Watering a succulent – Overwatered Succulents, Remedies & Tips

In this blog post, you will learn about watering a succulent, how long can succulents go without water? How much water does a succulent need?  How to counter common underwatered and overwatered succulent problems? And, some interesting tips, techniques. and remedies

Watering a succulent 

watering a succulent

Succulents are truly a wonderful creation by God. They are a popular choice of indoor (Especially) and outdoor plants because of their vibrant colors, fascinating appearance, and great versatility. They are so easy to grow and care, and they require a very low effort when compared to other plants.

Since this blog post is all about watering a succulent, I will discuss all sorts of tips and techniques of how much water does a succulent need.

Succulents store the extra water in their leaves, roots, and stems for the later use. They are drought tolerant because they grow in the desert. Succulents can easily survive without water for a long time.

What people don’t understand about watering requirements of succulents

Most plant lovers think succulents have the same watering needs as other common plants do, but common plants need water regularly and succulents don’t.

People follow the same watering schedule for succulents as they do for their other plants. Plants die because of this and people don’t understand it.

Succulents are “desert plants”, they don’t need much water, and they can survive without it for a long time.

How long can succulents go without water?

Different succulents have different watering needs, and it also depends on the temperature, climate, soil, humidity, whether they placed indoor or outdoor? If outdoor, are the succulents planted in the ground or pots?

As a general guide, they can survive without water for months because they are drought tolerant.

For 3-4 weeks, you wouldn’t even notice any significant change in their appearance if you are placing your succulent under the scorching sunlight.

The exact answer to this question is impossible without knowing the above factors, but I will tell you this, that succulents can survive without water for some time.

Though succulents have less watering needs compared to other plants, it doesn’t mean you should ignore their drink.

Interesting facts about succulent’s water-absorbing ability

Tiny water bottles like "Cells" in succulent leaves

  • We already know that succulents can survive without water due to their drought-tolerant ability, the reason is that they have evolved under stress and pressure given by drought.
  • Unique cells in leaves, stems, and roots store water, and in arid conditions, these cells gradually release that water in moisture form which is used by the entire plant.
  • This ability enables this plant to survive in the extreme drought.
  • Imagine these “tiny cells” as water bottles or balloons.
  • Succulents take water from the ground and fill up those tiny “water bottles”.
  • The “tiny cells” retain this water until it is needed.

Wasn’t that interesting.

 1.Necessary tools for watering a succulent 

You need to be prepared right from the beginning. If you don’t, then it will be hard to water your plant in the right way.

Following three tools will make it easy for you:

  • A pot with a bottom drainage hole
  • Well-draining soil
  • Succulent tool kits.
 A pot with a bottom drainage hole: 

pot with a drainage hole

This information is especially for the newbies. Succulents is not like your ordinary plants; they need a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom to reject the excess water.

Succulents are vulnerable to root rot so don’t forget a hole at the bottom.

 

 Well-draining soil: 

well-draining soil

Watering a succulent is a delicate process, so a good potting mixture is necessary. If your potting soil is absorbing the water too much, then it can seriously affect your plants.

Most overwatered succulents become fussy because of the clumsiness, and if the soil is too wet, the roots will eventually die.

Succulents need a potting mixture that will provide fast drainage for water. Most garden plants have well-drained soil, but succulents need “fast” draining soil to avoid rot/

The large aggregates will allow the oxygen to reach the roots. There are hundreds of online markets where you can buy succulents and cacti potting mixtures, or you can make your own.

You can use a 2:1 ratio of potting soil with the coarse sand mixture, and a handful of perlites to allow the water to drain faster.

PRO TIP: Get a couple of potting mixtures that you want to use for your succulent. Wet each of the mixtures and squeeze them. A good potting mixture should crumble away rather than forming a clump. Check which mixture crumbles the best, and you are good to go.
 A succulent tool kit: 

succulent tool kit

Though it not necessary like the above two, it very handy. A small tool kit will save your gardening time.

A squeeze bottle, small brush to rub off the dust from leaves, a small shovel, spoon, and other little gardening tools like that will help you a lot.

You may not know the significance of these little things yet, but trust me, these things are lifesavers.

How much water does a succulent need – how to know?

There are a total of 2 techniques to determine such a thing. It is not necessary to remember the following two techniques, just note any one of them for your convenience. 

1.  Checking the wetness of the soil by applying 2-inch finger rule: 

Checking the dryness of soil by inserting a finger in the soil.

  • 2-inch finger rule is simple to understand. Insert your two fingers “2-inch” deep into the soil near the base of the plant.
  • Then, check if the soil is moist or not. If it is totally dry, your plants need water, and if it is partially moist, avoid watering.
  • Overwatered succulent is more dangerous then underwatering for the health and growth of the plant.
  • So, you need to be on the point before watering your plant.

Is there any schedule to determine if a succulent needs water or not?

There are no schedules or timings to determine when you need to water your crassula (succulents).

Roots absorb water at different rates depending on its maturity and season.

Different succulent families have different absorption rates like crassula family is different than echeveria in terms of water needs, and absorption rates.

It largely depends on you to closely check your plant’s appearance and behavior to determine whether it needs water or not.

2. Examine the leaves of your succulent to determine whether it needs water or not 

A great way to determine when to water and when not to is by checking and examining the leaves of your succulent.

The following techniques will help you in doing so.

Underwatering signs in succulents

underwatered succulent leaves

I have already mentioned above that succulents store water in their leaves in the form of moisture with the help of “balloon-like small cells”.

The basic function of these water-absorbing cells is to provide moisture to the entire plant in case of drought, but you can’t sit tight by knowing these cells will help the plant despite following signs displayed by the leaves:

 Wrinkled and shriveled leaves 

These signs indicate that your plant is severally underwatered. Even those water-absorbing cells are there to help, but wrinkled and shriveled leaves mean water-absorbing cells are exhausted. This is a clear sign of underwatering. 

Overwatered succulent’s signs

overwatered succulent

  • Excessive water causes tiny water balloons (cell) to overfill and explode.
  • This explosion of cells results in a deep cell damage in the structure of the leaves and rotting it (and roots).
  • You will know it by the appearance of the leaves. The first sign will be discoloration of the leaves as they begin to become yellowish form green or translucent.
  • Pick one leaf form the top, and it will feel squishy and soft rather than feeling firm.
  • Along with other signs, some leaves will drop off due to the weight of excessive water absorbed in them. The leaves just can’t handle the overweight.

You cannot give water to your plant in this condition. It will be difficult, but it necessary to save your plant from wet conditions.

Solutions for under watering

Solutions for under watering

  • The biggest sign of an under-watered succulent is the wrinkled appearance of the leaves.
  • Insert your fingers in 2-inch deep in the soil, and the soil will feel dry as hell.
  • Give it a good drink. Water at the base of the roots. Put a dish underneath, and wait for 5 minutes after you are done.
  • Let the succulent absorb as much water as it can.
  • Spray some water on the leaves as well.
  • After 5 minutes, remove the extra water from the dish. Keep your plant indoor.
  • You don’t need to wait for 5 minutes if you are living in a humid area. Keep that in mind.
  • Water 3-4 times a month in the summer.
  • Keep tracking the appearance of leaves. They should look normal at this point.

Not all succulents show the same signs

Succulents like other plants tell us about their condition like shrunken, shriveled, and wrinkled leaves is a water deficiency. Soft, squishy, mushy leaves, and discoloration is an indication of damage caused by overwatering. But some succulents regularly shut down their older leaves as they grow.

This phenomenon is common among succulents like echeveria. Echeveria plants sloughed off the lower leaves turned brown due to aging.

You will notice these leaves won’t be shriveled up; they will thin out to a very dry feel, won’t lose its color rather turns into a brown leaf.

Such leaves don’t store water anymore. You can leave these leaves on the plant to be dropped off naturally or you can remove them by yourself.

Solutions for overwatered succulents

  • Firstly, don’t panic. This is the important part. People do panic knowing they have overwatered their succulent.
  • They use different methods, tips, and tricks to revive their succulents and in doing so, they kill their plants.
  • Immediately move it to a sunny spot for few hours only. If it is night time, 8-10 hours of grow light would be ideal.
  • Move it under any light source if you don’t have a grow light setup, leave it here until morning.
  • Place it under the morning rising sun. It is highly beneficial for your plant. Keep it there until 10: am.
  • After that, keep in near a south-facing window where it can receive indirect sunlight for 4-6 hours. At night, use grows light for a couple of hours.
  • If you only use grow light, mix it with indirect sunny hours so that excess water can evaporate from the roots, soil, and leaves.
  • Even with the grow light, keep morning sunny hours in the schedule.
  • Keep this practice for about a week. Meanwhile, check the appearance of the leaves. They shouldn’t be soft and mushy in touch at that point.
  • Check the soil for the wetness too. If the soil is wet even if the leaves are normal (not soft & mushy), keep the schedule of sunny hours, and grow light going.
  • Once the leaves feel normal in touch, and the soil isn’t wet anymore, you can back to your normal schedule of lighting, but don’t water your plant yet.
  • Err on the side of too dry for now.

Solutions for overwatering

How to water a succulent indoor, outdoor and in the ground

People may think that it doesn’t matter whether a succulent is in the ground, pot, indoor, or outdoor. Watering should be the same for all, but I am afraid they are wrong.

Watering a succulent is slightly different for all of them.

There are many differences between each. In this section, I will explain the proper watering techniques required to grow a healthy succulent indoor, outdoor, and in the ground.

Lest we have a look at each:

  1. Indoor watering
  2. Outdoor watering
  3. Ground watering

1. How often should you water succulents indoor

If you are eager to grow your succulent indoor in a pot, or in a container, then you must know there is a difference in temperature, and wear & tear of the overall climate compared to outdoor.

So, watering a succulent indoor could be easy, or tricky depending on your knowledge of the plants.

There should a check and balance on how much and when to water indoor succulents.

The correct way to water your succulent is soak and dry method

  • First, fast-draining soil is required. I have already mentioned that part above.
  • The best way to water your succulent is by using soak and dry method in which: We completely soak the soil and let it dry out fully before another “watering a succulent session”.
  • When your succulent is soaked, it will absorb the water as much as it can. Then you must wait it dry out completely –to the bottom or at least 2-inches from the top of the soil.
  • Even if it is dry, let it be for a couple of more days because succulents can withstand drought as mentioned above in the “overwatering & underwatering” portion.
  • Use a hose, faucet, or squeeze bottle to pour water. Avoid spray at all costs.
  • A light spray doesn’t promote good growth and besides, the spray will shoot water on the leaves, and water on the leaves promotes fungus and decay.
  • Soak and dry method is applied by almost all the succulent maniacs, spraying or splashing water on the top of your plant will get you nowhere to trust me.

How often to water succulents

  • Different succulents have different watering needs, it largely depends on the type of succulent you have.
  • For example, a red stem crassula “rubricaulis” needs water once in every week in the growing or propeller plant (Crassula Falcata) needs water 2-3 times a month in the growing season.

So how should you know?

Don’t worry if you can’t “Id” your plant. The general guidelines are already explained in this article.

General watering needs of all succulents are pretty much the same, there is only a gap of a couple of days among each.

 For indoor 

how often to water succulents

  • Give a good drink to your plant once every 5-7 days in the growing season.
  • Gradually reduce its watering needs by one to two days in the next couple of months till the dormant season.
  • By doing that, your plant will adapt to the cold conditions of the winter because we don’t water our plants regularly in the dormant season (winter).
  • Sunlight is not that intense in winter, and succulents are prone to root rot, so we prefer less watering. Besides, succulents can live without water for a long time.
 Location plays a big role too 

If you are living in a hot and dry climate, you can regularly water your succulent once or even twice a week due to the additional temperature and dryness, but if your area is humid, you might want to cut back some water,

In humid conditions, there is already moisture available in the atmosphere, and your succulent can absorb it. Any additional water will promote the root rot. You plant will show signs of it.

In such conditions, pour water once in every 14 days or maybe less, better dry than wet.

If you are not sure that succulent can go a week or more without water, just try it! I am sure you will not be disappointed. 

 Let’s water your succulent 

Guidelines for watering a succulent

  • Get a drainage disk, or dish to place it underneath the pot. You can get a dish of any size. I’ll explain its usage.
  • Place your pot(s) on the dish.
  • Get a kettle or squeeze bottle and water at the base of the plant.
  • Don’t pour water on the leaves because adding or splashing water on the leaves support fungus or decay.
  • Keep pouring water until the water starts to drain out from the pot into the dish/dish underneath.
  • Check if the water has started to come out of the pot or not. If the water is draining from the pot while watering, stop pouring.
  • Apply this method for all pots placed on the dish underneath them.
Pro Tip: Pour some water on the dish too, and let the pots sit on it for 5-8 minutes before removing the water from the dish. By “capillary action” the base roots of your plant(s) will more water. The roots will get a good soak of water. Don’t apply this method in humid conditions. Take out the plants form the plate/dish and drip the water from pots.

2. Watering a succulent – outdoors

The method of watering a succulent for indoor, and outdoor is the same. Pour the water at the base of the plant, and then let the soil soak the water, then let it dry out completely.

The differences between indoor and outdoor are the temperature, humidity, and wear and tear of the outside conditions.

Sun rays are more extreme outside, and the blow of wind will dry out the moisture in the leaves and stema, so outdoor succulents need more water than indoor ones.

 Let’s water your outdoor succulent 

watering a succulent outdoors

  • Watering 2 times a week is normal if your plant is sitting on a sunny spot for most of the day. Whether direct sun or indirect sun, the temperature will be greater than indoors, so watering 2 times a week seems normal.
  • The airflow is stronger outside than inside, and if that airflow is warm (in the summer), the water in your pots will evaporate faster along with the stored water in water cells, and in the leaves of succulents.
  • So, it’s more than likely you will water your plant a little more in terms of quantity and frequency.
  • On the other hand, if you are living in a cooler, and more humid area, you will need to water your plants lesser than the indoor ones. Outdoor plants will face more humidity and cold.

Let your plants sit in the dish for 10 minutes after watering

We learned the basal roots of the plants soak more drained water collected in the dish or plate underneath the plants. We call it capillary action.

For indoor plants, we let the pots sit in that water for 4-5 minutes, but for the outdoor ones, leave them for 10 minutes to soak as much water as they can.

3. Watering a succulent – In the ground

Watering a succulent that is in the ground isn’t tricky. Ground-based succulents can also grow well. They too may need to be watered weekly depending on the temperature and overall conditions outside.

Old and established succulents need less care because, they have a stronger root system, and they can withstand drought way better than the new succulents.

A common problem with the ground-based succulents is the standing water after a watering session, o rain. Succulents are so much prone to root rot and this can be a disaster.

It is recommended to replace the existing soil with a potting mixture that drains well.

Mound the soil or raise the bed of the areas where you plant succulents. A 1-2-foot mound of potting mixture/organic compost mixed with perlite will help ensure good drainage.

That drained water can be absorbed by the soil underneath our organic potting mixture, but it won’t hurt the succulent because we have already raised the bed.

PRO guidelines for watering a succulent

  • You need to follow the same watering schedule as you do for your outdoor succulents. Use the same soak and dry method.
  • Ground-based succulent’s roots spread deeper in the ground, so it is better to increase the quantity of water to reach those deep roots.
  • We know that a 2-inch finger rule is applied for the succulents that grow in the pots to check the dryness or wetness of the soil, but for the ground ones.
  • You need to place your fingers about, 6-inches deep in the soil to check for the wetness or dryness.
  • Early morning watering is the best time to water ground-based succulents.
  • This allows the water to reach the roots and hydrated the entire plant to face the after-noon heatwave. It will also prevent sunburns.
  • Again, better dry than wet, don’t go overboard.

Final verdict

Watering a succulent could be tricky for some, and easy for others. Succulents are survivors. Their toughness enables them to survive even in the desert. But, that doesn’t mean we should play “Man vs Wild” with our succulents.

Though they are drought-tolerant, proper watering sessions will ensure idealistic growth.

Our article is based on several types of research, and experience of gardeners. If you follow the basic steps of watering a succulent indoor, outdoor, and in the ground, I believe you can groom a healthy plant in any climate.

Be on alert if you have an overwatered succulent, or underwatered succulent in your home. They are the ones that die quickly.

Proper watering is the most important in succulent’s growth, and every succulent maniac knows that.

I hope my article will help you.  I would you to share my work if you find it helpful otherwise, leave a comment so I could modify my work

 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How often do you have to water your succulent?
The exact answer to that question is impossible without knowing the temperature, humidity, climate, soil, and type of succulent. But, the general guidelines for watering a succulent is 3-4 times a month in the summer & 1-2 times in winter. Check the soil, if it is wet, don’t water it, and if it is dry, give it a good drink.
How do you water indoor succulents?
Use the soak and dry method. In this method,  water your succulent at the base of the roots until water runs out of the drainage holes. Keep the plant on the dish and wait for 5 minutes. The plant will absorb water according to its need using capillary action. Then pour the excess water. Remember, you don’t need to wait in humid areas, and in winters.
Do you have to water succulents every day?
Succulents are hardy. They are drought tolerant so there is no way in hell they should be watered daily. Check the soil by inserting your fingers into it. If it is dry as a desert, then and only then you should water your plant. Overwatered succulent poses more problems than under-watered ones. Extra care is necessary.
Why are succulent leaves falling off?
Low light could be the reason, under-watered succulents also drop leaves. Over time, nutrients within soil wash away with the water so it could be a reason too. But, overwatering is the main cause because leaves become heavy and mushy after absorbing extra water.  Make a checklist, and you will know what is causing your leaves to drop off.
How long can succulents go without water?
Homegrown succulents could be watered 3-4 times a month in the summers, and maybe 1-2 times in winters. Though you might want to err on the side of too dry than wet. If you are living in a humid area, try to water it less than often. Succulents absorb moisture from the air and store it in their trunk and leaves for later use (drought).
How do you save/fix/revive an overwatered succulent?
  • Immediately move it to a sunny spot. Keep it there for 2-3 hours.
  • Remove the wet soil. Replace it with a dry potting mixture.
  • Use grow light if your home doesn’t have the luxury of sunlight.
  • Place it under the morning rising sun. Keep it there until 10: am. Avoid direct scorching sunlight to avoid burns.
  • Daily 4-7 hours of indirect sunlight mixed with a couple of hours of grow light is ideal.

Source: Some ideas are taken from this research

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