succulents sitting in pots

5 Simple Ways To Determine Soil Dryness in Succulents

The secret of growing stunning succulents is nothing but providing them with ample indirect sunlight, planting them in drainage friendly soil, and making sure they receive the right amount of water at the right time.

How do you know if your succulent is dry? The dryness of the succulent can be assessed by checking the potting soil by finger testing, a moisture meter, or pickup testing. The succulent can also show signs of dryness by wilting foliage of the leaves, enhancement in the shedding of plant parts & leaf discoloration.

Determination of the right time to water your succulents is a very easy thing to learn which in the long run can have a substantial effect on succulent health.

  • The determination of the right time to water your plants is directly related to the soil moisture level as it will instantly tell you whether you should water the plant now or should wait a few more days.

So without any delay let’s right away jump onto the…

5 Ways You Can Determine the Soil Dryness or Moisture in Succulents

1. Put a Finger on the Drainage holes

If your succulent has got a drainage hole, you can lift the pot and put a finger on the hole to determine the soil dryness!

I came to know about this awesome trick from Cassidy Tuttle.

In case the soil is still wet, the hole will feel a bit damp and not completely dry. So few days after watering if you are in doubt whether to water the succulent or not this can be a really cool trick to serve the purpose!

  • If it feels still wet then wait a few more days to water the succulent. Overwatering the succulent is more dangerous than underwatering.

2. The Classic Finger test

This test is best suited for moderate to larger sized pots.

  • You can simply insert your finger into the topsoil of the potting medium to determine its dryness.

The finger test is something which can be done without any instrument or by going through any kind of hassle. This is the good old process of determining the soil moisture used for centuries by the gardeners.

  • If the topsoil feels dry i.e, even after penetrating 2 inches of the soil, it feels dry, in most cases, it is safe to water the plant. (source). However often times in succulents, the topsoil dries up in a day or two but the lower layers remain moist. So to be 100% sure you need to…

3. Use a Moisture Meter to put out the Guess Work

Using a moisture meter is one of the best decisions you can ever make especially if you love having plants in your home. It is a scientific approach that completely puts guesswork out of the game and in a few seconds lets you decide conclusively whether you should water the plant or not.

  • Using moisture meters becomes more important in the case of succulents as it’s much more vulnerable to overwatering than other tropical plants.
  • In fact, the majority of the succulents die owing to overwatering than underwatering.

If you are serious about growing plants and see yourself growing loads of them in the coming time, this is a small but handy investment you can make that will prevent loads of headaches down the line.

The moisture meter has got probes that pass electricity directly into the soil, hence if the water content in the soil is more, greater electricity will be conducted and it gives an average reading based on that {source}

4. The Pickup test to determine the weight difference!

Again this can seem a simple test but is a very effective one for judging the soil dampness.

Here what you do is,

  • You pick up the pot with the newly planted dry succulent and get a feel of how it feels, its rough weight estimation.
  • After watering the plant properly, if you again pick it up you will find the weight has got heavier as wet soil can enhance the overall weight to a large extent.
  • So the next time you think you should water your succulent you can do a simple pickup test to do a rough estimation of the weight to make a decision whether you should water or not.
  • If it feels slightly heavy then give it a few more days, if it feels light then go ahead and water it.

The downside of this approach is that it is a rough estimation and is totally dependent upon guesswork and memory. Even though most experienced plant growers can easily do this test to determine the watering need accurately, beginner succulents growers can find it tough.

Also if you have multiple succulents indoors it can be hard to remember how all of them feel when dry. However, if you have a weighing machine then it becomes quite easier you can make a note of how much they weigh before watering, and when in doubt simply weigh them to determine whether you should water or not.

5. Check the Soil Dryness with a wooden Skewer or Chopstick

This is really a handy trick that is easy to execute and will save you time. Just take a wooden skewer or chopstick and immerse it deep into the soil(more than 2 inches) and keep it like that for a minute. You can easily determine the water content in the soil by judging the wetness of the chopstick after you put it out.

  • If it’s completely wet and clings a lot of damp soil then you dont need to water at least for a few more days.
  • If the stick is patchily moist, then it shows that even if the top layer has dried up, the lower soil layers are still quite wet. So wait for a day or two and then water.
  • If the chopstick is more or less dry and has almost no soil clinging onto it then it is time for you to water it. You should water the succulent even if the majority of the wooden skewer is dry and there is still a bit of wetness at the lower tip (source).

Always remember with succulents when in doubt do not water. Give it a few more days.


Give the Succulent a basic look

  • See if the topsoil looks wet or dry
  • The Succulent overall is looking vibrant and happy or showing signs of underwatering(wilting and discoloration of the leaves, elevated falling off branches and leaves)

This can seem like a very basic thing to do but sometimes it can be easy to miss. So before doing anything just take a few seconds and look closely at your succulents. You can then move onto the other options.


Determining the soil moisture is the right way to go for determining when to water your succulents. The time it will take for the soil to dry up is not constant throughout the year and is dependent upon the weather along with whether the plant is placed outdoors or indoors and as per the soil mixture recipe.

So it is a great idea to check for signs of soil moisture instead of just sticking with a fixed watering schedule which can do more harm than good especially in the case of indoor succulents.

If you want  to read more posts on Best Watering Practises of Succulents then refer to:

Experimental Watering Myths and Practises of Succulents

If you liked reading this post then leave a comment below to let me know which one of these top 5 Processes of soil moisture determination is your favorite?