I wanted to post about the ideal soil for succulent container gardens before talking about how to water succulent plants. The reason being, soil plays a very important part in watering. I get a lot of questions about watering so I wanted to address some of the more general questions. Watering succulents is probably one of the trickiest parts of growing succulents, but if you know what to look for it’s not too bad!
What do you use to water your succulents?
I use two things to water my succulents right now, a sprayer and a watering can. I started out with a spray bottle but soon had too many plants and “upgraded” to a sprayer. I use the sprayer for my indoor plants and the leaves I’m propagating. I use the watering can for my outdoor pots because it makes watering much faster as the can puts off much more water.
How often and how much should I water the succulent leaves I’m propagating?
For the most part if you are propagating succulent leaves indoors you can water them every day. I just get the top of the soil wet. Like the roots of large plants, the leaves will absorb water from the air around them, so spraying the soil with a spray bottle has been enough in my experience. If you are using Al’s Gritty Mix you can water a little bit more than if you are using normal potting soil (which won’t dry out very quickly). You may notice the roots of your plants drying out if they aren’t being watered enough. Normally the roots will be white or pink and a little bit plump and shiny.
How often and how much should I water the succulent plants I’m growing indoors?
It depends. As a general rule, if I’m using the gritty mix I water my indoor plants every 3-4 days in a pot that has a drainage hole. There isn’t a lot of humidity inside my house so I find my plants dry out pretty quickly. The thing is, your location plays a big role in how much you have to water. Debra Lee Baldwin has plants that she hasn’t watered for months and they still keep growing. She is also in southern California which is pretty humid. Since the succulents have access to water in the air, this humidity prevents them from losing water as quickly, so keep that in mind.
You kind of have to experiment and see what works for you. When dealing with full sized plants it’s probably good to err on the side of underwatering since too much water tends to kill succulents more quickly than too little. Succulents need a short drought in order to encourage new roots to grow. That said, if the roots aren’t getting enough water they’ll dry up and stop growing. If they are too wet they’ll rot and stop growing. You really just have to experiment and see what sort of schedule seems to work.
I like to give my large succulents a deep soak when I water as I think this provides the most value to the plants. This way it takes at least two or three days for the soil to totally dry out. A light spray isn’t going to promote very good growth for succulents. They’ll survive for a while this way, but they’ll be healthier with a good soak every few days.
How often and how much should I water the succulent plants I’m growing outdoors?
Again, the amount you water your plants outdoors will also depend on your location and the humidity where you live. The hotter it is the more you’ll need to water and the more humid it is, the less you’ll need to water. I generally water my plants every 2-3 days during the heat of the summer. I’m not able to leave my plants outside during the winter as it gets too cold and they’ll freeze. But when it does start cooling off I cut back to watering once a week and sometimes every other week.
Since it tends to be warmer outside than inside the water will evaporate faster so the plants will need to be watered a little more often. It is still important for the plants to dry out before you water again, so make sure you’re paying attention to how your plants are growing.
What does an overwatered succulent plant look like?
If you aren’t paying close attention to your plants it can be difficult to determine whether you are over or underwatering. I’ll try to impart as much knowledge as I can, but realize you’ll need to see what is working for you and what your plants are doing. Here are a couple things about overwatering that will hopefully be helpful to you.
The easiest way to identify overwatering is the stem of the plant will start to constrict and turn black. If this happens, the best thing to do is cut off the top, let the cutting dry out and then put it in some well draining soil and water every few days. Eventually it will start to root and keep growing. You need to make sure you cut off all the rot though or you’ll have problems.
Another symptom of an overwatered succulent is translucent leaves. Some of the plants I have overwatered start to look see through. This obviously doesn’t work to identify overwatering on a plant that is already transparent, but it can help you identify a problem with others. (I’m working on getting a good picture of this)
The other symptom I’ve seen, and this one is tricky, is shriveling leaves. The reason it is tricky is an underwatered succulent will also sometimes get shriveled leaves. If you look at the image above, you’ll see the green leaves are shriveled. To know whether these leaves are telling the plant needs less water you’ll have to consider your watering schedule and whether or not you are letting the soil completely dry out between waterings. Think of these overwatered wrinkled leaves like your fingers after you’ve been in the pool for a while. They get all wrinkly and soft. The same thing happens with succulents. The leaves will feel really soft and mushy.
What does an underwatered plant look like?
I have noticed two symptoms of an underwatered succulent. The first is shriveled leaves from your plants drying out. These tend to look a little drier than overwatered wrinkled leaves although it can be hard to tell. Generally though, these leaves look like they are really dying and about ready to dry up. Keep in mind, this will happen to the bottom leaves of all plants even if you are watering them properly. So, when you are using leaves to determine if you are watering well, make sure you are looking at newer leaves. (I’m working on getting a good picture of this too)
Under watered succulents also stop growing because they aren’t getting the nourishment they need. If your succulent is in it’s growing season and you aren’t seeing new leaves start to form you may be underwatering. The other symptom of under watered succulents that I’ve noticed is black spots. These look similar to a sunburn and honestly, it could actually be sunburned and dried out. I’ve only had this happen on plants I’m growing outdoors.
Now that you know what problems you may encounter with watering, hopefully you’ll know how to treat the succulents you have that may be looking a little unhealthy. A healthy succulent will have nice firm leaves. They’ll have a good strong color and may even “blush” if they are getting enough sunlight. Just remember that your environment will have a major impact on how much and how often you’ll need to water so don’t be afraid to experiment!
If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email!
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