Anyone who gardens or takes care of houseplants knows how important water is, but they also know that it’s rarely as simple as just watering once a week, every week and calling it good. To get the most out of your plants while ensuring they are as healthy as can be for the longest amount of time, you’ll need to be a lot more observant of their water preferences. A one-size-fits-all watering schedule is one of the most common mistakes people make when growing succulents.
Succulents and cacti often get lumped into the “easy-to-water” category, and not without good reason. They are resilient, forgiving plants, but their drought tolerance makes them quite different from most other houseplants. It can take a bit of time and experimenting to get accustomed to their low-water needs. Using these must-know tips for watering your succulents will make sure that they get the water they need when they need it so that they’re happy and healthy long into the future.
Watering Succulents vs. Watering Other Plants
It would be a mistake to treat your succulents like any other common houseplant when it comes time to water them. They are fundamentally different plants that don’t benefit from the same kind of watering schedule or technique that something like a fern might.
Succulents have exceptional drought tolerance because of how they store water. Depending on the kind of succulent you have, you can see them storing water either in their stem, leaves, or roots because these areas will be much larger and more bulbous than the rest of the plant.
Because they have this unique water-storage capability, you don’t need to water succulents nearly as often as your typical houseplant. The same adaptations that make them resilient to drought can make them more prone to rot. To master succulent watering, it’s key to learn when not to water.
Tips for Efficient Succulent Watering
Whether you’re new to owning succulents or you just want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep them healthy, we have a few tips for watering your succulents that should help sustain them for a long time.
We are speaking of succulents as one large group, and it’s important to remember that these tips are general guidelines for caring for your succulents, and not hard and fast rules. The species of succulent that you have might require slight modifications to these rules as necessary. These guidelines are a great starting place, but refer to each variety’s care info in our online catalog to understand its specific, seasonal water needs. For example, even if they are both succulents, echeveria and crassula plants require different watering methods based on the season you are in.
Soak the Succulent’s Soil Completely
There is a persistent (but untrue!) myth that succulents should be misted with a spray bottle. +In fact, succulents in the wild are accustomed to deep but infrequent water from occasional rainstorms. To grow healthy succulents, we want to mimic their natural conditions by giving them a deep, soaking drench when we do water them.
To that end, you want to fully soak your succulent’s soil to the point where water is running out the container’s drainage hole. Fully saturating the soil like this will provide sufficient water for your succulent in the long term that it can draw from as it needs it.
Never Leave Standing Water
A crucial point to remember about watering succulents is to make sure you stop when the soil can’t take any more water. Overwatering is an issue for most plants, and succulents are no different. Ideally, you’ll use a soil medium that drains water very efficiently so that there isn’t any standing water left to fester on its surface.
Standing water becomes a breeding ground for contaminants that can attack your succulent at the stem and roots. If you have a pot with a saucer that catches the extra water, don’t allow it to sit there for too long. Drain out the excess water, and your succulents will stay safe from rotting too early.
Succulents Can Go Longer Than You Think Without Watering
We’ve said many times that succulents are drought-adapted plants that don’t need frequent water to thrive. Because of this, you’ll likely go much longer between watering sessions if you’re used to caring for other plants. Depending on the size of your pot, you might go over a month without watering your succulent.
You can check when the best time to water is by feeling the soil. If you can feel that there is still moisture inside of the soil, don’t add more water. You want to wait until the soil feels completely dry before you give any more water.
Decrease Water Amount During Dormant Periods
Most succulents protect themselves during colder periods and periods with less sunlight by going dormant during these times. As they go dormant, they require less water to sustain themselves, and the water you do give them will take a longer amount of time to get used up.
This is when it becomes very important to check your soil’s moisture level before you water. If you keep your succulent indoors in a place that doesn’t receive a lot of light, it’s possible that you could go for a few weeks without needing to add any more water. Also, keep in mind that the size of the pot your succulent is in will affect the frequency of watering as well.
Outdoor Succulents Will Need More Water
If you keep your succulent outdoors, there isn’t a huge adjustment that you need to make. Succulents placed outside will receive more sunlight and therefore start to use up more water than a succulent you keep indoors. When you plant succulents outside, it’s a good idea to place them somewhere where they will only receive direct sunlight for a small portion of the day.
Continue to feel the soil and only add more water once it dries out, which will likely happen sooner than with a succulent that you keep inside.
Avoid Getting Water on Succulent Leaves
Some plants do well with a misting of water placed over their leaves, specifically plants that thrive in humid environments. When it comes to succulents, you don’t want to use this method for a few reasons. The first is that succulents don’t gain much of anything from having their leaves wet, and moisture in the soil is far more important.
The second is that this water can sit on the leaves for a long time, causing the leaves to possibly accumulate unwanted contaminants and fungus that can prematurely rot your succulent. Even when watering normally, do your best to avoid getting water on the leaves themselves.
Mountain Crest Gardens wants to arm you with all the knowledge you need to care for your succulents. Take a look through our store, and you’ll find a huge selection of beautiful succulents that you’re sure to fall in love with.