Although succulents can survive with lesser amount of water than most plants, they cannot thrive in a complete absence of the vital liquid. The key is to find the optimal watering schedule for your plant. But how can you do that? Let me tell you right now, starting with a quick yet effective answer:
The general rule is that you should water the succulents when the soil in the pot (or in the ground) is dry. The time duration is arbitrary really, depending on the factors that affect the moisture of the soil. For instance, during the rainy or winter season, watering should be less frequent. In contrast, a drought season requires more frequent watering. But this is just the very basic account.
The climate, temperature, season, container or pot, type of soil, etc, they all play role when it comes to deciding about an optimal watering schedule for your plants. Before decide how much water you should give to your succulents, and how often, you should consider all the factors I mentioned.
How do you know when succulents are over-watered?
Over-watering harms all succulents. But how do you know when it occurs? One of the indications is the discoloring in the leaves. This is the first sign. If neglected, the rotting process will begin in roots, in the stem, and in the whole plant structure.
If you notice the succulents changing color, touch the leaves. Affected succulents feel squishy. If you notice it, you likely water your plants too often to their liking. Remember that succulents store water in their balloon-like storage. This is the reason why succulents are resistant to drought. However, this is also the reason why they are prone to over-watering. When over-watered, these balloon-like sacs will burst which in turn damages the cells of the plants.
Related: How Often to Water Succulents Indoors?
How do you know when succulents are under-watered?
Although succulents are drought resistant, they need water. The total absence of water will kill them–just like it will kill any other living organism on Earth. But how do you know that your succulents lack water, and you should perhaps water them with more frequency?
Wrinkled leaves and shortening of the plant is one of the signs. This is due to the decrease in the amount of water in the storage of your succulent. In this case, what you can do is to increase the amount of water. But make sure that you don’t drown the plants. It is easy to fall in the wrong belief that over-watering stops dehydration. A small increase in water will help the succulents to continue growing healthily, whereas drowning them with water will just move you from one problem to another one…
Beginner mistakes when it comes to growing succulents
Although succulents are some of the easiest plants to grow, they are not without risks. In my experience, every beginner makes some mistakes. Make sure to keep your eye on the following mistakes, all related to water.
- Over-watering. Succulents are special plants. They need water but they are not like other plants. Succulents cannot stand too much water or even too much moisture.>
- Using spray bottle. If you have read pieces of advice online, you might notice that some people advise you to use a spray bottle when watering succulents. But for me, that’s not good advice. Using a spray bottle will not actually help succulents get enough water. Spray bottles are good to use for watering during the propagation process. For regular watering, it is not a good idea. Remember that the water should reach the roots of the plants. If you’re using spray bottles, the water will not penetrate the soil.
- Planting succulents in pots without drainage holes. Another mistake that you should avoid is planting your succulent plants in pots without holes. Drainage is very important to avoid problems with over-watering. Drainage holes allow the water to drain easily, therefore, disposing of the excess water.
Deep watering is a way to go
If there are things you should avoid, there are always also things you should stick to. To water your succulents deeply is one of them. This means that you water your plant directly to the soil and not from the top of the plant like you’d do with some other plants.
Pouring water straight to the root gives succulents enough water without over-watering (assuming you’re using the pot with drainage holes). This is the reason why I don’t recommend using a spray bottle.
Most people think that because succulents don’t like too much water and moisture, giving them a little amount of water is enough. That is actually a misconception. Succulents love to have soil soaked in water and eventually dry. What they don’t like is if they are submerged in the water.
Soak and dry watering technique is my choice
The soak and dry strategy is the succulents’ favorite watering method. In this process, the soil is soaked in water and the excess water drains through the bottom of the pot. Until the soil is wet or moist, you do not water the plant again. Succulents are accustomed to this watering setup. In their natural habitat, they absorb a lot of water during a rainy season or a storm, and preserve the water for drought season.
The moisture in the soil determines the watering interval. The faster the soil dries the shorter the interval. This usually happens during summer when air is dry and the environment is hot. In contrast, during a rainy season, the watering interval is longer than the summer season. This is because it takes time for the soil to become completely dry.
How long can succulents survive without water?
Depending on the season or climate, succulents can go several days or weeks without any water. During winter succulents can survive for close to one month with no water. This is because, during winter, the air carries moisture that helps the plants gain water, plus many succulents are dormant (not growing) and hence do not need much water.
During the heat of a summer, however, the survival period may be shorter. So you need to give water to your plants more frequently. Always check the dryness of the soil. If it is dry, you should soak the plant.
Related: How Long Do Succulents Live?
How often to water indoor succulents?
There is no clear cut answer to this question. It always depends on the temperature or the climate of the place. The size of the plant is also a determining factor. But the rule of thumb is that for smaller succulents, you can give a ¼ cup of water every week.
However, for larger succulents, 1 ½ cups of water per week can be sufficient. But of course, you can give more or less depending on the moisture of the soil. If the soil is already dried after several days, then you should water succulents regardless of the amount of water you previously gave.
There is no single rule that controls the whole watering process. Every situation is unique, so is every plant. So you need to know your plants better and experiment with watering strategies to see what does actually work.
How often and how much water do outdoor succulents need?
Watering outdoor succulents is similar to watering indoors succulents. However, the impact of the climate can be more robust on outdoor plants than on the indoor ones. For drought season, exposing succulents to direct sunlight could quickly kill them. In the season like this, you should water your outdoor plants more frequently.
My suggestion is that the watering interval for outdoor succulents is more frequent. A 2-4-day interval is good. However, as mentioned, this depends on the weather. The rainy season, of course, requires no watering effort on your part.
Constant checking your outdoor succulents is always a good practice. Check the moisture in the soil. This is the best advice I can give. To me, the watering interval and the amount of water you be giving to your plant should be based on moisture in the soil. Even in the rainy season, if your outdoor succulents are not receiving water, the soil can become completely dry. So they still need water even in winter. Monitor your plants constantly to achieve optimal results.
How to water succulents during a propagation stage?
Succulent propagation is an exemption of the rule as far as watering goes. This is because the baby succulents need more water to propagate. Also, it is at this stage that a spray bottle is suitable for watering.
If you are propagating using a succulent leaf, you need to water it every day using a spray bottle. This technique allows the succulents to absorb water from the air. Frequent watering helps the plants develop roots usually in white or pink color. But as soon as the succulents produce more and more roots, you should minimize watering. Then, depending on the environment, climate, and soil you are using, you can set a new watering schedule.
How do climates or seasons affect watering interval for succulents?
There are many factors that affect the watering schedule for succulents. The season is one of the biggest determining factors. Every season has its own impact on the plants’ growth.
- Summer. During summer, the air temperature is typically high. In this case, the water moisture in the soil evaporates quickly. This means more water and more frequent watering schedule for your succulents. As a general tip, always check the soil. If it is already dry, give enough water to maintain the healthy growth of your succulents.
- Fall. During the fall season, the amount of water the succulents need may be lesser compared to summer. During this season, watering once a week can be a good idea.
- Winter. Winter is the coldest season. This means more moisture in the air circulation. For succulents, this means an even lesser amount of water and the less frequent watering schedule. This is because the moisture coming from the air is enough for them to thrive. Giving extra water at this point of the year will harm the succulents especially if they are in the outdoor setting.
- Spring. Unlike winter, the spring season is a period of time when the temperature begins to rise again. As a result, succulents need more and more water as the season progresses. In general, watering once a week is a good watering schedule.
Additional factors that could affect how often should you water a succulent plant
Apart from the four different seasons discussed above, there are other factors that could also affect the amount of water and watering schedule for succulents.
- Type of soil. The soil you are using for your succulents is one of the most determining factors for your plants’ growth. If you want to avoid over-watering, you should pick a soil that is easy to drain. Some soils are compact and do not drain water and store more water instead. If you are using soil like this, chances are you’ll notice changes in your succulents’ color and texture. This is because the water storage could burst to make your succulents feel squishy. The key is to use well-draining soil.
- The amount of available sunlight. Sunlight is very important for any type of plant. Sunlight triggers the photosynthesis process necessary for the overall health and growth of the plant. Most indoor succulents encounter problems due to acquiring an insufficient amount of light. If you are growing indoor succulents, I suggest that you occasionally bring your succulents to spots with access to sunlight. 3-4 hours of sun exposure is enough for indoor succulents. If you don’t have time to do it, the best alternative is to place your succulents near the window where there is sun ray. In this way, you can save time and effort. Of course, the more time your succulents spend on direct sun, the more often their soil will dry and they need some watering from your side (unless it rains outside).
- The pot or container you are using. This seems not an issue until you notice problems with your succulents. The pot or container you are using can definitely affect the health of the plant. For instance, if you are using a clay container, you may need more frequent watering. This is because clay pots are water absorbent. So the water that is supposed to be for succulents can be absorbed by the pot leaving succulents lacking water. My recommendation is to use a pot that is healthy for succulents. It should have drainage holes to allow excess water to drain. With a pot like this, you don’t have to worry about overwatering. Read my complete guide on how to grow a succulent correctly including the best type of pot you should be using.
- The environment. Indoor and outdoor environments have different specific needs. Both locations demand special attention. Outdoor succulents, for instance, require more water and more frequent watering schedule. This is because the outdoor environment is exposed to direct sunlight. In contrast, indoor succulents have minimal water and care requirement but they need more sunlight (it depends on the type of succulent).
- Size of the succulents. Larger plants need more water than the smaller ones. This is also true with succulents. If you have large succulents, you can apply a more frequent watering schedule and give them more amount of water. Larger succulents are more capable of storing water than smaller ones. They can handle it, and are less prone to over-watering.
With all the techniques discussed above, it all comes down into one general rule. The rule is that water your succulents every time the soil is completely dry. This applies to any type of succulent and any environmental condition, and it is by far the easiest way to avoid issues.
Always remember that it is better to have an under-watered succulent than the over-watered one. You can always go back and give water to the under-watered plant, but once a plant is heavily over-watered, you may not be able to save it…