How to Water Succulents – the Right Way

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 PLUS grab your FREE ebook with my top 5 tips for growing succulents that thrive!

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 enjoying a beautiful indoor or outdoor succulent garden of your own!

(This post may contain affiliate links.)

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, translucent, and 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.

when to water succulents
This plant rotted due to over -watering. The leaves are soggy, losing color, and showing signs of mold.

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.

dry leaves on succulents

How Often to Water Succulents

To water potted succulents effectively, you’ll need a watering can, watering squeeze bottle, OR Watering syringe, a pot with a drainage hole like this terracotta pot, and you’ll also need cactus mix.

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 that’s used for flowers 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 course 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 feel 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 9b) 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).

Learn how to water succulents indoors!

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.

DIY Christmas ornaments with live succulents

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.

how to water succulents

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!

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about me

Hi, I'm Natalie! I'm so happy you're here, learning about your favorite plants! I hope to inspire your love of container gardening and my wish is to encourage you to live a more plant-inspired life, whether that means growing a garden, incorporating a more plant-based diet, or creating beautiful DIY home decor with live succulents!

Recent Posts

  1. 12.20.18

    I’m so happy to have found your website, you gave me so much info on my Succulent plants. I do believe that I may have not watered on one plant in time. But l hope l was able to save it. Thanks
    Susan Raven

    • 12.26.18
      Natalie Linda said:

      I’m so glad this post helped you, Susan! Thanks for letting me know : ) Good luck with your succulents!

  2. 1.16.19
    Dakumpitiya A Upali said:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the public of succulent lovers.
    Good luck.

    • 10.4.19
      SHERYL B said:

      Thank you so much for the detailed tips on succulent watering.
      As a plant lover and owner all my life, I still have killed succulents in my years. Hopefully this will make my succulents live many longer years.

  3. 5.13.19
    Phyllis Donnelly said:

    I was watering my plants all wrong, thank you for telling me the proper way. I hope it is not to lait.

    • 5.14.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Glad I could help, Phyllis!

  4. 6.3.19
    pat said:

    I have a question about what type of pot works best. if a china pot has 1 hole , is the drainage adequate?

    • 6.4.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Pat,

      Yes, absolutely. If your pot has a drainage hole, it’s enough to let the excess water drain from the pot, so you should be good to go! (Don’t forget the cactus mix aka soil made specifically for succulents – it’ll help with drainage.)

      • 6.6.19
        Laurie said:

        What about when succulents change color? Does that indicate not enough water or a light exposure issue or what?

        • 6.7.19
          Natalie Linda said:

          Hi Laurie!

          Succulents can change color if they don’t receive enough sunlight. When succulents get plenty of light, they’re more able to retain their bright, colorful tones. When they don’t get the light they need, bright-colored succulents can turn green. Also, a “stressed” succulent that doesn’t get enough water can take on more red-orange tones. In fact, some people actually try to stress out there plants by cutting back on watering so that they can turn a different color! Hope this helps.

  5. 6.4.19
    Claire said:

    Thanks for the advice- I received a succulent/ cacti jar with no drainage but a good few inches of white sand at the bottom- I have killed the cacti but one succulent is just hanging on- but I’m scared to water it and now I think it’s too dry haha -should I ditch the jar??

    • 6.7.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Claire!

      Sometimes that can happen to succulents if there’s not enough air circulation or there’s too much moisture in the soil. Try repotting your succulent in a pot that has a drainage hole (using cactus mix!). Wait a few days before watering it, then water it thoroughly. Water again when the soil feels dry. Hopefully, it survives!

  6. 6.13.19
    Diane said:

    I have Jade and Christmas cactus and wonder if I should fertilize them? I have had them for many years and never able to make other plants from them. My Jade could really use a pruning. Any information greatly appreciated.

    • 7.12.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Diane,

      You can add liquid succulent fertilizer to your Jade and Christmas Cactus plants during the active growing season (Spring and Summer). Mix the liquid fertilizer into a watering can and mix with water, then water your plants as you normally would. Some succulent growers fertilize once a month during the growing season, while others only fertilize once at the beginning of Spring or during the Summer. I wrote a post on fertilizing succulents, here: https://natalielinda.com/how-to-fertilize-succulents/

      To prune your jade, taking your pruners and cut right above the brown “rings” on the woody stems. This will encourage more stems to grow from the cut and will help to achieve a fuller, bushier look.

      Good luck!

  7. 6.16.19
    Barbara Johnson said:

    Thanks for the excellent watering tips!

    • 6.18.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Glad I could help!

  8. 6.28.19
    V6 said:

    Thank you so much for these helpful tips. Recently all my succulents are dying. When I bought them, I loosened the soil around the roots before planting them in a container. Does that have anything to do with the problem?
    Vivien

    • 7.11.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Vivien,

      Sorry to hear about your plants. I know many succulent growers loosen the soil from the roots before planting, with success. I actually don’t do this, I prefer to leave the soil intact unless the soil doesn’t appear to be a succulent or cactus mix. In my experience, they grow better this way. I also water a few days after planting instead of straight away to let the plants settle and any damaged roots heal before watering.

      Are your plants getting enough water? (The soil should dry out between waterings, over-watering can kill your plants). Also, succulents do need some reprieve from very hot temperatures during the Summer, perhaps they’re burning?

  9. 7.10.19
    Jeannette Peterson said:

    Do you fertilize succulents?

    • 7.11.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Jeannette, I do. I use a liquid kelp fertilizer during their active growing season only (Spring-Summer). I add it to the watering can and mix with water. You can do it every month during the growing season or just once. I have a post on fertilizing succulents if you’re interested in learning more, https://natalielinda.com/how-to-fertilize-succulents/.

  10. 7.10.19
    Monika Wendt said:

    Thanks for all these interesting tips. It looks to me, a draining hole is always necessary!? or are their also other ways to water succulents?

    • 7.11.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Monika,

      I’ve successfully grown succulents in teacups and pots that don’t have a drainage hole. The trick is to water conservatively; I use much less water than I normally do and I always pay close attention to the succulents to make sure they’re not looking soggy or over-watered. In this instance, a watering squeeze bottle is a great tool to use because it really lets you control the amount of water you give to the pot. For beginners, I recommend starting with drainage holes until they get more comfortable with watering and identifying problems with their plants.

      Good luck!

  11. 7.14.19
    Dorothy said:

    Thank you for the great information on watering Succulents. I buy my succulents from Wal-Mart, here in NV. They have a very large variety of Succulents. The soil is always so very wet and black. By the time I realized what was wrong I had lost 2 plants. The plant fell apart because it rotted. With the information you gave ,I know what to do. THANKS AGAIN. Dorothy

    • 7.14.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      So glad I could help, Dorothy! Good luck with the rest of your succulents!

  12. 8.17.19
    Adrienne said:

    I knew it….I was told to wait until the entire pot that contained the succulent was bone dry then water. You said to water when it is dry a few inches down. My succulents were crying and I didn’t even know it. I did lose some but I started to water a little more frequently and they started looking better and then ran across your site. Thank you for your help.

  13. 9.15.19
    Diane said:

    What a big help you’ve been. I bought a Dessert Rose this year and spent way too much! It’s been a struggle since I brought it home. After reading your article I’m almost positive that it’s not getting enough water. I’ve been very afraid of overwatering it but I know now that the water should be coming out of the bottom. I’ll remedy that today. Thanks so much!

    • 9.18.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      So glad I could help, Diane! Good luck!

  14. 11.12.19
    Claudia Ch. said:

    I love succulents but at the end they die. I am zone 9b and the weather doesn’t help me. 🙁 I used the cactus soil, the pot with drainage … and watered once a week. But no working for me. I have a different varieties of succulents and I was thinking that maybe is the amount of light. They all are in the same spot. What do you think? Do you know a link the talk about the classification of the succulents?
    Thanks you. 🙂

    • 12.2.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      I’m in zone 9B, too! Our Summers are hot and dry, which means succulents that are outdoors need to be watered more frequently because the soil dries out so quickly. They also need protection from the harsh sun and weather over 90 degrees or they’ll get sunburned and potentially die. I either move my succulents to an area that gets shade during the afternoon hours or I build a tent over them to provide shade.

      I hope this helps!

  15. 11.12.19
    Kelly said:

    Where do you get a squeeze bottle from?

    • 12.4.19
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Kelly,

      From Amazon – it’s linked in the post.

  16. 1.12.20
    Ana said:

    I have a problem with mu succulent! My cat bit it and left tiny holes, I found the succulent on the floor and immediately plant it again in the pot. Will it survive? What should I do?

    • 1.12.20
      Natalie Linda said:

      Hi Ana,

      I think your succulent will be fine! Take care of it as you normally would, watering when the soil is dry.

      If the leaves with holes bother you, you can opt to prune those off (just tear off the leaf from the stem, making a clean break) and your plant will hopefully try to replace those leaves with new ones- though it may take a few months.

      Good luck!

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