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Water Therapy for Dehydrated Succulents (5 Steps)

Succulent water therapy is a practice that is both well-known and controversial at the same time.

Here, you’ll learn about water therapy for succulents and how to use it. What it is and how it’s used. In these cases, water therapy for succulents can be used and, of course, how to do it successfully.

What is Succulent Water Therapy?

Water therapy is a practice that involves removing the substrate from a succulent and immersing the roots in water for an extended period, which can range from one day to several weeks.

In social media, this practice has gained a lot of traction. You may have seen images of succulents with their roots submerged in water on the internet and wondered why they do this and how they manage it. Here, we’ll walk you through it all.

“Water therapy” is not confused with “water propagation,” a separate and distinct term. Check out our article on water-based succulent propagation for a clearer understanding of the differences.

What is the Purpose of Succulent Water Therapy?

Succulents can be quickly rehydrated using water therapy. However, it is not a watering method, and it should not be done frequently.

Instead, water therapy is used in a minimal number of circumstances, which we’ll discuss in greater detail later.

For this method, the plant’s roots are placed directly in contact with water. Therefore, this method does not have the same effect as simply watering the plant.

Succulents may have difficulty absorbing water if exposed to high or low temperatures for an extended period.  So no matter how much we try, they don’t seem to hydrate.

As a result, you may end up overwatering and causing root rot instead of achieving our goal of a plant hydrating itself naturally.

A common misconception is that rotting in succulents is caused solely by excess water, but this is not always the case.

Instead, the succulent roots are usually decomposed by bacteria and fungi that thrive in extra moisture, not by the water itself.

In the absence of bacteria, fungi, and pathogens present in the substrate, it appears that succulents placed solely in water (without substrate) do not rot.

Because of this, it is possible to root and propagate succulents in water more effectively and at times faster than in the traditional method.

Water therapy is only recommended in particular cases because the removal of the substrate, the replanting of the succulents in water, and the replanting of the succulents again can be stressful for the plant and damage the roots.

Water Therapy Applications for Succulents

The goal of the therapy, as previously stated, is to quickly rehydrate a succulent. Ideally, you should never need to use this therapy.

Using water therapy on succulents is unnecessary if proper watering and a suitable substrate are in place.

There are two situations in which you may need to use water therapy for succulents:

[1] For Plants Delivered Via Mail Or Parcel Post

Buying succulents online and having them delivered to your door is a growing trend. However, international shipments of plants can take up to several weeks. During this time, they may be transported without access to water or light.

As a result, the succulents become stressed and dehydrated during the journey. People who buy plants this way, especially those who buy them “bare root” (meaning that the plants come without a substrate, with the roots exposed), may perform water therapy before planting the succulents in their final home.

[2] For Succulents That Are Severely Dehydrated

The most common signs of dehydration in a succulent are dull and limp leaves; dried out leaves, wilted and pointing leaves; and stems and leaves pointing down. 

One of the most popular ways to save succulents that have been dehydrated or burned is to use water therapy.

Unfortunately, there are several reasons why this can occur: lack of watering, sudden heat surges, or simply being exposed to conditions to which the succulent is not well adapted.

But in cases where the scars are caused by sunburn, the therapy will not help to heal them. Instead, it is necessary to wait for the plant to recover or renew its leaves over time. Please read my article to learn how to avoid sunburn.

I’ve found water therapy to be very effective, and I only use it in extreme cases. I  know a plant is under stress when it stops taking up water after several waterings and begins to look worse and worse.

I’ll walk you through the steps step-by-step down below.

How to Carry Out Succulent Water Therapy

Water Therapy for Dehydrated Succulents
Water Therapy for Dehydrated Succulents

[1] Allow The Substrate Of Your Succulent To Dry Out

You should either start with a “bare root” plant or a completely dry substrate to begin this process.

[2] Remove The Substrate

Remove the substrate and take your succulent out of its container. The substrate would be removed entirely in an ideal world, but this is not always possible in practice.

To expose the plant’s roots completely, slowly and gently remove as much of the substrate as possible.

[3] Make The Roots Come Into Contact with Water

Roots are in Contact with Water
Roots are in Contact with Water

Keep the roots of your succulent submerged in water while allowing the rest of it to dry out. I recommend that you use a glass or transparent container that will enable you to see the plant.

Because the roots prefer darkness, you may want to use dark containers for your plants. Brown glass ones seem to work well in my experience.

Make sure the container is the right size for the plant. With this arrangement, you can ensure that your succulent is only in contact with water through its stem and roots rather than its leaves or stem.

[4] Allow The Water Therapy To Take Effect And Monitor Its Progress

During the therapy, you will need to keep an eye on the water level to ensure that the roots are always in contact with it and that the water is clean, which may necessitate changing it regularly.

You should remove the succulent from the water when the therapy appears to have affected the plant. How can you tell? It should be hydrated, full, shiny, and healthy-looking.

New growth and root development can also begin to appear underwater.

How long it takes this to happen depends on how dehydrated the succulent was when you started. The length of time people leave them varies widely, from 24 hours to 72 hours to a whole week.

One of my succulents has lasted up to two weeks on its own. Your plant’s appearance will tell you whether or not it should remain in therapy for a more extended period or if it should be taken out.

As the plant undergoes this transformation, it is not normal to turn yellow or brown; lose leaves, or appear translucent.

These are all indications that the plant has been overwatered and may have begun to rot. Remove your succulent from the water if you notice any of these symptoms.

[5] Replant your Succulent

It’s time to put your plant back in the ground after it has benefited from the water therapy. To plant, remove it from the water and allow the roots to drain the excess water.

It is best to wait at least three days before watering. This is because damage to the roots can occur when the soil is too wet, leading to decay.

Wait a few days after planting before resuming watering. In fact, your succulent will be well hydrated after the therapy. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Succulent Water Therapy

What kind of water to use for succulents?

Suppose you don’t have any other options. In that case, you can use rainwater, drinking water with a stable pH, distilled water, or tap water. 

Use drinking water as much as possible.

Succulents won’t rot in water, so what’s the deal?

Succulents are prone to root rot if they are overwatered, so many people are alarmed when they see these plants in water. 

But the root rot is not caused because of water itself. Bacteria and fungi in the substrate multiply when there is a wet and soggy condition for a long time. 

So, clean water does not cause rot on succulents.

Are water therapy and propagation the same thing?

They are not the same. Water therapy and water propagation serve different purposes. 

In therapy, the goal is to quickly rehydrate a succulent. In propagation, the goal is to propagate a species through rooting.

Is It Possible To Use Water Therapy As Irrigation For Succulents?

No. 

Therapy is not a form of irrigation and should not be misused. 

Every time plants are handled, removed from their substrate, submerged in water, and then placed back into their substrate, the roots are damaged. 

This can make them more prone to decay if it occurs regularly.

Can the entire plant be submerged?

Both yes and no. 

Some people replant their plants by completely submerging them in water for a short period, but I do not recommend this.

Succulents absorb water through their roots, so it makes sense to only expose the roots to the water. 

Aside from that, long periods spent in stagnant water between the leaves can cause localized rotting.

It can take weeks for some succulents to hydrate, and a “dip” of just a few minutes is not enough time for them to do so. Because it worked for me, I only recommend putting the roots in contact.

Is It Possible For Succulents To Live Forever In Water?

No. Besides water, succulents need nutrients found in the substrate, and the substrate provides these nutrients. Therefore, succulents only kept in water will eventually starve to death due to a lack of nutrients.

In reality, the nutrients in the substrate are depleted over time, and it is necessary to replenish them by changing the substrate or by fertilizing them. Our articles on how to use eggshells as fertilizer are an excellent place to start.

Succulents can be grown hydroponically by adding nutrient solutions to water.