You may think buying a succulent potting soil or cactus soil mix at your local garden center is the best way to get the right soil for planting succulents.
It certainly is the easiest and if you just have a few succulent plants to pot, this is probably true.
However, if you’re like most succulent lovers, you’ll soon be rooting:
… and others requiring the need for larger amounts of soil designed for succulents.
In this article, we provide a simple 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 Soil For Succulents
It’s very easy and inexpensive to mix up your own succulent soil.
Any type of soil used as a cactus mix or succulent soil mix you create – MUST be a fast draining soil.
The problem of root rot with all types of succulents are caused by overwatering.
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 Soil Mixture?
Succulent potting soil 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:
Good Quality Potting Soil
When choosing potting soil, 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 soil intended for indoor plant should be fine.
Most contain peat moss which causes the soil to hold too much water.
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 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 soil much more “succulent friendly.”
Some of the cheaper potting soils and even garden soil are dense and heavy and will not work for succulents.
The coarse sand 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, 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 soil 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
Pumice and perlite are very lightweight organic soil amendments.
Both of these help prevent soil compaction and improve drainage.
A Word On Pine Bark In Succulent Soil
There are always debates over what soil components to include in your succulent soil, but factors to consider.
- Are the plants growing as indoor succulents or outdoors?
- The growing location and conditions
- The types of succulent 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 succulent mixes. However, BonsaiJack’s makes a mix which 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.
Gather Your Tools For Mixing
You’ll need a container large enough to hold the amount of succulent soil that 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 succulent 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 coarse sand, poultry grit or turface and one third part perlite or pumice.
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 garden for a friend.
Be Flexible – Soil Mixes 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.
Here is another soil 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:
- 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!