[Complete Guide] How to Water Succulents so They Don’t Rot!

I was very excited the first time I got my succulents. I brought them home, put them near the window, and watered them good. Since I didn’t know anything about them at first, I thought that if I keep watering them will make my plants happy. The truth is they weren’t happy with what I did and they rotted in days!

In summary, watering succulents are different from watering other home plants. You need to water them when they are completely dry, use a pot with a drainage hole, and soil that dries quickly.

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Succulents Absorb Water Very Well

Succulents live in deserts or semi-desert areas. That means they don’t get water frequently. But when it rains in a desert it rains hard for a short period of time. Then, it dries out in hours if not minutes.

Therefore, in order to survive, succulents need to get as much water as possible to survive. Succulents have a root system that helps to achieve this. As soon as they get water, they get the most of it and keep them for long dry days.

Our homes or offices are not that hot and dry. Succulents won’t need that much water to survive.

In these conditions, if you water them more than they need, they’ll take up much more water than they need, and start losing leaves first, then their stem will rot. The same thing happens with roots too. If the soil stays wet, roots will start to rot, eventually causing the plant to die.

Start with a Good Pot with a Drainage Hole

Drainage hole helps excess water to leave the soil. This is important because if there is no drainage hole, water will stay in the pot and keep the soil wet.

Some people use pots without drainage holes and keep their succulents alive but it is very difficult to do. You wouldn’t know how much water left in the pot and how long it will take soil to completely dry out.

I also recommend avoiding keeping your plants in glass containers or terrariums. These things can cause your plants to burn due to glass effect.

Other problems with glass containers are water evaporation and drainage. Water cannot easily leave the soil or terrarium because there are no drainage holes and soil is shallow. You’ll probably experience mold and rotting if you are not very careful with watering. For starters, glass containers should be avoided.

What if I Don’t Have a Pot With Drainage Hole?

It happens. You have a favorite pot you think looks awesome with your favorite succulent, it is okay to use it.

What I usually do is to use another plastic pot called nursery pot. It is a light plastic pot that has drainage holes. You can plant your succulent in it, and place nursery pot into your favorite pot.

All you need to do is to buy a nursery pot a little smaller than your pot and you can directly place your plant into the pot. When you need to water your plant, you can easily take out the plant with nursery pot and water your plant.

Another way is to learning the weight of your pot when it is dry and after you dry, you can understand when it is completely dry again. However, I try to avoid this and recommend the use of nursery pot.

Soil Play an Important Role

In a desert, the soil is dried out quickly because of its composition. Lots of rocks and coarse sand makes it easy for water to just flow.

Since succulents hate to sit on wet soil, the soil used should quickly be drying after you water. Water drainage will be even poorer if you have your succulents indoors. Soil becomes much more important.

I don’t recommend using potting soil as they tend to keep water. You can directly buy succulent or cactus soil directly from Amazon or Home Depot, or choose to mix at home.

If you want to prepare your own soil, you can easily do it by mixing perlite, coarse sand, and your potting soil if you have some. The formula I use is potting soil (60%), perlite (15%), and coarse sand (25%).

How to Actually Water Your Succulents?

Overwatering will kill your succulents. That doesn’t mean you should water your succulents with less water. You need to water your succulents very well when they need.

So let’s start with “when“.

Watering frequency can change considering the age, size, temperature, season etc. So there is no single and easy answer on when to water your plants.

When the soil is completely dry, it is time to water. You can it understand by sticking your finger or a toothpick to the soil. If toothpick is all dry, you can start watering.

You can use a water can to water your plant. You need to give a good soak first and wait until the water comes from the drainage holes. You can wait a couple of minutes until water completely leaves the pot.

Then give one more soaking and wait until water leaves the pot, and you are done! Easy-peasy.

The reason we are giving a good soak is about roots. If you don’t water deeply, roots will stay shallow because there is no reason for the plant to grow roots deep.

When you give a good amount of water and it wets all soil, roots will grow and get deeper trying to reach the bottom. This will help the plant to be stronger and healthier.

A good rule of thumb for frequency is in summer watering weekly, and winter bi-weekly. However, as I stated before, there are many factors affecting this frequency, so that doesn’t mean you need to water your succulents following a strict timeline.

Please do not Mist!

Misting your succulents is a bad idea. While too much water kills your succulents, less water will do the same thing but in a different way.

First of all, succulents need a good watering. If they don’t get enough water, in time, their leaves get wrinkly and bad looking. Second, when you mist, water will not get wet enough for healthy root formation. Why would a plant spend energy and resources to grow roots on a dry soil?

The only time it is okay to use misting bottle is when you are propagating your succulents. You will need to mist your leaves you plucked off for propagation. I wrote a big guide on how to propagate your succulents.

When you get your propagation leaves ready (you let them be calloused for a couple of days), you can place them on your succulent soil and start spraying water.

You can spray them every day until new plants grow. After a couple of weeks, you’ll see pink roots and those roots will love to be watered every day. However, make sure leaves and soil do not stay wet for long hours.

How to Understand you are Overwatering?

Leaves are the best indicator for watering problems.

If leaves are dropping quickly that may be caused by overwatering. When there is too much water for the plant to hold, it will drop its leaves to protect the whole plant.

If leaves are becoming yellowish and transparent, it is another indicator of overwatering. When you touch leaves and you feel them juicy, you need to change your watering technique.

If you notice symptoms of overwatering, all you need to do is wait until soil completely dries out before watering again. Succulents thrive better without water than they do with too much water.

The soil is equally important in these situations. If you are using regular potting soil instead of special succulent soil, the problem is probably not too much water but bad drainage.

Symptoms of Underwatering

Again, leaves are usually the best indicators of underwatering.

When a plant does not get enough water, leaves will get crispy and wrinkled. Lucky that underwatering is the least of our concerns because it is easy to fix.

Underwatering example from my collection

I saw people completely forgetting to water their succulents for months and succulents stayed alive. After one good soaking, they came to life as beautiful as they were before.

It is better to have an underwatering problem than overwatering. Most succulent problems can be solved with less watering.

As a sum, when dry, give a good soak to your succulents. Use a quicky drying soil and a pot with drainage holes. Avoid, using glass containers and shallow pots. Make sure you help your plant for a healthy root formation.


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