Succulents are great indoor plants because they’re low-maintenance, and even the most inexperienced gardeners can successfully grow them.
Succulent soil should take between 14 and 21 days to dry completely. Succulents need very little water to stay alive as they store most of their water in the leaves, which explains their plump shapes.
This article will explain how often you should water your succulent, the factors affecting how fast the soil dries, what you can do if you over-water your succulent, and more.
What Affects the Drying Rate of Succulent Soil?
The drying rate of succulent soil is affected by:
- Soil type
- Whether the succulent is indoors or outdoors
- How much water you use
- The size of the succulent pot
- The dormant period
To understand how fast succulent soil should dry, it’s a good idea first to understand how the plant uses the water.
Succulents benefit from the “soak and dry” method, meaning the roots like a lot of water less often.
Once a succulent has been watered correctly, the roots will soon start absorbing the surrounding water. Water absorption doesn’t happen all at once but gradually over a few weeks.
There’s no hard and fast rule for the rate at which succulent soil dries, but it should take 14 to 21 days for the soil to completely dry.
This depends on various factors:
Succulents are desert plants that live where water is scarce, and they store water in their leaves.
Typical desert conditions are dry, but occasional heavy downpours saturate the soil, and succulents have learned to use this huge water influx effectively by absorbing it in the roots, and then transporting it to the leaves.
They’re not used to having excess water in their soil for extended periods, and good drainage is essential to allow the succulent to drain out any excess water.
Your succulent should, therefore, always be housed in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom.
A porous pot (i.e., unglazed clay, terracotta, or ceramic) allows air to circulate in the soil and allows additional evaporation to take place on the sides of the pot.
Although it might seem tempting to use an attractive pot that goes well with your home’s interior, your succulent won’t do well if it doesn’t have good drainage at the bottom.
A pot with three or more holes at the bottom is great but make sure that you place a drainage plate underneath it to avoid unnecessary mess.
Like most plants, succulents will only thrive when planted in the most suitable kind of soil.
The ideal soil for a succulent is similar to what you find in the desert: rocky and coarse sand that allows the water to pass through quickly.
Most big box and DIY stores stock special succulent soil, which is fast draining.
However, you can also make your own fast-draining soil by mixing regular potting soil and some pumice, crushed lava, or coarse perlite. The optimal ratio is four parts potting soil and one part pumice/crushed lava, or coarse perlite.
Soil that tends to hold onto the water too much can oversaturate the succulent, so it’s vital to use the correct kind of soil.
If you keep your succulents indoors like most people, the air inside your home will affect how fast the soil dries.
Succulents that grow in well-ventilated rooms have enough surrounding air for the soil to dry at a normal rate.
Poorly ventilated areas (like terrariums) cause reduced transpiration and evaporation, and the water in the soil is more likely to linger around for longer than it should.
When the temperature is too low, there won’t be as much soil water evaporation, which is why it’s a good idea to move your succulents indoors during the winter.
During the winter, when temperatures drop below freezing outdoors, succulent soil can freeze, causing it to become waterlogged when the weather warms up again.
Air conditioned areas can make the surrounding air very dry, and this can accelerate the drying process. The same is true when your heating is on during the winter, and the air is dry.
If your succulent is kept in a place that is too dark or shady, the soil will take longer to dry out as it’s not exposed to light.
Whether the Succulent Is Indoors or Outdoors
A succulent’s natural habitat is outdoors, but it adapts well to growing indoors when it can enjoy at least six hours of indirect sunlight a day.
When the air outside is humid, the succulent soil absorbs a small quantity of moisture, slowing down the drying rate.
Indoor succulent soil tends to dry faster as most homes have drier air.
How Much Water You Use
The more water you use, the slower the soil will dry.
When watering your succulents, it’s best to saturate the soil less frequently than to water it with small amounts more often. This is because succulent plants enjoy having their roots immersed in water, after which they can transport the water to the leaves.
The Size of the Succulent Pot
The smaller the succulent pot, the faster the water will evaporate from the soil. Larger pots take longer for the soil to dry, and you should never forget to saturate your succulent roots completely.
The Dormant Period
Even if your succulent is kept indoors year-round, it still has an annual dormant period during the winter months.
During this time, it won’t grow and won’t use nearly as much water as other times of the year.
This can result in unwanted water being left in the surrounding soil, and the drying rate will be slower.
How Can I Tell if the Succulent Soil Is Drying?
The easiest way to tell if your succulent soil is in the process of drying is to use the manual method. This involves lifting the pot every day and taking note of how heavy it feels. It’s best to start this immediately after you’ve watered it when the water causes the pot to be at its heaviest.
If the soil is drying, the pot should feel lighter as each day goes by. When the pot no longer feels like it’s getting lighter, the soil has probably dried out completely.
How Do I Prevent the Soil From Drying Too Quickly?
To prevent your succulent soil from drying too quickly, you can use the following practical methods.
Have a Regular Watering Schedule
If your succulent soil appears to be drying out too quickly, it’s best to check the basics first. One of the most common reasons for dehydrated succulent soil is forgetting to water the succulent regularly.
Indoor succulents do best when watered every two to three weeks or when the soil has totally dried out. Consider diarizing your succulent’s water schedule, putting a reminder on your phone, and see if this helps.
Consider an Irrigation System for When You Are Away
Succulents usually don’t need to be watered if you’re away on vacation for a week or two.
However, if you plan on being away from home for an extended period (i.e., longer than three weeks), consider an irrigation system that you can buy from your local hardware or DIY store.
You can then set the irrigation system to water your succulents at the correct time without having to worry. This is also an excellent option for folks who are prone to forget watering.
Move It to an Area With More Shade
Succulents love a bit of sun and dry air. However, even in the desert, they don’t grow completely in the sun and like partial shade best.
When succulent soil dries out too fast, it’s often because the plant is in an area that’s too sunny. Try moving your succulent into an area that offers plenty of light but also a bit of protection from direct sunlight (which can burn the leaves).
Check the Humidity in the Surrounding Air
Many homes these days are climate controlled, making the air inside dry, regardless of the temperature.
If you keep your succulents indoors, it could be that the dry interior air is drying it out. A solution could be to move it onto a porch or to your yard, where the air may be more humid.
What Can I Do if I Over-Water My Succulent?
Your succulent is likely overwatered if:
- The leaves have turned black. Black leaves typically indicate that the plant is rotting due to too much water. The rot usually starts in the roots, working its way up to the stem and then the leaves.
- The succulent leaves are falling off. This often happens because they’re too swollen with water to remain on the plant.
- The leaves look translucent and feel squishy and soft. Excessive water causes the leaves to take on a see-through appearance, and they’ll feel mushy because the cells have absorbed too much water.
If your succulent has been overwatered, you should remove it from the saturated soil as soon as possible. Replant the succulent in new, completely dry soil and leave it there for up to a week. Make sure that it’s in a well-ventilated place that has plenty of indirect sunlight.
After about a week, the roots will have dried out nicely, and you can consider resuming your watering schedule after a further week.
How Often Should I Water My Succulent?
It’s best to water your succulent whenever the soil has dried out completely. This normally happens every two to three weeks, but you should check the dryness of the soil before watering.
Instead of checking the soil to see if it has dried out, you can monitor the succulent and water it when it shows the first signs of dehydration.
Signs Your Succulent Doesn’t Have Enough Water
You probably already know that it’s not a good idea to water your succulents too often and that the “soak and dry” method is best.
Here are a few clear signs if your succulent isn’t getting enough water:
- Your succulent leaves are losing their color and are beginning to look brown. Dry leaves lose their chlorophyll (the pigment that gives them a green color), and, if the leaves are also sunburned, it can exacerbate the brown color.
- The leaves look flat, not firm, and are slightly wrinkled. The first place a succulent loses water from is the leaves, as this is where it stores excess water. During dehydration, it’ll use the stored water to keep the other, more vital parts alive, making the leaves lose their plum shape.
- The succulent leaves are no longer standing upright and are drooping to the side. When the succulent leaves have enough water, they’re plump and stand upright, but water loss causes them to become floppy.
As soon as you notice any of these critical signs, soak the soil in water. This should help revive the succulent, but it’ll unfortunately be too late if it has died.
Signs Your Succulent Soil Is Drying Too Fast
Most people would agree that it’s easier to over-water than under-water a succulent. However, succulent soil that’s too dry can also cause problems.
Below are some common signs that your succulent soil is drying too fast:
- Your succulent leaves look dry, dead, or shriveled. These are surefire signs of dehydration.
- The soil is dry after one to two days. This indicates that it’s draining too fast.
- The leaves appear to have lost their plumpness. The standard shape of a succulent leaf is plump and round due to the water content, and flat leaves show that the plant is dehydrated.
- The soil looks light in color and hard. When you monitor your succulent’s soil appearance, you’ll notice that it’s darker and softer when it’s wet, but dry, hard, and cracked when too dry.
- A bamboo stick shows that it has no water. After being in the soil for a few days, when you remove the bamboo stick, it’ll indicate if the soil still has moisture and vice versa.
- It feels dry. The soil is dry when you place a finger about one to two inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) into the soil in the pot.
- The soil is loose and doesn’t keep its shape. Wet soil grains stick to each other, and you can form a shape with it, but dry soil looks flaky and crumbles easily.
Other Ways To Keep Your Succulents Healthy
Feed Your Succulents
Succulents don’t need much maintenance, but giving them some fertilizer once a year in the spring can work wonders. This promotes the growth of new leaves and can replace lost nutrients during the dormant period.
Choose the Water Carefully
A succulent’s natural habitat is the desert, and it gets most of its moisture from rainwater.
Rainwater is the most suitable kind of water for succulents as it’s at the optimal pH for succulents (i.e. between 6.0 and 6.5). This means that succulents prefer more acidic water.
Using the wrong type of water can cause problems with your succulent, and tap water isn’t always the best option.
When tap water is too alkaline, it turns the soil alkaline. This can result in white spots appearing on the succulent leaves. Another tell-tale sign of water that’s too alkaline is a fine, white build-up on the soil.
Most tap water has been treated with fluoride and chlorine which, while not harmful to succulents, doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits.
If your tap water is too hard (i.e. it contains high levels of minerals, like magnesium and calcium), it can damage the cell walls in the leaves.
The best option is to collect rainwater for your succulents. This can be a long and frustrating process but can be worth it in the end.
Alternatively, you could use distilled water, but be sure to measure the pH beforehand. This can be done with a pH meter, which is widely available at most DIY stores.
If the pH is too alkaline, you can add a few citric acid crystals or some white vinegar to make it more acidic.
Gently Clean Your Succulents
You don’t need to clean your succulents every week, or even monthly, but dusting or cleaning them when they look dirty can help.
When dust accumulates on succulent leaves, it can prevent healthy growth. You can clean your succulents gently with a soft cloth or paintbrush to remove build-up.
Succulent soil takes around two to three weeks to dry, but this depends on the drainage conditions, the soil type, climate, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor plant, how much water you use, the pot size, and if the plant is in the dormant period.
It’s best to water your succulents at the first signs of dehydration as succulents love the “soak and dry method”. Timewise, this translates to every two to three weeks.
As long as you monitor the soil and plant for signs of dehydration, overwatering, and sunburn, you should have a healthy succulent for a long time.