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Do you water succulents from the top or bottom? Here are the best succulent watering tips

The cardinal rule of succulent care is to avoid overwatering. Native to hot, arid deserts, succulents store water inside their fleshy stems and leaves to prepare for drought periods. Many species also have thick, waxy cuticles that prevent them from losing water due to evaporation in warm climates. But like all plants, succulents need water to survive.

While you typically want to err on the side of underwatering your succulent houseplant, your plant will appreciate a drink every now and then. But do you water your succulents from the top or bottom? And how often should you water your succulents? We’ve rounded up a few tips on watering your succulents and cacti to keep them healthy and happy.

Person holding succulents

1. Only water your succulents when the soil is dry

Your soil should be completely dry before you water your succulents — otherwise, root rot might wreak havoc on your plant. To check how dry your soil is, stick your finger into the top inch of the soil. Also feel the drainage hole to gauge if the dirt is wet at the bottom. Checking the weight of your pot can further help you evaluate how wet the soil is.

If the planter feels lighter than usual, your succulent will likely appreciate water. For a more exact way to check soil, consider investing in a moisture meter, which can probe deeper than your finger. Look for a reading of zero or a number close to it before fetching the watering can. 

Physically, a tell-tale sign of a thirsty plant is shriveled, soft foliage. A succulent that needs more water will wrinkle and pucker. On the flip side, an overwatered succulent will have brown or yellow leaves that feel extra swollen. Leaves may start falling off, too. A wilted succulent may also indicate root rot if the soil is wet. 

Variety of succulents

2. Water your succulents thoroughly

Wondering how much to water succulents? Instead of small, frequent sips, succulents enjoy thorough, occasional watering. If you water from the top, drench the plant until water leaves the drainage hole. Even then, keep running water through the pot a few times to make sure the bottom part of the soil absorbs water as well.

Before the succulent gets another thorough watering, make sure that the soil feels bone dry. A note on misting: avoid using a mister to water your succulents. Misting doesn’t allow for thorough watering, which can cause leaves to shrivel and roots to die. Additionally, it can create water stains or rot on the leaf surface.

So, how do you water succulents without drainage holes? This undertaking is a risky endeavor, and you’ll want to err on the side of underwatering. To avoid drowning your plant, a good rule of thumb is to water about half the volume of your planter. Make sure to keep your succulent inside lightweight, fast-draining soil, too. Your safest bet is to leave your plant inside its nursery pot and use the decorative one as a cachepot. If you repot your succulent, a terracotta planter is more forgiving than a plastic one since it absorbs excess water. 

Succulent mix

3. Consider bottom watering your succulents

Do you water succulents from the top or bottom? Either way can help quench your plant’s thirst. Bottom watering isn’t just for typical tropical foliage houseplants — it’s also a great way to make sure succulents receive the right amount of water. Top watering is as easy as it gets, but sometimes the water doesn’t quite get to the soil at the bottom of your planter, even if you see it leaving the drainage hole. Bottom watering ensures that all of the soil gets water so that the succulent’s roots can grow and thrive. To bottom water a succulent, place your planter in a tray filled with water. When the top of the soil feels wet, remove the pot from the tray. 


4. Cut back on watering in the winter

How often succulents should be watered depends on many factors, including light, temperature, and location. Soil will dry out faster during the summer. When it’s warm, water your succulent every one to two weeks, depending on whether you keep it inside or outside. In general, cut back watering during the winter to once a month or whenever the soil completely dries out. Succulents go into a dormant state during cold weather, and overwatering them during this time can lead to root rot or fungal infections. To prevent overwatering, give your succulents a drink early in the morning so that the water has time to evaporate throughout the day. 

Watering a succulent can be a process of trial and error that’s unique to every home. Nonetheless, your succulent will eventually need a drink every now and then. With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to maintaining fresh and hydrated succulents!

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