Succulent Hack – How Often To Water Succulents?

So, you saw an attractive succulent plant at the store and brought it home. Now you’re probably wondering the same question that many other succulent beginners do – how often to water succulents?

The first thing to realize about succulents is that they have different water requirements compared to other houseplants or outdoor plants. In the case of other plants, they usually require watering every day. In some hotter places, you should even water the plants twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.

Succulents, on the other hand, are different. They have thickened, fleshy and engorged leaves or stems, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. As such, they are more able to withstand less frequent watering compared to other plants. So, how often should you water succulents?

Do Succulents Need Water?

Succulents do need water to survive. But how much water do succulents need? Many people have the misconception that succulents require a small amount of water every once in a while. While it is true that succulent plants are tough, and can normally survive drought, most succulents actually will not thrive under such conditions.

During their growing phase, succulent plants like regular watering. Most succulents belong to one of two categories – summer growers (winter dormant) and winter growers (summer dormant). Summer growers are succulents that grow actively in the summer months from May to August and become dormant in the winter months from November to February. Conversely, winter growers are succulents that grow actively in the winter months from November to February and become dormant in the summer.

To better understand the watering schedule of your succulents, you need to first identify if your succulent is a summer grower or a winter grower. You can check out the list below to see in which category your succulent belongs.

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Summer Growing Succulents

Adenia Adenium Agave Alluadia Aloinopsis
Brachystelma Ceropegia Cissus Cyphotstemma Didieria
Dorstenia Echeveria Euphorbia Fockea Huernia
Ibervillea Ipomoea Jatropha Lithops Monadenium
Operculicarya Pachypodium Pedilanthus Plumeria Pseudolithos
Pterodiscus Raphionacme Sempervivum Sinningia Stapelianthus
Synadenium Titanopsis Trichocaulon Trichodiadema Xerosicyos

Winter Growing Succulents

Adromischus Aeonium Aloe Anacampseros Astroloba
Avonia Bowiea Bulbine Ceraria Conophytum
Cotyledon Crassula Dioscorea Dudleya Fouqueria
Gasteria Gibbaeum Graptopetalum Graptoveria Haemanthus
Haworthia Kalanchoe Neohenricia Othonna Pachycormus
Pachyphytum Pachyveria Pelargonium Peperomia Portulacaria
Sansevieria Sarcocaulon Sedeveria Sedum Senecio
Stomatium Sulcorebutia rauschii Talinum Tylecodon

So, How Often to Water Succulents?

As a general rule of thumb, succulents should be watered at least once a week during their growing phase. Some people water more often than this. During each watering, fully soak the soil, until water runs out of the drainage holes of the pots. However, make sure that the soil is completely dry before you water it the next time. This method is called the ‘soak and dry’ method.

Pro Tip:

To make sure that the soil is completely dry, stick a bamboo stick all the way into the soil. Wait a few minutes, and pull the stick out. If the stick is damp with soil stuck on it, the soil is not completely dry. However, if the stick comes out easily and dry, then the soil is completely dry and you can proceed to water your succulents.

On the other hand, when your succulents enter their dormancy phase, increase the interval between watering. The common idea is that succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shrivelling. This is where common sense is required. For example, if your summer growing succulents are kept indoors on a window sill in a heated room during winter, they will need more water than if they are kept outside.

Drainage Holes vs No Drainage Holes

How often to water succulents also depends on whether or not they are planted in containers with drainage holes.

Containers with drainage holes are highly recommended for succulents because succulents do not like to sit in water. Proper drainage allows excess water to flow out of the soil, which encourages robust root growth.

If your containers do not have drainage holes, you need to water even more sparingly. Use the bamboo stick trick above to check if the soil is completely dry before proceeding to water your succulents.

Terrarium without Drainage
Terrarium without Drainage
(With a glass terrarium, you can actually ‘see’ if the soil is still wet)

Indoors vs Outdoors

Depending on whether your succulents are placed indoors or outdoors, the frequency of watering your succulents is different as well.

The 3 main factors that play a part in your watering schedule are humidity, temperature, and wind.

Outdoors, when temperature is high and the air is windy, the water in the soil dries up faster and therefore more frequent watering is required – sometimes as often as 3 times a week.

Indoors, it depends on whether or not your succulents are placed in a well-ventilated area, or receive direct sunlight by the windowsill. If the succulents are in a room that is cool and humid, you probably do not need to water more frequently than once a week.

Indoor succulents need less frequent watering
Outdoor succulents need more frequent watering

Big Succulents vs Small Succulents

The size of your succulents also matters when it comes to how frequent to water them. Succulents that have thick leaves, thick stems and are bigger in size store more water than succulents that have thinner leaves, thinner stems, and are smaller in size.

For example, a Pachyphytum oviferum (Moonstone) stores more water in its stems and leaves compared to a Sedum japonicum ‘Tokyo Sun’ and therefore can sustain longer periods between watering.

Overwatering vs Underwatering

We are not perfect and sometimes, we either overwater or underwater our succulents. Therefore, it is important to learn the difference between the two so that you can identify the problem and overcome it.

Overwatering

Overwatering succulents means not giving enough time for the soil to completely dry out between each watering. The soil is constantly damp and this gives rise to a lot of problems, the most common one being stem rot and root rot. If you start to notice rotting in the stems, it is most likely that you have overwatered the succulents and the roots have already rotted as well.

Overwatered succulents have mushy, translucent leaves
Overwatered succulents have mushy, translucent leaves

To resolve the problem of overwatering, the first thing you need to do is to stop watering your affected succulent altogether. Next, remove the succulent (roots and all) from the container it was in. Gently remove all the soil from the plant, dusting off any excess soil that may cling on to the roots.

After all the soil has been removed, look for rots in the plant. Break off or separate the healthy portion of the succulent from its rot, sacrificing the entire root system if you have too. Keep only the healthy remaining parts of the succulent and air-dry it for a couple of days. After that, plant the remaining succulent into dry soil and start watering one week later.

Underwatering

Underwatering succulents means not providing enough water for your succulents to grow. Your succulents may survive the scarcity of water, but may not thrive well under those conditions. If you start to notice your succulent leaves drying out frequently and appearing wrinkled, it is most likely that you are not providing enough water.

Underwatered succulents look wrinkled and dry
Underwatered succulents look wrinkled and dry

The way to resuscitate an underwatered succulent is easy – just increase the frequency of your watering. However, do not make the mistake of overwatering your succulents to ‘make up’ for the previous lack of water. If the soil is constantly damp, this will in turn cause the root of your succulents to rot. Instead, use the ‘soak and dry’ method mentioned above to make sure your succulents have just the water they need and not more.

Which is Worse: Overwatering or Underwatering Succulents?

If you’re not sure on how frequent to water your succulents, always err on the side of underwatering your succulents.

Succulents that have been underwatered and dried (not too excessively) can return to their vigorous state within a couple of days, sometimes within a couple of hours.

On the other hand, succulents that have been overwatered and suffering from rot will have a harder time recovering. Depending on the severity of the rot, sometimes the plant may never come back to life.

Let’s Hear From the Readers

Where do you live and how often do you water succulents? Do share your watering schedule in the comments below so other readers can benefit from your experience.

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