If you’re new to growing succulents, you might ask how long can succulents go without water. This is a common question that many new succulent growers ask and one I’m going to explain in depth.
The answer to this question is not a simple one because it often depends on the type of succulent that you’re growing. For example, many cacti (which are also succulents) can go for months without water.
On the other hand, there are some succulent plants that grow naturally in rainforest areas so these need to be watered more often.
*This website is reader-support so this post may contain affiliate links for which I earn commissions.*
However, above all, it’s important to remember that succulents are capable of storing water in their stems, leaves and roots to survive in drought conditions. For this reason, they should never be overwatered and their roots should never be allowed to sit in water either.
Factors That Affect How Long Succulents Can Go Without Water
Essentially, there are six different factors that can determine how long succulents can go without water. We’ll look at these individually so that you can get an overall picture.
What Type Of Succulent Do You Have?
To determine how long an individual succulent can go without water, you have to consider what type of succulent it is. You should also look closely at the structure of the plant to try and determine its water-storing capacity.
As I’ve already mentioned, many cacti can go for a very long time without water and will survive well with less water than most other types of plants. For example, the Saguaro and Prickly Pear cacti can go as long as two years without water. That’s because these plants have adapted to living in the desert where it rains very infrequently.
If you look closely at the structure of these plants, you’ll see that they have very thick stems or, in the case of the prickly pear, the leaves or pads are quite large and thick.
Have a look at the succulent that you have. Does it have particularly thick stems or leaves? If so, then your plant can probably go a few months without water.
Here are some examples of succulents that could go around three months without water:
- Graptopetalum succulents
- Crassula succulents
- Agave succulents
- Sedum succulents
On the other hand, certain succulent species don’t have very fleshy leaves or they have very small leaves and these might only survive for around a month without water. Species in this group include:
So, the overall structure of your succulent will give you an indication of roughly how long it could go without water.
Is Your Succulent Growing Indoors Or Outdoors?
The environment that your succulent is growing in will also have a bearing on how long it can go without water. For example, if you have some hardy succulents growing outdoors in your garden in a sunny position, they will require more frequent watering than one growing indoors.
But, you’ll find that this is only the case during the summer period especially if you live in a hot climatic zone. In this case, your plant might need to be watered on a weekly basis.
On the other hand, if you live in a region with a cool climate, you might only have to water your succulents once every three to four weeks.
Indoor succulents are generally not exposed to direct sunlight so they can go longer without water. Even if your succulent is growing in a spot with plenty of indirect sunlight, it should only need to be watered once every two or three weeks.
What Type Of Pot Is Your Succulent Growing In?
You should already know that most succulents don’t like to live in permanently damp soil. For many species, it’s necessary to let the soil dry out completely before watering.
However, some types of pots will dry out faster than others. For example, small pots or those that are particularly shallow will have dry soil much faster than pots that are larger or deeper.
Terracotta pots are great for growing succulents but bear in mind that terracotta is porous so the soil in these types of pots will dry out relatively quickly. This means that your plants will need more frequent watering compared to succulents grown in plastic pots.
Where Does Your Succulent Grow Naturally?
Another important factor to consider is the origin of your type of succulent. This should give you a good indication as to how long it can go without water.
For example, succulents that normally grow naturally in desert regions can usually go for months or even years without water.
On the other hand, succulents that come from a rainforest environment have adapted to high humidity and a more moist environment. These plants will need water much more frequently than their arid-loving cousins.
What Type Of Soil Is Your Succulent Growing In?
The soil or growing medium that’s supporting your succulent is also an important consideration. Succulents that are growing outdoors in the ground in fast-draining soil can usually go for long periods of time without water.
In fact, many of these won’t need any supplementary watering at all if there is sufficient rainfall where you live.
On the other hand, succulents that are grown in pots in a proprietary succulent mix may need to be watered more often. This is because succulent and cacti mixes are designed to be very well drained so that they don’t remain damp for an extended period of time.
What Time Of The Year Is It?
Different species of succulents have different growing seasons. The majority of succulents will be actively growing during the warmer months of the year. But, in the winter months, these plants will be dormant.
This means that many succulents can go a lot longer in winter without water because they’re not actively growing. For example, I have a small cactus in a tiny pot on my kitchen window sill.
During winter, I don’t water it at all because it doesn’t need it. However, once spring comes around and I can see some tiny flower buds start to appear, I give it a good soak usually around once a month or so.
But, I do make sure that all the excess water drains out of the little pot before I put the drainage plug back into the base.
There are, however, some succulents that are dormant during summer and are actively growing during the colder months. Succulents in the Aeonium genus are a good example of this.
How To Determine If Your Succulent Needs Water
Establishing a regular watering schedule is never a good idea when it comes to succulents. This is because most succulents need to have their soil dry before you give them any more water.
The main reason behind this is that these plants store water in their stems, leaves and roots. This is something that they just do naturally and also what makes them unique.
But, each part of the plant only has the capacity to store a certain amount of water. So, the soil has to dry out so that the plant can utilize some of its stored water to make room for more storage.
Each time that you give your plant a drink, it will absorb some of the water and store it for later use. However, if the leaves and stems are already at capacity, the extra water cannot be accommodated and this causes a breakdown of the cell walls inside the stems and leaves of the plant.
It’s much like trying to store lettuce in the freezer. If you’ve ever tried to do this, then you’ll understand that once the lettuce thaws it just becomes a soggy mess. This is because the lettuce leaves have become water-soaked and all of this absorbed liquid has caused the cell walls to break.
Obvious Signs That Your Succulent Needs Water
If a succulent has been dry for too long and has used up all of its stored water, it will usually exhibit signs of stress that you need to familiarize yourself with. Here are the most common signs that your succulent needs water:
- The leaves have lost their plumpness and may even appear wrinkled.
- On some succulents, the leaves may even discolor, droop or curl upwards.
- The plant looks a little shriveled and not as healthy as normal.
- The leaves may start to drop off, one at a time.
All of these signs can tell you that your succulent needs water and it needs it now!
But, be aware that overwatered succulents can display some very similar symptoms so you need to be able to distinguish between the two.
Primarily, an underwatered succulent will have leaves that appear shriveled and wrinkled while an overwatered succulent may also have slightly shriveled leaves but these will be mushy to the touch and can sometimes have obvious water spots.
How To Check When Your Succulent Needs Water
The easiest way to check if your succulent needs water is to see if the soil is dry. There are a number of ways you can do this apart from observing the signs mentioned above.
Primarily, you want to check the moisture level in the soil. If the soil is dry, then you can water your plant. However, if there’s still moisture in the soil, then don’t water.
You can check the moisture level in the soil by sticking your finger into it up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels completely dry, then you can water your plant.
You can also check the soil moisture by using a wooden chopstick. Just poke this into the soil and if it comes out clean with no damp soil attached to it, then you can ascertain that the soil is dry.
Another way to check the moisture level in the soil is to use a moisture meter. These are fairly inexpensive and will give you a digital reading of the moisture content in the soil.
Always remember that it’s important to let the soil dry out before watering almost any type of succulent. There are a few exceptions but you’ll find that most succulents will appreciate this.
The Best Way To Water Your Succulents
Once you’ve determined that the soil is dry, you should use the “Soak and Dry” method to water your plant. Here’s what to do:
- Potted succulents should be in pots with good drainage holes.
- Take your plant to the sink and drench the soil completely with enough water so that the excess comes out of the drainage holes.
- Let your succulent sit to ensure that all excess water has drained away.
- When the drainage is complete, you can put your succulent back to where it normally lives.
It’s important not to leave a saucer of water under your plant because the roots should not sit in water for any length of time. This will generally lead to root rot and the demise of your plant.
If you have outdoor succulents that are growing in the ground, it’s best to just give them a good soak when the top 2 or 3 inches (5 to 10 cm) of soil are dry. This deep watering is preferable to small amounts of water more frequently.
If you happen to have some succulents planted in a container without drainage holes such as a terrarium, you need to water sparingly. Ideally, there will be stones or pebbles in the base where the water will drain to.
You still want to check the moisture level before watering but only add a little water each time rather than soaking the soil. You might need to do this slightly more frequently but it should still only be necessary once every two weeks or so.
Unlike many other indoor plants, you also don’t want to mist your succulents with a spray bottle filled with water. This will overwhelm the succulent leaves with too much water and is not good for the plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
In general, it’s fine to leave your succulents for at least a couple of weeks without water. However, a lot of species can go far longer than this depending on the type of succulent you have.
Certain types of succulents can easily go for 2 months without water. Especially those that have very fleshy leaves or thick, fleshy stems.
If your succulent has been underwatered and is showing signs of stress, water deeply using the “soak and dry” method. Wait for around 4 days or so and water again if the soil feels completely dry.
Many succulents can go a long time without water. This is because they have the ability to store water in their stems, leaves and roots. Some succulents such as the Saguaro cactus can survive up to 2 years without water.
The most important thing to remember is to ensure that you let the soil dry out before giving your succulent water. These plants are far more susceptible to damage from overwatering than they are from underwatering.
So, now that you know that most succulents can survive quite well in fairly dry conditions, follow the guidelines above to get to know your plants so that you can easily identify the right time to water. Once you understand this, you’ll have happy thriving plants that will give you years of pleasure.