Succulents are marvels of nature that store extra water in their leaves, stems, or roots. Because they have a reputation for growing in arid conditions, many people fail to realize that when we bring them into our home and garden environments, they do need to be watered regularly. We share what you need to know on how to water succulents and keep them thriving.
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How to Water Succulents Indoors
“Soak and Dry” watering method
The best way to water succulents is to completely soak the soil and then let it dry out completely before you water again. When you water your succulents, you want to make sure the soil is completely soaked. After the soil is soaked, your succulents will soak up as much water as they can. Then wait for the soil to dry out completely all the way to the bottom -before you water again. Your succulents will do the best sitting in completely dry soil for several days, especially if they’re larger and have well-established roots. During the “drought,” they’ll put out new roots that are thick and healthy, so they can absorb more water when the “flood” comes again.
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Rather than giving your succulents sips of water here and there, give them a good soaking—to the point the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer beneath the plant pot. Then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Sedums, sempervivum (commonly called hens-and-chicks), jade plants, kalanchoe, aloe vera, and Sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue) are popular choices for indoor plants. Succulents also include cacti, which, generally, may need less water than other succulents.
Succulents require more water in the early spring when the plant is growing. Water needs may lessen in the summer and even more so during the winter. When the light decreases during the winter months and most succulents are in a dormant period, their water requirements also decrease. During winter, water your succulents when the soil is dry. This could be as infrequently as once per month but will depend on your conditions.
The frequency of watering will also depend on the light and growing conditions in your area, as well as the size of the container. The larger the container, the more moisture it can hold. Small, shallow pots may need to be watered more frequently.
How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers
When watering outdoor succulents, just follow the same method of soaking the soil, then letting it dry out completely before watering again. As with indoor plants, the exact amount you water your plants outdoors will depend on the humidity of the area where you live. With outdoor succulents, it’s also important to keep the temperature in mind. The hotter it is outside, the faster your soil will dry out, so you’ll need to water more often if you live in a hot area.
Summer is a good time to move potted succulents outdoors. Though they love the sun, give them a chance to acclimate to outdoor conditions. This is best done by placing them in a partially shaded area before moving to a sunnier location. Keep them out of intense sunlight from late morning to midafternoon. Outdoor plants generally require more water than indoor plants. Again, your conditions will dictate how often succulents will need water. Start by checking on a weekly basis, paying attention to the condition of the potting media and whether it’s bone dry or moist.
Succulents, including cacti, which are grown in shallow containers, may need water every few days.
How to Water Succulents in the Ground
Succulents planted in the ground don’t have to be watered quite as often as succulents in pots. This is as the soil stays cooler and doesn’t dry out as quickly.
Succulents, particularly sedums, grow quite well in the ground. They, too, may need to be watered weekly, depending on conditions. Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions much better than new plants.
Whether you grow hardy or annual succulents, they need to be in well-drained soil. “Standing water is a prescription for disaster,” Lane says. As with houseplants, soil conditions and water needs go hand-in-hand. Lane recommends replacing existing soil and making sure the subsoil drains well. Or, perhaps an easier approach is to raise the bed or mound the soil in the areas where you plant succulents. One- to 2-foot mounds of organic based compost mixed with perlite or PermaTill will help ensure plants thrive. Even if they are in conditions that are different from their native areas.
Good soil, a good soaking, and good drainage equal happy plants.
Watering Succulent Propagation Leaves (Baby Succulents)
Propagating is when you cut a leaf off of your succulent and plant it to grow a separate succulent plant. This should be done indoors and is the one and only exception to the no spray bottle rule with succulents.
In fact, if you’re propagating succulent leaves indoors, you can water them every day. Just spray the top of the soil with a spray bottle (or use a watering can). Like the roots of large succulent plants, the leaves will absorb water from the air around them, so spraying the soil with a spray bottle is usually enough in my experience. If you’re using a well-draining succulent soil, you can water a little bit more than if you’re using normal potting soil.
Keep an eye on your roots–they may dry out if they aren’t getting enough water. Healthy succulent roots will be white or pink, and a plump and shiny. As the succulent grows and starts to put off more roots, you can gradually cut back on watering. However, wait until they’re about the size of a quarter with well-established roots before you cut back too much.
The goal with propagating is to grow plump and shiny roots of pink or white color.
Common Watering Mistakes
There are 3 common mistakes most people make when they first start growing succulents.
Using a pot without a drainage hole
Although your succulents can survive in planters without drainage holes, you’ll have to put in a lot more work to keep them happy.
Using poorly draining soil
The right soil is a huge part of successfully watering your succulents. The bottom line is that succulents prefer not to sit in wet soil for very long. So in addition to getting a pot that drains effectively, you’ve got to use soil that does the same.
Using a spray bottle for watering
Succulents like to be soaked, not spritzed! Don’t use a spray bottle!