants you can grow with a range of shapes, sizes and colors, succulents make a fabulous display in an interior – and, of course, they’re popular for the yard too.
But despite the fact that they can tolerate drought conditions, it’s possible to submerge them as well as overwater them, so our guide has the know-how you need to keep them happy and healthy.
When to Water Succulents
Learning how to care for succulents isn’t difficult, but it’s when it comes to watering that things often go wrong.
“Succulents are undemanding plants that can store a large amount of water, allowing them to easily survive short periods of drought,” says Nastya Vasylchyshyna, resident expert botanist for the NatureID app. “The most important rule to remember when it comes to watering succulents: don’t overwater them.” Here is the truth.
How Much Water Do Succulents Need?
“Succulents generally need less water than other potted plants, and they store water in their swollen stems and leaves,” says Dr. Clydette Alsup-Egbers, associate professor of environmental plant science at Missouri. State University.
“Because they are native to the drier regions of the world, succulents tend to have short root systems close to the soil surface. So when infrequent rains occur, they can quickly absorb moisture. which seeps into the ground.
How do you know when to water succulents?
Rather than following a rigid schedule, the key to knowing when to water succulents is learning to smell the soil.
‘I expect the potting soil/mix (“soil”) to be on the dry side about 1-2 inches deep, which means they usually need to be watered once or twice a week if they are growing outdoors sunshine during the hottest months of the year,’ says Dr Alsup-Egbers.
You might also be able to judge by the appearance of the plant. “The leaves of the succulent may show signs of dryness – look for a softer, slightly wrinkled surface to indicate the plant is ready for water,” says Lindsay Pangborn, gardening expert at Bloomscape.
When succulents need water, don’t hold back. “Water thoroughly until the water comes out of the drainage holes at the base of the container, and drain any water that collects in the saucer under the container,” says Dr. Alsup-Egbers.
Be aware that it can sometimes be tricky to water succulents. “Since succulents prefer their soil to dry out completely between waterings, it’s common for the soil to shrink from the sides of the pot and become hydrophobic,” Lindsay explains. “This can make it difficult to water properly, as water will naturally fall off the ground rather than soak into it.”
‘If this is the case I recommend using the bottom watering method allowing the pot to sit in a shallow tray of water where it can absorb it through the drainage hole. After 20-30 minutes, remove the pan from the water and let the excess drain off.
When should you water succulents in different seasons?
The season of the year definitely matters in determining when to water succulents. “The watering needs of succulents can change at different times of the year depending on the weather,” says Lindsay Pangborn. “Spring and summer are usually active growing months for succulents thanks to the warmer temperatures and longer days, and during this time you will notice your plant using water faster, which equates to more frequent watering needs.
“During the winter, most indoor succulents go into a natural dormant period and only need water occasionally. Watering succulents once every four to six weeks is normal during the winter months. Yellow or drooping leaves may indicate that you have overwatered.
Watering Succulents Outdoors
The needs of plants in the yard are a little different. “Outdoor plants need water more frequently than indoor ones that are sheltered from wind and direct sun,” says Michele Chambliss, ASHS-certified horticulturist at Perennial Garden Consultants.
How and where succulents are grown is also important. “Container succulents require more frequent watering than plants in the ground,” says Michele. “Succulents in maritime climates such as coastal California require less frequent irrigation events than succulents in warmer interior areas.”
In the yard, it is crucial to know if the plant is actively growing. “Aeoniums and aloes, for example, tend to go dormant in the summer, and watering too often can cause the roots to rot and kill the plant,” Michele continues.
“Cacti (which are succulents), on the other hand, require more frequent watering during the hot summer months, especially in hot deserts. Like all succulents, cacti have adapted to long periods of hot, dry conditions by developing succulent flesh that retains moisture, as well as prickles and spines that help protect the plant from the sun. But they still need occasional water to be at their best, and that may depend on the amount of rainfall in a specific area. Here in Las Vegas, part of the eastern Mojave Desert, our annual rainfall averages 4 inches or less. Cacti and succulents thus established in the ground require water about twice a month in the summer.
“When you see the cactus shrivel between the ribs, or the shrivel of a succulent, that’s an indication that the watering is overdue.”
“Always water the same amount, which can vary from plant to plant. What changes with the seasons is frequency, not duration or quantity.
‘Do not water cacti or succulents during the winter unless they are actively growing. Harden off succulents in the fall, gradually decreasing the frequency of irrigation events. This helps the plant withstand cold temperatures without damage.
How do you know when a succulent needs water?
To judge when a succulent needs water, check the soil. “Soil moisture is a good indicator of when your succulent needs to be watered,” says Lindsay Pangborn. “When the soil is completely dry (check with your finger) and the pot is very light, it’s time to water.”
As to whether you know when to water succulents properly, you will be able to see. “Plants that are overwatered will have yellowish or soggy leaves,” says Dr. Alsup-Egbers. The top or middle leaves of under-watered succulents will be brown, dry, and crispy. Note, however, the natural life cycle of the plant. “It’s normal for the lower leaves to turn brown and die back, so it’s nothing to worry about,” she says.
How often should I water my succulent?
The frequency of watering succulents will depend on a number of factors. “The frequency of watering depends on the species, the size of the plant and the conditions of maintenance,” says Nastya Vasylchyshyna.
“From spring to fall, during the period of active growth, these plants should be watered once every seven to ten days. In winter, when daylight becomes shorter, succulents go dormant, so you don’t need to water them more than once every three to four weeks. Cacti, being stem succulents, are able to perfectly tolerate even longer periods of drought. That’s why you can water them once every five to six weeks in winter.
Be sure to check the soil and leaves of succulents as the best guide to their watering needs, rather than following a schedule.