Succulents are a wide category of plants that have water-storing capabilities that offer them drought-resistance, hence the ability of these plants to grow even in the more arid regions of the planet.
If you own succulents, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t need frequent watering. But just how long can succulents go without water? And how to tell if your succulents are getting too much or too little water?
It’s hard to find an exact number when it comes to the amount of time succulents can go without water, but on average, your succulent may go without water from a couple of weeks to up to a month, depending on the succulent type.
There are many factors that influence a succulent’s drought resistance. To allow you to get a better idea about this, I’m going to analyze some of these factors.
Here’s an overview of the factors that determine the amount of time your succulents can survive without water:
- Indoor vs outdoor growing
- Type of succulent
- Type of soil
Let’s see how these factors affect the frequency with which you’ll need to water your succulents:
Indoors vs Outdoors Growing
The reason why you may need to water your succulents at different intervals if they’re grown outdoors as opposed to being grown indoors has to do with changes in temperature and humidity.
Temperature and humidity are parameters that you cannot control outdoors, and you need to adapt your watering routine to these changes.
Indoors, the situation is a bit better. Both temperature and humidity can be maintained at more stable values and you can manipulate these parameters so that they best suit the needs of your succulents.
Light intensity and evaporation are also more increased outside, so depending on these environmental parameters, you may need to water your succulents more often than if they’re kept inside.
Likewise, seasonal changes also shape how frequently you need to water your succulents.
When it comes to succulents, underwatering is not as problematic as overwatering. Overwatering is much more common, especially that succulents are prone to root rot caused by excess moisture at the roots.
Type of Succulent
Environmental factors aside, another important factor to consider is the type of succulent you have. Succulents are a broad category that includes cacti but also many non-cacti plants that don’t have a high water retaining capacity.
Of all the succulents, cacti have the highest resistance to drought and can go up to one month without water. But non-cacti succulents like aloe vera plants will usually show signs of underwatering and damage if they’re left that long without water.
Therefore, always check the watering requirements of your specific variety because some succulents may need watering more often than others.
Type of Soil
Succulents should have well-aerated soil that has minimal moisture holding capacity and drains fast. This is to prevent the roots from becoming oversaturated with moisture, which will eventually lead to root rot.
In fact, in determining when to water your succulents, the dryness of the soil is a highly reliable parameter. Before watering succulents, always check that the top inch of soil is completely dried out.
When leaving your succulents unattended for a longer period, consider their size too. Smaller succulents that are still growing may need more frequent watering as opposed to an already established plant.
A small succulent is probably planted in a small pot, which dries out more quickly, needing more frequent watering.
Therefore, don’t discount the size of the plant when making watering related arrangements.
Most succulents will go into a dormant phase during the winter. During this time, the plant stops growing and it only needs to be watered sparingly.
Seasonal changes also bring about changes in temperature and humidity, aspects that also shape how often succulents need watering.
Signs Your Succulent is Underwatered
If your succulents are not getting enough water, it will show signs of dehydration such as leaves turning brown, droopiness, leaves becoming wrinkled, shriveling and puckering of the plant.
Succulents are forgiving if you miss a few watering sessions here and there. They may go without water for about 2 weeks before showing symptoms.
Other succulents like cacti will be unaffected by a couple of weeks of drought and may not show any symptoms of underwatering.
Even with visible signs of underwatering, your succulents can bounce back to good health once they’re given a thorough watering.
As I mentioned, overwatering will probably be a much bigger issue, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of overwatering as well.
If you overwater your succulents, you may notice yellowing and then browning of the leaves, softening of leaves and stems (they become mushy), rotting at the base of the plant.
Root rot is often irreversible, so prevention is the best remedy to this issue. Checking the soil every time to see if it’s dry enough to water the plant will be useful in keeping root rot at bay.
You may be able to save some succulents if you transfer them to a fresh pot and remove rotten of otherwise diseased roots.
This may not work if the disease progressed too far along, but it can help if the disease is in its very early stages, and you quickly transfer the plant to a fresh pot and withhold water.
Succulents have adapted to store water in their roots, stem and leaves. The leaves of succulents often have a fleshy, waxy structure that maximizes the plant’s water-holding capacity and minimizes evaporation.
Of all succulents, cacti are the best adapted to growing in arid conditions where access to water is unpredictable and scarce.
That said, not all succulents can go without water for long, especially not as long as cacti do, but a week or two will be fine for most succulents.
While underwatering can be an issue if you’re away for weeks and unable to tend to your plants, a couple of weeks is usually not long enough to irreversibly damage your plant.