Watering Succulents: How to Nail it?

Watering succulents correctly is essential. Too much water can quickly kill our plants. Let’s take a look at the correct watering procedure and the different things related to it.

To water a succulent, follow these recommendations:

  • Check if the soil is dry. You may use a moisture meter or a simple wooden chopstick.
  • If the soil is dry, use rainwater or distilled water. Avoid tap water.
  • Water the succulent at the base.
  • Water profusely, until the water starts seeping out from the drainage of the pot.
  • Note that watering succulents will be frequent during the growing stage and almost non-existent during the dormant phase.
  • It suggested to water your succulents at night.

Although these suggestions should do the work, in this article we have compiled more details you should know regarding watering succulents.

How to Water a Succulent – Detailed Steps

How often should you water a succulent?

Watering succulents should be done sparingly. We need to remember that succulents thrive in inhospitable places. They’re very well equipped to handle harsh conditions, lack of water amongst them.

Having said that, they do need water and they are plants, after all. The best rule of thumb to know the frequency of watering succulents is quite simple: Water succulents when the soil is completely dry. This is probably the best rule of thumb when watering succulents. 

succulent soil should be dry before considering watering
Photo by Rebecca Lee on Unsplash

Indeed, keeping the soil continually moist, as we would do with other plants, is a mistake. Such excess in moisture may very well rot the roots and kill our succulent.

Seasons and Watering Succulents

The season definitely impacts the watering of succulents. We know, of course, that succulents grow a lot during spring and summer. This means that they will use more water. Again, we should be sure to wait for the soil to dry before we apply water. You’ll notice that the frequency of watering may be as high as three times per week.

In the winter, conversely, succulents are dormant. Most of them don’t grow during this period and thus their water needs are quite diminished. Some succulents may need as little as one or two watering sessions throughout the whole season.

What time of day should you water succulents?

This is a good question. Some people say that watering should be done during the daytime. They say that this is ideal because the sunlight will dry the soil faster and thus, the succulent will not be left sitting in water for too long.

Others posit that watering succulents is best done at night. They point out that some succulents can halt the uptake of water during periods of extreme sunlight during the day. Watering succulents during the day also brings the risk of dropping some water on the leaves, which, together with the sun, may harm them.

Photo by Jacalyn Beales and Photo by alis&po on Unsplash

We prefer to water succulents at night. Also, make sure that the pot has a drainage hole.

Steps to water a Succulent properly

First of all, let’s remember the natural environment of succulents. For starters, desert rainstorms are monsoons. When it rains, it pours. Some experts state that it’s a good idea to imitate these conditions. Thus, when watering succulents, pour water fully, drenching the succulent completely. 

Photo by Jacalyn Beales and Photo by alis&po on Unsplash

Don’t stop pouring until water seeps out through the drainage at the bottom of the pot.

After this, just let the succulent rest. Remember that we want to let the soil dry off completely before the next watering. Also, be sure to water at the base of the succulent, aiming to drench the roots. Avoid spraying water on the succulent and its leaves.   

Importance of avoiding overwatering

Overwatering succulents is very dangerous and we can quickly kill a plant by doing this.

There are some signs we can look for to see if our succulent is overwatered. For one, succulents may seem too puffy. Later though, if a succulent is heavily affected by overwatering, it will start to look shriveled and exhibit very little growth. 

This is because roots can rot from too much water and die, harming our succulents tremendously. In this case, the succulent is being overwatered, but because its roots have been killed, it cannot take enough water to live.

If this happens, it’s essential to stop watering our succulent. It’s important to remember, as we state throughout this article, that the soil must be completely dry before we water succulents. If the plant looks really bad though, then we must consider further measures. The roots may be dead and this is quite problematic. 

Treatment of an overwatered succulent

Treating an overwatered succulent is sometimes necessary. Occasionally, treating overwatering is as simple as stopping water provision to the succulent. There are other times, however, when the roots have rotted away entirely and the succulent is dying altogether.

In these cases, there are some things we can do. First of all, it’s important to unpot the plant and looks at the roots carefully. If there are rotted roots, we need to sever them completely. Sever the root completely with a scalpel unless there are simply too many and such cutting would do more harm than good. After cutting these roots, let the succulent rest and heal and then re-pot it in a well-draining soil mix.

Succulent Watering Considerations


Succulents can tolerate a vast range of temperatures. We have to remember that life in the desert has a lot of extremes. As long as these plants are getting the correct amount of sunlight and water, they can survive quite extreme temperatures.

Now then, ideally, we want our succulents to be at a certain temperature range. In general, it’s best to keep succulents below 95 degrees (F) and above freezing temperatures.

Environment (Outdoors or Indoors)

Many succulents can thrive either outdoors or indoors. Their water needs will vary though. An indoor succulent will usually require less watering than an outdoor succulent. This is because an outdoor succulent is exposed to direct sunlight throughout the whole day. On the other hand, an indoor succulent may only receive direct sunlight during some hours of the day.


Watering succulents will vary depending on the season. Succulents tend to need more water during the growing season and little to no water during the dormant season. What this means in practice is that the succulent will need a lot of water during spring and summer. It will, conversely, need very little water during fall and winter.

As always, check the soil constantly and thoroughly. We want completely dry soil before we consider watering succulents.

Soil Mix

Appropriate soil is a key element when watering succulents. The best idea is to use ‘cactus mix’ soil to plant succulents. A good mix like this one will allow for good draining.

Some enthusiasts like to create their own mix. They will usually include elements such as perlite, vermiculite and pumice as well as pebbles.

Pot size

The size of the succulent container is an important consideration when watering succulents. Large containers have to be watered less often because the soil is able to hold more water and thus dries much more slowly. Small and shallow pots will usually need to be watered more frequently since soil dries out at a quicker pace.

Light exposure

Light is another important consideration when watering succulents. Usually, succulents that are able to receive more than 10 hours of full sun per day, will need more water. In turn, succulents that receive less light than this will need less water. Evidently, outdoor succulents need more water than indoor succulents, because of this sun exposure.

Related Questions

Is tap water safe for succulents?

Tap water is not ideal for watering succulents. The problem with tap water is that it may contain lots of minerals, such as magnesium or calcium. These can build up in the soil or even affect the leaves of the succulent. Instead, try using rain or distilled water.

How long can succulents go without water?

A very long time. As stated earlier, succulents will need more water during the growing season and little to no water during the dormant phase. The best answer, however, is that the need for water in a succulent will vary. It’s best to simply check the soil and drench the succulent when it’s completely dry.

Can you water succulents with ice cubes?

Some people like watering succulents with ice cubes. Some say that it’s a convenient and easy way to water them, without all the mess. They also point out that an ice cube melts slowly and thus absorption of water is better.

Although this method does seem quite practical, we really do prefer the good old traditional method: wait some seconds for the soil to dry completely and then completely drench the pot. 

Make sure there is a drainage hole. What we want to do is imitate the conditions that a succulent encounters in its natural environment. This means dry conditions in general and then a very occasional heavy rain.

Is it OK to water succulents at night?

There are different ways to answer this question. Some say that watering should be done in the morning, since the soil will dry out faster because of the sun. This prevents root rotting.

Others state that watering succulents should be done in the evening. They state that succulents may halt their uptake of water during periods of extreme sunlight. Also, watering during the day is not without risk, they say. Droplets of water may be sprinkled on the leaves of the succulent and, coupled with the sun, may damage the plant.

So, which one is it? We prefer to water our succulents at night. As long as the pot or container has a drainage hole, it should be good to go.

Should you mist succulents?

Misting is not ideal. The best way to water a succulent plant is to water at the base, targeting the roots.

Should you water succulents from the top or bottom?

As stated in the answer above, it’s best to drench a succulent at the bottom.

Do succulents do well in bathrooms?

Some low-light succulents do well in environments where there is little natural light. If we need a succulent for a bathroom, perhaps it’s worth examining these low-light succulents.

Now then, note that a bathroom may sometimes have a problem with humidity. A succulent really does prefer a dry environment. If the succulent lives in such a humid place, watering will probably need to be less frequent. As always, check for dryness in the soil.

If the succulent lives in a low-light environment such as a bathroom, check it regularly. Some signs that a succulent is not doing great, and needs more light, include paleness.

Do succulents like water on their leaves?

Not really. When watering succulents it’s always best to drench them at the base. What we really want is to soak the pot and reach the roots immediately.

How often do you water succulents without drainage holes? Can succulents live in pots without holes?

A succulent shouldn’t be inside a pot without a drainage hole. This drainage is essential in protecting a succulent’s roots from rotting.

It’s possible to grow succulents in pots without drainage holes. Some experts do this. But it’s risky and perhaps unnecessary. A succulent may sit in water for an extended period of time and this is not a good idea.

How do I know if the succulent’s soil is really dry?

This is a great question. After all, watering succulents really does require careful noticing of the soil. Once the soil is completely dry, then we can proceed with watering.

When we check the dryness of soil, we mean from top to bottom. Some people make the mistake of checking only the surface of the soil and then end up overwatering the plant.

There are several ways to check if the soil is very dry. Some people go by the weight of the pot. Others use a moisture meter. You can buy inexpensive moisture meters online.

A very simple method is to use a wooden chopstick. Simply insert the chopstick into the soil and go a few inches deep. Be careful and avoid hitting the roots. Leave the chopstick inside for about ten minutes, to see if it will absorb any water.

Pull the chopstick out and take a look. If the chopstick has darkened, the soil still has water in it. This means that it’s best to refrain from watering this succulent again. Conversely, if the chopstick is dry, this means that it’s time to water the succulent.

Make sure that the chopstick is really dry. Sometimes, there will be a slight color change in the chopstick. This means that there is still some moistness in the soil. Refrain from watering and check the soil a couple of days later.

What is worse: overwatering or underwatering a succulent?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if a succulent needs water or not. When in doubt, don’t water the succulent, or hold off on watering. A succulent will many times recover from underwatering. Overwatering is another story. It is very problematic for a succulent and will kill it easily.  

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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