Succulents are extremely selective about their soil and this choice alone can determine whether you succulent will find it hard to survive or thrive magnificently.
So how to prepare the soil for succulents? Succulents have adapted themselves well with the drought-prone climate so they prefer soil that is fast draining and won’t retain moisture for days. Instead of using just one kind of soil, use a mixture of different soil types which will enhance the drainage, improve soil aeration & decrease the soil moisture-holding capacity.
What are the Properties for the best Soil for Succulents?
Proper Organic vs Inorganic matter Ratio
The organic content of the soil helps in provides nutrients to the succulents and creates a suitable habitat for the beneficial microbes in the soil. So their presence in the soil is essential for the well being of the plant.
The main issue of Organic components is that they end up holding onto too much moisture as they are found to act like sponges. So as the amount of organic matter enhances, the ability of the soil to retain water also enhances.
However, for Succulents, this is not a good scenario hence the organic and inorganic matter ratio of the soil needs to be balanced.
- Inorganic matter helps in balancing this issue out by improving the drainage quality of the soil.
So it is essential that the organic and inorganic mixture ratio is balanced or if possible mix 1/3rd organic matter with 2/3rd inorganic matter.
The Soil must have smooth Drainage and favor Aeration
Succulents are plants of the desert area hence they are well accustomed to water shortages and thus don’t do well in waterlogged soil. In fact, poor drainage will lead to damp soil which further can lead to root rot.
It’s best if the soil composition contains a suitable amount of sand in it along with pebbles and gravels as that will ensure that water is never retained for long. The variation in particle sizes will also promote airflow underground and this is something which is great for better growth of the succulents.
- Better aeration means a better supply of oxygen for the roots and lesser chances of fungal infections.
The pH of the Soil needs to be Optimized
The pH meter scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Anywhere around 7 is considered as a neutral pH, i.e., the acidity and the alkalinity balance each other out.
In general, most plants prefer a Soil pH range of around 7. In the case of the desert plants, they prefer a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
You can test your soil pH with a pH meter or a pH test strip that you can buy online.
You can reduce the acidity of your soil by adding horticulture lime into it. This will make it go from acidic to alkaline. However, if your soil is too acidic in nature you need to add a tablespoon of vinegar with about 20 liters of water and then water your soil with this mixture. This will reduce the alkalinity.
- Remember Before doing any of these actions you first need to determine the pH of the soil you have if you are planning to grow them in your garden.
What is the Best soil for Outdoor Succulents?
The best soil for outdoor succulents needs to have a higher amount of inorganic components present in it than organic ones. This will make sure the soil is much more drainage friendly, supports aeration, and is compact enough to not decompose or compress anytime soon. They need to favor the growth of beneficial microflora in the soil and should facilitate better root growth.
If you are growing succulents in pots outdoors you can simply aim to use a store-bought cactus mix soil or bonsai soil. However, you can easily make your own soil if you want.
At first, you need to mix certain kinds of inorganic and organic materials onto the garden soil that you already have to further enhance their water drainage. This will be extremely vital for the survival of the succulents, especially during the rainy days.
- Organic matter like compost, tree bark, or coconut coir: Holds water just long enough when used in minimal quantity for the roots to absorb. Along with this, they also provide nutrition to the soil and maintains the soil weight.
- Coarse sand: Helps in quick drainage. Most succulents are from drought-prone areas having sand in the soil composition. Hence using sand is a must while preparing any soil mixture for succulents.
- Perlite or Pumice: Helps in sufficiently enhance the drainage as it does not retain water for long. They retain water long enough for the roots to absorb. Pumice by itself does not contain any nutrients and has a neutral pH. Pumice does not decompose even after years. Both pumice and perlite promote aeration in the soil.
- Pebbles, gravels, and other volcanic rocks: Further enhances drainage and promote better root development. Sometimes succulent pots can tip over easily due to its light density, adding gravels and pebbles will provide suitable weight to the container.
Next mix the soil well and carefully plant the succulent. Further firm it with an extra bit of sand and gravel. You can even consider making steep beds if you can.
Leave the plant undisturbed and do not water it for 3-4 days. Let it settle in within this new arrangement. You can further go ahead and add soil fertilizers as per the needs of that particular succulent variety.
Remember to go through this process of planting new succulents or repotting them at the beginning of the spring or summer season and not before winter as most succulents remain dormant during this season and undergo active growth during the hotter seasons.
What is the best soil mix for Potted Succulents Indoors?
While choosing the soil for you succulent, it is essential that you choose a well-drained potting soil mixture. The readymade cactus mix soil is one of the best soil for indoor succulents that you can buy.
- You can then go onto add pumice, a bit of sand, and other volcanic rocks into it. All of this will make sure that the drainage of the soil is of top-notch quality and the quality of the soil will remain intact with time.
The best soil mix for the succulents is the one which is well optimized in pH, has got a low water retention capability, is rich in nutrients, minerals, and also supports aeration. Avoid using water-absorbing minerals like vermiculite in the mixture.
Any soil that favors proper drainage is suitable for succulents. Many other matters of fertility and nutrition come with the topic of choosing the right soil for succulents however for these desert plants, drainage is the key. They naturally are adapted to survive in harsh conditions however they will die if they are made to live in waterlogged or less drainage friendly pot soil.
The best soil for succulents in a pot which ticks off almost all of these criteria are:
- Bonsai Jack: Especially if you have the habit of overwatering then this soil is the best as the drainage facility of this soil is marvelous as the particles of the mixture contain pores which makes it hard for the soil by default to retain water.
- Miracle-Gro: This mixture is rich in nutrients and organic materials. It contains traces of Nitrogen and phosphorus that further favors the growth of the succulent. The drainage facility is also not bad and can be totally increased by many folds if an extra dose of gravels and pumice is added.
While preparing succulent soil for indoors it is best if you can add an extra layer of horticulture based charcoal in the soil. Charcoal has got antifungal properties and aids in drainage. This a must if you consider growing succulents in decorative containers without drainage holes. Read this post on how to grow succulents in glass containers and other decorative ones.
Can you use regular potting soil for Succulents?
Regular pot soils are rich in organic matters and take a lot of time to get dry i.e., the water retention capability is high which is not good news for the succulents. If you want your succulents to grow best you should provide them with soil conditions that resemble their real habitat.
So you should aim to mix a variety of other inorganic materials into this potting soil, mix them together, and then consider growing the succulents in it. Otherwise, if you grow them using the regular potting soil, the soil will remain damp for days.
The succulent roots are severely sensitive to root rot which happens because of high moisture in the soil. So consider tweaking and preparing a soil mix to diminish the chances of your succulent developing root rot. Root rot can spread to the whole plant body and can kill your plant within a few weeks.
How to make the best Succulent & cactus Potting soil at home?
- Prepping the succulent soil at home is not a very hard task and is way cheaper and fun to execute.
For preparing an ideal soil mix aim to mix 1/3rd organic matter with 2/3rd inorganic material.
You can choose one option from each category or multiple ones, just make sure the overall ratio is compact.
Best Organic matters for succulent soil
- Coconut coir
- Normal Potting soil bought from the store(go through the ingredients)
- Tree bark
Best inorganic matters for succulent soil
- Pumice and other Volcanic Rocks: Helps in drainage of water very quickly.
- Coarse sand: Always use sand used for constructions and not the beach ones.
- Fine Gravels and pebbles: Remember to mix them evenly with the soil.
While preparing the soil for succulents it is essential to remember that there is no one particular menu or recipe for soil preparation. The key is to make the soil moderately rich in nutrients and to see that it is sufficiently drainage friendly.
What are the Tools needed for proper soil mix of Succulents?
Well, you can either use your hands for doing all these soil mixing business or you can take the help of certain tools that will help you to do your job more efficiently. These tools will help you to mix the soil for the succulents in a better way and measure everything the proper way.
Things you will need:
- A measuring cylinder
- A big container for mixing everything
- A trowel for mixing everything in the container and for moving the end product in the pot.
How deep does the Soil need to be for Succulents?
Succulents do well with pots which are around 3 to 5 inches deep. Succulents in general need 2 to 3 inches of breathing space in the container, so make sure the container is at least 2 inches larger than the root ball.
Too large of a pot will end up needing more soil and hence will hold water for longer. In fact, too much root development can in turn diminish the growth of the plant in the upper portion.
Compact pots will hold water for a shorter period. Also, it is seen that when the roots hit the bottom portion of the pot, better succulent growth occurs above the soil (source).
Things to keep in mind while prepping for a Succulent soil mix
- Succulents can manage to thrive under any soil conditions which is drainage friendly. It is the single most fundamental need for them. So make sure to use succulent friendly soil from the store for growing them.
- If you wanna make your own mixture, make sure not to add too much of the potting soil as it is rich in organic components. However, all soil mixes need sufficient amounts of potting soil for providing weight to the overall mixture and to provide nutrition to the plants.
- Never use garden soil for potting soil and only use fully sealed sterile potting soil. You literally have no idea about the ingredient mix of your garden soil. Along with this, it can be contaminated with loads of bacteria and fungal larvae. Yes, you can sterile the soil by putting it in the oven however it won’t solve the first problem. So it is always a good idea not to use them, especially for growing indoor plants.
- Always use coarse sand which is sterile. Marine sand is rich with mineral salts not needed by the succulents and in turn, those components can accumulate in the soil and hamper the plant growth. Moreover, they can also contain unwanted microbes.
- Be very selective of every ingredient you use for prepping your mixture. See if it contributes to drainage or retains water. See if there is a better substitue for that available. For example, instead of using vermiculite, you should use volcanic rocks in the soil mix as the former holds water longer and breaks down faster.
Should You add perlite to cactus soil?
Adding perlite helps in enhancing the drainage and improves aeration as well. So adding perlite to the cactus soil mix is a great idea to further facilitate the drainage. One thing the succulents love is having a well-draining soil in place.
So the succulents will be fine for cactus soil preparation even if you mix equal parts of perlite and cactus mix soil. However, as perlite is very light. every time you water they can end up floating up around the stem base. So a good alternative will be pumice.
Can you plant Succulents in the sand?
Sands are one of the principal elements you need for crafting an ideal soil mix for growing succulents. However, you can just grow succulents on sands alone. The sand itself has no pH or any nutrition. It just provides weight to the potting mix and enhances the drainage of the soil by draining water fast.
Succulents need a basic supply of nutrition for optimum growth which they can only obtain from the use of soil in the mixture. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur all play an important role in their growth and they can obtain all these only from the soil. So yes you can plant succulents in a soil mix containing sand but you cannot grow them in just sand alone.
Preparing soil for succulents is no rocket science. There is no one specific recipe for making soil mix. The best recipe is the one that works for you. Generally, someone who grows one succulent ends up growing multiple ones sooner or later. So you will have plenty of chances to experiment on your own.
You can try applying a little more of pumice in one mixture, a little bit of extra crushed granite in another, or maybe try changing the organic component options for the soil like using coconut coir in one, pine barks in another.
The main goal is to build a soil which is moderately light and is fast draining. This can only be achieved when the inorganic component ratio of the soil is higher than the organic one. Fertilize the soil once a year before the growing season, keep the succulent at a pace where it gets sufficient indirect, water it when pot soil is dry and the succulent will be good to go.