How to Prepare Soil for Succulents

Well-draining and nutrient-rich soil is key to having healthy and flourishing succulents. Knowing how to prepare soil for succulents is useful if you’re planning on growing these plants in pots or in garden plots.

The steps in succulent soil preparation include identifying the soil that’s best for your succulents. Aeration, composition, and drainage are some important factors to consider too. Coarse sand, potting soil, and pumice are some suitable ingredients that you can use for your soil mix.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the ideal soil type for succulents and the steps on how to prepare, measure, and store your succulent soil. Read on before you start planting!

1. Identify the Right Soil Type

Before you gather supplies for your succulent soil, it’s important to understand the soil type that’s best for your plant, first. Doing so will make it easier to change and adjust your soil mix in the future, based on your succulents’ needs and changing conditions.

Succulents originated from desert areas, with long and hot seasons. The best soil type for these plants mimics these conditions. In other words, succulents prefer well-draining and coarse soil over moist and compost-based soil types.

The wrong type of soil retains unnecessary moisture, leading to root rot. Succulents with this type of illness need immediate treatment, to prevent death.

The right succulent soil type has the following characteristics:

Plant succulents in a terrarium

Balanced Soil Composition

The ideal succulent soil contains sufficient amounts of organic and inorganic matter. Organic matter is composed of animal or plant tissue that’s in the process of decomposition.

Meanwhile, inorganic matter is made up of substances that originate from minerals and weathering rocks. To create a balanced soil composition, ⅓ of your soil should be made up of organic materials, such as compost, coconut coir, potting soil, and pine bark.

The other ⅔ of your soil should be mineral or inorganic. For this part, you can use materials such as coarse sand, gravel, pumice, and perlite.

Maintaining the correct ratio is crucial. Too much organic matter leads to moist soil, which causes rotting.

Sufficient Aeration

Succulents prefer soil with large particles and pores, rather than compacted soil. Properly aerated soil provides extra growing space for succulent roots to spread out freely.

Aeration also makes your soil breathable enough to allow the optimal absorption of carbon dioxide and nutrients.

Proper Drainage

To cope with hot desert climates, succulents store water in their fleshy leaves and stems. Meanwhile, their roots are shallow and prefer dry and drought-like conditions. Hence, fast-draining soil is essential to keeping succulent roots healthy.

Consistently damp soil, on the other hand, can lead to fungal growth, bacterial infections, and other plant diseases. To avoid this, make sure your succulent soil type is grainy and loose.

Generally, your soil should be completely dry 1–1.5 days after watering. Simply insert your finger 1–2 inches into your succulent soil to check. The soil should feel dry and warm to the touch. On the other hand, damp soil feels cool.

Users Also Read: Succulent Temperature Requirements

Nutrient Content

Life-sustaining nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, must be present in the soil to keep your plants healthy.

Succulents planted on garden plots might not need additional nutrients from fertilizer. This is because they’re able to spread and search for the nutrients that they need on the ground.

On the contrary, potted or containerized succulents are limited to the soil they have in their pots. Hence, they’re more likely to depend on fertilizer to get sufficient nutrients.

Correct Soil Texture

Soil texture refers to the amount of silt, sand, and clay-sized particles found in the soil. Soil with coarse grit, such as sandy soil, is most suitable for succulents due to its quick-drying properties.

The “jar test” is a simple procedure that you can use to determine the texture of your soil. It involves filling a clear jar with some sifted soil, detergent, and water.

Gradually, the soil will divide itself into sand, silt, and clay layers. The measurements of these layers will reveal the soil texture that you have.

2. Prepare and Measure Your Ingredients

The type and amount of materials you use for your soil mixture can vary depending on your succulent variety and personal preference. Buying commercially available soil mixes is an option, but preparing your own soil is easy and less expensive.

Standard succulent soil recipes include the following ingredients:

Potting Soil

You’ll need two parts of well-draining potting soil for your mixture. The potting soil provides the necessary nutrients and organic matter that your succulent needs to survive. You can opt for standard potting soil, but avoid using heavy or water-retaining garden soil.

Additionally, steer clear of soil mixes that have Vermiculite in them. Vermiculite is a mineral that mixes with soil and holds water. It’s fine to use with other plants, but not with succulents, as they require fast-draining soil.

Perlite or Pumice

Perlite for potting cactus or succulents

The recipe also involves adding one part of perlite or pumice to your soil mixture. The purpose of this ingredient is to enhance drainage and soil aeration.

The advantage of using pumice is its heavy weight. This characteristic allows it to stay mixed into your soil instead of floating to the top of your pot during watering.

Coarse Sand

Lastly, you’ll need two parts of coarse sand to complete your succulent soil mix. Another name for this ingredient is “horticultural grit.” It usually consists of crushed granite, sandstone, or quartz.

Having this type of sand in your mixture significantly improves your soil’s drainage properties and aeration. Just make sure to use medium to coarse grit sand, instead of fine sand.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide for Grafting Succulents

3. Mix and Spread Your Soil

Combine all your ingredients in a bucket, container, or potting tray. Then, use your hands, a trowel, or a shovel to mix the soil thoroughly. The end result should be smooth, with no clumps or irregular patches.

If you’re going to plant your succulents in the ground, provide several inches of your soil mixture for them to thrive in. Remove unnecessary weeds, rocks, and grass before pouring the soil mixture uniformly. Even out the surface, but don’t pat down and compress the soil.

The same applies to succulents in containers. A good tip is to make sure your pots have bottom holes for excess water to drain through. If your succulent pots don’t have holes, you’ll have to be extra careful to avoid overwatering them.

 4. Store Leftover Soil Properly

Leftover soil

To save time and effort, you can choose to make big batches of succulent soil and save some for future use.

Storing your succulent soil is easy, as long as you have an air-tight container to keep bugs out. Choose a cool and dry place on a shelf or table in your garage or garden shed. Label your container appropriately so that you can easily locate your soil the next time you need it.

Wrap Up: How to Prepare Soil for Succulents

Succulents thrive in a dry and desert-like environment. Thus, it’s necessary to cultivate similar soil conditions when growing these special plants in containers or in the ground.

Hopefully, you’re now familiar with the steps on how to prepare soil for succulents.

Identifying the right soil type, measuring the materials, spreading the soil, and storing leftovers for future use are essential skills to learn for the benefit of your beloved plant.

A little water, some good soil, and lots of TLC will go a long way in transforming your garden into a healthy and vibrant succulent paradise.