watering can for succulents

Can Succulents Die From Lack of Water or Underwatering?(2021)

Succulents are extremely beginner-friendly and “easy to care for” plants, as they can do great on their own if the basic needs are taken care of. As succulents are regarded as xerophytes i.e, plants of desert prone areas, their watering needs is not the same as other plants. So…

Can succulents die from lack of water or underwatering? Succulents even though are quite resistant to drought can go into a dormant phase due to underwatering for a prolonged period of time & eventually dies after a certain time.

Are you meant to water succulents?

Water is the basis for life for all living plants. No plant can survive for long without water. So yes you must water succulents otherwise they will die. However their watering needs are different than other plants, but they cannot survive without water.
Water has not just one but multiple roles in the proper growth of the succulents.

Importance of  Water for succulents

  • Water helps in photosynthesis and provides the plants with the necessary energy required for cell enlargement which ultimately facilitates cell division that helps the plant to grow (source).
  • Most plants absorb water mainly through the roots which allow them to absorb the minerals and other nutrients present in the soil along with the water. Succulents could not have absorbed these elements from the soil which are vital for their growth on their own (source).
  • Also, Deep watering helps in better growth of the succulent roots. The roots need to go deeper into the soil in search of water which helps in their better development and allows the plant to have a stronger base. The root health is directly related to the upper plant heath, if the roots are happy, the succulent will also be healthy.

But Arent Succulents Drought Tolerant?

Succulents normally grow in drought prones areas as a result of which they have evolved themselves to adapt to the scarcity of water. However, this doesn’t mean they dont need any water to grow. All photosynthetic plants need water to survive.

  • The fact that they are quite drought-tolerant signifies the fact that they can store and manage water much efficiently than other plants, which further helps them to put up with the water scarcity longer in comparison with other plants.

Their elaborate water extraction & storage system allows them to make sure they extract every last drop of water available to them and then use the water reserve calculatingly in such a way that will facilitate them to last for weeks.

The water need of the succulents depends hugely on whether they are placed indoors or outdoors and on the current weather conditions. They will have greater watering needs in hotter months than in the winter. Also, Outdoor succulents get greater sunlight exposure than indoor ones so they dry up faster as well.

Prominent signs that Succulents are Suffering from Lack of water or Underwatering

Succulents have wide storage tissues in their leaves and stems which allows them to store water. When they are healthy and have their watering needs met, the leaves will be pulpy and vibrant.

When lack of water becomes an issue, the succulents will have the following symptoms:

  • Prominent Shriveling of the leaves:  When the watering needs are not met, shriveling leaves will be a common sight. The plant will look dried out from inside out and will start to droop.
  • The occurrence of dead leaves in the bottom of the stem base: As the dryness gets severe the bottom leaves will be the first to get affected. They will end up looking wrinkly and will be dead pretty soon.
  • The succulent will start to look sick: When the succulent will face extreme water dryness it will be pretty convenient. The succulent will look ill and leaves will fall off easily to touch. The loss of water in the storage tissues will show as the plant will lose its firmness.
  • Enhancement in falling of plant parts: As the plant is facing water shortage it will start getting rid of the extra parts and hence will start shedding the leaves and branches.

The good news is, most succulents can easily overcome the “lack of watering” symptoms as soon as they start getting watered correctly and reverses back to being healthy pretty quickly provided the damage was not acute(If you haven’t watered it for months!).

How Long can Succulents go without water?

There is no right answer to this. However, most succulents(apart from a few cactuses) start showing signs of underwatering if they are not being watered for 2 weeks to 3 weeks (in hotter months).

  • The watering need of the succulents decreases extensively during the colder months so they can put up a lack of water for about 1-2 months before showing acute signs of underwatering.

The matured plants can put up with underwatering in a much better way than younger ones. If you wanna read more on this, then I have got a whole post on this, you can read it here.

How to make sure your succulents are never underwatered

The best way to make sure that your succulents are never underwatered is by watering them exactly when they need.

  • Many people start sticking to a watering schedule to make sure their succulents never face any water scarcity which can be pretty troublesome as you will be toying with the chances of overwatering the plant.

Overwatering succulents are the most common reason why succulents are killed and its damage is much more devastating than underwatering.

So you should only water them when they need it. How do you figure that out? Well by examining the soil.

When the potting soil becomes dry you can go on to water your succulents. How long it will take for the soil to be dry depends upon a lot of factors including the soil composition, the current weather, and how much sun the succulent gets.

So there are many ways you can determine when the soil becomes dry however using a soil moisture meter is a more systematic approach that eliminates guesswork totally. It will tell you about the amount of moisture present in the soil and this will help you to make a decision easily.

Also Read: 5 Simple Ways To Determine Soil Dryness in Succulents

How to Water your succulents the right way

Make sure you are using the right kind of water to water your succulents

Tap water consists of a lot of unnecessary chemicals and minerals that can end up harming the plant in the long run. So in order to be safe, you should use rainwater or water from RO filters. If you are more into this topic then refer to:

Dont Water Your Plants at any time you wish!

Succulents are superbly touchy about wetness in the soil. So you should always try watering early in the morning or before the evening at least so that they get enough time to get somewhat dry.

It is important to make sure that they dont sit in totally moist and water-logged soil for the night. Watering anytime later in the evening or night can be a dangerous practice that may do more harm than good to the plant’s health.

Also Read: When Should Succulents be Watered? (At What Time of the Day)

When Watering Dont Hold Back

In the drought-prone areas when it rains it pours. So when watering dont holdback, drench them in water, and keep on watering until you see water coming out of drainage holes.

Only wetting the topsoil will lead to weaker root growth as they will get the required water in the upper layer and dont need to go deep.

Deep watering will help in better root development which will further help the succulent to be healthy.


Succulents like all green plants need water to survive. There is no other way around this. However, they are quite drought-tolerant which helps them to adjust to underwatering much conveniently than other plants.

But this is something which should never be the case as they need to be watered when they are thirsty and must not be kept waiting especially if you want them, to be healthy and happy.

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