There are quite a few things to know about succulent soil. It could seem a bit overwhelming at first: having the plant indoors vs. outdoors, mix types, or making the soil mix yourself. If it seems a bit daunting, don’t worry; we’re going to keep it nice and simple throughout.
Hands down, the best succulent soil is a mix with good drainage. If you use a porous mix, you’ll prevent a potential case of overwatering, which could lead to big problems for your plant. A great way to address this is with a DIY succulent soil mix made of potting soil, coarse sand and perlite.
In this guide, you’ll also learn about:
- Indoor vs. outdoors succulent soil mixes.
- The right pots and temperature conditions for your plants
- The difference between buying soil vs. DIY mixes
- Different succulent soil factors
- How to mix soil yourself
We’ll make finding the best mix super easy for you. If you follow this guide carefully, you’ll even be making your own high-quality mixes in no time, even if you’re a first-timer. Let’s take it from the top.
The Perfect Succulent Soil
What is the Best Succulent Soil Out There?
Drainage is the key component to consider in any great succulent soil mix. Many succulents that are sitting on commercial soil mixes suffer from overwatering. That’s because these mixes don’t provide adequate drainage, and water tends to accumulate, which could lead to damage to the plant over the long term.
Having a well-draining soil is going to be absolutely crucial to the health of your plant.
Do I Use the Same Soil for Indoor and Outdoor Plants?
No, The base of your soil should be different depending on the location of your succulents.
If you have an indoor plant, using soil with a large particle size should yield better results. You’re looking for soil with ¼ to a 6mm particle size. Ideally, you want the soil to have organic elements and be able to hold water. The size of the particles, though, makes this mix very porous, so there should be plenty of water flowing.
You may find success with the same type of soil for outdoor succulents. It will mainly depend on the humidity of your environment, and the changes that take place year-round. If the weather’s dry, you may have to water your succulents more frequently.
Below, we’ll share soil recipes and options that will help you keep your plants perfect.
Pots and Drainage
When you first bring your succulent home from the store, repot it immediately. The main reason is that stores tend to use generic soil for every type of plant, with peat as the main ingredient. Since this isn’t the type of soil that readily absorbs water, you’ll find that your succulent won’t be getting enough hydration. Using great-quality succulent soil and pots with good drainage is important for the health of your plants.
When it comes to pots, focus on the ones that have drainage holes and leave enough room for the plant to grow. The minimum pot size should be around 2.5” in diameter, with 4”+ if you intend to leave enough room for your plant to grow. It’s always best to leave a little space, even if the succulent doesn’t quite fill the whole pot, rather than having to repot it too early.
If your pots don’t have drainage holes in them, you can add them yourself, with a little care.
Succulents tend to do well in more temperate climates. They should do well in environments ranging from 60° to 80°F. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 40°F, and up to 90°F if necessary, though far from ideal.
Buying vs. Doing Yourself
It used to be that if you wanted the ideal succulent soil, you’d have to do it yourself. This is still the preferred option for the best-quality soil because organic, well-made soil mixes aren’t available everywhere.
Mostly, DIY yourself mixes require access to good ingredients and knowing the ratio between organic and inorganic components. In general, they offer great water retention (due to the organic components) and great drainage due to their big particle size.
You can also find great mixes with similar components to DIY ones, such as Bonsai Jack’s. This gritty mix works great with both succulents and cacti.
If you’re going with commercial soil mixes, keep the main properties of water retention and drainage in mind. As we mentioned above, regular store-bought-soil is not a good choice, in this case.
Making a succulent soil mix yourself may seem like a daunting task, but it’s easier than it looks. Let’s take a look at some soil factors first.
Succulent Soil Factors
Organic vs. Mineral
The right soil factors can help succulents grow.
You need the right mix of organic and mineral factors. Organic refers to matter that was once alive, like plant debris and tree bark. Minerals are inorganic substances, like gravel.
The function of organic materials is to store water. Minerals, on the other hand, cause the succulent soil to have proper drainage.
You can have between 40% to 80% of inorganic material in your mix, depending on the growing conditions.
Some good organic factors are:
- Potting soil
- Coconut coir
- Pine bark
Some great mineral factors are:
- Coarse sand
- Volcanic Rock
- Chicken Grit
- Fine Gravel
Stay away from mineral factors that hold water!
Texture and Porosity
Mineral factors in succulent soil are described by their grit size, or porosity. The three texture types are sand, silt, and clay.
The proportion of factors with different textures affect how much water a soil can take in, and how long before it dries out completely.
If you’re planting outdoors in the ground, having a sandy soil of around 50-80% coarse sand or fine gravel is OK. For potted, indoor plants, remember that rapid drainage and higher-diameter minerals are essential.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
You want a well-balanced mix for your indoor potted plants. Something like pine bark fines, an absorptive rock like turface, and crushed granite should go. This should maintain a great range of porosity and water absorption. Bonsai Jack makes a mix very much like this one.
You could either use this mix for outside plants, depending on the heat and humidity. If you’re not great at keeping your plants watered, you may want to consider a soil with even more water retention to offset this.
A soil with coconut coir and pumice (or crushed granite) is excellent for outdoor plants that need to tolerate more heat and/or dryness.
DIY Soil for Succulents
How Do You Mix Your Own Succulent Soil?
It’s easier than it looks! Once you purchase the ingredients (below), you just need a measuring container, a shovel, and a mixing container. Remember, this is a sort of “all-purpose” soil. If you’re planting your succulent outside, you may need a different recipe.
You’re going to need:
3 parts potting soil. It needs to be sterile and fresh. Stay away from heavy garden soils that hold moisture too much. Best to err on the side of it being light and porous.
2 parts coarse sand Remember, no sand from the beach here. Poultry grit or turface should do.
1 part perlite. Pumice should do just fine as well.
You should think of “part” in regards to proportion. That’s why it’s important to have a measuring container.
Once you’ve got your proportions right, mixing your soil is super easy! You just need to put everything into the same container and stir it together using your trowel.
Once you’ve managed to mix all of the ingredients evenly, you’re done. It really is straightforward. No reason for you not to give it a try, right?
Storing Your Succulent Soil Mix
A great thing about mixing your own soil is that you can make batches as big or as small as you need. As long as you put your mix in an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dark location. Your basement, garage, or garden shed should do just fine.
You can also make a large batch and keep it in a big bucket or container with an airtight lid. You may have a big succulent project in mind, and you’ll be glad you kept a big amount of soil ready to use for when to repot your plant.
Can You Use Normal Soil for Succulents?
This is not recommended, as we discussed above. Succulents need a soil with good drainage, and most store-bought soils don’t have it. You could leave your plant without vital hydration.
Is Cactus Soil the Same as Succulent Soil?
Not 100%, but there’s plenty of overlap. Generic “succulent and cactus soil mix” may work well for a while, but it could lack the proper drainage that is so important for succulents. Our DIY mix also works great with cacti, with minimum alterations.
Peat Moss vs. Coconut Coir
Coconut coir is excellent at both absorbing water and providing drainage. Peat moss, while standard in most potting soils, tends to dry out and repel water, therefore it’s not ideal.