Proper Watering for Succulents

Lets talk Succulents!

Succulents are named for their ability to store water in their fleshy leaves and stems. Because of this, these drought resistant plants are extremely susceptible to overwatering. When caring for a succulent you want to mimic their arid natural climates. There are three important factors for properly watering these cute plants; the soil used, how often you water AND how much water is given at each watering.

  • Soil

    Some will argue that this is the most important factor, and I don’t disagree. When choosing a succulent soil you want to find one that will drain fast and efficiently to prevent root rot. Root Rot is the number one killer of succulents and unfortunately it is pretty hard to fix. I recommend making your own succulent soil because it is cost efficient and a dependable quality. Below is a recipe I really enjoy:

    • 3 parts potting soil

    • 2 parts lava rock (or turface)

    • 1 part perlite

    When choosing a soil avoid potting mixes that use moisture controling additions like vermiculite. You can find all of the above ingredients at many garden centers. If you are in Denver, Co I really enjoy Paulino’s Garden Center.

  • How often should you water

    This will depend on your container, and the light your succulent is getting. Containers are important for succulents and I always recommend a container with a drainage hole. That is why we take on the tedious task of drilling holes into our glass terrariums. However; succulents can still thrive in containers without drainage. They will just be a little less forgiving when overwatered.

    If you have chosen a container without a drainage hole you are going to want to water less often than you would with a well draining container. The same goes for lighting. More exposure to light, the quicker your succulent will dry out and the more water it will need.

    A general rule I find success with is I water once every week, the same day. I even set a little reminder on my phone so I don’t forget because remembering to water plants can be difficult! Luckily succulents are more forgiving if you forget to water for a few days as opposed to getting a little too excited with watering. Always error on the less water side.

  • How much water ?

    Finally, probably the most important part of this article. Succulents are very different than house plants. They do not want to be spritzed every now and then. Nor should you provide a little bit of water every few days. To properly water a succulent you want to adopt a soak and dry method.

    To do this you want to get the soil completely wet. If you have a container with a drainage hole a good rule of thumb is water until the water runs out of the drainage hole. If you have a container with no drainage hole I have found the “cake method” to be a dependable test. Use a piece of wood (chopstick, pencil etc.) stick it in the watered soil, remove the wood. If the soil is attached to the wood you have watered thoroughly.

    Alright so here it is. The MOST important rule of thumb. Do not water your succulents until the soil is COMPLETELY bone dry. Often times the top of the soil will dry out but the bottom will still be damp (especially if you have a no drainage pot) Always stick your finger into the soil, so it is submerged, and test that it is dry thoroughly.

    Below you will find pictures of overwatered and underwatered succulents for troubleshooting.

 
Overwatered succulents will become rotten. This is an example of what visible root rot looks like.   Photo Source:  Succulents and Sunshine

Overwatered succulents will become rotten. This is an example of what visible root rot looks like.

Photo Source: Succulents and Sunshine

Underwatered succulents will appear shriveled and wrinkled.

Photo source: Urban Organic Yield

Overwatered succulents will appear mushy. See how the center is brown? That is a sign of root rot.   Photo Source:  Sublime Succulents

Overwatered succulents will appear mushy. See how the center is brown? That is a sign of root rot.

Photo Source: Sublime Succulents