Learning to water succulents the right way helped me grow a sprawling succulent garden both indoors and in our yard. The best part? It’s easy to learn and implement! Learn how to properly water your succulents AND grab your free How to Water Succulents Cheat Sheet so you can have a handy guide to walk you through it all!
If you’ve killed off every succulent you’ve ever had – you’re not alone! Unfortunately, the easiest and surest way to kill a succulent is to over or under water it.
Once you learn how to water succulents properly, however, you’ll be well on your way to growing a beautiful indoor or outdoor succulent garden of your own!
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Should Succulents be Watered Regularly?
Succulents have a reputation for being ultra low-maintenance plants due to their drought tolerance. While this is indeed true, they do need water to survive and they perform best when watered regularly, but never excessively.
Since succulents and cacti store water in their stems and leaves, observing their leaves will give you clues as to whether they’re getting the right amount of moisture.
Yellow, soggy leaves, as shown in the photo below, indicate over-watering. Brown, dry leaves from the middle or top of your succulent indicate a dire lack of moisture.
However, dry leaves at the base of your plant, as shown below, is a natural process; your succulent is getting ready to replace old leaves with new ones, so don’t be alarmed. Simply tug off these dry leaves and discard.
How Often to Water Succulents
When it comes to when and how to water succulents, it’s important to remember that succulents hate soggy soil, which is why a good cactus mix is so invaluable, especially if you’re a beginner.
Cactus mix (aka succulents soil) is made to be fast-draining so that the roots of your succulents don’t sit in drenched soil.
Succulent roots are pretty sensitive to moisture which is why overwatering could quickly lead to root-rot. Regular potting soil retains far more water than cactus mix does, so I like to stick to cactus mix for my potted succulents.
A good cactus soil will contain minerals such as pumice, perlite and sand. These minerals help excess water move through the soil quickly and through the drainage hole.
If you’re already using regular potting soil, you can amend it by adding pumice or sand to make it more fast-draining. Or you can simply be more conservative with your watering.
(Read my How To Care For Succulents post for a refresher on properly planting succulents).
Unfortunately, there’s no exact science for how often to water succulents because many things come into play including climate, whether your succulents are being grown indoors or outdoors, and what kind of pot and soil you’re using.
There is, however, a rule of thumb: water succulents ONLY when the top soil is dry, and water thoroughly until you see water escape from the drainage hole.
When you see water draining from the bottom of your pot, you’ll know the soil has received adequate moisture.
If growing succulents directly in the ground, water in increments until you see that the soil is moist.
Generally speaking, I wait about a week between waterings. This is usually how long it takes for the soil in my growing zone (zone 9) to dry out.
During the Summer, my plants need to be watered more regularly, but in the Winter, they generally need less water.
When a week has gone by since my last watering, I simply touch the soil with my finger to see how dry it feels. If it feels dry about an inch deep, I know it’s time to water again.
Tools for Watering Indoor Succulent Arrangements
The actual act of watering succulents is easy! I prefer watering my outdoor succulent arrangements with a small watering can because it allows me to control spills.
I use watering cans because they’re inexpensive, light-weight, and effective.
I also like watering my smaller planters with a watering squeeze bottle or a watering syringe because it allows me to be more precise. (You can use them for your houseplants, too).
Watering squeeze bottles or syringes are excellent for avoiding messes and designating different amounts of water to each small plant (as shown above).
They come in handy when watering compact succulent arrangements or garden crafts, such as these DIY succulent Christmas ornaments, below.
A few gentle squeezes of the watering bottle is all you need for a smaller arrangement or DIY succulent craft.
Water Succulents Thoroughly
When watering succulents, you want to water the soil, not the leaves.
All you have to do is stick the spout of your watering can directly above the soil, as shown below. Water thoroughly until you see water escaping from the drainage hole.
After your plant sits for a few minutes, make sure to discard the remaining water from the saucer.
Many people don’t realize how crucial this step is when learning how to water succulents.
If you don’t discard the drained water from the saucer, then the roots of your plant will be exposed to too much moisture for an extended period of time, which can cause them to rot.
*This happened to me once after I left a potted Echevarria Lola in a saucer that was full of water. I forgot to drain the saucer and within 2 days, my little plant had rotted! Don’t make the same mistake.
What To Avoid When Watering Succulents
Let’s talk about what tool you should avoid when watering your succulents.
Never use a spray bottle to spray water onto the your succulents’ leaves!
Here’s why: The roots are the only part of the succulent plant that needs to be watered, the leaves don’t benefit from being sprayed – they get their water directly from the roots.
Remember, learning how to properly water succulents means watering the soil, NOT the leaves. It’s simply a waste of water.
In fact, when you plant your succulents, always make sure that all of the leaves sit on top of the soil because you want them to remain as dry as possible.
[Side note: If you need more information on caring for succulents, grab our free succulent care ebook to learn the top 5 ways I keep my succulents looking healthy and vibrant!]
How to Water Succulents Outdoors
If you’re growing succulents outdoors that are planted directly into the ground, then it’s okay to use a watering hose to water your succulents.
Since they’ll be sitting under direct sunlight, they’ll be far less prone to rotting if the leaves get wet.
I know it’s hard to not water your plants overhead when they’ve been planted in the ground, so just inspect your leaves every few days to make sure they’re not suffering from water overload.
As with all my other plants and flowers, I aim to water the soil directly.
Follow the same basic watering formula as you would your potted succulents: water when the soil feels dry.
You Now Know How to Water Succulents Correctly!
Congratulations! You made it through this post which means you now know how to water succulents so that they stay healthy and happy.
All that’s left is for you to practice what you’ve learned!
Always remember that less is more when it comes to how much and how often to water succulents and cacti.
Also be mindful of the weather conditions, especially during hot summers and rainy days.
TIP: Bring your potted succulents indoors if it’s too hot outside (over 90 degrees) to avoid sunburn, or if you expect rain, to avoid root rot.
Best of luck!