How to Water Succulents

A woman holding a dark green watering can in one hand and a potted succulent plant in the other.

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Succulents are often praised for being low-maintenance plants that even the most inexperienced grower can handle. They tend to be slow-growing, attractive, and are not known for being dramatic (peace lilies, we’re looking at you). However, it’s these very qualities that can actually make their care more difficult than it seems. It can be hard to tell what a succulent needs since they are relatively unexpressive, and by the time it's obvious that a mistake has been made it's often too late to save the plant. The biggest culprit? Overwatering. So before you water your succulents again, check out these succulent watering basics to learn everything you need to know about how to water succulents properly to prevent damage and overwatering.

How Often Should Succulents Be Watered?

By their very nature, succulents are drought-tolerant plants. They have water-storing tissues that help them adapt to arid climates and extended periods without access to water. Generally, this means that when grown indoors, succulents do not need to be watered often. So while it may feel convenient to put your plants on a strict watering schedule (like watering once a week on the same day of the week), it’s usually not that simple. There are several different factors that can influence how often your succulent needs to be watered including the type of succulent you have as well as your growing environment's temperature, humidity, and sunlight.

When to Water Succulents

For the most part, a succulent’s soil should be allowed to dry out thoroughly between waterings. Due to the various factors that can influence how long this may take, there is no ideal schedule for how often a succulent needs to be watered. The best way to figure out if it's time to water your succulent is to check the soil, either using your fingers or using a tool like a moisture meter. Since succulents are prone to developing root rot if they are overwatered, “when in doubt, wait it out” is a good rule of thumb to follow. It is always better to under-water a succulent than to overwater it.

How to Water Succulent Plants

When it comes time to water your succulent, the “soak and dry” method of watering is the best approach. This means that you will be soaking the soil during watering, and then allowing it to dry out completely before the next watering. It is also best to water succulents from the bottom up, sometimes referred to as "bottom watering." This method prevents water from accumulating on a succulent's leaves where it can get trapped and cause fungal diseases.

To bottom water your succulent it is important that it is planted in a potting container with drainage holes on the bottom. The pot can be made from plastic, terracotta, or ceramic material. Fill your sink or a bowl with a couple of inches of water and place the pot in the water so that the drainage holes are submerged. Leave the plant in the water for at least 30 minutes, or until the soil is completely saturated. Drain the sink or bowl and let the plant sit until the excess water has drained from the pot, and then return it to its original location.

How to Prevent Overwatering

Overwatering is a real problem for succulent houseplants, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you prevent it. Most importantly, ensure that your succulent is planted in a pot with drainage holes. This allows excess water to escape the pot so that the roots aren't flooded, should you happen to accidentally overwater your plant. Second, make sure that you use a well-draining, gritty soil mix that is designed for succulents or cacti. If you don't have any succulent soil mix, you can easily make your own at home by combining equal parts indoor potting soil, perlite, and sand.

Lastly, be diligent in allowing your succulent soil to dry out between waterings. It is much harder to underwater a succulent plant than it is to overwater it. Think about how these plants grow in their native environments. Many succulents, such as cacti and other desert natives, grow in arid climates where they experience long periods of drought (sometimes months at a time) and then receive lots of water all at once. The soak-and-dry method aims to mimic these natural conditions and is a great way to ensure that you aren't overwatering your plants. Even if it feels easier, avoid giving small amounts of water on a regular basis and opt for soaking your plant every few weeks and then allowing it to dry thoroughly.