Water Therapy for Succulents

When succulents are severely under watered, or if you're growing succulents from cuttings, a lot of people will recommend using water therapy to help them absorb more water.

Water therapy is not something I recommend for most succulents. It's also not a beginner technique.

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What is water therapy?

Water therapy is the process of setting a succulent in water for an extended period of time, about 24-48 hours. Typically this is done when a succulent is "bare root" not while it's potted.

It can also be done with a cutting (no roots) placed in water or just above water.

Benefits of water therapy for succulents

For severely under watered succulents, water therapy can provide a "boost" -- helping them fill up with water quickly so they're no longer dehydrated.

With cuttings, water therapy can help a cutting develop roots more quickly.

While both of these can be beneficial, they come with some draw backs too.

Problems with water therapy

Filling a succulent with water quickly (which water therapy does) can cause edema -- raised swollen spots -- on the succulents leaves.

The roots produced by water therapy are not generally tolerant of drought. So you'll have to water your succulent daily or every other day in order to keep it plump. Even then, sometimes the succulent will quickly become dehydrated rather than staying healthy and firm.

Alternative options

While many people have success with water therapy, I've developed an alternative that promotes better long term root growth but still helps under watered succulents recover and cuttings to put off roots.

I call it the 2-3-4 Method.

If you're trying to root a cutting, place it in a pot of soil filled part way with gritty mix and a thick layer (1" or so) of coconut coir on top.

The rest of the method is the same whether you're working with a cutting or severely under watered succulent.

Water the succulent with the soak and dry method, pouring water on multiple times if needed to ensure the soil is drenched all the way through the center.

Then, after 2 days, water the succulent again this same way -- ensuring the soil gets completely wet.

After 3 days, water the succulent again.

Wait 4 days and water again.

Usually after this period of time an under watered succulent will start to look more plump. It can take a couple days for the improvement to show in the leaves.

The cutting will generally root during this time as well.

After the 4 day watering, look at the signs your succulent is giving you. If it looks dehydrated, water again after 4 days.

If the leaves are firm and plump, water again after 6 or 7 days.

This method tends to work better long term because the succulent gets plenty of water in the beginning, but slowly acclimates to less frequent watering so it will tolerate the typical "drought" they need to thrive.

So, the next time you're getting ready to root succulent cuttings, or if you need to help a dehydrated succulent, give one of these methods a try and see what works best for you.