Watering Succulents: Essential Tips for Optimal Plant Health

In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about when and how to water succulents at home. 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. 

How to Water Succulents - Everything you need to know

Watering Succulents – Key Takeaways: 

Succulent plants should be watered when the soil base in the potting vessel is almost completely dry. Then, water around the soil, saturating completely while avoiding the fleshy leaves (a few drops are fine) until water appears 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. 

When To Water Succulents

When to Water a succulent

A moisture meter, soil probe (or your trusty index finger) will be your best friends when it comes to knowing when to water your succulents. For optimal succulent care, the soil should be 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 thirsty, such as wrinkling, shriveling, 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 6 am and 8 am would be ideal). This will give your succulents the whole 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

There are quite a few variables in play that will determine how often and how much you need to water your succulents. I’ve included some general estimates below based on average/common environmental conditions and average-sized succulents. 

  • 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 than their potted cousins, so they can 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 soft or hard water areas, each presenting its own challenges. Ideally, I’d recommend using rainwater, but I appreciate that it’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 it will save you from 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 soil volume will play a factor.

Instead of volume, focus on soaking the soil base thoroughly. Stop when you 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) to see how the moisture levels look.

Other than that, ensure 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). 

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 in your home or garden. 

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

Sunlight

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

If your succulents are in a warm spot, you’ll probably need to bring your watering schedule forward 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). 

Constantly 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 excellent for drainage and aeration: 

The Potting Container

Your potting vessel’s size, shape, and material will also 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 than a tightly packed succulent. 

Above all, though, your potting container must have 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. 

How To Water Succulent Pups?

Succulent pups typically need more moisture in the first few months as they 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 continue your regular watering cycle. 

Common Signs of Overwatered Succulents:

Succulents (like most plants) 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 often turn slightly pale and lose some vibrant pigment. 
  • Stem and/or leaves turning black or brown – this is a telltale sign of root rot, or fungal infection is taking hold of your succulent. 
  • Mushy/soft leaves typically occur when your poor succulent becomes bloated, causing the cell structure to start breaking down. 
  • Leaves falling could be due to under-watering as well, but leaves falling consistently across the entire plant is a good sign that over-watering is the culprit. 

Remedies for Overwatered Succulents: 

Depending on the severity of damage and infection, your succulent’s future prospects might go either way at this point. The 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 is any evidence of stagnant water, attempt to pour it away and 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 are far happier with under-watering than they are from over-watering. They’re inherently designed to withstand extended periods of drought, so they 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, it’s a good sign the moisture content inside the leaves, stems, and 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 its posture. Again, its lack of moisture content is sapping energy from the overall plant’s structure. 
  • Brown or dying leaves might also be over-watering related, but you’ll have a good idea based on the other variables noted.
  • Soil – constantly check in with soil (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 much more successful than reviving overwatered succulents. Give the plant a good soaking, and then drain the excess water that runs through. Check back in 5 to 7 days to assess the overall plant’s health and moisture levels in the soil. 

Watering Succulents FAQs:

How much water do you give a succulent?

How do you water indoor succulents?

Should I mist my succulents?

How do I know if my succulent needs water?

What do overwatered succulents look like?

Overwatered succulents typically lose some vibrant colors, 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.

Wrapping Up 

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


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