Succulent Q&A: How Long Can Succulents Go Without Water?

how long can succulents go without water

Succulents are popular plants known for their ability to thrive in various environments with minimal care, thanks to their unique adaptations. One of the main reasons for their popularity is their ability to go a relatively long time without water compared to other houseplants. This makes them ideal for people looking for low-maintenance plants or those living in arid regions.

Understanding how long succulents can go without water requires consideration of various factors that influence their water-retention abilities. For example, factors like temperature, humidity, light exposure, and the type of succulent all play a role in determining how often these plants need to be watered. Succulents’ ability to go without water for extended periods is primarily due to their adaptations for water conservation, like their thick, fleshy leaves and shallow root systems.

In other words, there’s not a straightforward answer when it comes to how long succulents can go without water. Instead, there are many factors to consider that will help you figure it out for your particular plant. It’s a good idea to read through the following so you can make an educated choice when leaving your succulent without water for long periods of time.

how long can succulents go without water

Factors Affecting Succulent Water Needs

There are several factors that contribute to how often and how much you should water your succulents. Let’s go over some key aspects to consider, such as the species of succulent, the size of the plant, whether indoors or outdoors, and the climate and seasons.

Succulent Species

Each species of succulent has its own unique characteristics when it comes to water needs. Some species, such as cactus, can store water in their thick stems or leaves for extended periods, allowing them to go longer without water. Others, like certain Echeveria, may require more frequent watering, as they have thinner, less water-retentive leaves.

Size of the Plant

The size of your succulent plays a significant role in its water requirements. Smaller plants typically need less water, as they have fewer leaves and a smaller root system to support them. On the other hand, larger or more mature plants may need more water to sustain their growth. It’s essential to adjust the watering schedule according to the size of your plant.

Indoors or Outdoors

Whether you grow your succulents indoors or outdoors can greatly affect their water requirements. Indoor succulents tend to need less water, mainly due to the more consistent temperatures and humidity levels. On the other hand, outdoor plants are exposed to fluctuating weather conditions and may need more frequent watering, especially in a dry climate or during hot temperatures and dry spells.


Sunlight has a direct impact on how much water a succulent needs. Succulents are adapted to survive in arid environments and have evolved to store water in their leaves, stems, and roots. When succulents are exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods, they lose water through transpiration, which is the process of water evaporating from the leaves and stems. This means that succulents exposed to direct sunlight will require more water than those that are not.

However, it’s important to note that too much water can be harmful to succulents, even those exposed to direct sunlight. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can kill the plant. Therefore, monitoring the soil moisture level is essential, and only water the plant when the soil is completely dry.

Climate and Seasons

Understanding the climate and seasons in which your succulents are growing is essential, as it influences their water needs. In warmer climates or during the summer months, succulents may require more frequent watering due to increased evaporation and transpiration. Conversely, succulents often go dormant in colder climates or during the winter months and require less water. Keep an eye on temperature and humidity levels to help guide your watering schedule.

Adaptations for Water Conservation

Succulents are exceptional plants that have adapted to their arid environments by developing unique features for water conservation. Let’s explore some of their incredible adaptations, such as fleshy leaves and thick stems, shallow root systems, and spines with reduced surface area that allow them to survive with little water. 

Fleshy Succulent Leaves and Thick Stems

One of the most noticeable adaptations of succulents is their strikingly fleshy leaves. These leaves are designed for water storage and can hold a significant amount of moisture, allowing them to survive long periods without rain. Their thick stems also play a vital role in water storage, making succulents highly drought-tolerant and able to weather even the harshest desert conditions.

Shallow Root Systems

Another unique feature of succulents is their shallow root systems. They are specifically designed to take full advantage of the scarce water available in their desert environments. These roots spread out just below the soil’s surface, enabling them to absorb any moisture that may come their way quickly. Additionally, the roots can retract during severe droughts, helping the plant conserve water and survive bone-dry conditions.

Spines and Reduced Surface Area

Many succulents, particularly cacti, are equipped with sharp spines rather than leaves. These spines serve several critical functions, including reducing the plant’s surface area and limiting water loss through the stomata (tiny pores where gas exchange occurs). The spines also provide protection from predators and shade the plant’s surface, reducing water evaporation and enabling them to conserve water even further.

Signs of Overwatering and Underwatering

Symptoms of Overwatering

Succulents are known for their adaptability, but they can be quite sensitive when it comes to overwatering. Overwatered succulents may display a range of symptoms, including:

  • Swollen leaves: Excess water can cause their leaves and tissues to swell up and eventually burst.
  • Yellowing leaves: Overwatered succulents might exhibit yellow, soft, mushy leaves.
  • Black leaves: Leaf discoloration can be a sign of root rot due to overwatering.
  • Dropping leaves: It’s common for leaves to drop off and the stem to rot in an overwatered plant.

To avoid these issues, make sure to let the soil dry out thoroughly before watering your succulents again.

Symptoms of Underwatering

While succulents can survive without water for an extended period, they can still face dehydration if not given enough moisture. Some common symptoms of underwatering include:

  • Shriveling leaves: A succulent that’s underwatered may have shriveled, wrinkled leaves. Over time, these leaves can become dry and crispy[^2^].
  • Thin stems: Underwatered succulents may exhibit thinner stems that appear weak and may not hold the plant’s weight[^2^].

To rehydrate your underwatered succulents, provide them with a consistent watering schedule to maintain the right balance of moisture in their soil.

Watering Techniques and Tips

Watering Schedule

Succulents typically need to be watered every 2-4 weeks, depending on the season and specific variety of the plant. During the summer, you may need to water your succulents every 2-3 weeks, while in winter, you can stretch the intervals to 4-6 weeks. The key is to monitor the soil’s moisture and adjust your watering frequency accordingly.

Soil and Drainage

Using well-draining soil when planting succulents is essential to avoid overwatering and root rot. A mix of cactus soil or perlite and regular potting soil in a 1:1 ratio provides optimal drainage for most succulents. Planting your succulents in a container with a drainage hole is also crucial. This ensures that excess water can escape, preventing the roots from sitting in water and leading to potential issues.

When to Water Succulents During Dormancy

Dormancy is a period when succulents stop actively growing, usually due to lower light levels and temperatures in the winter months. During this time, succulents require less watering to conserve energy. To determine if your succulents are in their dormant phase, check for signs of slowed growth and a drier appearance. When you notice these indicators, reduce your watering frequency accordingly, aiming for roughly 4-6 week intervals.

A good rule of thumb for watering succulents during dormancy is to let the soil dry out completely before adding more water. You can check the soil’s moisture by inserting a finger or wooden skewer into the soil – if it comes out clean, it’s time to water. Always use room temperature water and apply it directly to the top layer of the soil, allowing it to soak through and drain out the bottom.

Following these straightforward tips and adjusting your watering schedule based on your succulents’ needs will promote healthy growth and maintain beautiful, vibrant plants all year round.

Caring for Succulents in Different Environments

Succulents are versatile plants that can thrive in various environments. This section will discuss how to care for them indoors and outdoors.

Indoor Succulent Care

Indoor succulents are perfect for adding a touch of greenery to your home or office. To help them grow healthy and strong, follow these friendly tips:

  • Light: Succulents need about six hours of sunlight every day; place them near a bright window or use artificial lights to meet their requirements. Rotate them occasionally to ensure even light distribution.
  • Water: In general, succulents can go 14-18 days in the summer without water. Water them sparingly when the soil is fully dry during their active growing season. Too much water may cause root rot.
  • Temperature: Maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for your succulents, ideally around 65-85°F (18-29°C). Be cautious of drafts or temperature fluctuations near windows.
  • Humidity: Succulents prefer lower humidity levels than many other indoor plants, so ensure proper air circulation around them.

Outdoor Succulent Care

Outdoor succulents can add beauty to your garden, patio, or balcony. Follow these tips to help them flourish in various weather conditions:

  • Location: Plant your succulents in well-draining soil and in areas where they can receive ample sunlight.
  • Water: Outdoor succulents may require more frequent watering, especially during hot and dry periods, to prevent dehydration. Always allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
  • Temperature: Most succulents can tolerate a wide range of temperatures; however, they might struggle in extreme heat or cold. Move potted succulents indoors or provide protection during extreme weather conditions.
  • Pests: Keep an eye on your outdoor succulents for signs of pests, such as aphids or mealybugs, and treat them promptly with appropriate remedies to maintain their health.

Succulents That Require Less Water

Succulents are known for retaining water and thriving in dry conditions. Different types of succulents require even less water than others, making them an excellent choice for low-maintenance gardening. There are a few types of particularly drought-tolerant succulents.

Echeveria is a popular succulent genus with a wide variety of species. These beautiful rosette-forming plants come in various colors and sizes, making them a perfect addition to any indoor or outdoor garden. Echeverias can go for extended periods without watering, especially during cooler seasons.

Sedum is another versatile group of succulent plants with over 400 species. They’re also known as stonecrop, a name that attests to their hardiness and ability to survive in rocky environments. Sedums are excellent outdoor succulents that can endure long intervals without water, making them ideal for xeriscaping and water-wise gardens.

Sempervivum, commonly known as hens and chicks, is a favorite among succulent enthusiasts. These hardy plants form tight clusters and can withstand harsh conditions, even tolerating light frosts. Sempervivums are low-maintenance plants that can go without enough water for some time, perfect for beginners or those with a busy schedule.

Lithops, also known as living stones, are another fascinating group of succulents native to southern Africa. These small, slow-growing plants have evolved to resemble pebbles to camouflage themselves against predators. Lithops are adapted to survive in extreme conditions and can go for an impressive period without water. However, providing these quirky plants with a well-draining soil mix is essential to prevent rot.

What Is the Best Way to Water a Succulent?

The best way to water a succulent is to use the “soak and dry” method. This method thoroughly saturates the soil with water and then allows it to dry out completely before watering again. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Water the succulent until the soil is completely saturated. You can do this by pouring water slowly and evenly over the soil until it drains out of the pot’s bottom.
  2. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Succulents prefer to be slightly underwatered than overwatered, so it’s important to let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Depending on the humidity and temperature, this can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more.
  3. Water less frequently during the winter months. Succulents go through a period of dormancy during the winter, and they require less water during this time. Depending on the conditions, you can reduce the frequency of watering to once every two to three weeks or even less.
  4. Avoid getting water on the leaves. Succulents are prone to rotting if they get too much water on their leaves. To prevent this, water the soil directly and avoid getting water on the leaves or stem.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your succulent gets the right amount of water and stays healthy and happy.

Succulents Are Remarkable, Low-Maintenance Plants

Succulents are truly remarkable plants, capable of thriving even in less-than-ideal conditions. Each species has its unique ability to withstand varying periods without water, ranging from a couple of weeks to even months. These low-maintenance plants add aesthetic value to your indoor or outdoor spaces and demonstrate incredible resilience.

Providing the right amount of sunlight plays a crucial role in their growth. Ensure that you place succulents in well-lit areas, either indoors near a windowsill or outdoors, where they can bask in sunlight. This helps the plants absorb the energy needed to grow and remain healthy.

It’s important to understand that planting your succulents in the appropriate environment significantly impacts how long they can go without water. Factors such as the plant’s container size, weather, and age will influence its ability to store and use water efficiently. For instance, when planting indoors, you might need to water them more frequently, whereas outdoor succulents might withstand longer periods without water due to varying outdoor conditions.

Succulents are versatile, low-maintenance plants that can adapt to a wide range of growing conditions. As long as you provide the right amount of sunlight and pay attention to their specific growth requirements, these resilient plants will continue to thrive and brighten up any space. So go ahead and add some of these amazing plants to your collection, and enjoy the pleasure of nurturing such unique and hardy species!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do succulents last without watering?

Succulents can generally survive without water for 14-18 days during the summer before showing any prominent symptoms of dehydration. In cooler conditions or when grown indoors, they may last even longer without needing a drink, sometimes up to 1-3 months.

What is the survival time for succulent cuttings?

Succulent cuttings can survive for quite some time without water, depending on their species and specific conditions. It’s common for cuttings to thrive without water for at least 7-10 days, allowing them to callus and develop roots. Some types can even last up to a few weeks before needing to be watered.

How long can indoor cacti go without water?

Indoor cacti can generally go without water for longer periods than other succulents. In general, they can survive for 1-3 months without water, especially in cooler climates or during their dormant periods when they don’t need as much hydration.

Can succulents withstand drought?

Succulents are well-adapted to survive drought conditions, thanks to their ability to store water in their thick leaves, stems, and roots. This water storage allows them to survive for extended periods without water, making them perfect plants for low-water environments.

How often should I water succulents?

The frequency of watering succulents depends on factors such as the environment, season, and specific succulent species. In general, you should water your succulents every 2-3 weeks during the summer and every 4-6 weeks during the winter when they are dormant and require less hydration.

How long can snake plants survive without water?

Snake plants, also known as Sansevierias, are hardy succulents that can survive without water for longer stretches than many other succulents. They can survive without water for around 4-6 weeks in ideal conditions. However, it is always better to err on the side of caution and water your snake plants before they start to show signs of dehydration.

Want to learn more about succulents? We have everything you need to know about succulent growth rate.