How to Water Succulents

BY LEAH CHESTER-DAVIS | Better Homes and Gardens

Succulents are marvels of nature that store extra water in their leaves, stems, or roots. Because they have the reputation for growing in arid conditions, many people fail to realize that when we bring them into our home and garden environments, they do need to be watered regularly. We share what you need to know on how to water succulents and keep them thriving.

How to Water Succulents Indoors

Rather than giving your succulents sips of water here and there, give them a good soaking — to the point the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer beneath the plant pot. Then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Horticulturist Bryce Lane with North Carolina State University recommends checking the soil a week after watering; if it’s still moist, wait another week.

Sedums, sempervivum (commonly called hens-and-chicks), jade plants, kalanchoe, aloe vera, and sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue) are popular choices for indoor plants. Succulents also include cacti, which, generally, may need less water than other succulents.

Succulents like well-drained soil. According to Lane, a good quality potting soil mixed with either a material such as perlite or PermaTill will help ensure good drainage. He recommends two parts soil to one part drainage material. In addition to quality potting media, make sure your containers have drainage holes, because too much moisture can result in rotten roots.

Succulents require more water in the early spring when the plant is growing. Water needs may lessen in the summer and even more so during the winter. When the light decreases during the winter months and most succulents are in a dormant period, their water requirements also decrease. During winter, water your succulents when the soil is dry. This could be as infrequently as once per month but will depend on your conditions.

The frequency of watering will also depend on the light and growing conditions in your area, as well as the size of the container. The larger the container, the more moisture it can hold. Small, shallow pots may need to be watered more frequently.

How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers

Summer is a good time to move potted succulents outdoors. Though they love sun, give them a chance to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing them in a partially shaded area before moving to a sunnier location. Keep them out of intense sunlight from late morning to midafternoon. Outdoor plants generally require more water than indoor plants. Again, your conditions will dictate how often succulents will need water. Start by checking on a weekly basis, paying attention to the condition of the potting media and whether it’s bone dry or moist.

Succulents, including cacti, which are grown in shallow containers, may need water every few days.

How to Water Succulents in the Ground

Succulents, particularly sedums, grow quite well in the ground. They, too, may need to be watered weekly, depending on conditions. Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions much better than new plants.

Whether you grow hardy or annual succulents, they need to be in well-drained soil. “Standing water is a prescription for disaster,” Lane says. As with houseplants, soil conditions and water needs go hand-in-hand. Lane recommends replacing existing soil and making sure the subsoil drains well. Or, perhaps an easier approach is to raise the bed or mound the soil in the areas where you plant succulents. One- to 2-foot mounds with organic based compost mixed with perlite or PermaTill will help ensure plants thrive even if they are in conditions that are different from their native areas.

Good soil, a good soaking, and good drainage equals happy plants.

Get our complete guide to growing succulents.

Video: How to Grow Succulents in Containers

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