What’s causing my succulents to die? The answer to that question is very often, “Too much water.” How often should I water my succulents? You should wait until the soil gets completely dry. Succulents are desert plants, so they don’t need much water. In fact, they don’t like to sit in wet soil because their roots are sensitive to the bacteria that develop when there’s moisture.

Succulents are very forgiving but even these hearty plants can get sick. And they aren’t like regular houseplants that can have overnight “miracles” resembling a resurrection. A sick succulent can take weeks to improve, so try not to overcompensate if you notice your plant’s looking a little sad.

Below are the two main concepts for successful succulent care, water and light.

How much light?

While its true that succulents need a lot of light, how will you know if yours are getting the right amount of light?

Too little light: Plants will grow tall or they’ll bend in one direction in search of light. Too little light can also cause your plants to become pale and lose their color.

What to do: Move your plant to a brighter place. Avoid moving them into direct sunlight for long periods because they can burn. Direct sunlight takes a little “training” by giving the plants more and more light each day so they get used to it. If you live in a part of the world that is dark often, try giving your plant artificial light with some grow lights.

Too much light: Yes, you can give your succulents too much light, especially with younger plants. Most smaller succulents will burn if you leave them in hot, direct sunlight for a long time. The leaves get spotty burn marks or they’ll start to dry out from the outside inward. Sometimes the glass from your terrarium can also magnify sunlight, magnifying it into an intensely hot beam. So avoid direct sun!

What to do: If some of the leaves on your succulents burn, relax! They’ll grow more leaves and the old ones will die. Just move your terrarium away from the too-bright area. Don’t give it a bunch of water, that’s a common mistake.

How much water?

The general rule is to thoroughly water the soil, then wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again. This is because the soil drains very quickly. If you dump water into one concentrated spot, it just drains to the bottom without spreading to the rest of your terrarium. For this reason, we recommend watering your succulent terrarium with a low flow of water over a large surface area. You can poke a hole in the cap of a water bottle with a corkscrew, which will allow you distribute the water over a wide area without getting water spots. Remember, don’t overwater and don’t water too often! Here’s how to recognize when your plants have an issue with water.

Too little water: Plants look shriveled or the leaves wilt downwards. This happens commonly with younger varieties of super juicy succulents.

What to do: Stay calm. Don’t give it a ton of water just yet. Dry succulents aren’t so bad as they were made to withstand long periods without water, If your succulents live in a terrarium without any drainage, please be careful about how much water you give your plants. Use the low-flow watering spout mentioned above to water until the soil is moist all over – be patient and go slow so that water doesn’t immediately drain to the bottom. Keep an eye on the plants over the next week and you’ll see them plump up again. Don’t dump a ton of water into your succulents at once, they’ll rot and die. If your succulent lives in a container with a drainage hole, you can water it with a lot of water or even soak the entire pot/planter in water for 5-10 minutes. Then make sure you let the pot or planter drain out afterward.

Too much water: This is the most common mistake that people make with their succulents. When your plants get too much water, the bottom leaves start to die or rot.

What to do: In most cases, just let your terrarium sit without a watering until you see the soil become completely dry. You can tell if the soil is dry when the color gets light and dusty. You can also stick a finger into the soil and test the moisture level, like baking cupcakes. If you’ve already put way too much water into your terrarium and the dirt is soggy or you see water fill up the bottom of the vessel, then you might want to try more desperate measures. Make a trip to the local pharmacy or computer store and buy a large syringe with a long needle, like the ones used to refill ink cartridges. Stick the syringe into the bottom of your vessel and suck out as much water as possible. Now leave your terrarium in a bright place with good air flow, but not in direct sun, and let it dry out. Then start watering your plants again once things have dried – it’s normal that some parts of the plants die.