Photos of succulents and spray bottles seem quite common. But should you follow suit and mist your succulents?
You should not mist your succulents. Misting your succulents is a bad idea for one main reason – you’ll be severely underwatering your plants. While it’s true that succulents don’t need that much water, misting is close to not watering at all.
That’s because none of that water is going to reach the most important parts – the roots. Last time I checked, leaves don’t absorb water, at least not as efficiently as the roots. And that’s why you target the soil when watering your succulents (or any plant for that matter).
The Problems With Misting
Underwatering is the main problem with misting. But it’s one among a few others that might crop up down the line – powdery mildew and aerial roots.
Here’s a deep dive on each one of these including underwatering.
Misting basically just gets the soil surface and plant wet. That’s hardly enough to get your succulents beaming with life. Remember – the water must reach the roots for it to be of any help to a plant.
If you mist for long enough, you’ll start noticing signs of underwatering like yellow leaves and wrinkled/shriveled foliage. Some leaves might also dry up in extreme cases.
If you see any of these you know what to do (Hint: you have to throw away the spray bottle. Or at least not use it when watering your succulent).
If you’re misting regularly then your succulent’s leaves are going to be in contact with water for a long time. And that’s unusual for these cuties since they grow in dry environments with remarkably low humidity.
So the leaves, just like the roots are adapted to staying dry for the most part.
A deviation from that can lead to powdery mildew, a fungal disease characterized by a white powder on leaves and stems. Sometimes the disease can show up as a gray powder accompanied by black, yellow, or brown growths.
In very severe cases, powdery mildew can actually lead to your plant’s death, so it’s important to step up as soon as you notice any signs.
Treatment usually involves gently tearing off the affected parts and applying a fungicide. Also, be sure to isolate the ailing succulent to prevent further spread in your collection.
This is probably the last thing you’ll want for your succulent – roots growing out of the stem and leaves. Well, it’s not exactly a sign of bad things to come but it doesn’t look very appealing either.
This isn’t only a succulent problem, though. Most plants will develop aerial roots if exposed to high humidity or misting.
Usually, just nipping off the roots will do.
Propagating – the Only Time to Mist Your Succulents
All the bad press on misting succulents aside, it’s not an entirely useless activity as far as nurturing succulents is concerned. That’s if you’re propagating a succulent from leaf cuttings.
The little guys aren’t ready for a soak just yet, so the light-handed watering in the form of misting can be quite helpful.
The Correct Way to Water Succulents
So what should you be doing as opposed to misting? Give your succulent enough water. Of course, that doesn’t mean gabbing the water can every other day.
Succulents prefer mostly dry soils to keep thriving. That’s because they grow in considerably dry parts around the world that don’t get that much rainfall – the rains come just a few times in a month.
Succulents kind of understand this and have various mechanisms in place to survive the dry periods.
As soon as the raindrops hit the ground, the roots are always ready and take in as much water as possible. Some succulents have been known to even grow temporary roots just to increase water intake when the rains come around. This water that the succulents gorge themselves on is what gives them that signature engorged look.
So with a succulent under your care, you want to mimic this rain pattern as closely as possible. Give your plant a good drink – pour the water until it flows out through the drainage hole at the bottom.
Alternatively, you can use a tray/pan filled with water. Just place your succulent in the water, wait until the top is wet, and then remove the plant.
That’ll be enough to serve the plant for the next 1-3 weeks that you wouldn’t be watering it. This is the most ideal period to allow between waterings although it varies depending on the season.
The best way to determine when to water your babies is to stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If you don’t notice any wetness then it’s time.
Other Considerations When Watering Succulents
Besides drenching your succulent every time you water it, you need to have a few other things correct. The above 1-3 weeks allowance between watering sessions will only hold if you actually get these correct.
Let’s check them out.
When thinking of the ideal container for growing a succulent, you have to think in terms of the size, a drainage hole, and the material used to make it.
For the size, it shouldn’t be too big or too small in relation to the succulent itself. Small pots hold a little soil mix which in turn means fewer nutrients and water for your plant. Large containers on the other hand could encourage your succulent to spread its roots way too soon. That’s not desirable if you want some good growth above the soil.
A good pot should be between 1-2 inches larger than the plant.
A drainage hole is an absolute necessity as it allows the extra water to drain out at the bottom. This ensures that the soil doesn’t stay water-logged.
For the material, the two most ideal ones are terracotta and ceramic. These are breathable which ensures the soil mix doesn’t stay wet for longer than it’s necessary.
This is a big part of growing your succulent. And the general rule is that the soil mix you use must be fast-draining. So the regular potting soil isn’t a very good option to go with.
You can grab a commercial cactus/succulent mix specially formulated for succulents. Alternatively, you can make your own well-draining at home if you’re a DIY type of person.
It’s pretty simple – just throw together 3 parts regular potting soil, 2 parts coarse sand, and 1 part perlite (or pumice). That’s it.
The soil mix dries at different rates during different seasons which will of course influence how often to water your succulents. For instance, you’re going to have to water your succulents more often during summers than winters.
In winter when the soil mix dries much slower, you might have to water your succulent just once a month.
You now know that misting your succulents is a bad idea. It deprives your succulent of enough water and might end up causing a few other problems.
So just keep the mister or spray bottle away and drench your succulent every 1-3 weeks depending on the season.
And while at it, remember to have the right container and soil mix. They play a huge role.
Hello! I’m Oscar, a freelance writer from Kenya. Among other topics, I also love writing about houseplants – succulents to be specific. I prefer them because they’re so much easier to care compared to other plants and they also offer so much variety in terms of shape, size, and color.