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WATERING: What’s The Trick To Watering Your Succulents?

Updated: May 26, 2023

how to water succulents. How to water succulents properly. How to water your succulents. When to water your succulents. How often do you water succulents? How often is too often? What is over-watering?

You probably have seen a lot of advice out there about how frequently you should water your succulents. Nurseries, apps, blogs, and random people on the web might advise things like: "Water once a week, water every other week, water once a month!" The issue with their guidance is that everything relies upon you and your current environment. Without having knowledge of a person's plants and environment, it is impossible to advise someone on how to properly water their succulents.


 

Here Are Some Facts:

  • Succulents are drought tolerant. That doesn't mean that they do not need any water or just a tiny bit at a time. They still need frequent and deep waterings.

  • Succulents don't typically grow all year round; unless they are in the perfect growing conditions. In nature, they go through growth spurts and then slow down growing; which is their 'Dormancy Periods'.

  • Climate & Dormancy Periods factor in how frequently you need to water:

    • In hot weather, more water may be vital.

    • In cold weather, less water may be vital.

    • And Vice versa for species in their growing periods

  • New propagations and younger plants will often require much more regular waterings than developed or well-established ones.

  • Photosynthesis is the most common way of utilizing light energy to blend water and carbon dioxide into materials plants use to develop and get by = Less light means less water gets used.

  • Your substrate and potting materials can also influence how frequently water is required. Example: Terra-cotta is porous and might require water more often in hotter climates.

  • Various species might have broadly unique watering needs. Get to know your succulents' ID if possible.

 

Are There Any Signs To Look For?


Fortunately, there are some straightforward ways of determining when your plants need that precious H2O.

  1. When succulents are hydrated properly, their leaves and stems are engorged. Leaves will be visibly plump, firm, and often spreading open and even lightening their colors to gather the absolute most sunlight.

    1. When they dehydrate and need water, they become thinner and visibly less plump. They may wrinkle, fold, curl, tighten up, and may even change color.

  2. Succulents that are left without water for too long will reabsorb their most seasoned leaves and dry up quicker than ordinary. (those oldest leaves on the stems, ie. bottom leaves)

    1. Succulents may close up their leaves, going into a dormant state while slowing down their growth to conserve water.

  3. Some succulents may also sprout aerial roots in search of water if dehydrated.

    1. Double-check that your soil is bone dry before watering!

    2. NOTE: Aerial roots also appear when there is excess humidity, or if the plant needs more stability while growing. Not all aerial roots mean a plant needs water.

Our Tip: As opposed to watering on a timetable, we suggest getting to know what your plant(s) go through in response to drought, when they come in and out of dormancy when exposed to cold temperatures, etc. This knowledge will help you determine when it’s truly time to water, and how frequently it's necessary.

Pro Tip: Check out the World Of Succulents Dormancy Chat to find out what varieties are dormant in Winter and Summer.


If your plants do not experience a dormancy period (like with indoor growing), you will water normally year-round.


*Dehydrated and under-watered succulents*

 

How To Test If Your Succulents Need Water


The Taco Test

3 Easy Steps |

  1. Start by squeezing gently along the margins of one of the very lowest leaves (hold the leaf along its sides and imagine folding it like a taco shell) we can feel how much resistance there is.

  2. If the leaf is soft or foldable, the plant has used up some water. It’s like an empty tummy, the plant has made room for more.

  3. If the leaves are firm and have no give that plant is FULL. It’s not time to water just yet.


This Graptoveria 'Debbie' wrinkles and folds, it's ready for a drink!

Our Tip: Luckily for us, all succulents have a way of communicating their needs. It's always best to research your plants' ID and care and familiarize yourself with their signs.

Pro Tip: Remember: dry soil and wrinkly do not always equal thirsty plants! Wrinkling of the lower leaves might also be a sign of rot. Do not water if the soil is still damp/wet, and the plant's lower leaves are wrinkled.

  • NOTE: Unfortunately, not all succulents become soft as they dehydrate. This test is suitable for softer succulents like graptopetalum, echeveria, crassula, and others. It is not a reliable method for plants like aloe, agave, or even a string of pearls.

 

How To Water Your Potted Succulents


When watering, water deeply. You want water pouring out of the drain holes, this ensures the roots can drink fully and grow properly. Watering infrequently and sparingly creates shallow roots and an unhealthy plant. They like to be drenched and then dry out completely between waterings.


Our Tip: Bottom watering is great for well-established plants with tight root systems.

Pro Tip: Try to not get succulent leaves or inner rosettes wet! You may develop rot or powdery white mildew if you do not have proper airflow when water stays on the leaves for long periods of time.


Should I Mist My Succulents?

  • MYTH: " Succulents need to be misted."

  • FACT: Mature succulents do not need to be misted.

Succulents cannot take in water through their outer leaves; they absorb water only through their root systems. Meaning, if water gets on the succulent leaves, that water sits there without absorbing into the plant. Misting succulent leaves increases the chances of mold, crown rot, and mildew and is not a good wat to water your succulents.


NOTE: Misting can be a watering option for propagating succulent leaves. Click here to learn more!



Watering Methods

(for potted varieties)

Soaking - by using a shallow basin or sink, fill with enough water for the pots to sit in and let soak until the soil is fully saturated.

 

Submerging/Dunking - if you live in conditions where it allows your succulents to dry off quickly, you can water by fully submerging your succulents. Wait until the bubbles stop, pull out, and let drain before placing back in its original spot to sit.


Our Tip: This is also a great way to water established plants with packed soil and a strong root system. This isn't the best method for newly potted ones. Your fresh soil will go everywhere. Note: Perlite will always float to the top if loose!



 

Surgical squeeze bottle - this method is more precise and useful for smaller succulents and propagations as it targets the area where you need the water.


Our Tip: Very useful for indoor growers and areas with lots of humidity.



 

Before Watering & After Watering Photos

(these photos show before and afters of shallow water soaking; with bonsai jacks mix, which needs to be soaked to be hydrated)





 

What Is Overwatering? Are Overwatering Succulents Possible?


Yes! Yet, it isn't exactly over-watering that is the issue. Over-watering doesn't happen because you use too much water; rather, it happens because of multiple different variables.

Succulent roots will start to retain too much moisture and do not dry out quickly enough when there is a lack of drainage through the soil, insufficient light, or a soil mix that holds in excess water. All recipes for root and stem rot.


Most people have encountered this problem at least once during their succulent journey. And it’s OK! You can always figure out what went wrong, learn from it, and improve!


*Over-watered echeveria hybrid that developed stem rot from being in a plastic pot with improper succulent soil.


Over-watered & Rotted Succulent

 


Don’t Forget!!


If your soil is staying wet for quite a while, add more coarseness!


Hop on over to our segment on substrate if you need guidance on improving your soil drainage. 💚









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1 Comment


nicolebondoc
nicolebondoc
Sep 27, 2022

Excellent article....very informative!

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