Yes, succulents need to be planted in soil that has great drainage or in a container or pot that has drainage holes at the bottom.
In their natural habitat, succulents grow in sandy soil. It allows water to drain quickly and does not soak the plant’s roots. It also rains very little in their natural habitats, so these plants have to be able to store plenty of water in their bodies and leaves. They are not built to have perpetually wet soil around their roots. Exposing their roots to moisture for extended periods of time will lead to root rot as well as bacterial or fungal problems that can ultimately affect the entire plant, often leading to death. Providing good drainage for succulents is very easy and will help the plants survive much longer.
Why is it important to use a pot with a drainage hole?
It is possible to use a pot without a drainage hole for your succulents, but you have to always be precise about watering because it is very easy to overwater.
If you are a beginner, it is better to use pots with drainage holes because you are most likely still trying to learn how to properly water your plants. If the pots have drainage holes, it is almost impossible to overwater your plants unless you do it multiple times a week.
A pot with drainage holes allows any excess water to flow out instead of settling in the soil and making your plant’s roots susceptible to root rot.
If your pots do not have holes, ask someone who knows how to handle a drill to make holes at the bottom of your pots. If you are using a glass container, you can place a layer of pebbles or charcoal at the very bottom to help drain and absorb the excess water.
Succulents prefer to be planted in ceramic or terracotta pots because they are porous and allow water to evaporate faster than glass or plastic pots.
What soil should I use for better drainage?
As mentioned above, succulent roots will rot if they are allowed to sit in wet soil for too long. Aside from using a pot with drainage holes, planting your succulents in fast draining soil is also beneficial. Succulents predominantly grow in arid deserts so they are used to living on sandy soil. Simulating this in your garden will be greatly appreciated by your succulents.
There is commercially available cactus soil mix that you can use, or you can add sand, perlite, or pumice for even more efficient draining. These added components will make the soil more airy and porous so water drains through quickly but the roots also have access to all the oxygen they need.
Always check the soil before watering.
Succulent water needs differ depending on the type of succulent you have. Some plants like to be watered more than others. No matter what succulent you might have, the easiest way to determine whether it needs to be watered again is by touching the soil in the pot. If it looks dry, touch it with your finger, and burrow it for a few inches if you need to. If the top inch of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Always remember that it is better to underwater succulents than it is to overwater succulents. Underwatering is easy to remedy, but an overwatered succulent is often too far gone to save by the time symptoms have appeared.
You can start by watering your succulent every two weeks. Observe, and then adjust accordingly. If you think two weeks is too long between waterings, try doing it every 12 days and observe again. Keep doing this until you figure out the correct schedule for your plants.
What if my succulents get caught in the rain?
Succulents naturally grow in places with little to no rainfall. If you live in an area that has more than 20 inches of rain in a year, you should move your potted succulents under your house’s eaves. You can place large umbrellas in concrete bases around your garden so the plants do not get soaked with water. Make sure that water runoff does not go towards your garden beds and potted plants. If you have plants in low-lying areas, it is best to replant them elsewhere to avoid puddles. You can also topdress the soil around the plants with pumice to deal with the excess moisture.
Is there a specific type of water I should use for succulents?
The best water for most succulents, and plants in general, is rain water or distilled water. Tap water often contains calcium or magnesium that builds up in the soil and appears on the plant’s leaves as white dots. During the rainy season, collect rainwater in large containers so you can use it throughout the rest of the year.
Tips for watering succulents
- Do not use spray bottles when watering succulents because this will just wet the plant’s leaves. Succulents absorb water through their roots in the ground. You should use a small watering can and pour the water directly onto the soil at the base of your plant.
- Do not water the leaves on top of the plant. If it is left for too long, it can cause the leaves to rot.
- Do not water your succulents when it rains or when the weather is too hot.
- Do not water during the afternoon; the best time to water your plants is in the early morning.
- Use rainwater, distilled water, or filtered water on your succulents.
Yes, succulents need drainage in the form of well-draining soil and a container that has drainage holes at the bottom. Good drainage is important for succulents because when their roots are left to soak in wet soil for too long, they can develop root rot and become susceptible to bacterial and fungal problems. All these conditions can affect the rest of the plant over time and even lead to death.
A strict watering schedule should be followed so you do not overwater your plants. As long as you stick to it, you should have no problem keeping your succulents healthy and happy.
Image: istockphoto.com / OlgaMiltsova