When we think about succulents as a whole, people tend to imagine them as hardy plants.
While it’s true they might do better in a wider range of conditions than others, one thing is extremely important to get right if you’re to grow them successfully: their soil.
The soil that a plant lives in provides its network of water and air so the roots can grow, feeds the plant the nutrients it needs to supply, and supports them to be at their healthiest.
For a succulent, this means choosing the right blend of soil that allows them to do all that, and it’s usually far more important than other things like frequency of watering or how much sun they’re getting.
What type of succulent soil is best?
Succulents are generally hardy and can thrive in conditions with minimal rainfall, but the soil they’re planted in must be able to hold a good amount of water. Succulent soil should allow for adequate drainage but still provide small amounts of water to the plant, so finding one that’s in between is ideal.
Many succulent owners have tried and trusted soil that they use for all of their favorites, but when you’re new to this special type of plant, you might be at a loss where to start.
This guide can walk you through the basics of finding the soil your succulents love most, and how to create your own blend or find the perfect one that’s ready-made.
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Why Succulents Need Special Soil
When you’re looking at any plant, the key to figuring out what soil suits it is to look at its natural environment.
Succulents are known for growing in dry conditions and don’t need a lot of water, but the soil they live in must be able to hold onto water for long periods of time.
A succulent’s roots are very sensitive, and even the slightest amount of excess moisture can lead to root rot. This is a common issue with this type of plant, which means you should house them in soil that’s well-draining and won’t hold a lot of water underneath, leading to excess moisture and rotting.
Finally, a succulent gets its nutrients from the soil it lives in, like most other plants, so there has to be a good amount within.
In general, succulents don’t require a lot of fertilizer like other plants, so you want all of their food to come from the soil and it has to be full of the right stuff to provide an adequate diet.
The Types of Soil They Love Most
A succulent’s favorite soil consists of a few things but the most important ingredient is having some sort of organic matter.
Peat moss is a popular choice for succulent soil, but it must be mixed with a ground-down bark or other fiber to keep it moist and prevent it from drying out too quickly.
Another important part of succulent soil is having an inorganic substance that keeps the soil light and airy. You don’t want the soil to be too dense or it will trap moisture within, leading to rotting of the roots. Something like pumice, crushed granite, or clay can be added to the soil for this effect.
In addition to the right soil, how you set up the pot will also play a huge role in your succulents’ success.
When planted in a container, a succulent needs some sort of crushed rock in the bottom of the container to allow for drainage, as well as small pebbles or gravel spread over the top. These two, working alongside a quality soil, will give your plant the best chance to thrive.
Making DIY Succulent Soil
If you’re the type of gardener who prefers to make up their own soil and have some favorite recipes you stick to for all of your plants, you’ll have a lot of fun with succulents.
The key to good soil is knowing the ratios of how everything fits, so you’ll need the right stuff for aeration, drainage, and density.
The gardening soil is what provides general nutrients, just as it does with other plants. The perlite or pumice stone is to help with drainage and to ensure that water flows freely through it. Finally, the sand’s job is to decrease the density of the soil and also aid with drainage, so they all work together nicely.
You’ll want two parts of soil, one part of crushed rock, and two parts of sand, all mixed together and blended up. To make up around 7.5 cups of succulent soil, which is more than enough for a few small plants, follow this recipe:
- Three cups of regular gardening soil
- One and a half cups of pumice/crushed granite/perlite
- Three cups parts sand
Buying Ready Made Succulent Soil
For some people, they’d rather purchase the best succulent soil from the store or gardening center and leave the worry to someone else.
If you’re this type of gardener and you want to ensure your plants are getting the right stuff without you having to make up a recipe, there are some things to look for.
- Choose a soil made specifically for cactus or succulents, as they both require the same thing to thrive and will feature the right ratio of ingredients. You can add additional drainage if using cactus soil just to be safe.
- You can buy a succulent soil planter kit if you’d prefer to do it yourself somewhat. These kits come with all parts including soil, rocks, and peat moss, and they allow you to assemble it in a pot.
- Find soil made by a reputable brand or one that has good reviews. When purchasing soil, you don’t want to cheap out and just get the budget one, otherwise, your succulents will pay the price. Good soil can last for years with the right drainage, so think of it as an investment.
Below is a list of our recommended succulent and cactus soils that are pre-mixed and ready to go.
The Right Pot For Your Plants
The soil is undoubtedly the most important part of growing succulents, but what about the vessel that holds it?
The pot that you place your succulent in can have a huge impact on how well it grows and directly affect how the soil performs, so make sure you choose one that ticks all the boxes.
- The pot should have adequate drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to freely run out. If your pot doesn’t, you can make some yourself by poking holes all over the bottom.
- Choose a pot that gives the root of the succulent room to grow but not so much space that it gets lost and isn’t able to thrive.
- The material of a pot can impact the plant’s growth, so choose one that corresponds to your location. Terracotta and ceramic pots can overheat in hot areas, plastic pots don’t allow a lot of breathability, and wood pots can rot and trap moisture in the wrong conditions.
- If you decide to grow in a terrarium, make sure that the succulent you choose can handle the higher than normal humidity conditions. Otherwise, your best option is an open terrarium or choose another type of plant.
Succulents are known as some of the easiest plants to take care of, provided you can get a few simple things right from the get-go.
Along with knowing what soil to plant them in, people often have other questions about how to treat them best, and we’ve answered some common ones about succulents that can help.
Do You Need a Winter Cover For Succulents?
Succulents tend to perform better in warmer conditions, but when wintertime comes near, you don’t need to do anything special to prepare for it.
Colder areas that see snowfall may need to use a snow cover to prevent this moisture from attacking the plants, but otherwise, they will survive when the temperatures drop low.
Should I Report a Succulent Right Away?
Depending on where you purchased your succulent and the conditions it lived in, you may want to wait a little while before reporting it.
If a succulent has been pulled from a cold frame to protect it from harsh weather, it will need time to acclimate to the new conditions at your home.
Therefore, give them a month or two and ensure they’re doing well before you make plans to repot them.
Do All Succulents Flower?
A common misconception about succulents is that they all flower after some time, but the truth is not all species will do so.
Some succulent species can take years before they bloom and others will be blooming from a young age all the time, while others won’t do it at all.
It’s generally not an indication of improper care if your succulent never blooms, but it’s best to research more about the individual plant before you can determine that.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She furthered her gardening education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Whether it’s succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs, growing and caring for just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden always makes her happy.