Cacti and succulents have a wonderful ability to store and conserve water. In the desert this really comes in handy. Damage from under-watering is easily correctable. Damage from over-watering happens rapidly and typically results in death of the plant. When in doubt, water conservatively! Remember deep watering infrequent is preferred over frequent shallow watering.
Symptoms of Under-watering
Cactus skin begins to wrinkle due to shrinkage of the water-storing tissue. The leaves on Agaves will bend downward due to a drop in water pressure inside the leaf. Remedy by soaking the ground about one foot down and outward. Cactus and succulent roots are shallow but widespread.
Symptoms of Over-watering
Yellowing, cracking, swelling and rotting are key signs of over-watering a cactus or succulent. Remedy by letting them dry out and then following the proper watering guidelines. Damage by over-watering happens very rapidly and is often irreversible.
Frequency of Watering
As a general rule, water cactus and succulents twice a month when the weather is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). Please remember to take rain into consideration. During monsoon, the humidity is up and there is typically more rain. If so, reduce watering to once per month. During the winter, the ground does not dry out nearly as quickly as it does in the summer. Watering should be reduced to once a month or not at all depending on rainfall. It is always important to let the soil dry out between watering.
Cacti and Succulents in Pots
Potted cacti and succulents will need more water than if planted in the ground. Make sure all potted cacti and succulents are planted in pots with drainage holes and in sandy well draining soil. This will help prevent over-watering. They should be watered once to twice weekly during the months over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). Make sure soil is allowed to dry out between watering. During cooler months reduce watering accordingly. Remember, a good rule of thumb is to let the soil dry out between watering. In most cases you can correct damage due to under-watering. Over-watering typically kills the plant!
- Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
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