How Long Can Succulents Go Without Water?

how long can succulents go without water

Most succulents can go without water for a much longer time than other plants. Indoor succulents can go without water for 1-3 months, outdoor succulents in hot climates can go from 1-3 weeks without water, however, succulents are more in danger of being overwatered by caring owners than being left to dry out completely.

Some species can also go much longer without water than others. These include thick, fleshy plants like Aloe Vera and Agave and of course, desert dwellers such as cacti. We’ll discuss these in more detail later.

So, what factors influence how long succulents can go without water? Let’s have a look at these in more detail.

Environmental Conditions

Where succulents live is a huge factor in determining how long they can go without water. Their growing environment often determines how well they withstand long periods without water. Here are some points to consider.

  1. Succulents that are planted outside in hot, dry climates will generally have to be watered around every 1 – 3 weeks. This is especially true if they’re exposed to direct sunlight and are planted in fast-draining soil.
  2. Succulents that live indoors in pots can easily go 1 – 3 months without being watered. Especially if they’re not exposed to direct sunlight and inside temperatures are cooler. So, if you go away on vacation for a couple of weeks, your plants will still be happy when you get home.
  3. Coastal succulents that are planted around Southern California may not have to be watered at all. This is because the air is usually humid in the morning. This moisture in the air is enough to sustain a lot of succulents without the addition of extra water.

The Maturity and Size of Your Succulents

Large, mature succulents can go much longer without water than their smaller counterparts. This is because they have more capacity to store water in their stems and leaves. Consider this:

  1. Small, immature succulents will need to be watered every 1 – 3 weeks.
  2. Larger, fully-grown succulents may only need to be watered once every 1 – 6 months.

The Seasons and Dormancy

Obviously, in summer, when temperatures are high, succulents will need to be watered more often.   Conversely, in winter, when the plants aren’t actively growing, they’ll need far less water. Some can even survive the entire winter without any additional watering.

Most succulents also go through a dormant stage when they’re not actively growing. This mostly happens during winter but some succulents go dormant during summer as well.

A few factors that influence dormancy are:

  • Decrease in sunlight
  • Change in temperatures
  • Water availability

In saying this though, succulents that are grown indoors in ideal conditions such as enough light and even temperatures, may never become dormant. This is because these ideal conditions will continue to encourage them to grow.

The Color and Composition of the Pots They’re Growing In

You might be surprised that the color and material the pots are made of also has a determining factor on how long these plants can go without water. Consider this:

  • Terracotta and ceramic pots will dry out faster. This is because the terracotta will absorb the moisture from the soil within the pot. This means the soil will dry out faster.
  • Succulents in plastic pots need less frequent watering. The plastic does not absorb moisture so the soil will stay damp for a longer period of time.
  • Succulents in dark-colored pots will need to be watered more often than those in light-colored ones. This is because the darker colors will absorb more heat. This, in turn, means that the soil will dry out faster.

The Types of Succulents

As I mentioned before, the type of succulents you’re growing also has an effect on how long they can go without water. As a general guide, succulents with thick, fleshy leaves and stems can withstand much longer periods of no water.

This is because they have a large capacity to store water to use when they need it. Here’s a small selection of succulents that can go without water for very long periods of time.

Aloe Vera

Most Aloe Vera plants can go without water for 2 – 3 months. If you have a look at their wide, fleshy leaves, you can understand why.

Agave

Agaves are highly-favored as ideal landscaping plants due to their extreme hardiness. Once again, they have thick, fleshy leaves that can store a good amount of water. They can go without being watered for at least 3 – 6 months. But, if grown outside, you may never have to water them if they get the occasional sprinkling of rain.

Portulaca

Portulacas or Moss Roses, are extremely drought-tolerant, hardy plants that can go long periods without water. Especially, if they’re planted outside and get some rain. It’s a good idea though, to give them a light sprinkling in summer around once a week to encourage flowering.

Cacti

We all know that most cacti originate from desert regions. Therefore, a lot of them can go without water for up to 2 years. Their thick stems can store lots of water to get them through extended dry periods. Plus, the waxy covering stops the stored water from evaporating.

Euphorbia

Euphorbia’s are quite interesting as they can go months without water. In their natural environment, they’ll enter a dormant stage and all the stems will shrivel up and look like dead twigs. Then, once the plant receives water, the stems will swell up again and turn green. It’s one of the best examples of plants adapting to their natural environment.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you know when a succulent needs water?

The most common signs that your succulent needs water are that the leaves start to shrivel and feel rubbery to the touch. Also, if the soil is completely dry, it’s definitely time to water.

Should you mist succulents?

No, you should not mist full-grown succulents. The only time you would mist is when you’re propagating new plants. This helps to create a humid environment for root development.

Is tap water OK for succulents?

Tap water is fine depending on the quality of your water. Ideally, you should water plants including succulents with rainwater or even distilled water if you can.

Do succulents do well in rain?

It’s fine to put your succulents out into the rain occasionally. Just make sure that they have time to dry out in between showers.

Final Thoughts

How long succulents can go without water depends on a variety of factors. But, as we know, succulents can survive much longer without water than most other plants.

Generally, succulents subjected to hot, dry conditions outdoors will need to be watered every 1 – 3 weeks. Unless they’re cacti or agaves that may not need hand watering at all.

On the other hand, most succulents grown indoors in moderate-sized pots can easily survive by just being watered once every 2 – 3 weeks. Remember though, it depends on the size of the plant and the temperature in the room.

Young plants in smaller pots will need to be watered more often as the soil will dry out faster. But, as a general rule, you shouldn’t have to water them more than once a week at most.

Just remember, as far as succulents are concerned, underwatering is far better than overwatering. More succulents die from being overwatered than from being neglected as far as watering goes.

Have you neglected to water your succulents for an extended period of time? Please feel free to share your stories with us in the comments below.

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