The Best Watering Tips and Tricks for Happy Succulents

Succulents are famed for their laid back style and eclectic looks that add a touch of the weird and wonderful to any home or garden. These beauties are generally pretty easy to care for and will tolerate all sorts of neglect but with a few well-followed watering tips your succulents will thrive for years to come. Here we’ll run through everything you need to know regarding how to water succulents successfully both indoors and in the garden.

The Nutshell: 

Succulent plants should be watered when the soil base in the potting vessel is almost completely dry. Then, water around the soil, saturating completely whilst avoiding the fleshy leaves (a few drops are fine) until water starts to appear in the saucer underneath. Leave for 15 minutes for the soil to disperse any excess and then pour away the water that’s been collected. Check the soil’s moisture levels every 10 to 15 days and repeat the watering cycle when almost dry. 


Things To Consider When Watering Succulents

Things to consider when watering succulents

Indoor vs Outdoor Succulents

As a general rule, succulents planted in the ground outdoors will require more frequent watering (potentially every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer) compared to these contained in a potting vessel indoors (generally every 10 to 15 days depending on your living environment). 

Temperature and Humidity

The rate of moisture loss in the soil will be closely linked to the relative temperature and humidity conditions present in your home or garden. 

Whilst succulents are hardy, drought-tolerant plants keep an eye on moisture levels during the warm spring and summer months in-particular as you may need to increase watering frequency.

Sunlight

Most succulents need at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Where possible try to avoid extended periods of bright, direct sunshine though. This has a habit of scorching the leaves and accelerating moisture loss. 

If your succulents are situated in a warm spot you’ll probably need to bring forward your watering schedule by a few days. 

Season

Like most plant life, succulents will head into a period of dormancy during the winter months. Here they will require far less watering (potentially only every 4 to 6 weeks when the soil is almost completely dry). 

Always monitor closely from early spring when the growing season starts to kick in and the plant jumps back into life as your watering schedule should return to the 10 to 15 day rule. 

The Soil Mix

Succulents enjoy a well-draining soil mix, something that saturates quickly when watering but then disperses excess water is perfect. The below soil recipe is nice and grainy with some texture which is great for drainage and aeration: 

The Potting Container

The size, shape and material of your potting vessel is also going to affect your watering requirements. 

Clay pots for instance will absorb moisture much more so than a glazed ceramic pot. 

Larger potting containers with excess soil will also retain more moisture compared to a tightly packed succulent. 

Above all though, it’s imperative your potting container has drainage holes. Nothing upsets a plant more than stagnant water which can quickly lead to over-watering issues, bloated and flimsy leaf structure and eventually root-rot and fungal infections for your succulent. 

When To Water A Succulent?

When to Water a succulent

A moisture meter, soil probe (or your trusty index finger) are going to be your best friends when it comes to knowing when to water your succulents. As noted, you’re looking for the soil to have dried approximately 80 to 90% of the way through before re-saturating the soil with more water. 

Succulents will give you a few tell-tale signs when they’re getting a little thirsty. As well such as wrinkling, shrivelling, and contracting of the leaves as well as perceptible shifts in color and a rubbery texture to the touch. 

What Time of Day Should I Water Succulents?

This is a long debated topic but I’d recommend if possible to water sometime in the early morning when you’re first up (between 6am and 8am would be ideal). This will give your succulents the full day to process the latest watering cycle. Again, avoid getting too much water on the leaves as the moisture can scorch the leaves in bright sunlight. 

How Often Should I Water My Succulent?

How often should I water a succulent plant

As we’ve discussed there are quite a few variables in play that are going to determine how often and how much you need to water your succulents. See our general estimates below based on average/common environmental conditions and average-sized succulent. 

Indoor Succulents – water every 10 to 15 days in spring and summer and every 4 to 6 weeks in winter. 

Outdoor Succulents – water every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer and leave alone during the peak winter months. Succulents in the ground will have developed much more robust root systems compared to their potted cousins so will be able to retain nutrients and moisture throughout the dormant season. 

What Type Of Water Is Best For Succulents?

Tap water is often over chlorinated and many of us live in areas of soft or hard water with each presenting its own challenges. Ideally I’d recommend the use of rainwater but appreciate that’s not an easy solution for many. If not, go with distilled water which should have hopefully stripped out some of the harmful sodium or unhelpful minerals. 

How To Water Succulents?

A mini watering can is your best friend when it comes to actually watering your succulents as will save you spilling water all over the place. Aim to water across the topsoil avoiding the leaves of the succulent plant where possible (a few splashes are fine). Keep pouring until you see water starting to disperse into the saucer underneath. Your goal is to provide the soil with a good, complete soaking. 

How Much Should I Water My Succulent?

How much should I water my succulent plant

This is a tricky one as the size of the succulent and the accompanying potting vessel and volume of soil will play a factor. Instead of volume, focus on soaking the soil base completely. Stop when you start to see the saucer underneath filling up with the dispersed excess water. 

What To Do In-Between Watering Cycles?

Feel free to check in with your succulents every 7 to 10 days (particularly during the spring and summer months) to see how the moisture levels are looking. Other than that, just make sure they’re in a suitable spot, water isn’t stagnating and the overall plant looks happy and healthy (vibrant leaves, nothing drooping, wrinkling, sagging or bloating). 

How To Water Succulent Pups?

Succulent pups typically need a little more moisture in the first few months as they start to grow. Check the soil every few days to assess moisture levels and you can also top up with a very gentle spritz of water spray. 

Watering Succulents After Repotting

Watering succulents after repotting

It’s easy to be a little overzealous with watering after repotting. I’d recommend you stick to the basic principles and provide your newly potted succulent with a good soaking. Then leave it for at least a week to monitor how it’s adapting to its new home. Once the soil is almost completely dry you can move on to your regular watering cycle. 

Signs of Overwatered Succulents:

Succulents (like most plants) really don’t enjoy being overwatered. Here are a few things to look out for that might indicate you’ve been a little too generous with the watering can: 

  • Discoloration – over-watered succulent leaves will often turn slightly pale and lose some of their vibrant pigment. 
  • Stem and / or leaves turning black or brown – this is a tell tale sign of root-rot or a fungal infection is taking hold of your succulent. 
  • Mushy / soft leaves – this typically occurs when your poor succulent becomes bloated causing the cell structure to start breaking down. 
  • Leaves falling – this could be due to under watering as well but leaves falling consistently across the entire plant is a good sign over-watering is the culprit. 

Remedies for Overwatered Succulents: 

Depending on the severity of damage and / or infection your succulent’s future prospects might go either way at this point. Best bet is to place the plant in a warm, well-lit, and dry environment and keep an eye on the fella over the next week. If there was any evidence of stagnant water attempt to pour away and definitely remove any standing water in the saucer. 

If there’s no sign of improvement, remove from the pot and attempt to salvage any healthy looking pups and re-pot. 


Signs of Underwatered Succulents. 

Succulents fair much better from under-watering than they do from over-watering. They’re inherently designed to withstand extended periods of drought so will usually make a stirring comeback once they get a good soaking. Some common signs your succulent is feeling a little parched: 

  • Wrinkled leaves – if you’re succulent starts to appear a little on the old and wrinkly side its a good sign the moisture content inside the leaves, stems, root system is getting very low.
  • Drooping leaves – coupled with wrinkling, you might also start to notice the plant is sagging in places and lacking a certain proudness in it’s posture. Again, it’s lack of moisture content is sapping energy from the overall plant’s structure. 
  • Brown or dying leaves – this might be over-watering related as well but you’ll have a good idea based on the other variables noted.
  • Soil – always check in with soil (either a probe, moisture meter, stick or finger) to assess the overall soil base. If bone-dry you’ll know what to do. 

Remedies for Underwatered Succulents:

As noted, reviving underwatered succulents is typically a lot more successful than reviving overwatered succulents. Give the plant a really good soaking and then drain the excess water that runs through. Check back in 5 to 7 days to see assess the overall plant’s health and moisture levels present in the soil. 


Wrap-up 

Whilst generally considered an easy-going option for the home or garden, succulents still require a little bit of attention particularly when it comes to watering cycles. Once your plant adapts to your unique living environment (be that potted indoors or outside in a garden bed) you’ll just need to maintain a consistent watering practice and keep an eye on they’re overall health to ensure you’re on the right path to succulent happiness. Enjoy!


How to Water Succulents FAQ

Water succulents only when the soil base in the potting vessel is virtually completely dry. Water thoroughly to saturate the soil completely. Stop when you see the saucer filling up with dispersed water that has run through and discard the excess.

Focus your watering efforts in and around the topsoil avoiding the fleshy leaves where possible. Your goal is to saturate the soil base each watering cycle but not to leave stagnant water in the potting vessel.

A mild, gentle mist can be beneficial in particularly dry environments but avoid saturating the leaves as this can lead to fungal infections.

Thirsty succulents will typically display wrinkled and/or droopy leaves. You might also notice the leaves turning slightly brown as well as some leaves falling from the succulent plant.

Overwatered succulents typically lose some of their vibrant color, turning a pale shade of their former selves. The leaves may also appear bloated and feel slightly mushy to the touch. Severe cases of overwatered succulents may develop fungal infections that appear as blackening or browning stems and leaves.

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