How and When to Water Succulents

Andrea clearly enjoys everything about succulents and sharing her knowledge.  She has some valuable tips on how and when to water succulents correctly and to avoid overwatering.   Correct watering is one of the most important skills to learn for successful succulent care.

Hey guys, it’s Andrea with Sucs For You In Houston, Texas, and we are back to discuss watering methods.  Ummm, I have a number of different scenarios – pot scenarios and plant scenarios to cover and, um, hopefully some of them apply to you – If not one hopefully a lot of them.

How and When to Water Succulents

Um, just one thing I wanted to make sure is there’s a lot of -there’s a lot more reasons not to water your succulents than to do so.  And the basic guidelines of when to water your succulents are after the soil is completely dry around the roots and even at that point that’s still not good enough for me.  Um, if your soil is not drying out within three, four, five days – if you’re at a week and you’re testing – sticking your finger down and feeling around the roots and your soil is still moist, um, you need to – you need to do some rearranging and, uh, add more drainage to your dirt and add more drainage to your pots if possible.

If you don’t have a hole in your pot, um, don’t even ask me about watering.   I am a stickler for drainage and I’ll tell you the very few situations as, if we come across one, but, uh, I will let it slide.  If there’s a pot that doesn’t have it and it’s usually little teeny ‘tinies’ and, um, or a very temporary situation.  So, um, on that note I just wanted to show you a few of the implements that I use to water with.  Um, I like to have a little squirt bottle because you can direct the stream directly at the roots of your plant and it does have a little – um – this – this – little model has a flow master.  It has a setting for stream and it has a setting for spraying and, um,  as you come in – as you can see this is my beautiful new Euphorbia Susanna and my friend Jen got me this.  Um, and I love it so much and I think this plant was meant to be mine, um, as I saw it and then the next day she put – sent me a picture of one and I was like “Please buy it for me!  I’ll pay you back”.  Umm, and – so well – oops – what I’m doing is just taking my water.

This is, um, I prefer rain water.  I try to catch rainwater when I can but when it hasn’t been raining for a while, and my rain bin gets murky, um, I’ll fill it up with tap water from the hose.  So it’s just sitting out and just kind of dechlorinating and stuff like that and, uh, use that to also fill up the birdbaths and, um,  the fountain and, um,  get the newts.  We have some fire bellied newts and we like to top off their water with rainwater when possible and, um, so it’s nice to have.  I highly suggest having yourself a bin collecting water or, um, just holding water if you have a lot of plants and you have a lot of things to water and/or refill.  Um, it’s really convenient to have.  I just guess scoop up a bunch in my bucket or fill this up and, um, I just have easy water everywhere.

So one other thing about the squirt bottle, it’s really great for when you’re again trying to target the little tiny roots.  Just give them a little sip.  Okay I’m going to try and make sure everyone can see. This is, uh, one of the propagations of Echeverias Polidonis and, uh, this is the original leaf that it was growing on.  And if you remember back in the propagation video we saw it then.  So I’m just going to give it a little drink and that’s it.  It’s – I don’t soak the pots.  I’m pretty hands-on with my plants.  So, um, once – here’s another little teeny tiny; I’m just showing you how – this is the sweet pot from Flamingo and Flower.   Sally out of Florida; she makes the most beautiful little tiny pots.  She has an Etsy shop.  You should really check her out.  Um, just a tiny dab – just a tiny, tiny little sip directly at the roots when you can, and, um, and that’s it.  And just watch your plant from that point on.

If you – you’ll get to know it and it’ll say “You know what, I could use another little drink” or “That was too much” or, um, whatever.  So these – this is one of the examples of – it doesn’t have a drainage hole.   It’s temporary.  It’s super tiny so there’s really not going to be any standing water in there.  It’s so shallow it’s just going to evaporate and basically – a fine gravel and a tiny, tiny bit of dirt.  This is one of those little tiny rat tail ‘cactee’.  He’s so cute.  Um, I painted the pot.  I’m not a very good artist but it was still fun to make it polka dotty.  So, um, if you have an arrangement that is potted up really tight like this one, um, it’s a little bit harder to target the roots, um, without getting water all over things.  And you don’t really want water sitting on the leaves for long if it can be avoided, um, especially if the sun is going to be beating down on them because that will – the little droplets will multiply – I’m sorry magnify – the heat of the sun and the light and it will leave burn marks on your plant and that’s just sad. You don’t want that to happen.  Um, so what I like to do is just – I’ll take a funnel and, uh, uh, water with more of a controlled flow instead of just dumping a pitcher straight in.  I’ve tried that and it defeats the purpose.  Um, and then we’re going to just find a point that you can get as close to the dirt as possible; like, pass all the plants, okay.  And, um, the funnel right now is touching the dirt.  Let’s see – I’ll make sure I’ll get some close-up shots of this too, and then you just want to pour the water against the side of the funnel and you’ll see it just go straight down to the bottom bypassing all the leaves of the plant.  And if you need to, uh, do it on more than one side, that’s cool.  Um, I’m going to come over here, and I’ll bring it up and just show you just a positioning really quick.  So you can see I am finding openings in the dirt.  There’s not much.

I’m gonna have to pop one of these babies out soon because they are running out of space.  And I put the funnel touching the dirt and then I pour the water down the side so it just flows in really slow and I have a lot of control over it.  Otherwise you just flood it and, uh, it makes a mess.  This is also a good method for when you’re trying to keep your, uh, – the top dressing -whatever pumice is you have on top – little pretty rocks in place, um, it kind of keeps them from just going crazy.  Um, I was still on my notes of when not to water.  I’m going to come back to that.  Um, a lot of people – and I did – I tried at the beginning and I decided it’s not a good idea for me.

If you live in a drier climate one thing you can do is take a little bin like this and fill it with water and for some of your plants that are very well draining, you can set them in and let them soak up water from the bottom.  Um, there’s particular species that are happier in that situation but again for me I tried it and I don’t like how – I don’t like my dirt being that saturated.  Um, it’s just – again it’s about to start sprinkling outside and, uh, it’s been overcast for days.  It can be overcast for another day, at least, and, um, soil retention for that – other water retention in the soil for that long is – no way – no, um.

Okay, so let me show you really quick on this Lola girl and while we’re talking about this, um, here’s an example of when you should water and that is if, um, if you’re about to – say I was going to pull off one of these babies or I wanted to propagate some leaves or I was going to take some cuttings from a plant, um, you want to give it a nice long drink.   Make sure it’s nice and hydrated before you take cuttings or leaf propagations.  Before you do any, uh, if you’re going to – need to divide some Aloe or Haworthia be sure they’re nice and hydrated before you do that because they’re going to be, um, – I should look at this again while I’m talking – um, they’re going to be on their own for a while and so you definitely want to make sure that they have enough water in them to hold them over until they can put out some roots and absorb more.

Um, so I know a lot of people have some propagations going and they’re always really concerned about when to water them and how to water them – and just coming through.  Until I have a tripod we’re going to be really hands-on you guys, but I’m getting there – getting there.  So, when I’m watering my propagations I just – I have my water.  I think I need to pump it up a little bit more.  I really like the stream method on this, right?  So, what we’re going to do here – see if I can come down a little bit lower- um, just literally go along – woops – go along – yeah – go along the tray targeting the roots, um.  You can even just hit the little plastic barrier and it will slide down into the soil, um, and these guys – it’s kind of up to you – they don’t have to stay wet that’s for sure.  You definitely want them to be watering, uh, drying out between waterings too.

Oh, I poured this all over the ground.   Um, but because they’re so tiny and you’re trying to keep their roots happy and in place and growing, um – these are insane, y’all, let me show you this real quick.  I don’t have an ID on this one yet.  It’s like this crazy, crested, really awesome, some kind of an Echeveria – maybe a Shaviana – I don’t know what it is.  Um, oopa, I had a somebody jumped out.  You get back in there.  Sorry guys.  I really want to go over this because even though I’ve shown you how to water; it’s not like – that’s the easy part, um, when not to water.

Okay I’m going to go over these.  Um, if you still remember the last time you watered a plant you might want to wait and make sure it’s had some time to dry out.  Be sure you’re checking it and if, uh, it can go a few days between waterings once it’s totally dry, uh, you don’t have to water it right away.  It’s, it’s, it’s okay for a while without your help.  Uh, if the soil is still moist of course, you can check it with your finger.  You want to check down around the roots.  Most succulents have pretty shallow roots so you don’t have to get way down in there.  You can also use a little stick, uh, a toothpick, popsicle stick, something of that nature, and check it like you’re checking a cake to see if it’s done.  If you pull the stick out and it’s got any sign of dirt or moisture on it ‘walk away – walk away – try again another day’.

Um, I kind of broke one of my rules to show you the little demo here.  But if it’s humid, yes, and if there’s rain in the forecast, yes, if it’s going to be overcast for the next couple of days maybe, yes, um, don’t water your plants because their soil might not dry out in time.   And I didn’t soak them so I’m not really worried about them and, if I have any issues, I have some lights I can put them under.  But, that brings me – I’ll come to this in a second – what happens if they do get over watered?  If you leave them out in the sun – I mean in the rain – or you accidentally – you just accidentally overwater them – um, there’s such – that – you know not all is lost.  There’s a very easy solution.  Um, like I mentioned before if you have plants out on the shelves and you go to water them during the day and it’s sunny, that’s not good because, uh, the sun will scorch your plants.  The water is just like – acts like little magnifying drops all over and, poof, that’s just it’s really sad to see.  Because sometimes it’s hard to avoid if you have outdoor plants or in-ground plants but, um, again if you get water on your plants and you are just kind of a mother hen about it like me, and get a little paper towel and just go in and just let it – just touch the – into it – even if there’s like farina – that pretty coating on the plant.  This won’t – this won’t harm it, uh, so you can dry them off.  So that you can use a little Q-tip, um, and just touch it to it slightly and the water will just soak right up.

Okay, um, if you have just taken new cuttings of course you want to let them dry before introducing them into water.  Same for propagation.  Any – any open point on a plant or a the succulent, if water gets inside of it, it actually gets into their cells and they – they just freak out and rot and die.  And you’ll start noticing when they start turning – some of your propagation leaves may turn transparent – some of your cuttings will – if they get water the stems before they’re dried up – um, they can just still just freak out and die.

Um, same goes for if you’re repotting a plant and – especially some of the more sensitive varieties – especially – especially cactus.   You want to try to repot your plant and leave it alone two -three days; cactus a week or two.  However long you can, um, refrain and restrain yourself from watering them because, uh, what happens is the same thing goes if the roots are broken, um, then water will go up inside of them.  And, um, the whole reason you’re really trying to protect and baby those roots.  When you’re changing your pots, when you’re fluffing your pot for drainage, when you’re making sure that your, uh, you have ample drainage holes in your pots.

The roots of succulents are not like straws like some other plants.  They actually absorb the water in the air around them.  So there are little pockets of air down in the dirt.  You water it.  It starts to evaporate, uh, the succulents actually are – the – they literally breathing – breathing it in from the air.  And if you live in a humid environment you need to be aware that some plants like lithops actually can take in the moisture from the air around them and not just, you know, not just in the roots; some of them – their bodies so – or the whole plant.  So that gets fun trying to figure out – you know – the water retention in plants.  So if you want – if you ever overwater them some of them will actually burst.  So, um, the fix for that if you’ve accidentally over watered – if you’ve accidentally left them out in the rain – if you’ve been transferring a bunch of plants and left them in a bucket that doesn’t have drainage like I did last week and it rained and they just sat in the water overnight and it was – they were saturated – so let me grab – I’ve an example – real quick to show you.   Let me find a good one.

This one should be pretty easy.  So what first – the first thing you want to try and do if you can is just raise them up off the ground so there’s air flow going in and under their pots – in and under the pot.  That definitely helps.  And,  this actually – this one’s dry now and I put it in the – I put it on a like a – it’s almost like a wire coat stand, um, a shoe rack – so there’s water going – I mean – water – there’s a air going under the pot and air flowing around it and that’s definitely helped it dry out.  But, um, if – if something happens and your soil is still wet for too long all you have to do is go in take out the plant.  Okay, just put it somewhere for safekeeping.  You’re going to going to let it hangout for day two.  So you can still reuse the soil.  You just want to, you know, uh, pour it out let it dry out.  You can smell it and make sure it doesn’t smell like, you know, mildew or whatever and smells like dirt.  Um, and that’s it. So then, once this is dry and once you feel like the roots are dry and it’s had a little chance to breathe because, otherwise, she’s been suffocating in, like, tightly packed wet dirt.

You can’t breathe underwater.  These guys can’t breathe in a wet soil – wet compact soil so be sure you’re, uh, fluffing everything.  I call it fluff it up because you fluffing up your dirt and it just gives a lot more air pockets in there.  Um, see, and on that note it’s about to storm.  Um, I guess and, uh, some of them, totally, not – no.  I’m not saying all of them but some of them it’s okay. And, um, it’s – I mean – I suggest you try it sometime just so you see like what happens if I let some plants get rained on.  See how they react to it.  Um, otherwise catch the rain.  Rain is always the best drink for your baby succulents and it comes in handy.

Wooo – ohhh – okay, um.  Anything else that I want talk about – uh, the last thing I was going to discuss – dormancy in plants.  And there’s a lot of times throughout the year that your plants don’t need water especially cactus – like in the winter and stuff like that.   Um, and even when you’re trying to slow the growth for some reason – if your plants have etiolated – if they’re stretching – I’m sorry etiolate – um, they’re – they’re, uh, stretching for the sun and you’re trying to do some repairs on that.  Uh, cutback their – cutback their watering and they’ll – they’ll slow down on their – their growth while you try and get it under control.  That’s a whole another topic – succulent repair.

Again, I have pages and pages of pages of questions and answers and demos to share with you guys eventually but I am trying to keep this concise.  Um, just making sure I’ve covered everything.  Oh I guess one of the other things a lot of people this time of year, um, in the Western Hemisphere, and we’re entering into spring – or we’re in spring entering into summer – the grow – growing season for a lot of our plants, um, cactus and succulents – that’s when you want to feed and water them.  And feeding – you can just use – you can go get some fancy stuff or you can use your own – Miracle Grow – or something like that.  But you want to dilute it by at least four times so if it says one tablespoon or one teaspoon per gallon you’re putting a quarter teaspoon per gallon.  So I hope that makes sense.

Um, so I think that’s it. And I’m getting a little nervous about the lightning.  I mean it just kind of scares me – makes me jumpy a little bit.

An in depth discussion of signs of overwatering and how to remedy.  She can get a little side-tracked but it is very detailed in some areas.  Hopefully this video gave you some ideas for how and when to water succulents to keep them healthy.

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