Signs of Underwatered Succulents and How to Revive Them

Succulents are undoubtedly some of the easiest plants to grow as they’re hardy and low-maintenance. So, it might surprise you to learn that your succulents can become dehydrated!

If you notice the succulent leaves wrinkling or the desert plant bending, then your succulent probably needs more water than you’re giving it. Other signs of an underwatered succulent include too-dry soil, dead or dehydrated roots, weak stems, and the lack of flowers.

Don’t worry though—in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about underwatered succulents and how to treat your dehydrated plant. Let’s dive in!

How to Know If Your Succulents Are Underwatered

You might forget to water your succulents for several weeks. Some plants might survive this, while others can become severely dehydrated.

Here are some signs to help you spot an underwatered succulent:

Dry Soil

Dry cracked soil

The first way you can spot underwatered succulents is pretty straightforward. If the soil is dry to the touch, it probably means the plant needs watering.

In fact, succulents need the soil to be somewhat moist. That’s why once the top layer of the soil dries, it’s time to water your plant again.

Wrinkled Leaves

Succulents react to dehydration in many ways. But the first part that’s affected by the lack of water is the leaves.

As their name suggests, succulents have the ability to store a lot of water. In particular, succulent leaves retain the most amount of water, which is why they appear thick.

In the absence of water, the leaves will start to wrinkle and shrivel. Depending on the succulent type, some leaves can curl, and others can completely close.

However, you should understand that wrinkling of the leaves can also be a natural process and doesn’t necessarily mean the succulent is dehydrated.

It’s normal for the leaves of any plant to fall out with time. So, if the leaves close to the roots are wrinkling while other leaves appear healthy, then the shriveled leaves might just be old.

Lack of Flowers

If you have a flowering succulent that just doesn’t seem to bloom, this might be a sign of an underwatered succulent. If the succulent is barely supporting its own growth, how can it bloom?

Still, you should also be aware of your succulents’ flowering patterns. That’s because depending on your succulent, it might take years for it to blossom, or it might flower in a matter of weeks.

While most succulents bloom in the spring and summer, others blossom in winter. Some succulents might not flower at all!

So, if you know your succulent’s blooming pattern and the flowers are still not showing up or are yellowing and wilting quickly, then the succulent might be in need of hydration.

Read more: Powdery Mildew on Succulents: All You Need to Know

Aerial Roots and Weak Stems

When the roots can’t absorb enough water from the soil, succulents have a defense system in order to obtain more water.

Underwatered succulents will have aerial roots forming above the soil. These roots are responsible for absorbing any small amount of water or moisture above soil level, helping the plant remain hydrated.

Furthermore, succulents’ stems are responsible for keeping the plant upright. So, they’re usually sturdy and straight.

Yet, if the succulent is underwatered, all the water from the stem will get absorbed, leaving a thin, leaning stem that can’t support the plant.

Dead Roots

The roots are the part of the succulent in contact with the deep layers of the soil, as they’re responsible for absorbing water. You can understand why dead roots might be a pretty bad sign.

While dead leaves or flowers are easily replaceable, there’s no turning back from dead roots.

If your succulent’s roots are so dry that they’re dying, there’s basically no way they can conduct water to the rest of the succulent. Simply put, dead roots mean a dead plant.

What Is the Right Way to Water Succulents?

Watering a succulent

Generally speaking, succulents are desert plants that can survive in relatively dry conditions. This means they don’t need regular watering.

For that reason, you shouldn’t be watering your succulent daily as you would other plants. Instead, water them only once the soil is dry to the touch.

To clarify, less frequent but thorough watering is better than a drizzle every couple of days.

When watering the succulent, make sure to thoroughly soak the soil. However, you should also ensure that you have a pot with a drainage hole.

This way, your succulent won’t drown or get root rot!

How Often to Water Your Succulents

If you’re unsure if your succulents are getting enough water, then you should track how much hydration the succulents are getting.

Each succulent is different, and the frequency of watering depends on many factors including:


Most plants grow a lot faster during spring and summer but are dormant in the winter. This means their growth requirements increase, which includes water!

For this reason, you should check your succulent’s optimal growing season. This way, you can avoid overwatering during the winter, underwatering during the spring, and vice versa.

If you’re still not certain about how often to water your succulent, here’s how to tell your succulent’s active season:

During the succulent’s active growing season, it’ll absorb more water, which will lead to quicker drying of the soil.


Naturally, the more time your succulent spends in the sun, the easier it’ll dry up.

For this reason, if you live in a bright area, or if your succulent is an outdoor plant that requires plenty of sunlight, this is a sign that you’ll need to water it more often.

Pot Size

Repotting a succulent

The plant’s container determines how much water it’ll be receiving. If the pot is too small, the succulent will absorb the water rather quickly, and the opposite is true.

In other words, larger pots require less frequent watering. On the other hand, if you place your succulents in shallow containers, you’ll need to water them more often.

How to Revive Underwatered Succulents

Since succulents can survive without water for a long time, this means you can easily save underwatered succulents.

This is especially the case if the roots are only dehydrated, which is a sign that they’re salvageable. Yet, if the roots are dead, sadly, there’s nothing you can do to restore their glory.

To revive your underwatered succulent, follow these simple steps:

  1. Make sure your pot has drainage holes before starting.
  2. Thoroughly soak the soil of the succulent until it’s moist all the way through.
  3. Repeat every time the soil dries out until the succulent regains its health.

Water Therapy

If you soak the succulent a couple of times and there’s still no improvement, the plant might have sustained more damage than you thought.

In this case, the succulent might need a special treatment, called water therapy.

To give your succulent water therapy, you’ll need to remove the plant entirely from the soil and shake any excess soil from the plant.

Then, you’ll have to completely soak the roots in water for 24–72 hours. Make sure to submerge only the roots in the water.

After removing the succulent from its bath, handle it with extreme care. Ideally, you’ll want to let the plant dry for a day or two before replanting.

Related: Black Spots on Succulents: What Causes Them and What to Do About Them?

Wrap Up

Underwatered succulents are more common than you might think. Just because succulents are desert plants doesn’t mean they don’t require any water.

Some common signs of a dehydrated succulent include aerial roots, wrinkled leaves, and a slower flowering rate. In these cases, you might want to change your watering pattern.

In other scenarios, your succulent might be severely damaged. This means the plant is in need of water therapy.