How Often to Water Succulents

You need to use a "soak and dry" cycle with these hardy plants—here's how.

Do you love the look of a brightly colored kalanchoe or zebra plant? These plants offer eye-catching varieties that grow with leaves of soft greens and shiny surfaces, spiky shoots, pink succulents or compact rosettes. If you’re someone who prefers growing their plant, then you can easily propogate a succulent from a leaf cutting.

Succulents are great as houseplants; however, it can be hard to figure out how often to water succulents. The answer is in the soil and the plant. Succulents are plants that naturally store their water supply and this trait can help monitor their needs and a schedule for watering. This means that plants like spiky cactuses, jade plants, snake plants, echeveria and aloe vera pull water into the leaves and utilize it until a water source is available again.

They naturally grow in areas where they receive a downpour of rain followed by stretches of warm sunshine. Many home gardeners are sometimes hesitant to allow a plant’s soil to become almost bone dry and this can lead to overwatering which is a top reason for a succulent not surviving. So, it’s important to know how to take care of succulents.

How Often to Water Succulents

As a general guide for how often to water succulents, you should check the plant’s soil every two weeks. You don’t have to monitor your succulents on a strict schedule, but keep a time frame in mind for every other week to check for dry soil. At different times of the year, these needs can increase or decrease depending on conditions for both your indoor and outdoor plants.

Most importantly, keep in mind that succulents prefer a “soak and dry” method. This means the soil is thoroughly watered and then allowed to dry out completely before watering again. Check your succulent’s soil by touching the top layer of soil—a succulent in need of watering should feel completely dry.

Another way to tell if your succulent needs water is to look at the leaves. These plants naturally store water in the leaves which gives them a plump and firm appearance and feel. If the leaves are withered-looking and dull, the water supply has run out and needs to be replenished.

How to Water Succulents

Succulent plant on stairs outdoor in the front yardozgurdonmaz/Getty Images

It’s important to establish a succulent in a pot with proper drainage. These plants want a supply of water and then need to be left alone to naturally dry out before being watered again. A succulent will quickly become unhappy in an environment where it’s not allowed to dry out and keep water from lingering. Be sure there’s a large enough opening in the bottom of the pot to allow water to drain.

From the Top

Succulents can be watered from above with a bit of guidance. Use a watering can with a spout that allows you to direct the flow of water directly to the top surface of the soil. You’ll want to avoid splashing the leaves with excess water which can pool and stay on the leaves or get trapped in the folds of tightly packed rosettes. For an indoor plant, this spells trouble because water that stays on the leaves can cause rot. The watering can will be sure to direct the water supply away from the leaves. You can also use a squeeze bottle for top watering.

When it comes to succulents that are outside in the garden or in planters, you don’t have to worry as much about getting water on the leaves since there’s more airflow outside which will help the water dry out quicker.

From the Bottom

To water succulents from the bottom, you need a tray of water and your plant. Place the succulent in a shallow dish with several inches of water and give it about 10 to 15 minutes to drink up the water. This will also encourage the roots to reach down for the water to help stimulate growth.

This is also helpful If you find that the soil in the container has become tightly compacted. Compressed soil won’t absorb water well from above so a bottom-watering method will help.

Water Therapy

@passiononplants When your succulents are seriously short of water, you can try watering them this way #plants #plantoftiktok #planttok #plantlover #succulents #succulentlover #watersucculent #fyp ♬ Give It to Me Like – Official Sound Studio

A method of watering called “water therapy” is also a popular practice to water succulents. This process involves submerging the entire potted succulent plant in another container of water for a period of time, and is getting popular on TikTok, as seen in this video by @passiononplants.

The plant is placed in a container that is larger than the pot with the succulent. Water is then added to fill the container with the potted succulent inside to completely submerge the whole plant.

The plant will start to release tiny air bubbles that will rise to the surface of the water level and gather on the plant’s leaves. This should take about five minutes. Tap the plant leaves with a skewer to remove any bubbles still being released and remove the plant from the water.

Place the succulent in a well-ventilated area. You will notice a change in the appearance of the leaves as they transform from looking withered to plump as the water rehydrates the plant.

Water therapy is not a regular practice for watering. It can be used occasionally for plants that seem to need a little extra boost. It is also recommended for plants that are in severe need of water or sun damaged. Plants that have been neglected or suffered from a lack of sunlight after being in a shipping box for an extended amount of time can also benefit from water therapy.

How Much to Water Succulents

Young man transplanting cactus on wooden tableWestend61/Getty Images

Always test the dryness of the soil before giving succulents water and never water soil that is damp to the touch. If you are unsure of the amount of water, use lesser rather than more. You can always add more water later!

The condition of the soil and plant appearance will always be a reliable indication of how much to water succulents. Remember that succulents need a stretch of time between watering for thorough drying out of the soil. Follow the “soak and dry” cycle for continued healthy plant growth.

Looking to add new succulents to your collection? Don’t forget to pick up some of these great succulent pots.

Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.