You may think buying a cactus or succulent potting mix at your local garden center is the best way to get the right succulent soil for planting.
It certainly is the easiest and if you just have a few succulents to pot, this is probably true.
When planting the more forgiving types of Agaves, Aloes and succulent birds nest sansevieria a garden center potting mix may work fine.
However, if you’re like most succulent lovers, you’ll soon be rooting:
- Cactus plants
- Succulent Echeveria plants
- Haworthia varieties
- Stonecrop Sedums
… and others requiring the need for larger amounts of soil designed for succulents.
In this article, we provide a simple potting soil recipe for mixing up your own affordable succulent mix.
We’ll also share information to help you make wise decisions when choosing ingredients to suit your own situation and location. Read on to learn more.
#1 Requirement Of The Best Succulent Soil Mixes
It’s very easy and inexpensive to mix up your own succulent soil.
There is no ideal potting soil. But, any type of soil used as a cactus mix or succulent mix you create – MUST be a well-draining soil.
The problem of roots rot with all types of succulents are caused by excess water and wet soil.
This can be the result of too much water or the result of the soil mix retaining too much water.
A gritty mix, with good drainage, is the number one quality sought in soil used to grow succulent plants.
What Goes Into A Good Succulent Potting Mix?
A potting mix for succulents should be composed mostly of larger, porous materials.
In any location, you can find the ingredients needed at your local garden center, home improvement center and/or local feed store.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Best Potting Mix For Succulents In Pots
When choosing potting soils, don’t get the kind with ingredients or related products that help retain water (e.g. vermiculite or water retaining beads).
This is exactly what you don’t want. Most types of regular potting soils intended for indoor plants should be fine.
Most contain peat moss which causes the soil to hold too much water. Some growers use coconut coir over peat moss.
NOTE: Coco coir is a peat moss substitute. It comes from shredded coconut husks, slowly decomposes, and is a natural fiber.
You’ll also find several cactus and succulent soils on the market which will work fine for potting a hardy jade plant.
They serve as a good starting base soil to build on.
Look for cactus soil mixes from Hoffman, Espoma and Miracle-Gro.
But be sure the potting soil selected is light and airy. We are going to make the porous soil much more “succulent friendly.”
Some of the cheaper succulent potting mixes and even garden soil are dense and heavy without good soil drainage and will not work for succulents.
The sand (coarse) sold for sandboxes available at home improvement stores works as a good soil amendment.
Don’t use construction sand it may contain skin irritating substances.
Check it to make sure the sand purchased is not extremely fine.
Very fine sand retains water rather than allowing it to drain freely.
Don’t gather up sand from the beach or in an existing sandbox.
Beach sand is full of salt, and a sandbox could be full of just about anything.
It’s important to note that if you’re not able to find coarse sand, you can substitute poultry grit, or chicken grit which is incredibly affordable.
You’ll find it in feed stores. This product is made up of crushed granite.
Another substance to help provide sharp drainage in your succulent dirt is turface.
This is a product made of calcium clay.
It is used on athletic fields to reduce soil compaction, and also used in landscaping to help improve drainage.
Pumice or Perlite
Natural Pumice and perlite are very lightweight organic soil amendments. It is almost like volcanic material used to grow orchids and in hydroculture.
Both of these help prevent soil compaction and improve drainage.
A Word On Pine Bark In A Succulent Mix
There are always debates over what soil components to include in your perfect succulent soil, but factors to consider.
- Are you growing succulents indoors or outdoors?
- The growing location and conditions
- The types of succulents plants you are growing?
The topic of using or adding pine bark to the soil can cause a heated exchange.
I don’t use any in my cactus or succulents mix.
However, Bonsai Jack makes a mix that features pine bark and gets rave reviews.
- Is an organic material which does hold some water
- Takes time to break down into finer organic matter
- Does help improve in draining soil
Many growers incorporate pine bark into their soil mix.
When adding pine bark to a succulent soil mix, look for products labeled as ‘pine bark fines” with 1/4″ sized pieces.
Remove a portion of the potting soil and replace with the pine bark fines.
DIY Succulent Soil: Tools
You’ll need containers large enough to hold the succulent soil you want to mix and give enough space to toss it around a bit.
- A large tote with a lid makes an excellent container for succulents potting mix.
- Mix your soil up with a trowel and a garden fork or just use your hands.
- You’ll probably want to wear long rubber gloves to avoid irritation and drying your skin.
Mix It Up!
Once you’ve gathered together your ingredients mix them in these proportions.
- 1/2 Potting Soil
The other half:
- 2/3 coarse sand
- 1/3 perlite or pumice
Your succulent soil mixture should consist of about half potting soil.
The remaining half should be about two thirds sand (coarse), poultry grit or turface and one third part perlite or pumice.
Learn the Differences between Perlite and Vermiculite.
It’s a good idea to mix up a large amount in advance to plant succulents.
Buying all of these ingredients in bulk will usually save you some money.
Plus, it’s always handy to have extra succulent potting mix on hand before the growing season starts or to make up that succulent plant garden for a friend.
Be Flexible – Your Soil Mix For Succulents Will Improve Over Time
Your location and budget may put constraints on your soil preparation project.
Don’t forget that recipes for soil mixes are like cooking recipes, they are an art that gardeners improve and perfect over time. Improved soil structure and succulent care come from experience and time.
Here is another potting mix for cactus and succulents:
- 1/4 packaged soil
- 1/4 leaf mold or peat moss
- 1/4 sand
- 1/4 gravel, pumice, perlite or small pieces of broken pots.
- Depending on the amount, add up to a pint of bone meal per bushel of soil.
Here is a simple “starter” soil mix to use when rooting or starting new succulent plants you’ll love:
- 1 Part bagged soil (as mention above)
- 2 Parts perlite
Make sure the succulent soil recipe you use is fast draining and retains little water.
Also, don’t forget to use pots with drainage holes!