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Watering Succulents-Tips for Success

Watering succulents can seem simple. And it is. However, succulents, like all indoor plants, appreciate proper soil, drainage, and watering habits that are best suited to them.

For Beginner Plant parents succulents are fantastic. Of course you want them. There are SO many varieties of succulents. You can buy adorable pots for succulents that are just perfect for that sunny spot in your south or west facing window.

How Often Should Succulents be Watered?

Succulents should be watered when the soil is dry and the plant leaves are slightly sucked in. Do not use a watering schedule for succulents. Look for the clues your plant is actually needing more water.

Why is this the best way to water succulents? Succulents come in all sorts of different varieties from all the hot, dry places in the world. DRY being the operative term here.

Succulents are designed by nature to hold water. Their plant leaves and roots are well adapted to make every water drop it captures count.

The thick fleshy leaves and stems and roots all retain water. You know the plant is dry when it shows signs of using the water in storage.

Succulent plants often have built in water tanks in their rhizomes, roots and leaves. Some examples of this are the ZZ plant, Ponytail Palm, snake plants, hens and chicks and Haworthias.

There are large variety of succulents out there. Be sure to water them properly. Follow the care guide for each specific plant for best results.

succulent varieties

Most succulents have similar watering needs. Here are some general guidelines.

Underwatering succulents:

Watering Succulents is a study in neglect. The soil needs to be REALLY dry. Succulents live in dry soil for months and are just fine.

The plant will tell you when it is too dry.

Under watered succulents get dry tips on their leaves.

Depending on your local climate, even if you forget to water for a month and leave your succulent in bright direct sun. You’re not likely to see a shriveled up succulent. Instead the plant may change color.

haworthia-zebra plant-
zebra plant leaf tips get brown at the tips when you under water them.

However, Any plant will have its tolerance zones. Succulents are sensitive to heat, temperature, humidity in the air and how well the pot and soil drain. Just like your other plants.

But cactus are likely to surprise you with their love of dryness.

Eventually, if left alone long enough, the plants will curl in on themselves and shrink as the fleshy leaves and stems lose their moisture reserves. But this will most often take awhile.

Close up of Jade Plant leaves
Jade plant (Crassula ovata)

Often you can revive even the most underwatered succulent. Cactus that look beyond help can often perk up with a good soaking. Cactus are survivors. In nature they live in the most inhospitable place on earth.

succulents with watering can

Overwatering Succulents:

Overwatering succulents is a death sentence for succulents. If you treat them like your tropical plants, you are bound to run into trouble.

What are the signs of overwatering succulents? Over watered succulent leaves get mushy and limp. Fungus and molds grow on them and in the soil. They wilt, lose their vibrancy and die. They just can’t take too much constant water on their roots or leaves.

The leaves will go yellow and may get limp, faded and translucent. Overwatered succulent roots will get Root Rot if you keep it up.

Do you know How to tell when a cactus needs water? Look at the leaves and soil. Are the leaves health but showing a tiny bit of shrinking in the center of the leaf?

Is the soil throughly dry? Use a moisture meter into the root zone of the pot to be sure.

I water with a moisture meter in one hand and my watering can in the other. That meter needs to say DRY in the root zone.

Don’t constantly give your succulents sips of water as you water your other plants. They won’t like it. Little sips of water done often allow the deep soil to accumulate moisture and stay wet too long.

cactus plants

Best Method for Watering Succulents:

The worst thing you can do to your succulents is over water. But HOW you water matters too.

What is the best method for watering Succulents? Universally, succulents love a good soak. And then LEAVE THEM ALONE. Desert plants are used to LONG periods of dryness. With occasional intense soaking rains.

Do’s and Don’ts for Watering Succulents:

Succulent Watering Method TIPS:

  1. DO soak the plant soil thoroughly when watering. Succulents will store and hold that water as the soil dries and develop good deep roots when soaked.
  2. Don’t Water the plant leaves. The leaf crevasses can hold water for a long time and this leads to crown rot.
  3. DO water even LESS in high humidity climates. Your succulent will absorb water from the air. Be sure the plant is well dry before you water.
  4. DO Bottom watering. Watering from the bottom protects the top growth from wet soil. Fill the drip tray and let the plant roots wick up the moisture.
  5. DO Water until the water runs out the bottom of the pot. Dump out the extra water left in the drain tray to avoid soaking roots overlong.
  6. DO use a Proper soil for a succulents. Cactus cannot handle soggy soils with lots of built in fertilizers. Use a good cactus soil mix.
  7. DON’T spray succulent leaves. Constantly wetting the plant top will promote mold, viruses and fungus. Cactus love dry air and leaves.
  8. DO use pots with good drainage. If you pot does not have a drain hole. Make it one.

How often to water succulent plants in winter? Most homes are naturally drier in the winter months. If your succulent goes into winter dormancy, it will not need water very often.

I have been surprised how much my heating system dries out my plants more than in summer. Best to check every other week in winter.

Learn How to Keep Your Houseplants Alive in Winter Here

Choose a porous soil and pots that wick water away from the plant.

Useful Tools For Watering Succulents:

It’s helpful to have the proper tools for growing cactus. Here’s a few to get you started.

  • Self Watering Planters work if you are careful. The plant wicks up water from the reservoir pot. Just add water into the bottom pot when your moisture meter reads DRY. Add only a small bit of water. Too much will rot your cactus. Of all things do not soak your soil over long.
  • Cactus soil: keep your soil light and well drying so the water flows through.
  • Cactus pots: Terra cotta pots are great for succulents. Here’s a page of adorable succulent pots.
  • Watering Can-Here is one is my favorites. Any waterer will do but I prefer the ones with a long skinny arm so they don’t wet the leaves.
  • Moisture Meter-Make sure it reads dry before you water.

Shop Cactus Pots and tools On Etsy!

Properly watered succulents have firm vibrant leaves.

Is your Succulent a Snake Plant? Learn all about Caring for Snake Plants in our Snake Plant Post Series.

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