succulent growing in container in pots having soil

Can You Use Garden soil for Succulents & Cactus?

The soil is the fundamental basis for the development of your succulent. It won’t just act as the base and support but will also help the plant roots to develop and provide them with suitable supplies of nutrients. So choosing the right soil becomes very vital especially for the growth of indoor plants.

Can You Use Garden soil for Succulents & Cactus? Garden soil can be highly fertile as it is rich in organic content that retains water & hence has poor drainage. Succulents cannot grow entirely on garden soil as they can only grow in drainage friendly soil & can catch root rot when grown in damp soil conditions.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this topic.

Can Garden Soil be used for Indoor Plants?

Technically speaking, yes you can use garden soil for growing your indoor plants. However, it contains many ifs and buts.
  • In case you have a proper garden it is highly tempting to go and use the garden soil for growing your indoor plants rather than spending a few bucks buying the potting soil or potting mix.
If you wanna make sure your potted plants grow up to be healthy and want to give them a proper head start, you may wanna again think this over. Growing a succulent outside versus growing them inside is a very different thing to do.
Garden soil no matter how good quality it is, is not suitable at all for being used to grow indoor plants. You have little to no knowledge of their exact composition and current quality.
  • When a plant is grown outside it gets an abundant quantity of sun, soil, and nutrients. When faced with certain adversities in the watering or soil quality they can manage to overcome that.
  • In the case of indoor plants, every resource is limited. So they will be affected easily by very small adversities. Hence you need to be careful about the choices you make.

What are the Benefits of Using Garden Soil?

Garden soil is incredibly ideal for growing outdoor plants. Whether they are loamy or sandy or have high clay content, all these play a crucial role as well.

The role of the garden soil is perfectly suited for outdoor plants. However indoor plants need different characteristics in their soil.

  • Garden soil is something easily available and you can never run out of stock. It is always readily available and you can dig it off your yard and use it as per need.
  • If you take good care of your garden soil regularly it will be rich in nutrients and will have a neutral pH. If you have trees in the garden and from time to time dum organic wastes onto the garden, its soil will be quite rich in organic content. So any plant that loves nutrition-rich soil will thrive wonderfully in these conditions. As it is located outside it can easily get rained upon which helps in neutralizing the soil pH in case it is slightly alkaline.
  • Garden soil is rich in organic components. This makes them highly fertile. You can easily enhance the fertility of the garden soil by dumping everyday kitchen organic wastes.

However high organic content leads to improper drainage as the organic content holds water for a long time. They are useful for growing plants that love muddy or wet conditions. However, for succulents, this is a big no-no.

charcoal for succulents soil

Cons of Using Garden Soil

  • You are basically depending on luck. You have little to no idea about its proper composition. Succulents are extremely choosy about their soil. They can survive in nutrient-deficient conditions as long as it is sufficiently drainage friendly. So basically you will be taking a chance if you use garden soil over potting soil or potting mix.
  • High organic content in the soil can lead to root rot. Succulent roots are highly sensitive to soil dampness. In their natural habitat succulents are prone to grow in extremely dry conditions where rain is scarce. So their roots cannot handle too much moisture in the soil. If they sit on wet soil for days, they will easily catch root rot and it will be really hard to save the plant.
  • The soil can contain harmful microbes and fungal larvae. If you plan to dig out the garden soil and straightaway use it to grow succulents in potted condition, it can be extremely risky as you have no idea if that soil content is rich in harmful microbes or not. If you wanna go that path you can choose to sterilize the soil.
  • The garden soil is not aeration friendly: As the soil is rich in organic content and muddy, it is of heavy and dense stature. Roots of the plants when grown in pots need some space in the soil so that they can breathe and develop better.

However, if the soil is not airy enough, it can lead to the development of weaker roots and the chances of pest manifestation also increase in these conditions.

How to Sterilize Garden Soil?

If you are sure that you wanna experiment and try growing your succulents in garden soil, you can:

  • Firstly try to sterilize the soil to make sure it does not contain pests or microbial larvae in it.  Sterilizing will get rid of all the bacteria and fungus present in the soil.
  • Secondly, you should use loads of inorganic materials like coarse sand, pebbles, crushed granite, pumice with that and mix them thoroughly. The ratio of the garden soil should ideally be kept within 20%-30%.

So here is how you can sterilize the garden soil:

If you want you can refer to this article from Gardeningknowhow as well.

  • Note: Sterilizing garden soil is no small task and needs to be done properly step by step. In case your garden soil is rich in nitrate or manure, if you dont take precaution, it can be explosive.

Personally speaking, I would go with buying potting mix rather than going with so much hassle.

So, What is the best soil to use for indoor plants?

In case you dont wanna use garden soil and you can buy a sterile potting mix for growing succulents. As per the University of Illinois Extension, potted plants thrive best in the soil which has superior drainage and aeration. This is because the chances of pest manifestation or fungal infection are extremely high for them (source).

Potted plants are mostly kept indoors where they dont receive sunlight like it would when kept outside. So it is best to use commercial potting mixes which are made keeping these critical points in mind.

  • Commercial potting mixes are tailor-made to suit the needs of the indoor potted plants. They drain water much faster while retaining the exact amount of moisture the succulents will need to survive. Also, they trap the essential nutrients much better than garden soil.
  • Also as they are highly lightweight and not at all dense like the garden soil, they facilitate better aeration in the soil.

You can find them online or in your nearest nursery and garden store. Alternatively, if you want you can even consider making your own soil mix for growing your succulents. It is no rocket science and can be done easily.

Further reading:

4 Reasons why you Should Use a Soil Mix for growing Succulents

  • You will have full control over every component you use and their respective quantity. But in the case of garden soil, you literally have no idea what their composition is.
  • The soil will be highly drainage friendly as all the potting mixes are made keeping the indoor conditions in mind. They are found to have a greater content of inorganic materials like sand, pebbles, pumice, etc which dries up faster. This makes them highly suitable for being used to grow succulents. Potting mixes contain organic materials in limited amounts so that the plants get just enough nutrition and at the same time suffer from no drainage problems.
  • The aeration of the soil will be top class as it will be way lighter than garden soil. Proper soil aeration will help your succulents to develop their roots better as they will have more space to breathe. They will get a greater dose of oxygen. The health of the succulents is directly related to the health of their roots. Also, sufficient aeration in the soil will keep the chances of fungal or bacterial infection away.
  • As you are using a sealed store-bought product to make up the soil mix, it will be fully sterile and free of any kind of fungus or bacteria. This is something you won’t be so sure of in the case of garden soil.

By choosing the right soil medium for growing your succulent you will eliminate a lot of undue problems that can bug you in the future. Also, your plants will get a healthy fundamental base to grow up quicker and stronger.

Garden soil is best for growing outdoor plants and it is not worth it to use store-bought potting soil mix for outdoor plants as it will be expensive. However, using potting soil mix for indoor plants is a very tactical approach you can take as it is made mainly for houseplants (source).


Deciding on the right soil type for your succulent is an important step so you should decide upon meticulously. There is no one particular soil recipe that applies to all, so you can always experiment from time to time until you end up finding your very own soil mix recipe.

  • Just know that the soil mix should be heavy on inorganic materials as it will promote better drainage and aeration. It must never contain more than 30% organic materials.

Generally, you need to repot your succulents once in 2 to 3 years as the soil loses its viability by then. Ideally, you should also try fertilizing the soil at least once a year. From time to time you should boost its health using natural supplements. Read more on this topic: