One of the most common questions asked by people just starting their succulent journey is: how often should I water my succulents? This is an important question because of how different succulents are from most other plants. You can’t just water them as often as other house plants. On the flipside, you can’t just leave them without water either; they’re picky about how much and when they get the water they need! Don’t let this scare you though, it’s actually very easy to figure out exactly what your new little babies will need.
How to Know When Your Succulents Need Water
This part is actually really easy! The only downside is that there is no precise, set in stone schedule you can water the little succers on. It all depends on how fast draining the soil is, so be sure to know the difference between dry and moist soil. In other words, the easiest way to know when your succulents need water, is to check the soil itself, and there are a few different ways to do this. You can eyeball it, space out your watering to about once every 14-21 days, or use a moisture meter.
Option 1: Eyeballing It
If you’re eyeballing it, keep a lookout for darker soil. There is a pretty noticeable difference between dry and moist soil, with the drier tending to look lighter in color and being a bit more “dusty.” Just below, we’ve got a side-by-side of dry and moist soil respectively to help you out!
Option 2: Scheduling and Record Keeping
Alternatively, you can also just try and space out your watering to once every 14-21 days. We definitely recommend you still try and at least check out the soil when doing this, and if you’re unsure, you can leave the little guy alone for a bit since it’s always much easier to help a succulent recover from underwatering than overwatering. If you’re the kind of person who often forgets things, you can try keeping a record of when you last watered your succulents.
Option 3: Use a Moisture Meter
Finally, probably the easiest method, while also being the most precise, is to use a moisture meter. All you’ve really gotta do is place the end that doesn’t have the display into the soil and check the reading to figure out if you should give them a little water or not. Check out our video on moisture meter use below to see how it works!
Be Sure Not to Over-Water...
Once you’ve watered your succulents a good few times, be sure to keep an eye on the plant itself for signs of either overwatering or underwatering. The most obvious signs of overwatering are discolored leaves, a soggy almost squishy feel to the succulent, and the leaves either fall off on their own or with barely a touch. Underwatered succulents tend to be soft to the touch with wrinkled and drooping leaves, looking almost a bit deflated.
Always Use a Pot with a Drainage Hole
Another helpful thing to do is make sure your succulents sit inside a pot with a drainage hole, like the one pictured below. While not super necessary, keeping your succulents in pots with drainage holes will help the soil dry out a bit faster; preventing the risk of root rot which usually happens when the bottom of a pot stays moist for an extended period of time after watering.
Adding a drainage hole to most containers is simple if you have access to a diamond tipped drill bit. If you don’t have that drill bit or if you don’t currently have any pots with drainage holes, you can simply line the bottom of the pot with a layer of pebbles and charcoal to assist in draining the soil.
How to Water Your Succulents
Now that we’ve gotten the preparation information out of the way, let’s go over the best way to water your succulents. The “soak and dry method” is pretty self-explanatory, all you need to do is soak the soil completely and then let it fully dry out. That’s it. Really simple, right? Well, just in case you’d like to see it demonstrated, here’s a video by Cassidy Tuttle from Succulents and Sunshine going over how to do it and the best tools to do it with.
Like Cassidy said, be sure to watch out for standing water that remains on succulent leaves. Just like overwatering, this can lead to rot in your little guys. If you keep your succulents outside, however, you don’t need to worry about standing water as much since it’ll dry out fairly quickly on its own.
WHY IS SOAK-AND-DRY THE BEST WATERING METHOD?
This is also why we don’t recommend using a spray bottle or similar watering methods, because this can actually end up weakening your succulent’s root system by encouraging it to develop a more shallow root system which can’t endure those longer drought periods. So make sure you water your succulents properly so their roots can grow up (well, down I guess) big and strong!
The Best Soil for Succulents
Although this doesn’t seem like it’s related, good soil is extremely important to help prevent overwatering and root rot. As we’ve said before, it’s crucial for your succulents to be planted in well-draining soil so that any excess water simply drains out of the bottom instead of sitting at the bottom of the pot or surrounding your succulent’s roots. If this happens, your little succy babies will be pushing up daisies before long.
So, to prevent that, you’ll want to get a “gritty” looking soil. This will consist of a mixture of ⅔ inorganic material (rocks, perlite, etc) around ¼” (6mm) in size with ⅓ organic material (bark, coconut coir, etc). You don’t need to purchase this kind of mix, it’s easy enough to mix yourself. Succulents and Sunshine has a great guide to help you create your own mix.
Some of you might be wondering if traditional soil is fine – honestly, it’s not amazing. The standard store bought mix doesn’t drain super well and might retain moisture for many more days than necessary, drowning your succulents or causing root rot. Most “cactus and succulent” mixes also aren’t too great, they still have too much organic material in them and don’t drain as quickly as you’d like. It will take some extra monitoring to make sure the soil isn’t too wet, but it isn’t impossible.
How Frequently Should I Water My Succulents?
So, how often should you really water your succulents? The quick answer is, well, it depends. A number of factors change how often you’ll actually end up watering your succulents. Does your pot have a drainage hole? Is the succulent sitting outside or indoors? How well-draining is the soil? All of these things will change the answer. Luckily, succulents are pretty vocal about whether they need water or not, which we outlined above in the section “How to Know When your Succulents Need Water.”
The most precise way we recommend is using a moisture meter; because no matter the situation, the moisture meter will be able to tell you in simple terms whether or not the soil is wet or dry. This makes it a heck of a lot easier to determine if you need to water or not. If the meter reads “dry” it’s time to give it a good soaking. But if it reads “moist” or “wet,” you can safely leave it be for a few more days. It’s always better to err on the side of safety, meaning don’t water if you’re not sure. Remember, it’s always better to underwater your succulents than to overwater them!
Succulent plants grow best when the soak-and-dry method is used for watering. The best method for determining if they need water, is to use a moisture meter. But, using the tips and illustrations in this article, you can also learn to tell the telltale signs of an overwatered or underwatered succulent. Using a proper container and the proper soil are also key to successful succulent watering.