If you’re just starting out with succulents, you’ve probably done tons of research on how to care for succulents. One grim stat you can’t miss is the overwhelming majority of succulent deaths linked to over-watering. This can trigger all sorts of anxiety with questions like; how much water do succulents need?
Flipping the coin though, or if you are a ‘bottle-half-full’ person, you’d quickly spot the silver lining in that water-related stat: nailing the succulent watering issue is the surest path to getting a healthy plant. This makes succulents low-maintenance and perfect for even newbies wishing to cut their plant parenting teeth.
This article is a comprehensive guide on how to water succulents correctly. As well as how much water you need to give your succulents, vital issues like when and how to water succulents, how often to water indoor and outdoor succulents, and much more would be discussed.
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How Much Water Do Succulents Need?
Veteran houseplant parents growing succulents know that there is a clear distinction between succulents and other houseplants in terms of water requirements: succulents require much less water even though this is the main ‘parenting’ that needs to be done to keep them healthy.
The origins and habits of succulents are key to understanding the best watering habits to adopt. Most of them originated from dry regions with little to no rainfall. They have adapted to these harsh conditions by being able to store any extra water in their roots, stems, and leaves.
That is how they can survive drought-like conditions for long. Nevertheless, they love regular watering during the growing season.
As well as the origins, understanding the type of succulents you are dealing with is critical when it comes to how much and how often you water them.
There are, essentially, two kinds of succulents depending on their growing season:
- Summer succulents – These are succulents with a summer growing season. They typically become dormant in winter.
- Winter succulents – Their active growing season is in winter and they enter dormancy in summer.
Generally, you want to water succulents more frequently in their growing season at least once a week. This frequency is, however, also dependent on weather conditions.
The best succulents irrigation strategy is to base the schedule on the soil moisture level. Whether summer or winter succulent, the ideal time to water is when the soil is completely dry. And when you do water, flood the soil until the excess water runs out of the drainage hole(s) at the bottom.
Finally, in the dormancy period, you want to lower the amount of water and how often you water them. The rule of thumb is to give the plants just enough water to keep them alive and prevent them from appearing shriveled or wrinkled.
So far, we’ve outlined the general information you need to keep in mind when watering your succulents. We’d now look at specifics like:
- When to water succulents
- How to water succulents properly
- How often to water indoor succulents and outdoor succulents
- How to water succulents in pots without drainage holes
When and How Often to Water Succulents
The ideal time to water succulents ties in closely with the frequency or how often you need to do it. To get the best from your succulents, you need to water them at dawn before the sun is up, especially if they are outdoors.
But the critical point is how often you need to do it. As already stated in the general watering guidelines above, irrigate your succulents only when the soil is completely dry. This condition could impose an interval that is up to once a week between watering sessions or even more depending on the weather conditions.
For instance, the combination of high humidity and cold temperatures means longer intervals between watering sessions. This is because the soil takes more time to become completely dry.
On the other hand, low humidity combined with high temperatures means faster evaporation of soil moisture. You’d need to water more often in these conditions.
The pot’s size would also affect the amount and frequency of watering needed to keep them healthy. Essentially, larger pots would need more water but less frequent watering than smaller pots if all other conditions are the same.
So how can you tell if the soil is bone dry and ready for watering? For most plants, the ‘finger test’, where you stick a finger into the soil, would be enough. This wouldn’t cut it for succulents unless your finger can reach the bottom of the pot.
Your best option is to invest in a moisture meter. These are readily available in both online and offline shops. They are also inexpensive and very easy to use.
Simply stick the prod end into the soil right to the bottom. Only decide to water the soil if the meter readings indicate there is absolutely no moisture left in the soil.
In the absence of a moisture meter, your next best option is to check the root ball for signs of moisture. This method (specific to potted succulents) requires carefully pulling up the succulent from the soil.
With the roots out of the soil, you can determine if the soil around the roots is completely dry or not by feeling around with your fingers.
Now that you’ve accurately determined the soil is completely dry, you can go ahead and water it.
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How to Water Succulents
First off, the pot or pots all must have good drainage holes. A single large drainage hole at the bottom of the pot or multiple small drainage holes would do just fine
There is a right way and a wrong way to water succulents. For instance, you don’t want to use heavy water. Rainwater is perfect and the public tap water is okay if you are sure it doesn’t contain too many salts and chemicals.
Also, avoid spraying the leaves with water. That is one way to encourage fungi and other harmful organisms to grow on the leaves.
It’s best to use a watering can with a long spout so you can easily target only the soil with water. Some gardeners even use syringes to water small succulents in equally small pots. There are many creative options you can deploy to aid watering without letting the water touch the leaves.
When you water, drench the soil liberally with the water. Don’t hold back. Remember the bone dry soil would need enough water to moisturize all parts of the soil and roots.
The excess water would escape from the drainage hole(s). So you want to ensure that the pot is sitting on a drip tray if the plant is indoors or you don’t want the excess water messing up the floor of your patio, deck, or porch.
No matter how long it takes, the next time you have to water, make sure the soil is completely dry first. So always keep your moisture meter handy.
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Over-watering is one of the main causes of succulent death. And it’s a simple jump from thinking your plants don’t have enough water to over-watering.
Over-watered soils turn very soggy creating the perfect breeding ground for harmful soil fungi and ultimately root rot as the fungi decimate the roots. In most cases, there is no coming back for a succulent affected by root rot. Disposing of the affected plant and potting soil is the solution to this issue.
This is why emphasis is always placed on sticking to the recommended succulents watering routine – water only when the soil is completely dry.
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How Often to Water Outdoor Succulents
Outdoors, you can grow succulents in containers or pots and in garden beds. The watering routine for both is only slightly different.
Watering potted outdoor succulents – If you are taking the succulents outdoors for the first time, they’d need time to get used to the outdoors. So you want to place the pot in a partially shaded area for a few days before moving it to a brighter location.
In terms of watering, they’ll need comparatively more water compared to indoor succulents. However, the frequency would depend on the prevalent weather conditions as explained earlier.
The size of the pot or container would also affect how often you water the plants. Succulents grown in bigger containers would need to be watered less often than succulents in smaller pots.
Watering garden bed succulents – Watering also relies heavily on weather conditions. That said, outdoor succulents grown in garden beds tend to have a more expansive and robust root system. So you’d expect they can withstand dry conditions longer than potted succulents.
The roots typically burrow deep into the soil in search of water in drought-like conditions. Though the watering frequency depends on the weather conditions too, watering them once a week is the norm.
However, if they are not on well-draining soil, your efforts might be useless. Soils that don’t drain well or retain too much water get soggy leading to root rot.
When faced with this issue, consider planting the succulents in raised beds using a combination of compost and perlite for the garden soil. The perlite would ensure adequate drainage.
How often to water succulents indoors – Most of the watering strategies in this guide are all about indoor succulents. Let’s face it, we grow succulents mostly indoors in pots or containers.
To recap, the essential tips for watering indoor succulents include:
- Water only when the soil is completely dry
- Use a watering can with a long spout
- Ensure excess water drains out of the holes at the bottom; so make sure the holes are not blocked
- Empty the drip tray immediately. Don’t allow the pot to sit on the excess water as it might keep soil moist longer than is necessary
- Try as much as possible to keep water away from the leaves.
- Larger pots would need less watering
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How to Water succulents in pots without drainage
Growing succulents and other houseplants in pots or containers without drainage is far from ideal. But it can be done with careful irrigation and a bit of imagination and creativity.
The best option, in terms of container or pot, is to use a transparent planter. This allows you to observe how far down the water has gone during watering.
The trick is to water as sparingly as possible. But you have to water often because the soil dries faster.
– First, use your watering can to ‘drip water’ the soil while observing the progress of the water down the soil.
– Stop pouring the water just before it hits the base of the soil. This ensures that water doesn’t gather at the bottom which can lead to root rot.
– When the soil is completely dry in a few days (depending on the weather), simply water it again using the method described above.
– Your succulents should grow healthy and be free of root rot if the right growing conditions are maintained.
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This is an exhaustive answer to; how much water do succulents need. In general, Succulents, whether grown outdoors or indoors in pots, are easy to nurture. With correct watering, you are sure of having a thriving and healthy plant even if you are a newbie.
How much water you feed your succulents and how often you do it depends on several factors such as the weather conditions, the size of the plant and pot, and whether they are grown outdoors or indoors. The most important condition though is to water only when the soil is completely dry. Get this aspect right and you are guaranteed a largely problem-free ride into the world of succulents.