If you are reading this article, it is quite likely that you have killed at least a couple of succulents while trying to understand how to take care of these beautiful looking plants and what is the right way to water them.
One thing which you must have realized in your plant parenthood journey is that the succulents are a little different from other plants which we usually have in our homes. And hence they need to be handled differently.
If we have plants in our homes whether it’s a big garden in our backyard or a small little balcony garden in our urban homes, we all feel the urge and desire to take care of them so that they thrive. And one of the most common ways to do this is to water the plants frequently. And most often, we apply the same rule to succulents as well when we are new to them, not knowing that these plants have an inbuilt mechanism to store water in their leaves. Yes, you figured it right! the reason why the leaves are so soft, fleshy, and attractive is that they store water in their leaves. Does that mean that we should not water them?
Well, the two extremes of watering frequently and not watering them at all, makes it look like as if it is very difficult and hard to take care of these awesome plants. But there is a simple method which we all can follow and make sure that we give enough water to the succulents to thrive.
How to water succulent plants (indoor and outdoor)
Based on our experience in handling various kinds of succulents, we have found that the best way is to water only when the soil is completely dry. Yes, soak the soil completely and let it dry out completely before you water it again.
Also, the kind of soil and the pot is an important aspect that needs to be kept in mind. Make sure that the succulents are potted in well-draining soil and in a pot with a good number of drainage holes.
For indoor succulents and in cases like open terrariums where there is no hole in the container, it is advisable to water around the roots of the plant, making sure that water does not get on top of the leaves. Spraying on the plants is a strict NO. If the water sits on the leaves for too long, it will cause rotting in the leaves.
It isn’t much of an issue for outdoor succulents as the water dries out quickly in outdoors.
Just check that the soil is dry before you water it, here again, if the soil is wet for more than a couple of days, the plant dies down.
So the next question is –
How often should I water my succulents?
As mentioned earlier, succulents should be watered only when the soil has dried out completely. There is no standard schedule and it varies with the climatic conditions of the place where you are living. Based on our experience we suggest keeping a frequency of around 5-6 days to start with and we can always fine-tune as required. One of the best indicators of under watering is that the leaves will start to shrivel up and dry, especially the lower leaves. If you continue to underwater, you will notice more and more leaves that are shrivelling up, wrinkly, and drying up.
As the plants are prone to rot when watered frequently, we should wait for the right signals from the plant.
Is this the right method to water my succulents?
Succulents are generally native to the dry regions where they don’t get enough and frequent water.
The soil is dry and drains out quickly like you must have seen in the cacti (which are also succulents) thriving in deserts where the sand doesn’t hold any water and dries out very fast and get water only during the rains which stay for a very short period of time.
Though our indoor succulents don’t need that kind of extreme climate to survive, the method where they are watered only when the soil is dry works best for them. Another important thing which is relevant to the health of plants is how strong the plants hold themselves in the soil. When dry, the succulents will begin to grow new roots that go deeper in the soil for the search of water, thereby establishing a healthier root system which helps in the time of dry spells.
So no frequent watering (No spray bottles) and let the soil dry out completely before you soak it again.
What is the right soil mix for my succulents?
We mentioned earlier that your succulents should be planted in well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes. Succulents will quickly rot if they are in wet soil for too long. Ideally, your soil will be mostly dry, especially the top half of the pot, within 2-3 days
Traditional soil will not work well for succulents. It stays wet for much too long. Most of the potting mix available in the local nurseries are also not good enough and don’t drain fast enough.
If you’re new to succulents or have killed a few succulents from too much water, we would recommend making it yourself at home. It’s quite easy as your focus area should be to make a mix that is porous in nature and drains well. You can use regularly available coco peat as a medium to give porosity to the mix. This portion should be at least 60% of the mix and balance can be a mix of regular potting mix, sand and gravel.
What kind of Pot shall we use for planting succulents?
Well, this is also one of the important variables when it comes to the health of the succulent plants.
As mentioned earlier, the soil should dry out fast and should not hold water for too long. Here comes the role of the drainage hole in our pots. These holes ensure that the excess water flows out of the pot and away from the roots. At the same time, this allows air to pass through the soil and help it dry out faster. This does not mean that we cannot plant succulents in pots without drainage holes. In fact, all the terrariums that we make are in the containers which do not have any drainage holes, and it is easy to keep succulents live even in the pots without any holes. We will take that up along with details on how to maintain a succulent terrarium, in a separate article.