Can succulents survive without water?

Watering cacti and other succulents.

Watering cacti and other succulents.

The most frequently asked question in gardening is:
W.ann and how often should i water my cactus.

This problem is not so easy to answer for me either, that is due to the fact that there are too many unknown factors (soil composition, plant size and species, pot size, ambient temperature, etc.).


If you don't want to read for a long time, heed this rule:

Cacti and the other succulents do not want to be permanently moist, but the substrate should be able to dry out again before the next watering.
This is usually the case after 2-3 weeks.
Then pour it thoroughly or pour water into a coaster, then empty out the excess water after about 2 hours.
Who has rainwater should prefer this.

Let's start with a few basic rules.

Better less than more.
Some cactus keepers then come up with the self-made answer
"A cactus never needs water" there is no water in the desert either !!
What lives without water, no living being, just a dried up cactus can do without water in the long run.

It is true that in nature it often does not rain for very long periods of time,

but in the lower parts of the soil it is still moist. Or the differences, cold at night and hot during the day, lead to slight dew formation and since the succulents have a very extensive root system in nature, they can always acquire some water.
That doesn't work in the small pot that is in the apartment, once it has dried out, nothing can be done without our help.

"A cactus only needs very little water."

that is also a partial truth.
If we have a very absorbent substrate, it may be that the earth just gets a little damp and before our cactus gets any of it, the liquid has evaporated again.
It is better to water the succulents vigorously once and then let the substrate dry out again.If you cannot determine whether the soil is already dry, you can easily see how with the help of a wooden stick (toothpick or similar) that is inserted into the soil If the cactus soil is moist, the color of the wood will remain light, if the soil is dry, if the substrate is wet, the wood will turn darker in color.

The composition of the substrate plays an important role in casting,

A porous material will absorb more water and slowly release it to the plant, but if only absorbent material is used, the size of the pores is also important. With large pores (lava, pumice), the water is not held in the pot for too long because the good air exchange also leads to a certain degree of evaporation, this has the advantage that we can still water in cooler weather, so that the substrate does not get wet for too long stay.

But mostly we have a mixture of finer and coarse ingredients

with the addition of humus, in which the moisture stays a little longer.
But for some cacti that we only want to keep in pumice or lava, it is advisable to add some clay / loess / clay mineral to the cactus soil, as the lower porosity means that the water is held a little longer in some places and there is no loss of roots Plant comes. This can also happen if the drought is too long.

Another factor is the location of the cacti.

If they are in the open, we will hardly have to water because the morning dew and the occasional rain provide enough moisture. Strangely enough, the plants hardly rot even during long periods of rain. The air movements on the surface of the pot and the changing temperature play an important role here.
In the greenhouse, prolonged water retention on the plant roots, even or especially at high temperatures, can cause the plants to rot. Why?

Cacti have fine pores (stomatoes) on the upper skin (epidermis).

These pores are closed when the heat is too great to reduce water evaporation. The consequence of this is that with these factors it means that no new water is absorbed because the metabolism is greatly slowed down.
The water stays in the ground for a long time and it can rot even in warm weather.

But if we have high temperature differences between night and day

more water is better implemented by the succulents.

We often have little temperature fluctuations in the room

and it is also advisable to water more sparingly except in a very sunny window, here, of course, these opposites can also occur.

Of course, the time of year also plays a key role in how much we pour.

If we overwinter the cacti in a cool place, we will limit the watering or leave it entirely. At a temperature below 12 degrees we will keep the succulents dry, for example from November to February (exceptions are Setiechinopsis and Notocactus, here it can still be a small sip every 4 weeks). With a room culture, possibly even above a radiator, we have no choice but to water something every 4-5 weeks. This will not exactly promote the formation of flowers, but since there is strong evaporation, we have to counteract this.

It also depends on the type of succulent plant.

Cacti need less water than the "so-called other succulents", as these evaporate more through their leaves and also grow stronger. We can also save ourselves the cool hibernation with the other succulents, because they will flower again without this treatment, but also with these species less watering in winter.

But don't worry, it's not that complicated

As it reads here, our cactus also wants to survive and will give it its own if you just stick to these rules. Most of the time it is enough if you simply water your cactus every 3-4 weeks and you will develop a long friendship with your succulent plant.
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