You should water succulents as often as it takes for the soil to get dry all the way through the root mass between waterings (assuming you’re talking about potted succulents.) No one can give you a real answer like once every other week, or once a month, because the “how often” is influenced by so many factors.
The question you really want answered is “How do I know when to water succulents?” You can make your own schedule after you find out how long it takes for your particular plants to use the water you give them.
So the real key is to learn to test the soil moisture to make sure it’s dry before you water again. I’ll tell you how to do that, but first let’s see if I can tell you a little more about why “how often” just doesn’t cut it.
You have probably heard/read that succulents’ soil needs to get dry between waterings. But the period of time it takes for that to happen is dependent on many factors – amount of light, type of soil, size of plant, size of pot, kind of plant, season of the year, condition of the plant and amount of moisture already in the soil – and those things will change the “how often you water” answer for each plant.
For instance, when plants are in higher light, they use water faster. So, while your friend may have a jade plant that gets watered every other week, if your jade is in higher light, and you water it every other week, it may start dying because its not getting enough water. You may need to water your jade every week to keep it healthy.
For another instance, when plants are in sandy soil, the water drains through more quickly. So someone may have a snake plant in sandy potting mix, and have good results by watering it once a week. But if your snake plant is in a potting mix that has more organics in it – which means that it holds onto water longer – and you water it once a week, it could start failing because the soil is staying too wet. You may need to water your snake plant every three weeks.
When plants are large, with a well-grown root mass filling the pot, they will use much more water than will a plant with a small root mass, or at least a small root mass in relation to the size of the pot. Thus the little aloe vera that you bought in a 3″ pot and used to water once a week, when replanted into a 6″ pot, may need to be watered only every third week, until it establishes its roots throughout the 6″ pot – then you might go back to watering it once a week.
Some types of plants need to have their soil get drier than other types. For instance, a little mammalaria cactus may want its soil to get completely dry between waterings, while a kalanchoe may prefer that its soil get to the almost dry stage before watering again. So the kalanchoe may need to be watered once a week, while the mammalaria may only need water every couple of weeks.
Especially for plants depending on light from a window, there will be much more light in the summer than in the winter, and many plants enter a dormancy in the late fall. The water usage may drop significantly in the winter. You may water every other week in the summer, but every 6 weeks in the winter.
Then again, an unhealthy plant won’t use nearly the amount of water that a healthy one will. If you decide to change your watering schedule from once a week to every other week, because your plant isn’t looking well, but the soil is still soaking wet underneath, “every other week” may well be no better than “once a week” unless you can get the soil dried out and the roots healthy.
Do you see why “how often” won’t help you? So how do you know when the soil is dry and the succulent plant is ready to water? You need to feel the soil, all the way to the bottom of the pot, not just on the surface. (Often the soil will feel dry on the surface, but toward the bottom of the pot where the roots are, it will still be wet.)
There are several ways to do this.
- Push a thin wooden dowel or bamboo kebob skewer into the soil as far as it will go, pull it up, and run the end of it between your thumb and finger. If it feels all dry, the soil is dry and it’s time to water; if it feels damp, wait a few more days and test again.
- Use an electronic moisture meter. You can get these at almost all plants stores and departments. Push it in as far as it will go. The meter should read “dry” for completely dry, or a mark or two to the right of dry for succulents that don’t want to be completely dry. Make sure to run the probe of the meter between your fingers after you pull it out of the soil, to make sure its working – if it reads dry, the probe should also feel dry.
- Stick a spoon as far down along the edge of the pot as you can, and pull up some soil to squeeze between your fingers. If the soil is dry, it won’t stick together, and it will feel dry when you rub it.
- Pick up the pot to test the weight. This only works if you’re familiar with your plant, have checked soil moisture with one of the above systems, and you know how heavy the pot feels when the soil is dried out.
When the soil is dry, it’s time to water the plant. When you water, always pour on enough that you see a good run off from the drainage holes. (If your succulent isn’t in a pot with drainage holes, you should probably repot it; otherwise, keeping it becomes a process of measuring water to know how much is going in, and constant testing to know how long it takes that water to be used. You don’t want the succulent to stay wet more than 2 or 3 weeks. Way too much trouble for a beginner.) You can empty the water from the drainage saucer if you want to, but you don’t need to.
One of the most common pieces of indoor plant care advice you’ll see is ‘not let the plants sit in water. Always empty the run off.’ Actually, while it’s quite true that you don’t want plant to sit in water all the time, the little bit in the saucer will evaporate in a couple of days, and as long as you’re always aware of soil moisture before you water again, plant will be in no danger of being overwatered.
So now, after a couple of months of caring for your succulents like this, you can answer your own question — how often should I water (my) succulents.