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Durham, NC

Durham, NC


How to *Really* Know if Your Cactus or Succulent Needs Water. Succulent in terracotta planter with two other cacti in planters.
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How to *Really* Know if Your Cacti or Succulents Need Water

· · · 1 comment

In this article, you'll learn the easiest way to *really* know if your cacti or succulents need water and exactly what to do if your plant is dehydrated. 

A lot of the plant blogs out there are very repetitive and have contradictory, or even incorrect, information - you know where the solution for every single sign of distress from a plant is either more water or less water… I can’t.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the content that I want to write for you and your plants. 

I am going to include you in our thought processes when it comes to our greenhouses and our massive indoor plant collections.

This week, I am checking our cacti and succulents for wrinkles!

If a cactus or succulent has wrinkles, it is dehydrated. Full stop. 

Underwatered cactus with wrinkles

But don't make the mistake of drowning them in water!

When humans get dehydrated, it is not a good idea to chug water all at once. We need to slowly introduce hydration through small sips over time. Plants are the same in this sense. 


Here is what you need to know about cacti and succulents before watering them:

1. Never water directly onto a cactus or succulent

Water indoors cannot evaporate as quickly as outdoors and this can damage the plant. Always water into the soil.

2. Cacti and succulents need large grit sandy soil for proper drainage

Big box cacti and succulents in the US are typically sold in compact dust that damages roots over time and does not allow for proper watering. 

If you get a plant in this soil, you should change it BEFORE watering the plant. 

Here is the soil we mix for our plant babies that is perlite free and uses gritty sand and organic ingredients.

3. Cacti and Succulents need different care according to the weather

Warm weather watering

If the weather is warm you can fully saturate the soil 1 time per month or 2 times, if the plant is dehydrated.

Cold Weather Watering

Less sun and heat mean less water for cacti and succulents, even if the heat is blasting.

They use this time to rest for the energy they use in Spring and Summer - so take a cue from them and get your rest in too!

Most cacti and succulents do not need any water in Winter. But do read on if your cacti are wrinkled!

What to do if they are dehydrated when it is cold

First, give them a small amount of water. 1/2 the water you would give them when it is hot out.

Make sure the water is room temp or slightly warm to not shock roots with cold.

And only water once per month. 

Be ready to give your plant more water when it is warm using the directions above.

So now you will always know if your cactus or succulent is dehydrated by being able to check them for wrinkles!

And you’ll know what to do in cold or warm weather when your plants do need a little extra water. Now that you know this, you won’t have to worry about whether your plants need more or less water.

xo, Seana

p.s. Want to learn more about how we take care of plants differently and what we are doing in real time to make sure our plants thrive? Sign up for the Plant Killer Club email list here!