Succulents truly are easy-care plants, but if there’s one thing that can make the difference between a harmonious plant relationship and certain doom, it’s watering.
First of all, a suggestion: BACK AWAY FROM THE WATERING CAN. Especially if your succulents are in a non-draining container (basically all of the cute containers are non-draining, of course), you want to aim for less water at the start. Soaking the soil when there’s no escape for the water is basically a fast-pass to succulent mush. If the soil doesn’t dry within a few days, the leaves start absorbing too much water and begin to look translucent (sign of the end times #1). After that, you may start to notice the stem or top leaves turning black (sign of the end times #2). The final act will be waking to a pile of succulent mush. It can happen quickly and it’s always super sad when it does. But becoming a plant lady also teaches resilience – we learn from our succulent mush and we pot something else. <– This is the most important part.
In an effort to avoid the experience above, it’s best to err on the side of less water. For small containers, I recommend using a squeeze bottle, Dixie cup, measuring cup or some other device that holds a limited amount of water, lest you are tempted to over-water or accidentally douse your plants with more water than intended. Eyeball the container. If it looks like it would hold two cups of water, start by adding one cup and see how your plant does. I’d aim for watering this way about every two weeks. If you start to notice yellowing or translucent leaves, extend the time between watering. If you notice the leaves wrinkling up a bit, that’s a sign they are a bit parched, so you could safely bump up your watering frequency.
In my experience, most varieties of succulents tolerate under watering quite well, so you have some wiggle room if you are a forgetful plant owner. However, some thin-leaved succulents, particularly those with needle-type leaves, can shrivel up – without much notice – from under watering. If you happen to really love this type of succulent, just water it more often, or if it’s in a mixed arrangement, a squeeze bottle works great for aiming water at particular plants. But if you find a shriveled succulent carcass one day, know that it just wasn’t meant to be.
The trick is to find plants that are compatible with your ownership style – keep at it!
If you have a container with a drainage hole, and particularly if you have a terra cotta pot, I would go ahead and run water over the entire container in the sink to give the soil a good soaking, and return it to its sunny location. The soil should dry out completely between waterings, so depending on the soil depth and time of year (hot summer sun = fast-drying soil), you may be watering your container anywhere from every one to three weeks.