Because Even Desert Plants Need Water!
“Succulents are so easy, you barely have to water them!” While we’d be the first to tell you how low-maintenance succulents are, these desert plants still need water – in moderation, of course! Read on for our Do’s and Don’t’s on watering and peep our video for more info:
- Use well-draining soil. First thing’s first! Choose any cactus soil for your succulents. Cactus soil has a higher ratio of perlite to soil than regular potting soil, allowing water to drain out quicker. This is important to avoiding root rot in your succulents. (You can even get fancy and mix in a little sand or some pebbles.)
- Water until you see a puddle. When it rains it pours! When using a pot with draining holes, water at the base of the soil until you see a slight puddle form at the bottom of the pot. No need to water again until the soil is completely dry, which can be anywhere from 7 to 14 days (longer in the winter–see below), but it never hurts to check! To check if your soil is dry, stick your finger in the drainage hole and in the top, and feel the soil. If it feels moist at all, wait a few days and check again.
- No drainage hole? Measure the soil. If you are using a pot without drainage holes, a 2:1 soil-to-water ratio may help you avoid a Water World situation. For example, if your succulent is in two cups of soil, measure one cup of water. *Tip: Feel your planter when it’s watered to get a feel for how heavy it is, that way you’ll know when it’s ready to get watered again by how light it feels. You should also stick your finger into the soil and feel around to be sure your soil mixture is completely dry.
- Humidity. Live in a place with super humid, hot summers? Your succulent may not need as much water as you think. Live in a place with dry-as-a-bone heat waves? Up the water ante! Here’s the deal: Succulents take in moisture from the air as well as their soil, so if you live in an area with very humid seasons, your succulent is already getting moisture from the air. Consider a longer period between watering during those humid seasons (about every 10 to 14 days). Conversely, soil will dry out quicker in very dry, warm environments, so if you live in a place with little to no humidity in the summertime, your succulent will likely need water every 7 to 10 days.
- Temperature. Humidity is a big factor in summertime, but in wintertime, temperature matters more. Your heating system may make the air in your home very dry, but temperatures and hours of sunlight still take a dip during this time of year. This, along with the fact that most succulents go dormant and stop or slow growing in the winter, means they’ll require more time between watering than in the warmer months. Once or twice a month is adequate. More on wintertime succulent care.
Water-Related Warning Signs
Signs: An over-watered succulent will look bloated, and its bottom leaves will start turning pale/yellow. Its leaves will feel mushy and watery, and they fall off very easily (sometimes on their own). The soil of an over-watered succulent will take a long time to dry out (more than 7-10 days) and may always feel a little damp.
Fix: Over-watered succulents are notoriously difficult to save, but it’s worth a try! First, un-pot your succulent and crumble away the dirt around its roots. Check for root rot, which presents as a black stem and dark brown/black roots. If there’s no sign of root rot, simply repot your succulent in cactus soil and wait a few weeks to water.
If you do find rot, cut off the top part of the succulent above the rotted roots or rotted stem, depending on how far up the rot has traveled. Next, leave that top part of your succulent out to callus over. Once a callus has formed where you cut, nestle it back into cactus soil and water lightly once a week. After a few weeks it will have sprouted new roots!
Signs: An under-watered succulent will feel thin, dry, and rubbery. Its leaves can easily be bent and folded, and they may appear wrinkly. The succulent may have stopped growing even in warm, sunny environments, and its soil probably dries out well before its next watering.
Fix: Don’t make a big adjustment right away. First, water your succulent. Second, shorten the time in between watering by a day or two. See how it does. If it seems strong and healthy after a few weeks, keep that schedule. If it still feels limp and rubbery, shorten the time in between watering by another day or two. Continue until you find your succulent’s sweet spot!
- Use a spray bottle – Spray bottles are great for propagating leaves, but they’re not a great tool for watering a potted succulent. Using a watering can or measuring cup with a lip.
- Panic! – Succulents are very forgiving plants. Under-watering is FAR easier to bounce back from than over-watering, so err on the side of desert-like conditions.