Today I’m talking about a somewhat controversial topic in the world of succulents: Water Therapy. This technique is something that is helpful to know about, but has fairly limited applications. Find out what it is and when to use it!
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Hi Cassidy, Every day I see the Facebook group filled with posts about “Water Therapy” and people giving each other advice such as potting their plants in pure pumice and watering every day.
While I’m sure that technique would work for some people’s environments, I’d hate to see excited newbies do something that might hurt their plants simply because they didn’t know any better and they were told by others that this technique would work without consideration for their own individual needs.
What are your thoughts on “Water Therapy?”
I can see some uses for it (such as reviving plants fresh out of the post), but I don’t agree with newbies telling other newbies to immediately uproot their unhappy looking plants and put them in water. Please help!
This question is so perfect, and it actually covers a lot of great topics.
First, if you’d like to join the Facebook group that Laura mentioned, just go here. It’s a really great community of succulent lovers, and we keep things pretty positive and helpful.
Laura, you are completely right about both water therapy and planting in pure pumice. As I talked about in episode 1, you really have to adapt the things you learn about succulents to your specific growing area.
I want to talk about two of the topics you mentioned specifically though – water therapy and planting in pure pumice.
To start, let’s talk about water therapy.
What is water therapy?
For those of you not familiar with the concept of water therapy, basically it’s taking a succulent completely out of soil, and placing the roots – and only the roots – directly in water for an extended period of time. Usually people will do it from anywhere between 24 and 72 hours.
Water therapy is not for everyone, and is generally for specific case scenarios.
A few of the times you might use water therapy would include reviving a severely under-watered succulent, or giving your succulents a boost if you’ll be leaving them for an extended period of time (although, in that later case, you wouldn’t completely uproot your succulents. You’d give them more water for an extended period of time).
If you’re using the watering method that I teach you in Episode 6, you really shouldn’t need to use water therapy very often, if at all. Like I said, really the best reason to use water therapy is if you have a severely under-watered succulent.
Most succulents have pretty thick leaves, so they can go for a long period of time without water.
But in the case of this episode’s sponsor, Portulacaria afra, it stores most of its water in its stem and in the roots. The leaves on this plant are pretty thin, so if it doesn’t get watered consistently, it will start to shrivel and die pretty quickly.
I have personally used water therapy to revive an under-watered Portulacaria afra, and it worked awesomely! But, it’s really not something that you’re going to use all the time.
Laura, in your question, you mentioned reviving succulents just out of the mail, and that really can be a good way to give your succulents a boost before you plant them.
My only advice with that is, if you’re doing water therapy on newly purchased succulents that have come to you in the mail, make sure you wait a day or two after you’ve done water therapy to plant them.
Those roots are going to be so full of water, and your succulent is prone to damage after water therapy. Those roots are so full, if they get messed up or knocked around when you’re planting the succulent, they can very easily be damaged.
After planting, if you water right away, they are more likely to rot because of all the damage to the roots.
Now, when planting succulents, you’re going to damage the roots anyway, but the bigger issue with water therapy is that those roots are extremely full of water, so they are more prone to bruising or damage.
So, while water therapy is something I have done, and I think has a place in the world of growing succulents, it is not something that everyone should do, and it’s not the solution for every problem that you face with succulents. It’s really only for under-watered succulents.
I completely agree with you – it’s not something that a new succulent grower should try.
If you’re listening to this and just getting started with succulents, don’t worry about water therapy right now. Focus on using the soak and dry method that I teach you in episode 6, and just get your succulents healthy.
Now, let’s address the second part of your question – planting succulents in pure pumice and watering every day.
Planting in Pumice and Watering Every Day
Planting your succulent in pure pumice can be a really great option for people who tend to over-water succulents, or who live in a climate that is extremely humid or gets a lot of rain year-round.
It can also be a really good option for indoor growing. But, it’s not a perfect solution for everyone.
If you listen to episode 4 where I talk about soil, you’ll know that succulents need to have a well-draining soil, and they also need that soil to retain just enough water for the plants to get the moisture that they need.
Pumice hardly retains waters, so that’s when you’re planting in solely pumice, you’ll find that you have to water every day, otherwise your succulents are going to dry out.
The pumice doesn’t hold enough water for your succulents to absorb very much, so you may find that succulents planted in pure pumice don’t develop a real strong root system.
Your succulents will definitely survive, and they can grow in pure pumice. There are a lot of people who are using this method, but again, it’s not the perfect method for everyone.
Unless you live in an extremely humid climate, or an area where you are constantly getting rain, it’s probably not the best option for a new grower. Plus, if you’re like me and you tend to forget to water your succulents, pumice is going to dry out way too quickly.
The gritty mix that I talk about in episode 4 has a lot of similarities to pumice, but the biggest difference is the gritty mix retains just a little more water.
It’s just enough for succulents to feel like they’re actually getting the water they need before that period of drought comes.
If you’re wondering if planting in pumice is a good option for you, I recommend listening to episode 1 where I talk about adapting care requirements to the area where you live.
A great example of this is Kenneth – a member of the Succulents and Sunshine Community Facebook group. He talks the most about water therapy and using pure pumice, and we attribute both of those techniques to him.
He lives in the Philippines, where it is very warm and humid here – extremely different than where I live in Phoenix, which is very dry. I would assume that it’s also very different from where most of you live as well!
While planting in pumice works in the Philippines for Kenneth, it may not work for you. I have, however, talked to quite a few people growing succulents in India, where it’s quite hot and humid, as well.
People in the Southern states of the US may also deal with a lot of humidity, so pumice may be a good option for them.
You may not want to plant solely in pumice, but it may be a good option to combine with other soils to create a better draining soil for your succulents.
I’ve said before that I don’t remember to water my succulents that often, so I prefer planting in the Bonsai Jack gritty mix, especially indoors.
It retains enough water that my succulents are getting what they need, but I don’t have to water all that often. If I don’t remember to water my succulents for say, two weeks, my succulents will be just fine.
If you’re interested in the Bonsai Jack gritty mix that I talk about, you can get it here.
In episode 4 I talk about best practicies for succulent soil, and I even mention pumice as a really great option. Many people will use pumice to lighten the soil, and ammend it with other types of soil to increase drainage and air flow.
It’s also a good substitute if you’re making the gritty mix I recommend on your own, and you can’t find Turface or granite.
The biggest take-away I want you to have from this episode is that new planting techniques and tips are always fun to learn about and to try, but you need to remember and consider your location and growing style before running away with the new idea.
Take some time to analyze where you live, where your succulents are, and how often you want to water or tend to water, and make adjustments as needed.
And, if you want even more guidance on how to best grow succulents where you live, check out my course!
In the course, I teach you the principles needed to keep succulents alive and healthy. I’ll show you why things you learn online might work and why they might not.
The course is in an easy to follow format so you won’t get lost or overwhelmed. I also teach you what succulents need to survive and how to adapt those needs to wherever you live in the world.
Plus, I regularly host live demonstrations as well as Q&A sessions for course members, so you’re sure you get help with anything that’s giving you a hard time.