How to Water Succulents (Indoor & Outdoor)


Plus 10 Tips & Tricks to Keep Them Thriving

Since you’re currently reading this, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that succulents (there are over 1,000 different varieties) were rated as one of the top houseplants for 2021. 

Their wide variety, easy accessibility, and reputation for jiving well with busy apartment dwellers (or college students. Or moms. You get the picture) make them a great aesthetic choice for both indoor and outdoor plants. But, how do you keep them alive? Keep reading for how to water your succulents, plus some tips & tricks to keep them thriving.

How to Water Indoor Succulents

When it comes to watering your indoor succulents, there are two common methods (we’ve used both):

Bottom Watering

The bottom watering method is pretty popular because it allows the soil to become adequately moist while still preventing root rot. 

To bottom water your succulents, simply:

  1. Fill a basin or sink with water. Make sure to use room temperature (warm) water, as this will protect your succulents from going into shock.
  2. Place the succulents (pot and all) into the pot or sink. You will want to make sure that the actual plant is not in water—the pot should be floating, and only the bottom should be touching the water.
  3. Allow the pot to soak in the water for about 5-15 minutes, or whenever you feel that the top layer of soil is moist. 
  4. Place the pot on a drying rack or towel and allow it to drip dry and drain out any excess water.
  5. Recommended Resource: For more information on bottom watering and which succulents this works particularly well for, check out this article

Top, or Classic, Watering

As you already guessed, the second method for watering indoor succulents, top watering, is the opposite of bottom watering. Top watering is my favorite method for watering indoor succulents, as I find it to be a lot easier than gathering all of my pots and sticking them in the sink. Also, top watering is the method you will want to use when watering terrariums or orbs.

To water succulents using the classic method simply:

  1. Make sure that your pot is either over a sink or has a tray underneath to prevent unnecessary spillage.
  2. Grab your watering can and make sure that the top of the sprout is entirely in the soil of the succulent.

Note: To ensure that your succulent does not rot, do NOT water the leaves. Succulents are not used to having their leaves wet, and this will cause your plant to rot. 

  1. Water until the bottom of the soil is wet and water is coming out of the drainage holes.

Note: Succulents do best when given hearty waterings. Instead of misting them every week, give them a strong watering where water comes out of the drainage holes. This means all of the soil is watered and the plan is at optimum health until the next watering.

Whichever method you choose, the most important thing to remember when watering succulents is to give them a full watering, allowing the bottom half of the soil to get wet, and then allowing them to completely dry out between waterings. This will ensure your plant’s protection against root rot, disease, and unnecessary stress.


Misting 

Only mist succulents when they are babies. A common lie about succulents is that they like to be misted, however, when you do this to full-grown succulents, you actually change their humidity levels, and this can cause them to rot. 


Watering Indoor Cacti

Cacti are like the grandparents of succulents (seriously, mine is named Gary and looks super old). They’re super cool to have and look at but can get really grumpy if you give them too much water. 

The most important thing to remember when watering cacti: 

  • The bottom of your cacti’s soil should be 90% dry before you water it.
  • In the spring, fall, and summer, water your cacti about every 7-10 days. 
  • In the winter, don’t water your cacti more than once every month or so.  

Some other helpful information:

  • Like watering succulents, you will want to give your cacti each time a thorough watering. Make sure that the bottom layer of the soil gets wet and that water is coming out of the drainage holes each time you water. 
  • Never mist your cacti.

Recommended Resource: For more helpful information on how to water cacti & keep them healthy, check out this super informative article


Watering Indoor Succulents Tip & Tricks

You potted your aloe a month ago, and it’s already starting to look not-so-hot. For indoor succulents, you will want to follow some basic steps when watering to keep them healthy and growing. 

Make sure indoor succulents are in a pot with drainage holes

This is HUGE and one of the first facts that I learned the hard way. While succulents are tolerant to drought (aka can thrive on neglect), they are a bit tricky regarding moisture levels in the soil. 

To make sure that the soil of your succulents isn’t too wet, make sure to plant them in a pot with well-draining soil. Lots of drainage holes are typically the best way to do this.


Don’t skimp on the potting soil

Overwatering is one of the biggest causes of death for indoor succulents. Preventing this requires you to have a particular form of soil. 

Succulent potting soil is unique because it contains ingredients that regular potting soil doesn’t have in it, such as sand and pumice, that help your soil properly drain. You can even make your own succulent potting soil for not that much money by following this tutorial.


Use a soil moisture meter

If you’ve read any of my other plant articles, you know I am a BIG fan of soil moisture meters. If I’m being honest (which I can assure you I always am), I have lost many plants over the years, especially succulents, due to overwatering. Soil moisture meters, such as this one for $10, are an easy and cheap way to check if your plant needs watered and prevent you from overwatering.


Keep a watering schedule

While each variety of succulent is different, the standard rule is to water when the first few layers of soil feel dry, or about every 2 weeks (less in the winter).

If you’re like me and you have a lot of different plants on a wide spectrum of watering needs, I would highly recommend that you download the WaterMe app. This app is seriously a lifesaver, as it allows you to track each plant and gives you reminders when you need to water, prune or even fertilize. 


Invest in a succulent watering can & mister

I confess that I have never tried this tip, and honestly, watering my succulents is my least favorite job. It is impossible (trust me, I’ve tried!) to give your succulents just the right amount of water and not spill all over the place when using a standard glass.

A succulent watering can better control how much water you give your succulents and prevent any unnecessary spilling (making the price totally worth it!).

Now that you have all the tools that you need to water your indoor succulents properly, here’s how to water your outdoor succulents:

Watering Outdoor Succulents 101

Keeping outdoor succulents alive is a totally different game from that of watering indoor succulents. To help your outdoor succulents thrive outdoors, check out these five easy tips & tricks.

How to Water Outdoor Succulents

When it comes to watering your outside succulents and cacti, the weather is the most significant determining factor. For those who live in more arid environments, you will need to water your succulents more than those living in rainy climates. 

In addition to weather, here are some things to consider when watering outdoor succulents:

  1. Always check the soil moisture meter before you water. This is especially true with outdoor cacti.
  2. Just like indoor succulents and cacti, you are going to want to drench your outdoor plants when it is time to water. Make sure that even the bottom layer gets wet and continue watering until you see water come out of the bottom of the pot.
  3. Let the soil drain completely before re-watering.

The biggest thing to remember when watering outdoor succulents, and often the biggest challenge, is to make sure that your plants don’t get too wet

For example, if you are in a severe rainy season, you will want to bring all of your pots inside to make sure that they don’t get too wet. On the flip side, if you are going through a dry spell, you may want to check the soil every 2-3 days to ensure that you are watering correctly. 

Follow the same procedure for watering outdoor cacti, and you’ll have an amazing outdoor jungle. It’s really that simple! 

Watering Outdoor Succulents Tips & Tricks

Unless you live in an area that is warm year-round, keep your outdoor succulents in a pots

Succulents & cacti do not survive frost or winter—you can blame their tropical nature for that. To ensure that your outdoor succulents survive more than one season, plant them in pots that you can easily bring inside before the first frost.

Fun fact: Hens & Chicks, a popular variety of succulents, can survive frosts and even winter! They go into hibernation mode, which protects and allows them to survive until the next year. 


Make sure to plant in a spot that gets plenty of direct sunlight

While all succulents love sunshine, some varieties prefer more than others. For example, cacti will take as much direct sunlight as you can possibly give them, while Hens & Chicks quickly die if you give them too much sun. Therefore, always research your type of succulent to make sure how much sun it needs before you plant.


Fertilize once in the spring

Succulents do best when fertilized once in the spring. We recommend using high-quality manure tea. It sounds gross, but it does wonders as a natural fertilizer for succulents!   

Recommended Resource: Check out this article for more information on fertilizing your outdoor succulents!


Download Planta for easy water monitoring

Similar to WaterMe, Planta is an amazing plant water-monitoring app. It works especially well for outdoor plants and even helps you know how to adjust watering during extreme temperatures!

Note: This app is not free. It costs about $35 for an annual subscription.


Limit how many plants you put in each pot

Succulents love to spread out, so make sure they have plenty of space!

Recommended Resource: Check out this article for more information on how to adequately space and plant your outdoor succulent garden.

To Wrap It Up

While this mini-guide certainly didn’t cover everything you need to know when watering succulents, we think it will certainly help you get on the right track to having thriving tropical paradises, whether inside or out! We helped you know how to water your succulents properly. The only thing you have to do is pick out cute pots for them, but that’s for another article. 

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