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No doubt succulents are pretty and vibrant, but they can be quite picky at times. Unlike your average indoor plant, succulents are somewhat choosy with their soil and that’s probably what makes them so special.
Whether you’re an old pro to succulents or the new kid on the succulent- block, getting the preliminaries right the first time will go a long way in your succulent adventures. And nothing has more impact on growing succulents than the type of soil used.
Succulents, these cute, green, little aliens, don’t get along too well with the mundane, conventional gardening soil. They think it’s overrated and a bit boring. At least in its pure form.
Though succulents thrive with neglect why do they demand a more thought out type of soil you ask? Let’s find out!
What Type of Soil Do Succulents Need?
The word succulent means a plant possessing thick, fleshy stems and leaves primarily as an adaptation to store water. In other words, succulents are desert- denizens that have recently been tamed to spice up the living room décor, by using minimalistic planters like these, by their unique but beautiful looks.
These plants are native to the desert regions of Africa, Central America, Mexico and some parts of Europe. They have lived in the hot and dry desert all their lives and hence have a few survival hacks to combat life in the desert. One of these coveted adaptations is their ability to store water.
You see, it barely rains in the desert. And when it does, it pours— quite literally. Succulents store this water in their leaves and stems for use in the subsequent weeks before it rains again. So for succulents, their roots don’t take up water all the time as they already have enough tucked away in their leaves. This is clearly backed up by the type of soil found in the desert. It is sandy and the hot weather helps the water to drain quickly therefore succulents don’t sit on soil with needless water.
Damp soil for succulents is not only unnecessary, but it’s also dangerous as it may lead to root rot and a host of pests not to mention the fungal diseases that accompany wet soil.
So what kind of soil is cool for succulents?
Succulent Potting Mix Checklist
The biggest threat to succulent survival is root rot. It attacks the main channel for water and nutrient uptake of the plant leading to a weak, shriveled plant. Such a plant’s fate is almost sealed –death is inevitable.
Planting your succulents in the right soil can’t be stressed enough. A good succulent potting mix should have the following components:
1. Succulent Soil Should be Well-Draining
It definitely had to be top of the list. (If you’ve been reading our recent articles, we mention this a lot because of how important it is). Succulents and damp soil is just a disastrous combination.
When making your own succulent potting mix, you want to end up with soil that will drain well and quickly. Loose and grainy soil is the perfect substrate for growing succulents.
2. Your Succulent Soil Needs to Have Good Aeration
It’s important for the roots to have some space to breath. This will not only make it easier for soil and nutrients absorption, but it will also create a sustainable environment for beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
3. Non-Compacting and Breathable Succulent Soil
Sticky and compact soil is terrible for succulents. The roots hate it because it retains moisture for long periods and makes it difficult for the plant to breath.
4. Excessive Nutrients in Succulent Soil
This sounds pretty weird but it’s true. Soil containing too much nutrients, especially nitrogen, may lead to lanky, brittle and unpleasant plants. Nobody wants such kind of goofy-looking plants do they?
What You Need to Create Succulent Soil at Home
- Gardening gloves to protect yourself from anything sharp (just in case)
- Measuring cup to make things easier
- A trowel –just a fancy name for a small shovel
- A bucket, pail or plastic bin
- Common gardening soil like this
- Perlite or Pumice to incorporate into the soil mix
- Coarse sand to also incorporate into the soil mix
Let’s Get Started Making Succulent Soil
Making your own succulent mix at home is so much fun. You get to decide just how grainy you want it to be (if you care about the aesthetics). Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than the regular commercial cacti mix sold in stores.
And did I mention that the procedure is so easy?
A plethora of recipes for making succulent soil abound. However, for this guide, we’ll stick with the basic procedure that is super effective and works wonders every time!
Measuring Succulent Soil
Measuring out your ingredients is paramount to achieve the desired drainage, compactness and aeration. The best mixing ratio of the three ingredients is two parts sand, two parts gardening soil and one-part perlite or pumice.
Translating this to cups makes it 3 cups of sand, 3 cups of soil and 1.5 cups of perlite or pumice.
The purpose of pumice or perlite is to aid in aeration and drainage. Pumice is particularly useful in holding together nutrients and moisture. Either can be used or better yet combining the two ingredients to end up with a rich potting mix.
On the other hand, sand is used to make the potting mix less compact as well as to increase the drainage. As for the gardening soil, its main role is to provide nutrients for the succulents.
Mixing Your Succulent Soil
Put on your gardening gloves and let’s get to work!
Start by slightly moistening the garden soil to prevent the dust from coming up the bucket or mixing container. Next, put in the sand and mix thoroughly. Doing this using hands is more effective. Lastly, scoop in the perlite or pumice. Give it a good stir until the mixture is uniform.
Good job! You just made your very first succulent soil! I told you it was that easy, it’s just a matter of knowing what types of ingredients to include in your succulent soil that allows your succulent to grow the best it can.
You can use this soil for potting, repotting and even store it for future use.
Tip: A neat trick before potting the succulents is to avoid getting the soil too moisturized.
You can begin watering as usual once the soil dries out completely.
Was making succulent soil as hard as you thought it was? Let us know in the comments below, we want to hear your thoughts. For some more tips on succulent care, check out this article here!
If there’s some tips and tricks you want to share with our succulent friends, you should let us know in the Succulent Plant Lounge — our exclusive Facebook group filled with a community of succulent lovers that chime in on each other’s posts answering popular questions about succulents and giving their insights about tips and tricks for succulent care!
Have fun, and happy planting! 🌱