How to Make Your own Succulent Soil at Home

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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!

Make Your Own Succulent Soil
perlite and soil @whitneykshaffer

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?

how to make succulent soil at home
planting succulents @soymicroscopio

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.

how to make succulent soil at home
time to plant! @plantoolio

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?

how to make your own succulent soil at home
succulent soil @bloomedroots

What You Need to Create Succulent Soil at Home

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.

how to make succulent soil at home
time to make your own @lowkey_plantobsessed

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.

how to make succulent soil at home
perfect mix @vividroot

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!

Enjoyed learning about How to Make Your Own Succulent Soil at Home? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about The Best Soil Recommendations for Your Succulent. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Have fun, and happy planting! ?

Best Soil for Succulents

Once you’ve figured out how to water your succulents correctly, the second most important thing is getting them the right soil. In fact, without proper soil, it won’t matter if you’re watering the right way or not!

A good soil accomplishes 3 things for a plant:

  1. It provides nutrients, mostly in the form of nitrogen and phosphorous (N and P).
  2. It provides anchorage. The roots need soil with substance to be able to dig in and get a grip for stability.
  3. It absorbs and makes moisture available to the plant. Different soil types hold water for different lengths of time.

What Makes a Good Soil for Succulents?

When we’re selecting a soil for succulents, our primary focus is making sure it has good drainage. That means we’re focused on the ‘moisture’ part of that list above.

First of all – what is soil drainage? Simply put, it’s how fast water leaves the soil. After you water a plant, some of that water should come out of the bottom of the pot, but most of it will stay in the soil. That water either has to be taken up by the plant or evaporated into the air.

As it turns out, succulents and cacti require different soil than regular houseplants. Here’s 16 different succulents in case you’re interested. Most houseplants are tropical plants. They’re originally from a place that probably has lots of rain and ambient humidity. Their soil is also naturally rich in nutrients because of all of the other decomposing plants.

Succulents, on the other hand, come from deserts or other arid (dry) regions that generally have little rain and poor soil quality. The dirt there is probably coarse and gritty and lacks nutrients.

Obviously, it’s usually best to recreate their natural conditions as closely as possible. You might be surprised, however, that the most important thing to copy isn’t the amount of nutrients they get – it’s the amount of water.

Soil composition is important

In essence, soil is made up of two things – organic matter and inorganic matter. (Actually, you could argue that everything in the universe is made up of those two things).

Organic matter in this context means stuff that was once alive but is now dead. It can be in various stages of decomposition, or just regular dead. Some examples are:

  • Compost
  • Peat or sphagnum moss
  • Manure
  • Decomposing plants or animals
  • Coconut coir
  • Leaf or bark shreds

Inorganic matter, then, is everything that was never alive. In the case of dirt, it really just means minerals. Dirt is mostly made out of varying ratios of clay, silt, and sand.

Add organic and inorganic matter together and you’ve got soil.

Now back to water. The more organic matter that’s in the soil, the more water it holds. See what I’m getting at here? More organic matter means less drainage (and wetter soil). It follows that succulents prefer soil that has very little organic matter.

How do you know if the drainage is adequate?

So, we know what soil drainage is and we know how to get it. But how much drainage is enough?

As a rule of thumb, your succulent’s soil should be dry within 1 to 1.5 days of watering. And I mean dry. Bone dry.

There’s a quick way to test how dry the soil is. Stick your finger in the pot an inch or two into the soil. It should feel not only dry, but also warm. If it feels “cool” at all, it’s probably actually slightly damp and you’re misinterpreting the sensation. Need help in repotting your succulents for the perfect drainage system, click here.

@succulent__lover

Most soil is bad soil

We’ve been talking about how bad wet soil is for succulents, but we haven’t even mentioned why that is. Well, here’s the answer.

Wet soil can cause root rot. Read all the popular ways a succulent can die so that you can prevent this from happening.

This is a risk for all plants, but it’s especially dangerous for succulents. They aren’t accustomed to being wet for extended periods of time. In their natural habitat, water is wicked away by the dry soil and hot air very quickly.

Root rot is a particularly interesting disease. It may surprise you to learn that plants breathe mostly through their roots – not their leaves. They take in both carbon dioxide and oxygen (yes, they need oxygen too) that is present in the soil.

That’s why people are always talking about loose, aerated soil and how great it is. It’s also why worms are great for gardens – they break up the soil and create tunnels for air to reach the roots.

When soil is wet, however, air can’t move through it (duh). The plant has to “hold its breath” until the soil dries out again and it can breathe. If it takes too long, the root will drown and begin to rot.

Apparently, succulents just succ at holding their breath.

Choosing the Right Soil for Succulents

That may sound dire, but it’s really not that hard to choose a good soil for succulents. Just minimize the amount of organic matter and use those good watering practices we discussed.

Every succulent species has its own particular needs and wants, but 99% of them are cool with pretty much the same dirt. Just to be sure, watch how a plant reacts after being put in new soil and adjust your care accordingly.

How to make your own succulent soil

You can make your own succulent soil pretty easily; you probably already have everything you need at home. Here’s our recipe:

  • 2 parts potting soil. You can use any old dirt you have around. I like to use the Miracle Gro Succulent and Cacti mix. By itself, it’s not the best succulent mix (since it inexplicably contains a lot of organic matter like peat moss), but it does make a great base for mixing your own soil. Try to stay away from using dirt that is made of compost.
  • 1 part perlite. This is the not-so-secret ingredient of great succulent soil mixes. Perlite is actually a type of volcanic glass that is “puffed” using extreme heat, just like Rice Krispies (seriously). Perlite is useful because it is a large particle with air pockets in it so it keeps the soil loose, promotes soil drainage, and helps with airflow.
  • 1 part grit. “Grit” is just any large inorganic particle, ideally of varying sizes. Grit does much the same thing that perlite does (and perlite is a kind of grit). Examples include: large sand particles such as construction sand, small gravel or rocks, or chicken grit.

That’s what we use to get all these nice plants you see here on Succulent City, but feel free to experiment.

Best commercial succulent soils

If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty and mixing your own soil, there are a couple really great succulent and cacti mixes that are commercially available.

Black Gold Cactus Mix by Sun Gro Horticulture is the gold standard of succulent soils. It’s pretty incredible how well-balanced it is – there’s just enough organic material to fertilize the plant and plenty of inorganic stuff to balance it out and have excellent drainage. You can’t go wrong using this mix.

Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Gritty Mixis another fan favorite, but a little different. It’s a “gritty mix” which means it has virtually no organic matter and retains zero water. It’s technically not even soil. It’s awesome for succulents, especially the picky ones, but you need to adapt your watering a little to accommodate a mix that holds literally no water. Recommended for moderate to advanced growers.


That’s just about everything you need to know about soil and how it relates to succulents and cacti! Do you need any clarification or have any questions? Do you have a soil recipe you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’d like this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

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