If you are reading tips online, you may have come across many suggestions on the right soil for your succulents. Sometimes they are confusing. Now I will share with you my personal experience. I’ve been growing succulents for years, and believe to be able to tell whether perlite works for them or not.
To start with, you should remember that perlite is one of the best ingredients of a perfect succulent soil mix. It helps keep the soil breathable and fast-draining. But can you plant succulents in perlite only, omitting any other ingredients? The simple answer is YES. Succulents can be planted in straight perlite, and they will survive. As always though, things are not as simple as they initially sound.
Succulents can survive in perlite. Most of them won’t thrive in it though
Perlite does not have enough nutrients that most succulents need. Mixing perlite with soil is a great option. You can use 80/20 or 50/50 perlite and soil ratio. Some succulents do survive in straight perlite. This is because succulents don’t need many nutrients to survive. But they won’t reach their full potential when it comes to colors and freshness, simply because they will lack something.
The second problem I see with pure perlite is that it does not provide strength for the roots and the whole plant. As the succulents grow bigger, they need something to anchor their roots on. Bigger succulents may have weak root foundation if planted in straight perlite. What will happen than is that they will bend, start falling over, and experience other issues you certainly do not want to see.
That’s why I always start with the soil mix, especially when propagating leaf cuttings. And I have achieved great results with dozens of succulents of different varieties in my garden and house. If you want you can check the succulent soil mix I use for my succulents.
Climate and water needs always come to play
Of course, many factors influence what your succulents need, including the soil. Climate, water, growing state, available sunlight, and the immediate surroundings directly affect the growth of these plants. For years of growing succulents, I learned that there is no one rule as how to grow these plants with success. They open doors for experiments. As a grower, you should not be afraid of experimenting a bit. Maybe growing two succulents of the same variety, one in straight perlite and one in a soil mix, would be an interesting experiment.
Than after some time you will compare how they do, and how they look, and what problems each one of the plants experiences (ideally none :)). Having said that, incorporating different materials in succulent soil will rarely backfire. You can always incorporate other materials such as turface, poultry grit, pumice, etc. But if these materials are not available in your place, you can choose perlite instead.
Perlite is common and easy to find anywhere–that’s why it is so popular. But I don’t recommend planting bigger succulents in straight perlite especially. It is too light to hold the bigger succulents in proper position, to support their roots. In the long run, succulents may suffer some issues of nutrients and stability.
Recommended potting mix recipe
If you are new to growing succulents, you may struggle to keep your plants healthy. Back when I was just starting, I also experienced a lot of issues. I struggled to find the best potting mix recipe for my succulent plants. The truth is though, making your own potting mix is easy. Let me give you my list of ingredients:
- Coarse sand (if not available, you can use turface or poultry grit) (Check on Amazon)
- Potting soil (Check on Amazon)
- Perlite or Pumice (Check on Amazon)
Before you go and mix the ingredients together, make sure that you already have a base. Any potting soil can be used as a base. See to it that the base soil is fresh, clean, and has all the elements that succulents need. Whatever potting soil you choose, make sure it is light and porous that could provide good aeration for the succulents. This type of soil provides also a good drainage for excess water. Avoid using soil base the retains water, because it could cause rotting.
Related: Do Succulents Require Special Soil?
The importance of coarse sand
Succulents don’t like compacting soil. One way to amend it is by adding a coarse sand. Coarse sand makes the soil mix more porous and fast draining. It is very important to note though that not all types of sand work in this case. Avoid using beach sand, garden sand, or sandbox. Aside from pathogens these sands have, they are too compact for succulents. Using them will only make the soil absorbs more water. If coarse sand is not available, you can use turface, or poultry grit instead.
Preparing your perfect soil mix for succulents
Apart from the ingredients, you will also need some simple tools. My list goes:
- Mixing Container
- Measuring Container
Now, you are ready to start making your succulent soil mix. You can start by making the following measurements: 1 part of perlite or pumice, 2 parts of coarse sand, 3 parts of potting soil. The “part” is simply any unit you will use to measure each ingredient. It is a generic unit being applied to all ingredients in the mix. In other words, you only need one measuring container for all the ingredients–be it a cup, a bowl, your hand, or anything else.
Now that you have measured all the ingredients in the right ratio, you just need to pour them in the mixing container. Again, you can use any container here as long as it is big enough to accommodate all the ingredients. You can then mix the ingredients with a trowel or with your bare hand. The important thing here is to mix all the ingredients thoroughly. And that’s it! You have the perfect succulent soil mix ready! With or without perlite, but certainly not straight perlite :). Happy growing!
Q: Can you put too much perlite into your soil?
A: Adding too much perlite in the soil may not be good for succulents especially for the bigger ones. This is because makes the soil easy to crush. In the long run, it will not provide root foundation to the plant. A good amount of perlite though could certainly help the soil become fast-draining and provide better aeration.
Q: Can I mix perlite with potting soil?
A: Yes, you can. As mentioned, perlite helps provide drainage and prevents the soil from compacting. This will result in a fast-draining soil mix that is perfect for all succulent plants.
Q: Is perlite a Styrofoam?
A: No. Styrofoam and perlite are two different materials although they have the same color. Perlite is a natural material from volcanic glass that will eventually dissolve over time. While the Styrofoam is synthetic and will not dissolve. Thus, it can harm the environment, and you should avoid using it in your garden or anywhere else.
Q: Does perlite hold water?
A: Perlite does hold water but it also drains water. This makes this material good for succulents. These plants don’t like too much water. So adding perlite is a great addition to the succulent soil mix.