How To Check Soil Moisture For Succulents Cactus | When to Water

Succulents and Cactus are native to dry, semi-desert areas. These dry environment plants do not like to sit on wet soil/growing medium for longer.

Succulents’ soil moisture level is crucial. It is a best practice to check the soil’s wetness before water. Too much water causes succulent root rot or underwatered succulent signs are shriveled leaves, leaves turn brown and start dying bottom leaves and ultimately plant can die.

Therefore you can understand how much important it is to check soil moisture in succulent pots. Depending on the atmosphere temperature, water evaporation is different. Also, some of the cactus and succulent soil mixes contain water-repellent materials like peat moss. These organic materials keep moisture for a more extended period. That is why I always recommend 60% of inorganic components and 40% or less organic ingredients contain potting soil for succulents and cactus.

Check succulents soil moisture level
Soil moisture sensor on Zeebra succulent pot.

There are several options to check succulents soil dry or wet. In this post, I will show two options that you can easily apply in your home without much effort.

When to Water Succulents and Cactus.

The biggest challenge that you face watering cactus and succulents is when to water. That is a tuff question. When to water succulents and cactus depends on the soil’s wetness. We cannot find an exact watering schedule. All of it depends on the soil moisture.

See also  How to Propagate Succulents Leaves, Division, Cuttings Methods

When the succulent and cacti soil dries several inches deeper, that is the best time to water. It applies to indoor and outdoor cacti and succulents.


How do you check soil moisture in succulents and Cacti?

The most frequently asked question is, how do you check soil moisture in succulents? Because the majority of new gardeners succulents and cactus root rot or stem rot due to incorrect watering practice. This means their plants kept longer time on wet soil.

There are several options to check the potted plant soil water level. Some of them are basic tests that everyone can follow. With these easy follow simple methods, you can know when a succulent needs water.


Check soil moisture using a stick.

Succulent soil moisture test sticks

This is a very basic and straightforward method to check if succulent soil is dry or wet. First, you have to find a clean and dry stick. It can be craft Sticks, BBQ stick or ice cream stick, chopstick or skewers Sticks.

  • Dig the stick a few inches deeper soil. It is recommended to dig the stick to the bottom of the pot. That method gives a clear picture of the bottom of the soil moisture level.
  • Wait for 2 minutes.
  • Pull the stick and check it has moisture or any mud.

You can see that the below image stick contains muds, which means that soil has enough moisture to plant.

Check Soil Moisture For Succulents Cactus

Watering should be done only if at least 1/4 of the stick is not moist. If the stick contains mud, then it indicates that there is a high moisture level.

See also  Select Best Succulent Pots? | Choose Right Size, Material

When watering the succulents, never spray to leaves and stem. Directly water to the soil. You can read more about how to water succulents and cactus.


Check Soil wetness using a moisture meter.

This test is more reliable than the dry stick-based method. In this method, I use a succulent soil moisture meter. We can find different types of soil moisture sensors. The sensor that I use shows succulent soil wet if the moisture level below 15%. First, carefully read the user manual.

succulents soil moisture meter

Some of the succulents moisture meters can check the soil nutrient, pH level, light. With these moisture sensors, you can determine when succulent needs water.

Like I mentioned earlier, when watering cactus and succulents, water directly to the soil. If the water remains on leaves and stems, it can rot the plant. You can read more about how to water cactus and succulents.


Identify surface soil dryness.

This method has lower accuracy than the above two methods. Because in this method, we only monitor surface soil wet. We cannot find the potted plant subsoil moisture level. Therefore, it does not give a clear picture about the around the root bowl soil.

In this test, you can check if succulent soil is dry closely check the surface soil. Furthermore, using a small stick, dig a few inches deeper soil and check bottom potting mix dry or wet.



After applying the above tests, you can determine when water succulents and cacti. It will help to keep the plants healthy.

When the soil moisture attached to the root bowl dries up, watering can save the plant from root rot. I always water only after the topsoil has completely dried and the soil connected to the root bowl is very low in moisture. For this, I use a moisture sensor.

See also  How to Care For Succulents In Winter

Even in hot summer or freezing winter, you have to follow one of the preferred methods before applying water. You can read more about how to water cactus and succulents.

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