Discover how and how often to plant these trendy and versatile plants that can grow indoors, outdoors, and in containers.

By BH&G Garden Editors
Updated March 03, 2020
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Succulents store extra water in their leaves, stems, or roots, which gives them the ability to survive a while between waterings (sometimes a month or more). Because they have a reputation for being drought-tolerant and growing in arid conditions, many people fail to realize that when you bring them into your home or garden, they still need to be watered regularly. In order to keep your succulents thriving, it's not a good idea to force them to go without water for weeks or months at a time. No matter where you end up planting them, there are a few tips for you can follow for how often to water succulents that will save them drying out too much, and also prevent you from overwatering them.

Jason Donnelly

Planting Succulents in Pots

Sedums, Sempervivum (commonly called hens-and-chicks), jade plants, kalanchoe, aloe vera, and Sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue) are popular choices for indoor plants. Succulents also include cacti, which generally need less water than other succulents.

Succulents like well-drained soil. According to Horticulturist Bryce Lane with North Carolina State University, a good quality potting soil mixed with either a material such as perlite will help ensure good drainage. He recommends two parts soil to one part drainage material. In addition to quality potting media, make sure your containers have drainage holes because too much moisture can result in rotten roots.

Matthew Armendariz

How to Water Succulents Indoors

Rather than giving your succulents sips of water here and there, give them a good soaking, to the point the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer beneath the plant pot. Then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Lane recommends checking the soil a week after watering; if it's still moist, wait another week.

Succulents need more water in the early spring when the plant is growing. Water needs may lessen in the summer and even more so during the winter. When the light decreases during the winter months and most succulents are in a dormant period, their water requirements also decrease. During winter, water your succulents when the soil is dry. This could be as infrequently as once per month but will depend on your conditions.

The frequency of watering will also depend on the light and growing conditions in your area, as well as the size of the container. The larger the container, the more moisture it can hold. Small, shallow pots may need to be watered more frequently.

Matthew Benson Photography

How to Water Succulents in Outdoor Containers

Summer is a good time to move potted succulents outdoors. Though they love sun, give them a chance to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing them in a partially shaded area before moving to a sunnier location. Keep them out of intense sunlight from late morning to midafternoon. Outdoor plants generally need more water than indoor plants. Again, your conditions will dictate how often succulents will need water. Start by checking on a weekly basis, paying attention to the condition of the potting media and whether it's bone dry or moist. Succulents (and cacti) grown in shallow containers, may need water every few days.

Ed Gohlich

How to Water Succulents in the Ground

Succulents, particularly sedums, can also thrive in the ground. They might need to be watered weekly, depending on conditions. Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions much better than new plants.

Whether you grow hardy or annual succulents, they need to be in well-drained soil. "Standing water is a prescription for disaster," Lane says. As with houseplants, soil conditions and water needs go hand-in-hand. Lane recommends replacing existing soil and making sure the subsoil drains well. Or an easier approach is to raise the bed or mound the soil in the areas where you plant succulents. One- to 2-foot mounds of organic-based compost mixed with perlite or PermaTill will help ensure plants thrive even if they are in conditions that are different from their native areas. Good soil, a good soaking, and good drainage equal happy plants.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
June 13, 2018
Hello, I was given a small succulent garden with cactus, aloe and jade plants. It's in a shallow plastic pot filled with a hard potting medium I don't recognize, so I don't even know what to call it. It's completely solid and has small gravelly pebbles in it, but seems porous. Should I sprinkle it with water periodically? I can't find anything online about how to care for it, and it didn't come with any instructions. Thank you ... Julie Johnson, jjohnson@townandstyle.com