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How to Water Succulents

Succulents are very popular houseplants, and many can be very easy to grow. Beginners, however, often worry about how to water succulents. This guide should help you to understand what you need to do to water succulents, and when, so you can keep these plants happy and healthy in your home.

How to Water Succulents

Understanding Succulents

To understand how to water Succulents, you first need to understand these plants a little better. Understanding them and where they come from is the first step in learning how best to meet their needs. 

Succulents are plants, typically from arid or semi-arid environments, that have evolved and adapted to their environment. They have evolved anatomical features that allow them to store water in their plant tissues – often though not exclusively in their stems and/or leaves. 

Since succulents can store water in their tissues, they have much lower water needs than many other plants and can often survive without water in their environment for long periods. They do well where water is in short supply. 

Succulents all have certain characteristics in common – and all have good resistance to low-water conditions. It is important to note, though, that succulents can also be very different from one another and can come from very different environments. 

Though they will often have similar water needs, these can vary somewhat from one species and variety to another. Looking at where a particular succulent comes from, and what the rainfall patterns and other environmental factors are like there, can help us to better understand their needs. 

For example, we can determine whether a succulent is from a true desert environment or a semi-arid one. We can see whether the plant experiences long periods of drought, interspersed with periods of high water availability, or whether water is scarce throughout the year. 

We may also need to look at whether a particular succulent enters a period of dormancy in winter or during the summer months. Since watering needs will be different when plants are in dormancy than they are during periods of active growth. 

This will give us clues about how and when we should provide water when growing these plants inside our homes. 

How Much Water Do Succulents Need?

When people think about succulents, they will often think of them as plants that cope in very dry environments and may be lulled by this into thinking that they do not need to water their succulents much at all. 

But while many succulents have low water needs, they do need water to survive. Often, they do need plenty of water but can cope for longer, once provided with that water, than many other plants before they are watered once more. 

It is important to understand that no precise figure can be given for how much water a succulent will need. Since precise water needs will not only depend on the specific species and variety in question. They will also depend on the precise environmental conditions – and things like light levels, temperatures, etc…

What we can say is that succulents typically need to be watered less frequently than most other plants grown as houseplants indoors. But they should be watered well each time they are watered. 

We can also say that while succulents do need water, they do not like it to stick around in their growing medium. So free-draining conditions are essential and we need to think about this when choosing containers and potting mix for these plants. 

When to Water Succulents

Since there are few hard and fast rules about how much water succulents will need, you might wonder how we can tell when to water our plants. 

When growing succulents indoors, we are of course responsible for meeting all of their water needs ourselves, since natural rainfall will not help us. 

We need to think about the needs of the particular succulent in question and the environmental conditions where we live. We also need to think about the time of year and the point that the plant is at in its lifecycle. 

Many succulents enter a period of dormancy, and during this period, they will not need as much water, if they need any water at all. Many succulents don’t need any water at all when they are not in active growth. 

Fortunately, we can also gain clues that help us understand when to water succulents from the growing medium, and from the plants themselves. 

We should water when:

  • The growing medium is completely dry (which we can ascertain by touch, appearance, and weight). 
  • Or the plants are showing signs of water shortage. 

Signs a Succulent Has Been Under-Watered

Signs of water shortage in succulents that show that you have not watered enough and need to do so include wrinkled and/or shriveled leaves and ones that turn brown or yellow and crisp at the ends. 

Signs a Succulent Has Been Over-Watered

On the other hand, if you water too much a succulent plant may often give you clues about this too. Succulents getting too much water may have pale or yellowing leaves, and these may ultimately become brown and mushy. 

Succulent Watering Methods & Tips

How you water succulents can be just as important as the frequency of watering. Most succulents need to be watered deeply each time they are watered so that water drains freely through the base of the pot. 

While the excess water needs to be able to drain away freely, it is also important to make sure all the roots of the plant can uptake the water they need. 

We should always water deeply, and try to aim the water for the area (roots) where it is required. Often, it is important not to get water on the leaves and we should take care not to leave standing water in the crown or rosette of the plant. 

Giving the plant a good soak, then waiting for the growing medium to dry out entirely before watering again is generally the best policy for most succulent plants growing indoors.