Succulents are becoming more trendy in outdoor gardens or as a lovely indoor accent for your home. People enjoy succulents for their versatility, color, beauty, uniqueness and easy care. They’re sturdy plants and don’t require constant watering and attention, making them an attractive option for anyone, even those with a not-so-green thumb.
It’s not necessary for succulents to be watered from the bottom, though many experts bottom water their succulents rather than top water them. Bottom watering can help keep your succulents healthy and thriving. This method is easier than regular watering and preserves the plants’ natural beauty.
In this article, I’ll describe what succulents are, why many gardeners and nurseries use bottom water, the bottom watering method and when and why you should use it for your succulents. Also, you’ll find instructions on how to perform bottom-watering technique so that your succulents are thoroughly and evenly watered.
What Are Succulents?
Succulents are a category of over 10,000 drought-resistant plants, including cacti, with thick, fleshy leaves that can retain water in semi-arid climates with predictable, though infrequent, rainfall.
According to ScienceDirect, the word “succulence” refers to the ability to store a considerable amount of water in living cells that’s redirected to other parts of the plant when needed.
Native to arid locations such as deserts, succulents have evolved to require minimal watering, and they can survive even in droughts. They can do this due to their ability to store water in their roots, stems, and leaves and release it slowly over time in dry weather conditions.
Some succulents’ organs can have a water content of up to 90-95%. Succulents aren’t to be confused with cacti. All cacti fall within the class of succulents; however, not all succulents are cacti.
Succulents don’t require as much maintenance as many other plants, and they can survive in hot, arid conditions because they store water in some of their parts. Since the moisture in succulents is released slowly over time, they’re more likely to stay healthy even during intense periods of drought.
One feature that makes succulents a popular choice is that they’re relatively low-maintenance and require very little upkeep. Although they’re undemanding plants that are easy to care for, they need some watering like all vegetation. Bottom watering is one way to ensure your succulents receive the right amount of water and not too much or too little.
What Is Bottom Watering?
Bottom watering is a technique for watering plants from the bottom up rather than from the top down. This method ensures the water is evenly distributed throughout the plant and helps to make the roots more robust since they’ll be growing downward toward the water.
Some claim that watering from the bottom up is even more effective than top-down watering.
You can utilize bottom watering for any plant, but it’s especially beneficial for succulents.
With the top watering method, pouring water on the succulents may damage their leaves or cause bacteria and fungi to splash onto them. In addition, bottom watering works well if your succulents have become root-bound and have very little soil left for watering.
Should Succulents Be Watered From the Bottom?
Although it’s not the only method of watering succulents, bottom watering can preserve the health and beauty of your plants. It would be best if you used it when the succulents are root-bound or located in hydrophobic soil, which is soil that deflects water when watered with the top-down method.
Why Should You Bottom Water Your Succulents?
Succulents should be bottom watered to keep them healthy and thriving, preserve their natural beauty, and because it’s an easy and effective method of keeping them well-watered. Also, at times top watering is ineffective for keeping succulents moist.
Succulent owners utilize this method of watering from the bottom up for various reasons. Bottom watering helps to keep the leaves healthy and wrinkle- and rot-free and the plant evenly moistened.
There are situations when bottom watering is preferred, such as when your plant is root-bound or hydrophobic. In addition, some people choose bottom watering to maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal and because they say it’s simply less complicated.
Bottom watering ensures that the plant’s roots will grow stronger since they’ll continue to grow down toward the direction of the moisture. With this method, the water is distributed more evenly throughout the soil, and you can be sure that it’ll reach the bottom of the plant’s roots.
For the Health of Your Succulents
In Ashley Glassman YouTube channel, Herbal and Succulent Alchemy, she says that the first reason she bottom waters her succulents is to preserve the health of the plants. She explains several risks of top watering your succulents which would necessitate using the bottom watering option instead.
Some of the situations when bottom watering may be better for your plants are listed below:
To Avoid Damaging the Leaves
Glassman explains that succulents are sensitive to fungi and bacteria in the soil and can’t protect themselves from these organisms. When you water the plants from the top down, the water splashes, transferring fungi and bacteria from the soil onto the leaves. The fungi and bacteria may cause diseases on the leaves over time.
In the summer, when there’s better air circulation and when the soil dries faster, this problem is less likely to occur. It’s also rarer in hot, dry climates. However, the bottom watering method may prevent fungi and bacteria from splashing on the leaves in winter or locales with higher humidity.
Bottom watering isn’t as crucial if you plant the succulents in pure, inorganic, and sandy soil similar to their natural environment. However, many potting soil mixes contain these bacteria and fungi, which can harm plants.
In addition, spraying and misting the succulents can sometimes lead to the rotting of the leaves. Leaf rot often may occur in a more humid climate. Bottom watering is a perfect solution for this problem.
When Planted in Hydrophobic Soil
Glassman also says that with soil mixes that are heavy on peat and other potting soil brands, a hard crust will form on the top layer, which repels the water and causes it to run down the edge of the container and out of the holes at the bottom.
When this happens, the plant itself doesn’t become saturated and well-watered. Bottom watering resolves this problem since this process uniformly distributes the water throughout the plant.
In this instance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you pay attention to your watering frequency, you can avoid this problem in the beginning by not allowing the soil to become hydrophobic. It’s best to water your plants regularly and not allow them to become overly dry and compact to prevent your dirt from becoming hydrophobic.
When the Succulents Are Root-Bound
Over time, your succulents may become root-bound and have very little soil left to absorb the moisture when you top-water them. In a root-bound plant, the roots have generally taken over, and there’s not much soil remaining in the container. When this situation occurs, it’s beneficial to bottom water the plants to get enough moisture to keep them healthy.
For Aesthetic Reasons
You’ll notice a powdery coating on the leaves of some succulents called farina which makes them unique and attractive. The farina also provides the plants with natural sunscreen and protection from the rain.
When succulents are watered from the top down, this coating can be disturbed and altered. For this reason, many people choose to bottom water their succulents to prevent this from happening, keeping the leaves untouched. The bottom watering method helps to preserve their natural appearance and uncommon beauty.
Bottom Watering Is Easier
Ernie Wilkerson of Laura Kay’s Nursery in Mobile, Alabama, says that their nursery chooses to bottom water their succulents because it’s just a less tedious process than watering from the top. He says that often when you purchase succulents, there’s so much soil already in the container that the water will overflow and spill over when watered from the top.
Succulents require less water than many ordinary plants; however, if you overwater them, they’ll die. Finding a healthy balance between too moist and bone dry is crucial to keep your succulents thriving. Wilkerson adds that using the bottom watering method can better control the amount of water given to the plants to keep them healthier.
In addition, some types of succulents, such as the string of pearl or string of dolphin, grow in a tight cluster-like formation. Because of the compactness of the leaves, it may be challenging to determine whether the soil needs watering or not.
With watering from the bottom up, you don’t have the trouble of trying to see whether your soil is moist or dry. Instead, you can be confident that by periodically bottom watering the plants, they are receiving enough water and that you’ve achieved an even distribution throughout.
How To Bottom Water Your Succulents
There are two ways to go about bottom watering your succulents, both of which I’ll explain below. Both methods are straightforward and not time-consuming, and you can use them on succulents or any other type of plant.
Here are the steps on how to water your large size succulents:
- Prepare a bigger bowl or container than your succulent pot. You may choose a deep plastic bowl or another container.
- Fill the bowl or container with water and place the succulent pot in the container so that the water reaches half-full level.
- If your succulent pots have a bottom tray attached, be sure to submerge the entire tray to allow the water to enter through the holes in the bottom of the pot. In addition, if your planter contains drainage rocks, you should make sure the water level is higher than the top of the rocks so the moisture can reach the soil.
- Allow the plant to sit in the water for about 5-10 minutes to allow it to soak up enough water.
- Make sure the plant is sitting up straight in the water before allowing it to soak. You can be sure it’s sufficiently saturated when you observe that the top of the soil is moist.
Here are the steps on how to water your small size succulents:
- Prepare a large tray or basin and add water to about ⅓ full to half the tray. Adding more water will increase the pressure and help the water to reach the top of the soil faster.
- Place your more miniature succulents in the tray and allow them to soak up the water for a few minutes.
- Check moisture by sticking your finger about 2-3 inches (5.08-7.62 cm) into the soil, and if it’s moist, your plant is thoroughly watered.
You should ensure that the water level is kept high enough to exert pressure so the plant absorbs the water faster. Using this method, you can be sure the plant is getting enough water, and the water is evenly distributed throughout the roots and leaves.
How Often Should I Bottom Water My Succulents?
Succulents should be bottom watered once a week during their growing phase. Once the succulents reach dormancy phase, they can be watered less-often. This is an effective regimen to keep them healthy and uniformly watered.
Since they don’t require much water, you should only water them when they’re bone-dry, and they may need more water in the warmer seasons.
A rule of thumb is to water them just enough so they don’t show signs of shriveling or wrinkling.
According to HGTV, four factors affect how often you’ll need to water your succulents. These are:
Season of the Year
Spring and summer, with their abundant sunlight and warm temperatures, are prime growing seasons for succulents.
The succulents absorb water more quickly in the hotter months since they’re busy sprouting new leaves, stems, and blooms. Therefore, the plants will require more frequent watering during these seasons, depending upon the amount of light and the temperature.
In the winter, however, watering becomes much more infrequent. You may only water your succulents once or twice per season since they stop growing during this time. So, relax and enjoy your lovely succulents without the worry about upkeep during the cooler months.
Size of the Container
Simply put, smaller containers require more frequent watering since they dry out more quickly and require rewatering. You’ll need to water your larger potted succulents less often because they contain more soil that retains moisture longer.
Amount of Light
The more your succulents bask in the sunlight, the more often they’ll need to be watered. Outdoor succulents soak up the sunlight, which dries out the soil more quickly. If your containers receive more than ten hours of full sun, they’ll need more water than if they’re indoor succulents.
Amount of Humidity
If you live in cooler or more humid areas of the country, you can hold off on the watering since these conditions help the succulents retain more moisture for longer. On the other hand, hotter, arid climates necessitate watering your succulents more often since they dry out more quickly.
What Seasons to Bottom Water Your Succulents
Ashley Glassman says that bottom watering is beneficial, especially in winter, when there’s less sunlight, killing bacteria and other things that could damage the plants.
In summer, on the other hand, the succulents’ soil dries faster, and there’s better air circulation, so bottom watering isn’t as critical during the warmer seasons. However, it’s an excellent method to achieve deep watering, especially in winter and high humidity.
Although some recommend misting and spraying your succulents in the summer, Glassman says this is usually not a good idea for the long-term health of your plants.
How Much To Bottom Water My Succulents
When bottom watering succulents, it’s best to find a healthy balance between overwatering and underwatering them. A plant that is underwatered can recover more quickly than one that’s overwatered.
You should only water the succulents when they are bone-dry. If the soil is steadily moist, you run the risk of overwatering and causing problems for the plants. If the leaves start to look shriveled or wrinkled, you are underwatering them and should increase the frequency of watering.
If you are unsure how much water to give them, it’s best to give them less than more. Overwatering your succulents can cause stem rot, root rot, and leaf crack, problems which are hard for the plant to recover from.
Bottom watering can help your succulents grow and thrive without a whole lot of effort. It’s an effective way to preserve their health and beauty without damaging their leaves. It’s also the best way to water when they’re root-bound.
Now that you’re familiar with the situations when you should use bottom watering instead of watering from the top down, you’re ready for your succulent garden. Bottom watering is a simple way to ensure that the plants receive all of the water they need without overwatering. It’s an effective means of preserving the health and beauty of your succulents.