What Is Succulent Soil
Aside from using the right tools for repotting succulents, it is also necessary to use the right soil for the said plants. Technically, any potting soil that drains quicker than regular garden soil is suitable for succulents. This is because these kinds of plants require little water. The reason is that most of them will rot quickly when you water them every day. Succulent soil usually consists of regular garden soil mixed with some sand and coarse aggregate like perlite.
Benefits of Using Succulent Soil
Provides Good Drainage
Most succulents do not like too much water. Using soil that retains a lot of water will only cause their roots to rot. In that case, you need the right succulent soil. Such soil provides good drainage, thereby ensuring that the succulents receive just enough.
Quite Loose and Doesn’t Pack Together
Another advantage of succulent soil is that it is quite loose and does not pack together. It is essential for succulents as this allows their roots to grow out wider. With that, you can expect them to get just the right amount of water.
Perfect Environment for Succulents
The use of succulent soil is also beneficial as it is specifically designed to grow succulent plants. This means that the right succulent soil mix is capable of creating the perfect environment for your chosen succulent plants to flourish. It will work regardless of the type of succulents you have, whether jade, Aloe Vera, or cactus.
How Does Succulent Soil Work
A good quality succulent soil works by draining out excess water in fifteen seconds or faster. This is the usual requirement for the soil to work. If it does not drain within that duration, it is highly likely to be too dense. Succulent soil is not meant to hold water for too long as this will cause the roots of the plants to rot.
Another reason why succulent soil needs to drain quickly is that it will prevent soil-borne bacteria from infecting the plants. Bacteria thrive in moist environments, so you will need quick-drying soil to prevent them from growing.
Succulent soil does not contain quite as much organic matter, like peat moss, tree bark, and compost. This makes it work great for succulents since organic matter tends to retain moisture.
Pros and Cons of Succulent Soil
- Perfect for succulent watering habits because it drains quickly, thereby preventing root rot
- Dries quickly, which is good as it prevents the growth of mold and bacteria.
- Has a loose texture, allowing the succulents’ roots to grow properly – The fact that it has a loose texture also means you will have an easier time when you are regularly repotting your succulents.
- Lowers the risk of overwatering the succulents
- Provides the most suitable environment for succulent growth
- Very loose and will float when you water your plants.
Key Succulent Soil Factors
If you are searching for succulent soil for your growing collection of succulents, here are some of the factors you have to consider:
Organic vs mineral
Succulent soil, just like garden soil, contains both organic and mineral components – both of which are necessary for the health of the plants. However, good succulent soil must have the right ratio of organic and mineral matter to support proper growth and prevent root rot.
Depending on the type of succulents, the soil will need around 40% to 80% mineral content per volume. For instance, some succulents need full sun to maintain their shape and color. They will need soil with a bit of water retention to keep them from drying under the sun.
Texture and Porosity
You can also categorize the mineral content of the soil according to their grit size, and they are sand, silt, and clay. Among these three, sandy soil is ideal for succulents as it drains faster than clay, which tends to retain water for a long time. It is even more important if you are growing succulents under artificial light because it does not provide enough heat to dry the soil.
If you will be planting succulents in the ground, use sandy loam soil that contains at least 50% sand or very fine gravel. If you are planting in containers, the grit size should be at least 1/8” in diameter to ensure that the soil drains quickly. This can prevent your succulents from getting too soggy.
How to Choose the Best Succulent Soil
The ideal succulent soil is not dense or easily compacted (such may retain too much water, causing dreaded root rot). Succulent soil must be gritty to drain properly and provide the roots of the plants with proper ventilation. It is more important if you are planting some of the world’s best hanging succulents.
The aggregates should be 1/4-inch in size, on average, to allow excess water to flow through but still retain just enough water for the succulents. Another factor that you need to consider when choosing succulent soil is its pH level. The ideal succulent soil is a bit on the acidic side of the pH scale, which is around 5.5 to 6.
Organic vs Inorganic Matter
Succulent soil does not need quite as much organic matter compared to regular gardening soil. However, if the soil contains too much organic matter like peat moss, ground bark, coconut fibers, and others, it will retain too much water, which is not ideal for succulents.
Succulent soil should also contain other important ingredients, including but are not limited to:
- Haydite – Also known as expanded shale, this specific ingredient is necessary as it helps in absorbing excess water then releasing it slowly.
- Japanese Hard Akadama – It is a kind of volcanic mineral that you can only find in Japan. Like Haydite, Akadama retains water and nutrients, but it breaks down more readily to allow the plants’ roots to grow deeper.
- Pumice – It is a type of volcanic rock that is very porous, making it efficient in retaining just the right amount of water.
- New Zealand Pine Bark – Although it is an organic material, it does not retain quite as much moisture. It also breaks down after some time to provide the plants with even more nutrients.
- Perlite – This ingredient is a kind of volcanic glass that is often white. It is one of the most popular additives in succulent soils because it provides exemplary drainage while retaining just enough water to keep the plants happy.
- Vermiculite – This material is similar to perlite, but it has better water retention, meaning the succulents can go longer without water. Moreover, vermiculite is pH-neutral, so adding it into the soil mix will not affect the pH level.
Indoor vs Outdoor
Outdoor conditions are different from indoors, so your choice of succulent soil may vary. However, for the most part, since your succulents will have more sun and wind exposure, the choice of soil does not need to be fast-draining.
However, since you will need more soil, you should get more affordable soil. On the other hand, you can make your succulent soil much more cost-effective when planting outdoors. A side note regarding planting succulents outdoors – Echeverias can burn from too much sun, so plant them underneath a tree as such can help them get enough shade.
Soil vs Mineral Ratio
The ideal succulent soil should contain 40% to 80% mineral components, like perlite or sand, to allow proper drainage and proper ventilation for the succulents’ roots. There should be enough soil to retain water long enough for the succulents’ roots to get as much as the plants need.
Container and Drainage
It does not matter if you are using fast-draining succulent soil if you will only be putting it in a container that has no or not enough drain holes. Doing so will only allow water to collect at the bottom of the container, thereby defeating the purpose of using succulent soil. Before repotting succulents, check the container if it has enough drain holes. If it does not, then consider drilling more.
Features of the Perfect Indoor Succulent Soil
How will you know if you already have the perfect soil for your indoor succulents? You have to make sure that the following features and qualities are present:
- Fast draining
- Provides excellent root ventilation
- Contains at least ¾ inorganic matter and ¼ organic matter
- Contains particles that are at least ¼” in size
Features of the Perfect Outdoor Succulent Soil
As for outdoor succulents, you also need to provide them with the appropriate soil. One thing to note is that the drainage will greatly depend on the area’s climate. There should only be a bit of water retention as a guide if they are staying in dry places.
However, for places that get a lot of rain, fast-draining ones are better. In addition, if your garden has poor drainage (clay soil), then ensure that the succulent bed is deeper and use fast-draining succulent soil.
How to Make Your Own Succulent Soil
Step 1 – Take 2 parts of garden soil
You can use the soil already in your garden (as long as it is not clay). Alternatively, you can purchase a regular potting mix.
Step 2 – Take 1 part perlite
This looks like crushed white rocks. It helps with the drainage of the soil. It also retains a bit of water and releases it slowly.
Step 3 – Take 1 part aggregate
In addition to the perlite, you will need more aggregate to increase the drainage capabilities of the succulent soil. Ideally, they should be the same size as the perlite. You can use gravel, coarse sand, or crushed pottery.
Step 4 – Mix all the parts thoroughly
Place all the ingredients in a large container and use a trowel to mix them well. Make sure to mix all the perlite and aggregates into the potting mix. The final consistency should be a bit loose and feel like coarse sand.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
When it comes to succulent soil, spending a lot of money is unnecessary. The reason is that succulents can grow in any fast-draining soil. You can even make your own that is almost the same quality as commercial succulent soil. However, certain succulent soils contain imported materials that you may have trouble sourcing on your own. These soils are typically a bit on the expensive side.
Do’s and Don’ts With Succulent Soil
- Ensure that it drains fast. This should always be the primary requirement when selecting succulent soil.
- Use perlite or vermiculite. Add this to the mix to make the succulent soil even more effective.
- Repot succulents from the nursery as soon as you bring them home. Use the appropriate soil for that process.
- Do not use too many water-retaining ingredients.
- Do not use soil that is easy to compact.
- Do not use beach sand for making succulent soil as it contains salt.
FAQ About Succulent Soil
Can I use garden soil for succulents?
Yes, but you will need to add perlite and some grit material like gravel to make it drain excess water fast. It will prevent too much water retention, which is bad for succulents. However, if you will be planting premium cacti for beginners, you need proper cacti soil, which is different from succulent soil.
What is the difference between potting soil and succulent soil?
Potting soil contains mostly organic matter and retains a lot of water. On the other hand, succulent soil contains mostly inorganic minerals. Succulent soil is also quite loose and sandy, making it drain excess water fast.
Succulent soil is also not the ideal medium for plants other than succulents. Regular house plants will dry up and wilt when planted in succulent soil because it does not retain water long enough. The consistency is also too loose for their roots to anchor onto.
How do you prepare the soil for succulents?
If you are making your succulent soil, you need to mix regular garden soil with equal parts of coarse sand or perlite. Succulent soil needs to be loose and airy. It can help ensure that you will not drown your succulents in too much water.
How deep should soil be for succulents?
Succulents can thrive well in just 4 inches of soil. You need to plant them in a wide container to have enough room for their roots to grow out. However, succulents do not like deep soil as it prevents excess water from draining as fast as they need to.
Although succulents are mostly hardy plants, you still have to make sure that you plant them in a medium conducive to their health and proper growth. Succulent soil is the best for the plants mentioned earlier. They let the excess water drain out, which is important for succulents because they are prone to root rot.
You can buy or try your hand at mixing mineralized succulent soil at home. The most important thing is that you bear in mind the care requirements of the succulents you will be planting.
Photos from: NewAfrica / depositphotos.com, belchonock / depositphotos.com and KateNovikova / depositphotos.com.