Proper watering is one of the most important factors in growing a healthy cactus or succulent. Potting mixture, drainage, containers, seasons, and the size of plant all play a factor when considering the best time to water a cactus.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at:

Watering Cacti and Succulents

The big thing to remember on all of these types of plants, whether they’re a smooth surface succulent, or a cactus (which is a form of a succulent) is that the cactus has spines, which are modified leaves. The reduced surface area means they loose less water. However, all of them store water. Because they store water, we want towater them less often. We’ll go long periods of time between watering.

Yes, they grow in desert areas with low rainfall. But it never mists or drizzles in the desert. So you don’t want to water a cactus or succulent lightly. When it rains in the desert, it comes as a flash flood. They’ll get several inches all at once, and then it doesn’t rain again for several months.

So, they take up the water when it’s raining and store it inside, and then use it for long periods of time – until the next rain. The key to watering cactus or succulents is to totally saturate them. Much like the heavy downpour in the desert areas. Then, don’t water them again for a long, long time.

One way to tell if they need watering on a Jade plant is to squeeze the leaf. If it’s hard, that means it’s full of water. Don’t water it. However, if you squeeze it, and it’s soft or spongy, it means that the plant has used up quite a bit of it’s stored water, and it’s time to water again.

The best advice on a cactus is that if it takes three or four weeks to completely dry out all the water in the pot. Remember, it doesn’t evaporate much. Then, wait at least another three or four more weeks before you water again. So, a plant this size may only need to be watered every six to eight weeks, at the most – and even less in the wintertime.

This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, retired Kansas State University Research and Extension, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

Horticulture Newsletter

KSU Horticulture Newsletter

Get more information from our weekly newsletter.

Find Your Local Office

Have questions or need help?

Local Extension Office Map

Click the map to find your Local Extension Office.

YouTube Videos

YouTube Videos

Watch K-State Research and Extension Videos.

Kansas Healthy Yards Tagline