Watering Succulents 101: Bottom Watering FAQ

by Tanya Cash

If you've come into the shop to talk about your succulents, you've likely heard us talk about our preferred method of watering succulent plants. We prefer to bottom water all our succulents and use a soak and dry method. Read more below and let us know what additional questions you have!

Bottom Watering

Bottom watering is easy! Fill up any bowl or tray with lukewarm water and place your succulent in the water so it can drink up from the holes in the bottom of the pot. This mimics the natural habitat of succulent plants, which have evolved to life in environments that have periods of drought followed by monsoon rainfall. Succulent roots soak up as much water as possible when it is available. The leaves then store this water to use over time during periods of drought. When your succulent leaves are nice and plump, they are full of water and additional water is not needed or recommended. When your succulent leaves seem slightly deflated, look wrinkly, or are softer to the touch, they have used up their water stores and they are ready for another good soak.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions when we discuss bottom watering:

Q. How much water should I use? A: It really doesn't matter! The volume of water isn't especially important. We recommend using an amount that will fill up whatever vessel you are using about 50% that way you don't have to worry about spilling. If your succulent quickly drinks up all the water you've added to your bowl, just add more. The plant roots will continue to soak up water until they are full.

Q. How long should it take?  A: This is dependent upon many factors, such as the size of your plant, the size of the holes in the pot, how long it has been in the current pot, and the general conditions where the plant lives. Generally, succulents will soak up water quite quickly compared to other plant varieties. If the surface of the soil becomes wet to the touch, the soil is totally saturated and it can now be removed. Occasionally, the surface of the soil won't get wet, but if the weight of the pot has significantly increased, then your plant is ready to go.

Q. How often should I water? This is also dependent upon many factors and will differ from species to species and even two of the exact same plants when kept in different environments will have a difference in watering frequencies. Rather than watering on a schedule, we prefer to look for signs that your succulent has used up all the water being stored in the leaves before watering. If the leaves feel slightly deflated, look wrinkly, or are softer to the touch then the plant is likely ready to be bottom watered once again. This can be a few weeks, or a month, or even longer depending upon the plant's current water usage.

Q. Isn't more water always better? No! Too much of a good thing is still too much. Because succulent plants have evolved to live through periods of drought, under-watering is always preferred to over-watering. 

Q. Can I mist my succulents? No. Misting your succulents will be detrimental to the health of your plant. Succulents live in dry air environments and are not used to water pooling or sitting on their leaves. Outdoor succulents can withstand heavy rainfall because air currents will dry the rainwater and keep it from sitting on the leaves. Indoors there is generally not enough air circulation to provide these drying effects and wet leaves indoors often will result in a rotting plant. 

Q. My pot doesn't have holes, what should I do? We always recommend planting into pots with drainage holes. In fact, if you have pots without holes, bring them into the store and we can drill holes for you! We also understand that there are certain circumstances in which you won't want to use a vessel with drainage. In those cases, you can water your succulent from the top, but the utmost care must be taken to never over-water your plant.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and let us know what additional questions we can answer when it comes to watering your succulents.

Cheers!

Tanya


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