How to Water Succulents

Succulents are popular houseplants that are easy to care for and come in a variety of interesting shapes and colors. They have thick, fleshy leaves and stems that allow them to store water, making them drought resistant. While succulents are low maintenance overall, proper watering is important to keep them healthy. Here is a complete guide on how to water succulents correctly.

Choosing the Right Potting Mix

Using the appropriate potting mix is key to avoiding overwatering. A well-draining mix allows excess moisture to escape and helps prevent soggy soil. The ideal potting mix for succulents includes:

Coarse Sand or Perlite

Sand or perlite improves drainage and aeration. Add a 50/50 mixture of cactus potting soil with either coarse sand or perlite. The gritty texture helps water drain through quickly.

Minimal Peat Moss

Peat moss retains moisture. Use a potting mix with a lower peat ratio or amend regular potting soil with sand and perlite. Too much peat moss will hold onto excess water.

No Garden Soil

Garden soil compacts over time and impedes drainage. Avoid using garden soil which will become soggy. Stick with a commercial cactus mix or make your own blend.

The ideal succulent potting mix is loose, gritty, and fast-draining. A good starting recipe is equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, perlite or pumice.

Choosing the Right Pot

The container you plant your succulents in also impacts proper watering. Use pots with drainage holes so excess water can escape. The material determines how quickly the pot dries out:


Terracotta pots absorb moisture from the soil. They promote faster drying which is beneficial for succulents. Avoid pairing succulents with glazed decorative pots that retain moisture.

Shallow Pots

Shallow pots dry out more quickly. Choose wide, shallow containers which help prevent wet soil. Deep pots retain moisture longer. Match pot depth to the size of the succulent.

Drainage Holes

Drainage holes allow excess water to escape. Make sure pots have adequate holes in the bottom so the roots don’t sit in water. Creating additional holes can improve drainage.

Use terracotta or unglazed clay pots with drainage holes to allow the soil to dry out faster between waterings.

Watering Technique and Frequency

How much and how often you water succulents depends on factors like temperature, light, size of plant, and type of pot. Follow these tips:

Infrequent Deep Watering

Water thoroughly then allow soil to fully dry. Succulents prefer less frequent but deep watering. Saturate the soil completely until water drains from the bottom then wait until dry before watering again.

Every 2-3 Weeks

Water established succulents every 2-3 weeks. Mature plants with full root systems require less frequent watering. Wait for the soil to be completely dry before watering again. Adjust frequency based on season and growth rate.

Reduce in Winter

Water minimally in winter. Succulents grow slower and require less water in cold weather. Stick your finger in the soil to gauge when to water again.

Increase in Summer

Water more frequently in hot weather. Plants need more moisture in high heat and dry conditions. Watch for signs of thirst like deflated leaves.

Water thoroughly until it runs from the drainage holes then allow the soil to dry out before repeating. Use your finger to test moisture levels.

Signs It’s Time to Water

Determining when succulents need water takes some observation. Look for these signs of thirst:

Soil is Completely Dry

Stick your finger in the dirt to check. If the top 1-2 inches of soil is completely dry it’s time to water again. Take care not to overwater.

Deflated or Wrinkled Leaves

Dehydrated leaves become deflated. Healthy succulents have full, plump foliage. If leaves look wrinkled or shriveled, it needs water.

Drooping or Falling Leaves

Severe thirst causes leaves to go limp. Succulents start dropping leaves when desperately dehydrated. Water immediately if you notice any drooping.

Slow Growth

Inadequate water stunts new growth. Well-hydrated succulents grow steadily during warm seasons. Slow growth can indicate it needs more moisture.

Rely on the soil,leaves, and growth rate rather than a fixed schedule. Succulents show visible signs when they need water.

What to Avoid When Watering

Some common watering mistakes can harm your succulents. Here’s what to avoid:


Excess moisture causes root rot. Too much water prevents oxygen from reaching the roots. Stick to thorough, infrequent watering once the soil has dried out.

Light Mistings

Brief sprays do not hydrate the roots. Succulents need deep watering at the soil level. Light misting does little to quench their thirst.

Fixed Schedules

Rigid watering calendars often over or underwater. Rely on signs from the plant rather than following a strict routine. Water when dry, not on fixed days.

Wet Leaves

Moisture on leaves can burn. Water at the base avoiding contact with the leaves. Wet foliage in sun can magnify light and scorch.

Monitor your plants and avoid overwatering. Deeply soak the soil then wait until succulents show signs of needing more.

Different Types of Succulents Require Various Watering

Not all succulents have the same watering requirements. Pay attention to clues from the plant:


Cacti need the least water. Allow the soil to completely dry out between infrequent waterings every 2-3 weeks. Prevent moisture on the body.


Lithops live in extreme drought. Water very sparingly every 3-4 weeks. Avoid water if split leaves are closing or flowering.


Echeveria leaves indicate thirst. Look for deflated, wrinkled leaves and dry soil. Water thoroughly then wait until signs reappear.


Overwatering turns sedum yellow. Allow soil to dry between waterings. Yellow leaves indicate too much moisture.

Learn the visual clues your particular succulents give for when they need water. Some types prefer less frequent watering than others.

Troubleshooting Common Watering Problems

If your succulents show signs of distress, improper watering may be the culprit. Here are some troubleshooting tips:

Overwatered Succulents

Rotting stems and discolored leaves indicate overwatering. Let the soil dry completely and water less frequently. Remove dead parts and any mushy roots.

Underwatered Succulents

Wrinkled, drooping leaves reveal under-watering. If the soil is dry, give the plant a deep, thorough drink. Leaves will plump up again within a few days.

Mineral Buildup

White crusty deposits signal hard water. Flush soil regularly with distilled water to dissolve minerals. Consider using rainwater or allowing tap water to dechlorinate before use.

Root Rot

Dark mushy roots mean root rot from excess moisture. Gently remove dead roots then replant in fresh dry soil. Hold back on water until it shows signs of thirst again.

Troubleshoot watering issues to get your succulents back to full health. Make any needed adjustments to how frequently you irrigate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Watering Succulents

Many people have questions when learning how to properly hydrate their succulents. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How often should I water succulents in the summer?

During hot summer months, succulents may need more frequent watering such as every 1-2 weeks. Check the soil and look for signs of thirst like deflated or wrinkled leaves. Water deeply when the top few inches of soil are completely dry.

Can succulents survive without water?

Succulents are drought tolerant but they do require some water to survive. Severe underwatering will eventually cause leaves to wither and fall off. Water minimally every 2-3 weeks and thoroughly whenever the plant shows signs of thirst.

Is tap water OK for watering succulents?

Tap water containing chemicals like fluoride and chlorine can harm succulents when used long term. Allowing tap water to sit out for 24 hours helps remove chemicals. Distilled or rain water is best. If using tap, flush soil regularly.

How do I revive a limp succulent?

A severely limp or drooping succulent is likely suffering from drought stress. Providing a deep, thorough watering helps it regain turgor pressure. Soak the soil completely until water drains from the bottom. It may take a few days for the succulent to firm up.

Should I mist my succulents?

Avoid misting your succulents. Brief, light spraying does little to quench their thirst. It is better to water at soil level until it runs from the drainage holes. Misting also increases risk of sun scald if water sits on the leaves.


Caring for succulents is easy when you understand their watering needs. Provide the right sandy, gritty soil, choose pots with drainage, and irrigate thoroughly only when the plant shows signs of thirst. Succulents thrive on infrequent but deep watering. Let the soil dry out before repeating. With proper irrigation, your succulents will stay healthy and look their best for years to come.