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Best Soil for Succulents

The success of growing succulents is directly contingent on the soil in which it is planted.  Succulents have shallow root systems and prefer drought-like growing conditions.  This makes them an attractive, low-maintenance plant choice, as long as you get a few environmental factors just right from the start.  Proper soil, drainage, fertilizer, and watering requirements are essential to a succulent plant’s ability to flourish.  We will explore the best succulent soil so you can provide the optimal medium for your treasured succulents to grow.

An echinocero hedgehog cactus in bloom in a garden.

The Type of Soil Succulents Need:

Whether you are planting succulent plants indoors or outside, succulent soil is the foundation for a plant’s capacity to thrive. Succulents require a well-draining soil with larger particles so water can enter quickly and drain away from the roots without compacting the soil. To ensure the best soil for succulents, use a soil test kit and amend the soil to reach an optimal 6.0-6.5 on the pH scale before planting.

  • Succulents have shallow root systems and prefer soil that well-draining.
  • A loose, rocky soil that is nutrient-rich is optimal.
  • If planting in containers, use a potting mix specifically formulated for succulents and cacti and plant in a pot with holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • Alkaline soil has the potential to cause the demise of succulent plants.
  • Amend existing soil with soil additives to improve the quality of the soil for succulents needs.

Soil formulated for Succulents & Cactus

Succulent and cactus potting mixes work exceptionally well for growing these drought-tolerant plants. The succulent soil is formulated to readily absorb water and provides optimal drainage for the plant so that plants’ feet do not remain wet and rot susceptible. The soil comprises recycled forest products, pumice, bark fragments, sand, dehydrated poultry manure, and hydrolyzed feather meal. It provides just the quintessential quantity of essential nutrients to help your succulents grow and develop.

Young woman gardening indoors, repotting succulent plants.

Amending Succulents Soil

All soils are not optimal for all plant varieties, and succulents have specific soil requirements. Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve your soil structure. Soil amendments improve not only the nutrient content but the texture and structure of the soil as well. Here are our best soil amendments that you can add to your existing soil to make the best soil for succulents.

  • Pumice can significantly improve soil structure, counteracting soil compaction and guiding moisture and nutrients to roots. Pumice is a natural volcanic rock substrate that works to loosen heavy claylike soil and enhances drainage. Pumice is a porous natural product that also helps beneficial microbes to exist in the soil.  Pumice is a bit heavier than the amendment of perlite, so it stays mixed in the soil better and never decomposes. It is also a naturally occurring substance that is eco-friendly.
  • Perlite is an airy soil additive that improves soil drainage, aeration, and combats soil compaction just as pumice does. It is a porous material that holds onto nutrients and soil but allows excess to drain away from root systems. This allows oxygen to circulate succulent plants’ shallow root systems, counteracting wet feet and root rot. Unlike pumice, its lightweight consistency causes perlite it rise to the soil surface, causing it to erode from the soil.  It is also more processed of a material with a larger carbon footprint than pumice and can be a bit dusty to use.
  • Sand can be used to added to your existing soil to boost drainage, which is pertinent to the success of growing succulent plants. Be sure to use coarse grit sand for the best results. Fine sands can retain too much water and might not drain as well.
  • Gravel can be used to amend the soil for succulent plants, but unfortunately, succulents cannot grow exclusively in this material. Mixing gravel with soil can drastically improve drainage while allowing plants to extract beneficial nutrients from the soil.

Importance of Fertilizing Succulents

Many succulent varieties will never require fertilization, and they will still have healthy and consistent growth.  However, applying fertilizer will help your succulent soil reach its fullest potential, encouraging more vibrant foliage and more prolific blooms. A high-quality organic fertilizer will improve the overall health and longevity of your succulent plants.

Seek out a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for succulents and cactus plants. The fertilizer should be low in nitrogen and include beneficial soil microbes. Since succulent plants are not continuously soaking up water from the soil,  a slow-release formula that will feed the succulent plant whenever it needs nourishment.

Watering pouring into round pot with small aloe vera.

Key Watering Considerations

When contemplating the best succulent soil, you must also consider how watering your succulents can impact them.  One of the biggest mistakes that people make is overwatering their succulent varieties. The word ‘succulent’ is derived from the Latin root sucus, which means sap or moisture, so water is crucial for these plants. But just because they self-sufficiently store moisture in their foliage, it doesn’t mean that they need a constant water supply to grow. These helpful tidbits provide key watering guidance as you care for your succulent plants.

  • Water more deeply, but less frequently.
  • Saturate the potting mix thoroughly, allowing the water to drain through fully.
  • If using a saucer underneath a pot, empty the saucer thoroughly after the water has drained through.
  • Then let the mixture dry out a bit before the next watering.
  • Watering plants on a schedule keeps the roots plump and leaves full for your succulents.
  • Keep your plants on the dry side.
  • If the plant starts to look gangly or the leaves begin to wither, test the soil with your fingertip, and if it is parched, provide water more frequently.
  • Too much moisture can cause root rot and eventually the demise of the entire plant.

Whether you purchase a potting mix specifically formulated for succulents and cacti or create your own soil mix, adequate drainage is paramount to succulent success.  Providing your succulents with a foundation of lightweight and well-draining soil allows plants to efficiently take in just the right amount of oxygen, nutrients, and water that they need to grow to their potential.

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