How to Water Zebra Succulents

How to water zebra succulents

Zebra succulents should be watered when there potting soil has dried out competently. Typically watering once every 2 to 3 weeks with a generous soak meets the zebra plants watering requirements whilst avoiding root rot. Check the soil has dried out before watering your zebra succulent.

It is important to know how often to water zebra succulents (also known as zebra Haworthia, Haworthiopsis fasciata) as they are susceptible to root rot caused by watering too often and slow draining soils.

Zebra succulents have different watering requirements at different times of the year as they can go into a state of dormancy in Summer in reaction to high temperatures as a strategy to cope with drought.

The optimal watering schedule should be in conjunction with gritty well draining, succulent soil and the right pot to prevent water stress and keep your zebra plant healthy.

Keep reading for more on how to establish how often and how much to water your zebra succulent in your climate and conditions at different time of the year… 

How Often to Water Zebra Succulents

Zebra succulents have special adaptations to growing in hot and dry climates with infrequent rainfall and gritty soil such as storing moisture in their thick leaves which are also shaped to reduce water loss through transpiration.

As zebra succulents are so well adapted to growing in drought, they prefer dryer conditions then most plants and are more likely to suffer problems associated with watering too often then not often enough such as the leaves turning brown or yellow and root rot.

To care for zebra succulents in your home then it is important to emulate the watering conditions of their native environment.

Zebra succulents require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering, so only water your zebra succulent when the soil is completely dry. Typically, this means watering zebra succulents with a good soak once every 2 or 3 weeks to achieve the optimal balance of moisture.

It is important to consider that potting soil does not dry out at the same rate due to several factors such as:

  • Humidity and temperature range of your climate.
  • The size of the pot (large pots dry out much slower then smaller pots).
  • Whether the zebra succulent is in an air current or near a source of heat.
  • The capacity of the potting soil to retain moisture.

To establish exactly how often to water zebra succulents in your climate and conditions, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot, through the drainage hole. If the soil feels moist then delay watering for a few days. If the soil feel dry then this is the perfect time for watering.

Once you know how long, it usually takes for the potting soil to dry out from around your zebra succulent, you can establish a watering schedule according to your conditions, that accurately replicates the watering and moisture conditions in their native environment.

Symptoms of Watering Zebra Plants Too Often

If you are watering zebra succulents more then once per week then you are likely watering far too frequently.

Watering zebra succulents too often turns the leaves yellow or brown with a mushy soft texture as a sign of stress. If the leaves turn black then this can indicate root rot due to over watering.

If the zebra succulent leaves are turn brown or yellow with a soft texture then scale back your watering and let the potting soil dry out completely from around the roots so that the zebra succulent can recover.

(For more information read my article on how to revive a dying zebra succulent).

Symptoms of Under Watering Zebra Succulents

Whilst zebra plants are drought tolerant they can still suffer from drought stress if they are neglected or watered too lightly.

The symptoms of an under watered zebra succulent are brown leaf tips and possibly the leaves at the bottom of the plant turn brown with a crispy, dry appearance.

The thick leaves that store moisture also appear thinner as the zebra succulent depletes its moisture reserves.

Give the soil a good soak and perhaps increase how often you water your zebra plant (as long as the soil dries out between bouts of watering).

Keep zebra succulents out the way of air currents or draughts, caused by air conditioning or forced air as excessive airflow can dry out the tapered leaf tips.

(Read my article zebra succulents with brown leaf tips to learn more).

With two or three cycles of watering with a generous soak, the zebra succulent should recover in the following weeks.

It is also worth noting that zebra plants may require more or less watering at different times of the year…

How Often to Water Zebra Succulents in Winter

The zebra succulents demand for water can vary according to the time of year.

In Winter zebra succulents require watering less often then Spring or Fall (which are the more active growing seasons).

This is because the rate of evaporation from the soil is often slower in Winter and with less intense light and shorter day light hours, the plant can grow much more slowly which reduces demand for water.

However zebra plants are most commonly grown indoors which means they could be located near to a source of heat in Winter which can dry out the soil much quicker.

Try to avoid locating your zebra succulent near to any sources of heat and ideally in bright indirect light during Winter.

Typically watering once every 3 weeks in Winter is sufficient but this can vary so I recommend checking how quickly your potting soil dries out and adjust the frequency of watering so that the soil around the roots can dry out to avoid root rot but also watering enough to avoid drought stress.

How Often to Water Zebra Succulents in Summer

Zebra plants prefer bright indirect light and grow actively in the cooler months of Spring and Fall.

Whilst zebra plants can grow during the summer they tend to enter a state of dormancy when the temperatures are particularly high to reduce demand for water so they can survive which can make them more susceptible to over watering.

When day time temperatures are consistent above 80°F (27°C) water your zebra plant once every 3 or 4 weeks and place them in bright, indirect sunlight rather then any direct sunlight.

Be diligent during hot Summers and look for signs of drought stress (such as brown leaf tips and brown, dry lower leaves) and signs of over watering (brown or yellow leaves that feel soft) and adjust your watering accordingly.

This summer dormancy is a survival strategy to cope with hot temperatures and dry conditions, which slows down active growth and reduces demand for water until there are more tolerable temperatures.

How Much to Water Zebra Succulents

Knowing how much to water your zebra plant is important for maintaining a healthy plant.

Whilst climate, humidity and temperature can all influence how often to water zebra succulents the amount of water should stay the same.

Water zebra succulents with a generous soak of so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot.

Watering so a trickle runs from the pot ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil properly so that the roots of the zebra can uptake the moisture they require.

Watering generously also encourages good root development.

If you water too lightly then only the top inch or so of the soil is moist and the water does not reach the roots where it is required. Watering too lightly is a common cause of drought stress with shriveled leaves.

(It should be noted succulent leaves sometimes shrivel when over watered as well as under watered so read my article for how to tell the difference).

Watering with a good soak and then allowing the soil to dry out emulates the watering conditions in the zebra plants natural habitat which ensures it stays healthy.

Well Draining Soil to Avoid Over Watering

The right soil type is as important as watering your zebra succulent to avoid over watering and root rot.

Normal potting soil retains too much moisture around the roots of the drought adapted zebra plant which causes the symptoms associated with water too often, such as leaves turn brown or yellow and mushy.

Zebra succulents grow naturally in sandy or gritty soils in their native South Africa, in soils that drain very quickly and do not hold moisture and stay damp for too long.

To keep the zebra succulent healthy and avoid root rot, plant zebra succulents in special succulent and cactus potting soil (available from garden centers and amazon) as this soil emulates the specific, well draining soil profile of the succulents native environment to avoid root rot.

A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing zebra succulents.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing zebra succulents.

With the right soil it is much easier to maintain the optimal balance of moisture for zebra succulents and prevent any affects from over watering to keep the plant healthy.

With right soil it is much easier to maintain the perfect moisture balance for jade plants and prevent any affects of over watering to keep your zebra plant healthy.

(To learn more read my article how to grow and care for zebra succulents).

Use a Pot With Drainage Holes in The Base

Zebra succulents do not tolerate being in saturated soil, so it is essential that your plant in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape freely.

Watering so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot is also the best way to ensure that your zebra succulent has been sufficiently watered.

If you plant zebra succulents in pots without drainage holes in the base then this causes water to pool around the roots of your zebra succulent and can cause brown or yellow leaves or root rot.

Water can still pool around the roots of the plant in your pot if:

  • The drainage hole is blocked with roots or compacted soil. If you notice your soil draining slowly then check whether the drainage holes are clear to allow water to escape properly.
  • Saucers and trays underneath pots. It is very common to use saucers or trays underneath the zebra succulent pot to prevent water spilling in your home. Empty the saucer or tray regularly to prevent water pooling which keeps the soil too damp for your zebra succulent.
  • The use of decorative outer pots. Zebra succulents are sometimes sold in plastic pots with drainage holes but placed in a decorative outer pot which looks good and prevents water from spilling in your home. However the outer pot prevents water escaping so that the soil is damp which causes root rot, so either empty the pot of water regularly or plant in a pot with drainage holes in the base.

Key Takeaways:

  • Zebra succulents are drought resistant and should only be watered when the soil has dried out completely. Typically watering once every 2 or 3 weeks meets the water requirements of the zebra plant whilst avoid root rot due to over watering.
  • Plant zebra succulents in gritty, well draining succulent and cacti soil which emulates the drainage characteristics of the zebra succulents native environment.
  • Zebra succulents should be planted in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape to prevent root rot.
  • The symptoms of an over water zebra succulent are leaves turning brown or yellow with a mushy texture. The symptoms of an under watered zebra succulent are brown leaf tips and brown crispy leaves at the bottom of the plant. The leaves of zebra succulents should be dark green and plump. Water zebra succulents when the soil has dried between bouts of watering.

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