Succulents aren’t like most other plants. Although they are (rightly) regarded as low maintenance plants, they do have different needs to most other types of plants and require slightly different treatment and conditions.
Don’t let that put you off though, their uniqueness is all part of their charm and with a little knowhow you’ll be able to pick out the perfect soil for your succulents to keep them strong and healthy for years to come.
What Is The Best Soil For Succulents?
To put it simply: The best soil for succulents is a well-draining soil.
Succulents are perfectly adapted to store water in their leaves and stems. This ability to cope with drought-like conditions means that their roots are prone to rot if they are left in soil that is too wet.
The best soil mix will have larger than average size particles, somewhere around 1/4 inch, to make sure drainage is fast and the roots of your succulent are never sat in water for too long.
Can You Use Regular Potting Soil For Succulents?
Technically yes, you can use regular potting soil for succulents, but we wouldn’t advise it. The average potting soil mix you’ll find in your local garden center is too dense and holds on to too much water for good succulent growth.
If that’s all you have and you just want to get on with growing some succulents (and who can blame you?) then regular potting soil can work, it just needs a bit more attention to make sure your succulents don’t become overwatered.
A regular potting soil can be used for small, new succulents when they need more water than their adult counterparts but if you are planning to keep on using a standard potting soil mix for adult plants we would strongly recommend that you add at least 50% mineral matter such as perlite, gravel or crushed granite to improve drainage.
Check out our post on How Often To Water A Succulent for more advice on when and how much to water your succulents
Best Soil For Succulents In Pots
There are lots of good choices for pre-mixed succulent potting soils but, in our experience, the most important factor for growing healthy succulents pots is the drainage holes in the pot itself.
The best draining soil in the world will still hold onto too much water if you overdo it, so the best way to prevent that is to have somewhere for that excess water to go.
Once you’re sure you’ve got good drainage for your plant, look for a soil mix that is at least 50% organic content and 50% mineral content. In more humid environments you can increase the mineral content to as much as 80% but anywhere between 50% and 80% should yield good results.
One of the most popular succulent soil mixes for pots is the Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111 from Bonsai Jack. It’s got a great 2:1 ration of mineral to organic content, the ideal 1/4 inch average particle size and is one of the fastest draining soils available.
We’re yet to hear of anyone having bad results from the Bonsai Jack mix and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to buy a soil mix for their succulents.
DIY Succulent Soil Potting Mix
If you don’t want to buy an off the shelf product, or maybe you just want full control over what goes into your soil mix, there’s always the option of mixing your own potting mix.
Following the guidelines we’ve already mentioned, you want to aim for 1/3 organic matter and 2/3 mineral materials.
For the organic material, you can take your pick from potting soil, compost, pine bark or coconut coir.
If you opt for potting soil, try to get a mix that doesn’t contain any peat. Aside from the environmental concerns, once it dries out, peat repels water which makes it a poor choice for a succulent soil mix. If possible, also try and find a potting soil that states it is a fast-draining mix – as you already know this is a vital part of the soil makeup.
Our preferred choice for the organic element of the mix would be pine bark fines. They retain water well without making your mix soggy but they also aerate your mix which improves drainage and creates a more suitable environment for succulents to grow in.
When it comes to the mineral part of the mix, it’s really there just to improve water flow and drainage so the actual material used here is less important than the size of the particles.
Take your pick from perlite, gravel, crushed granite or turface.
Any one of these (or a mix of more than one) will do fine here, the crucial thing is to look for a particle size of around 1/4 inch. This is the perfect size for a fast-draining soil mix that will allow your plants to thrive.
Once you have your ingredients in the right amounts, the only thing left is to mix it all together.
There’s no real secret to this step, just mix it up until it looks evenly blended, throw some in a pot and stick your plant on top.
When you put your succulent in the pot you can fill the rest of the space with more potting mix but don’t worry about pressing it all down – just let the soil settle as it wants and top up a little if needed after the first watering.
How Deep Should Soil Be For Succulents?
Another important factor for how well your soil drains from the roots of your plant is how deep it is. The more soil there is in the pot, the more soil there is to retain water so you shouldn’t put a tiny succulent in a large plant pot.
As a general guideline, we suggest your soil is no more than 4 inches deep, as long as this covers the root ball. If your pot is deeper than this then feel free to fill the bottom with some pebbles or stones to raise the base level of the soil.
When you are filling your pot with soil, make sure the soil level goes right up to the rim of the pot so there is less chance for water to pool and cause damage to those precious succulents.