How Long Can a Cactus Go Without Water?

A cactus is a plant that has been habituated to the dessert environment and that makes it the best option for handling the lack of water more effectively. They can go without water for a couple of years with no hassles.

Different cacti may have different time duration within which they can stay without water. But, on average, most of the cactus can go without water for 2 years. They have certain adaptations that help them go without water for this long period. Since the cacti have no leaves, it will not lose water through evaporation. Moreover, it has thick stems that lets it store water. 

Cactus is one of the plants that remind you of a desert. And a desert is marked by dry and barren lands that do not have any trace of water. Now that cactus has been the plant that grows in the desert lands; it should go without saying that it goes without water for a long time. But have you ever given a thought to the question – how long can a Cactus go without water? 

How Long Can A Cactus Live Without Water?

So, how long can a cactus go without water?

Cactus has developed a few great survival techniques and can go a long time without water. Some of the cacti species can go without water for as long as two years. The cacti have thick stems that can store water and consume it whenever needed. They also have a protective layer that prevents the loss of water. However, indoor cactus will need frequent watering to keep it alive.

On average, the cactus plants can survive without water for a period of around two years. However, that should not mean they will continue to live without water forever, or even for long. Being a living thing, cactus does need water and will die if they do not get enough water. 


They can survive without water for a more extended period of time simply because they have developed a few unique features as an evolutionary strategy, and thus store enough water and consume it only when needed. When compared to the plants in the other regions, the cactus and similar other desert plants store water in their roots and stems. They have modified the leaves into a variety of ways so that the water is not lost through the process of evaporation. 

If you believe that cacti have deeper roots to store water, you are wrong once again. They do not have deeper roots to extract more water from underground but have shallow roots that go only a few inches inside the ground. 

How long a cactus can go without water depends upon several factors and is not the same across all the cacti out there. How long can a cactus go without water will depend on the species of the cactus, its size ad the location that is found to be growing. 

What helps the cactus in surviving without water for many days?

What makes cactus survive without water for long? How does the cactus plant live without water? The Cactus plant makes this possible by developing a few adaptations and modifications in its anatomy to help them preserve whatever water they receive during the scarce rains. The prickly spines and the extensive roots are what make it one of the best features that a cactus develops that helps it survive without water for many days. 

The prickly spines you find on the cactus are, in fact, the modified leaves. The spines serve two significant purposes – they prevent the plant from being eaten by the desert animals, and they also prevent the loss of water through evaporation which can be a huge issue given the dry air prevalent in a desert. 

The cacti also have extensive but show roots which help in preserving the water. The roots extend to a longer distance around the plant, thereby making sure that they can soak up as much water as possible and store it. Since the rain can be extremely scarce in the desert and similar arid areas where cacti grow, these develop a thick stem that lets them store much water that can stay without evaporation for a more extended time period. 

A good example can be the Saguaro species that can absorb and store up to 200 gallons of water. That is why you need to exercie caution when watering the cactus lest you may end up finding your cactus dead. 

How Much Water Does a Cactus Need?

There are no ways to find an exact amount of water that a cactus would need to survive. We can only make a generalisation with respect to finding how much water does a cactus need to survive. It may be a good idea to water your indoor cactus at least twice a week. Do note, however, that too much and too little water can both have serious concerns and that is precisely why gardeners tend to lose most of their cacti. 

It is not advisable to follow a specific schedule for watering a cactus. That way, one may end up overwatering the cactus which can have its own repercussions. 

The prime factors that decide how much water does a cactus need to survive would include:

  • The species. 
  • Age of the cactus.
  • Location of the cactus. 
  • The season during which it is grown.

How Does a Cactus Live Without Water?

We are well aware that every living being needs water and food to survive. Since the water supply is scarce in the area where cacti generally grow, annd that is why it would require less water. The plants that grow in these areas develop a few unique features which let them conserve more water.

The cactus has prickly spines which are actually the modified leaves will help retain the water and help avoid the possibility of evaporation in any nature. They also have an extensive but shallow root system which help the  plant to soak up any water that is availble through the rainfall.

The cacti have also developed the thick stems which helps them store as much water as possible and retain it for longer periods of time. Some species of cactus like  Saguaro store up to 200 gallons of water when there is a good rain in the region.

The key takeaway – 

Some of the deciding factors that help a cactus to go without water include

  • Waxy skin – The thick waxy skin on the cacti help it retain water. The waxy skin assists in preventing the evaporation more effectively and efficiently. It helps retain the moistue in hot weatehr conditions
  • Spines – The spines are actually the modified leaves and a unique adaptation that lets the cactus to retain water. They create a barrier between the plant and the dry air in the outer environment
  • Shallow roots – The roots of the cactus spread through a very larger area. This helps in soaking up as much water as possible. The roots can soak up water from even the tiniest of drops such as dew drops or mornig dew.
  • Storage organs – Some  cacti have developed storage organs for storing water. These can be in the form of ribs and stems. Thes hols a lot of water which is used during the dry seasons.
  • A slow growth rate – Since the cacti grow slower, they tend to use less water for growing than the other varieties of plants. As they take a huge time for growing, they can save enough water in their tissues.
  • They can close the stomata – The cactus can close the stomata or the pores on their leaves. This adaptation has been designed to help it in retaining water. Since the stomataa are closed, the plant will not lose water through evaporation.

How To Water A Cactus Indoors?

We would recommend a few guidelines when watering your indoor cacti. Make sure you follow them carefully as both underwatering and overwatering can have a few detrimental effects on the health of the cactus. 

How to water a cactus indoors can be achieved through several means. The method you use would be dependent on your preferences. 

Method  1: 

If you have planted your cactus in a pot, follow the methods here below: 

  • Place the pot with the cactus in a saucer that has enough water. 
  • Let the roots of your cactus absorb the water from the saucer. 
  • When you find that the wetness of the water inside the pot is almost halfway up, carefully remove the pot from the saucer.

Method 2: 

This method can involve submerging the cacti plant into the water. This method should ideally work with the cactus plants that have bigger and thick roots. You can even decide to apply water on the surface of the water. 

The amount of water in this method would ideally be dependent on the sunlight and heat that it does receive. In case your cactus is located in an open area and receives direct sunlight, you will need to water it a little more. 

Whichever method among them you may use, make sure that you do not overwater the cactus. Overwatering a succulent can be more dangerous than underwatering it. 

A Key takeaway – 

The following guidelines can be helpful in letting you decide on how to water a cactus more effectively and efficiently –

  • Your Cactus needs regular watering during the growth season. This perios is normally between spring to fall. Make sure that you ae regularly watering and additng fertilisers. This can be around once a week. During the hotteer months, make sure that you are watering it at least twice a week.
  • Some cacti may go through the phase of dormancy from late fall to early spring. You will need to follow less watering during this period. If you belong to a wetter area, you need not water your cactus at all.
  • Let the soil dry completely before watering it. Dig your finger deep into the soil to check if the top few inches have dried completely. 
  • Some experts are of the opinion that cacti need less watering during the winter months, while a few others believe that it does not require any watering at all.
  • Plants potted are likely to equire more water than the ones planted directlly into the ground. You will need to adjust your wwatering accordingly.
  • Keep an eye on under or over wwatering and take the corrective actions right away.


How Long Can Succulents Live Without Water?

Succulent is a plant group that has fleshy and thick stems which can retain water for a long time. Cactus is one of the examples of Succulents. That means they can live without water for long but, different Succulents plant may have different capacity and characteristics that would enable them to live with water for certain periods. But, how long? it would vary with specific Succulent plants.

How long can succulents live without water can be dependent on a wide range of different factors. In most of the situations, you can expect a succulent to live without water for two years. Still, the actual period can be dependent on multiple factors such as age, species, location and season. 

Here are a few of the factors you need to pay attention to when understanding how long can succulents live without water can include:

Species and Age of the Succulent

Succulents come in a vast variety of species. With such diversity, it may not be easy to understand and estimate how long they can go without water. The succulents that have thicker and compact stems and leaves can go a long time without water. However, the plants with thin leaves may not be able to go without water for more than a month or two. 

Succulents such as Graptopetalum or Crassula can go without water for as many as three months. However, species such as Lithops can survive with water only a couple of times throughout the entire year. 


Season of the year will have a bearing on how long can a succulent go without water. They can lose more water in the hotter months than in the cooler months. The warmer season can make the succulent to lose more water by evaporation. You will thus need to water your succulent more in a warmer month than in the colder months. 

Some species of succulent can go into a dormancy phase during the winters. This is the period when the plant will experience the slowest growth. In such a situation, the succulent will need less water. Do remember that some succulents go into a phase of dormancy in summers as well. 


The area where the succulent grows can also have a bearing on the amount of water it does need. The succulent in the direct sunlight and outdoors can need more water. Those grown in the indoors in filtered light conditions can need less water. 

The climate in every region and location decides how long can succulents live without water. Even the material where the succulents are grown can also have a bearing on the amount of water they need. The terracotta pots, for instance, can absorb water and help you avoid the issues such as overwatering. However, during the summers, this can cause under watering issues. 

How Often Do I Water My Cactus?

If you are wondering how often should you water a cactus, that would be dependent on a wide range of factors. Most of the cactus plants need to be watered only after the soil is dried out. Never water a cactus on a fixed schedule, but keep a monitor on the condition of the plant. The prime factors that you need to focus on would include the size of cactus, size of pot, temperature, humidity and season before deciding how often should you water a cactus. A high humidity may be a no-no as it can kill a cactus. 

Some of the guidelines you can follow can include:

  • During the growth season of the cactus – which extends between spring to fall – your cactus will need adequate and regular watering. In addition, you will also need a proper degree of fertilising. In the summer months, it is advisable to water your cactus twice every week. 
  • Keeping the soil always dry is advisable when watering a cactus plant. Make sure that the top few inches of the soil are completely dry before you can water it again. You can either use a moisture gauge to determine the water level in the soil or even use dig your finger into the soil. If you find the soil sticks to your fingers, it would be a good idea to avoid watering for a couple of days. 
  • Some cactus species tend to go into a semi-dormant state in late fall. These times need a quite lower level of watering. If you are from a wetter area, you should not water your cactus during this period. 
  • There is no consensus on the amount of water to be provided to the cactus during winter. While some experts claim the plants need a slight watering during this period, but a few others claim that you do not need water cactus during the winters at all. 
  • Cactus planted in a pot will need more water than those planted directly on the ground. Depending upon the planting method you have adopted, you may need to adjust the watering frequency and amount. 
  • Keep checking out for the signs of underwatering and overwatering so that the remedial actions can be taken right away.

How to Find if Your Cactus is Underwatered or Overwatered?

Cacti do not need a huge amount of water. In fact, overwatering can cause severe issues when compared to underwatering. 



A few prime signs of underwatering can manifest themselves in: 

  • The green stems or modified leaves may appear to be withered. 
  • The colour of the cacti can turn pale
  • The cactus can become quite soft to touch
  • The fleshy cactus can be dimpled 
  • The plant may lean to one side

However, underwatering will not cause significant issues. A deep watering as soon as you notice the underwatering symptoms can bring your plant back to life. 


In the case of cacti and other succulents, overwatering can be one of the severe issues that can make the plant wilt and ultimately die. Overwatering can damage the delicate root system. Rotting roots can make it quite late to save the plant. 

A few of the signs that can indicate the overwatered cactus can include:

  • The fleshy leave may appear plump and swollen
  • Leaves can turn brown or black 
  • The stems may begin leaking 
  • The roots get black and mushy 
  • Leaves can begin dropping.

If you notice any signs of overwatering, stop watering the plant immediately. Remove the cactus from the plant and examine the roots thoroughly. Cut off the damaged roots instantly. The healthy roots will remain white and sturdy and will not break away easily. 

Can A Cactus Grow Anywhere In The World?

Cactus can grow anywhere and everywhere. Contrary to the belief that cacti can only grow in a desert, the cacti can grow in almost every kind of climate around the world. In fact, the cactus species can be grown even in the regions such as rainforests and the colder environments. 

The best factor that makes the cacti grow practically anywhere relies on the fact that they are not fussy plants and do not need a high degree of care. As long as you understand them and provide them with the right growing environment, you can find them growing without any kind of issues. 


Knowing your cactus really well should be one of the prime options you would need to focus on if you want to take care of your beloved plant. How to water a cactus indoors and understanding how long can a cactus live without water in my garden as outlined in the above discussion should help you make use of the right watering techniques.

A Few FAQs

How often do you water a cactus?

You should water the cactus only when the soil is completely dry. In the case of warmeer days, this peeriod can range acros 10 to 14 days. In winter, some cacti may go into the state of dormancy or hiberantion. If your cactus belongs to that genre, you would need to avoid watering it altogether.

Will a Cactus Die If It Lacks Water?

Lack of water can kill the roots of the cactus plant. It may even result in a very slow growth. The status of the plantt would largely be dependent on the genre and thee ability of the cactus to go without water.

How do I know if my cactus needs water?
You can check if your cactus needs water by using an inexpensive moisture gauge, or by touch. You need to ensure that the water is completely dry before you water it again.


Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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