What Is Succulent Soil
Hello, green thumbs! Today, we will be discussing the succulent soil. It is soil for your favorite succulent plants and a base where your beautiful plants grow from. And like with everything about these plants, the succulent soil is also special. You can’t use just any other soil for growing rare succulents or any other succulent. Succulents will and can survive in almost any conditions, but that’s not the point. You want your plant to prosper, bloom and look healthy, right? So, follow us through this article, and we will teach you everything there is to know about the succulent soil.
Benefits of Making Your Own Succulent Soil
First, it’s cheaper. And we all love that extra few bucks left at the end of the month. Second, it’s simple, and you will need no excessive knowledge or fancy equipment. Just our lovely and easy guide, written further in the article. Why not spend just a few bucks and 10 minutes of your time to make an excellent yet cost-effective succulent soil?
The third and perhaps the most important reason is the health of your succulent plant. You see, there are good, top-quality succulent soils on the market. However, there are also low-quality, cheap and shady soils. And the untrained eye can barely see the difference. But your succulent will feel the difference, and you know it. Also, homemade succulent soil is guaranteed to be high-quality repotting soil if you follow our recipe.
How Does Succulent Soil Work
Your succulent soil must have great drainage. Meaning, it needs to retain enough water for a plant to absorb. But also needs to dry the rest of the water quickly.
Succulents are prone to diseases if their roots are wet. Remember, they come from a drier climate, and water surplus is not a custom thing for your succulents. They store their excess water in stems and leaves. So, you should water your succulent desert-style: a lot of water once in a while. Your plants will store all the water they need, and the rest will drain through the ground.
Your soil should also be an anchorage for your plant’s roots. The soil should be well aerated and with enough large particles for your roots to hold on to.
Pros and Cons of Homemade Succulent Soil
The market is overwhelmed with succulent soil bags. However, not every product out there is top quality. And some can even harm your plants.
Making your own succulent soil is a much cheaper solution than buying the premade one. Also, you are in full control of the ingredients in your soil. That means you can adjust or change the ingredients’ ratio to make a perfect soil for every succulent! The recipe is also highly adaptable. No perlite? No problem! Use gravel instead. You can also switch potting soil with compost or any other organic soil.
However, if you make a mistake while mixing your own soil, your plants might get sick. And sadly, we often see the symptoms when it’s too late. Follow our recipe, and no harm will come to your plants, we promise.
Types of Soil for Succulents
Indoor Succulent Soil
When growing your succulents indoors, you are in full control of the environment. However, it also has its downsides. For instance, air circulation is much worse compared to growing succulents outdoors. So, your indoor succulent soil should have a coarser texture for better aeration. The soil particle size should be at least ¼’’.If you can’t find soil with a larger texture, we suggest you mix one for yourself. Mix one part of pumice, one part of crushed granite, and pine bark fines. Your indoor best flowering succulents will be grateful. Also, do not use the peat or coconut coir for your indoor succulents! They just don’t dry fast enough, and they are a better choice for your outdoor succulents.
Pre-Mixed Succulent Soil
Pre-mixed is the practical and available solution, especially if you don’t have time or space to make your own succulent soil mix. You can buy it in grocery shops, garden centers, or online. Pre-mixed soil contains the proper ratio of minerals and soil. However, not every soil will be good for every succulent. You should stick with respectable producers and sellers. And, the soil price shouldn’t be the most important factor when choosing the right soil for your succulents.
Outdoor Succulent Soil
If you decide to grow the succulents outdoors, it just means your climate is appropriate for them to grow. In most cases, it usually means the natural soil is also appropriate for them. However, the weather factors can make your soil drain faster, so bear that in mind. Also, outdoor soil needs to be gritty and sandy. You can’t plant your succulent into any water-retaining soil, such as clay or any other denser soil.
The best solution for outdoor succulents is to create a rock garden with small raised terraces (berms). This way, your succulents will have a natural draining system. Of course, it all depends on the type and the number of succulents you plan to plant. Big terracotta, clay, or concrete pots are also a great solution for small outdoor succulent gardens. Or, try to make the world’s best succulent ground cover, and carve your name in the Guinness Book of Records.
Ingredients for DIY Succulent Soil
Regular Potting Soil
Potting soil is almost similar to the soil from your garden. It’s dark, with an earthy smell, and can be used for a variety of plants. Potting soil is mostly made of peat, a natural material that originates from organic waste. The other ingredients of the potting soil are:
- compost and fertilizers
The sole purpose of the potting soil is to provide the nutrients (food) for your succulents. Don’t dig your garden soil, although it’s tempting. Buy sterile, fresh soil. Just make sure it doesn’t retain moisture. Also, potting soil is ideal for succulent seeds, so you should always have a small stash in your garage or basement.
Perlite or Pumice
Perlite comes from volcanoes, believe it or not. It’s an inorganic, porous material that maximizes soil drainage. Perlite looks like small cotton or styrofoam balls, and it has remarkable drainage abilities and is lightweight.
Pumice is also volcanic material that looks spongey. Similar to perlite, it’s perfect for drainage and doesn’t break down in the soil.
Both perlite and pumice are available almost everywhere, but perlite is usually a bit cheaper. You can find both materials online as well as in the gardening stores.
The sand is a necessary part of every succulent soil mix. The coarser, the better. A soil without the sand would be too dense, and the plant roots would have problems finding the place to prosper.
You should always buy sterile sand and not use second-hand solutions. So, beach sand, sandbox sand, or anything similar is unacceptable. You can’t possibly know what bugs or parasites are there. And the beach sand is salty and will guaranteed harm your plants.
If you fail to find coarse sterile sand, there are few alternatives available. Builders sand is a great option, as it’s coarse, cheap, and easy to obtain. However, you should check the lime level of it. Crushed gravel, chippings of a decorative stone, or a pea shingle are also common alternatives.
Criteria for Good Succulent Soil
We cannot emphasize enough how much drainage means to your succulents. Drainage is the expression of how fast the liquids leave the soil. Larger soil particles will mean better drainage. A soil too dense will retain water, and thus your succulent will not prosper. After watering, your succulent soil should be completely dry the next day. Stick your thumb into the first inch of soil to check. If the feeling is both warm and dry, your soil has good drainage.
Your succulent roots need a place to breathe. Your soil needs to be full of good microbes that will help your succulent grow and bloom. And for that, well-aerated soil is a must. In gardens, worms deal with the aeration issues by digging tunnels in the ground. In your succulent pots, you need to secure the aeration by choosing the right kind of soil.
Nutritients, But Not Too Many
Sounds funny, but it’s possible. If your soil contains too many nutrients, your succulent will get sick. Remember, they grow in a harsh environment, and they are not used to too many nutrients. The primary nutrients for succulents are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Calcium, sulfur, and magnesium are secondary nutrients, but your succulent will greatly benefit from them.
Key Succulent Soil Factors
When we say organic components of the soil, we refer to the components that were once alive. The usual organic components are plant debris, but animal residues are also an important part of every soil. Organic components feed your succulent with nutrients and store the water for the roots. Some of the usual organic components for the succulent soil are:
- coconut coir
- pine bark
- potting soil
Mineral components are naturally occurring, inorganic, and solid. In the world of succulent soil, mineral components are needed for both aeration and drainage. Similar to the organic component offer, you can also choose from a wide choice of mineral components for your succulent soil:
- coarse sand
You should avoid the mineral components that retain water. Clay, non-calcinated clays, and vermiculite are a not so good choice for your succulent soil.
Mineral Components Texture and Porosity
Texture refers to the size of the particles for every mineral component. For instance, fine sand will have small particles, while crushed grit has much larger particles.
Porosity refers to the number of small holes (pores) in every mineral component. Usually, larger particles equal more porosity. When choosing mineral components for your succulent soil, pick the ones with high porosity and coarse texture.
How to Choose the Best Succulent Soil
Indoor vs Outdoor
Indoor succulents are much more sensitive than outdoor ones. So, outdoor succulents can manage almost any kind of soil as long as it has good drainage. However, you will need a lot more soil for your outdoor succulents, so be sure to check the price tag before buying.
Organic vs Non-Organic
This is just a personal preference, nothing more. As you won’t eat your cacti or aloe, rest assure they will be happy with the non-organic soil. If you are still concerned about the chemical impact on your plant, opt for organic soil. However, be ready to pay a few dollars more.
Soil vs Mineral Ratio
Every soil is a mixture of organic components and minerals (non-organic components). However, succulent soil should have a larger percentage of minerals than the usual plant soil. Cacti require sandy soil, as most of the other succulents.
A succulent soil with a larger concentration of minerals will drain better, and your plants will be happier. The usual concentration of the minerals in the succulent soil varies from 40% to 80%.
Container and Drainage
No matter which type of plant are you growing, the pot should always have drainage holes. If your pot doesn’t have holes, drill them! The first layer in the pot should always be pebbles, rocks or gravel, to further enhance the drainage. Also, a saucer below your pot is a foolproof way to check did you overwater your succulents.
After you gather some experience, you will be able to use a pot without the drainage hole. But until then, better safe than sorry.
How to Mix Succulent Soil at Home
Step 1 – Preparation
As we all know, good preparation is half the work. So, prepare:
- A nice pair of gardening gloves
- Small shovel
- Larger plastic bucket for mixing the soil
- A measuring cup
And for your DIY succulent soil mix, you will need:
- Gardening soil
- Perlite or pumice
- Coarse sand
Step 2 – Measuring
The golden ratio for mixing your own succulent soil is 2:2:1. So, you will take two parts of gardening soil, two parts of coarse sand and one part of pumice (or perlite). Depending on the size and number of your succulent collection, you can double or triple the measurement. The ratio remains the same. With this ratio, mineral components are 60% of the soil. If your succulents prefer even sandier soil, you can always add an extra part of sand.
Step 3 – Mixing your succulent soil
Put on your gardening gloves to avoid any possible cuts or bruises. Next, slightly moisten your gardening soil. By doing so, you won’t have a cloud of dust when you put the soil in the bucket. After the soil, the coarse sand is next in the bucket. You can mix the soil with a small shovel. However, if you do it by hand, it will be more effective. In the end, add that one part of pumice or perlite. Again, mix well.
And that’s it. You have just made your first succulent soil mix, and you didn’t even get your hands dirty. You can start using your soil immediately or store it for later.
Do’s and Don’ts With Succulent Soil
- Try to mimic your succulent’s natural environment.
- Mix your own succulent soil as an effective alternative to store-bought soils.
- Remember that indoor and outdoor succulents have different soil preferences.
- Engage in the succulent-growing communities to exchange experience.
- Never buy succulent soil of questionable quality.
- Don’t make your own succulent soil if you don’t have the proper ingredients.
- Don’t overfertilize your succulents.
- Never use kitty litter, as it’s basically clay.
Simple Succulent Soil Ratios
- For most of the succulents, you can use two parts of inorganic material to one part of organic.
- Fatty succulents will prosper if you use one part of the soil and two parts of pumice.
- Thin succulents have smaller water-storing options, so that they will need two soil parts and one part of pumice.
FAQ About Making Your Own Succulent Soil
How do you make succulent soil without sand?
As a material, sand isn’t quite necessary in the succulent soil. The sand is just there to increase the drainage and the aeration of the soil. So, you can easily replace sand with poultry grit or surface. In fact, any mineral component with similar properties can easily replace sand in the soil mixture.
How do I make my succulent soil gritty?
Gritty succulent soil is the one with the larger particles. To make your own gritty succulent soil, just mix equal parts of Bonsai block, pine bark, and Turface. Your cacti will enjoy growing on gritty soil. And it doesn’t just fit your plants. Gritty soil also looks magnificent in your plant pots.
To make an existing succulent soil grittier, just add the desired quantity of coarse mineral components. Carefully remove the succulent from the pot, add mineral components to the soil and mix well. After that, gently put your succulent back in the pot.
Can you use regular potting soil for succulents?
Unfortunately, no. Succulents need sandy soil that drains well. Regular potting soil retains a lot of water, which is great for your regular plants. However, a water surplus will lead to your succulents sickness and death. Potting soil is the key ingredient of succulent soil, but you can’t plant your succulents directly in it.
What type of soil is best for succulents?
The best soil for the succulents is the one that mimics their natural habitat. Usually, it should have a higher concentration of minerals to drain better. The more mineral content the soil has, the drainage will be better. You’ll accomplish the best results if you check the natural habitat of your succulent plant first.
How do you store DIY succulent soil?
Depends on the quantity, but large plastic buckets with airtight lids have proven to be the best choice. Airtight lids are necessary, as you don’t any bugs in your DIY succulent soil. Your bucket can stay in your shed, garage, or basement. Just keep it far away from heat and moisture. Do not store your soil outdoors, where the harsh weather conditions or pets can cause damage the container.
Does succulent soil go bad?
As you well know, one of the main ingredients of succulent soil is potting soil. Potting soil is made of organic matter, and like any organic material, it can go bad. Meaning, it will lose nutrients, texture, and moisture. If your succulent soil has a rotten smell or mold growth, it’s a lost cause. Otherwise, an opened bag of succulent soil can retain the quality for up to one year. After that, it just won’t give your succulents the proper base for growth and blooming.
That doesn’t mean you should throw that soil, as you can always use it in larger gardens.
Can succulents survive without the soil?
The short answer is yes, but not for very long. As humans can survive without food for quite a while, so can succulents without the soil. However, they won’t prosper. The most popular no-soil solutions are small glass containers or terrariums. To make your no-soil succulent alive for a longer time, you should give it enough sunlight and some fertilizer in the water. This way, your little project will be alive for a longer time. However, be prepared that some of your succulents will simply die without the soil. Ask yourself, are you ready for that?
Admit it; you probably had no idea how much the right choice of soil can influence the growth of your succulents. And we can’t stop repeating: drainage, drainage, drainage. But, we are here for you, as always. Keep following our blog for more articles, step-by-step guides, and how-tos about your favorite succulents. And don’t stress too much about the succulent soil. In the end, they are used to much harsher conditions.
Photos from: belchonock / depositphotos.com, IgorVetushko / depositphotos.com and KateNovikova / depositphotos.com.