I’ve always liked to experiment with my succulents. Paver sand, often called also polymeric sand, seemed like a perfect candidate for one of my experiment. It is similar in size to coarse sand (0.5-2mm in diameter, according to the sellers), and you can always find some remaining on a construction site, or simply in the room with supplies. Hence I tried two different things. First, I planted one of my hen and chicks succulents in paver sand only, and second, when preparing my potting soil mix for succulents, I replaced coarse sand with paver sand. Then I planted one Jade plant and two other succulents in the mix and wondered what will happen.
My hypothesis was that I can just interchange the sands at random, considering they were similar in size, and that my succulents–the undemanding plants, will be just fine. As it turned out though, I was wrong.
Hen and chicks died after couple of month in paver sand and root rot was to blame
The experiment with hen and chick plant helped me understand why actually they use paver sand in construction works. Once you add water to it (in a pot, or in a paver installation), it activates bonding agents (additives) in the sand, and the particles basically glue to one another. What seemed like a decent growing medium for succulents before, with sufficient aeration, changes to waterlogged soil, which is a sure recipe for root rot and eventual dying of your succulent.
And that’s exactly what happened with the hen and chick plant. It looked just fine at the start, and though I knew that there were no nutrients in paver sand, and hence I fertilized the soil mildly with liquid fertilizer for succulents, it didn’t help to save the plant, simply because it could not breath and started to rot in the waterlogged growing medium.
Jade plant, snake plant and other succulent survived in a soil mix with paver sand
The sandy soil I normally use in my succulent mix has particles bigger than 2mm in diameter, which I find ideal for succulents. But I tried to replace it with paver sand. Considering that if formed just 15% of my overall soil mix, all three succulents survived in paver sand, and the soil was drying decently well, considering everything. Of course, I used a pots with a drainage hole, and watered the plants only sparingly, as you should always do with succulents, which no doubt contributed to my success.
Still, I feel that paver sand is actually a bit too fine for succulents. You can always sift it, using a sieve that lets through all particles smaller than 2mm or 1.5mm. Not sure it is worth the effort though, especially considering that you may not end up with much usable material after you sift the sand–perhaps just 20 or 30 percent of the original quantity. Of course this depends on the exact paver sand you have.
Final verdict on using paver sand in succulent soil mix
Based on the results of my experiments, as well as properties of paver sand, I would not recommend using it with your succulents. It has a few clear disadvantages when compared to coarse sand or other sand you may normally use with your succulents (including those that actually prefer to grow in sand, and grow in it in their natural habitat):
- It is very fine, and when watered it even binds together, which is the last thing you want a sand to do with your succulents.
- It is a chemical after all (the additives, the water-activated bonding agents), and you should always try to limit the use of chemicals in your home.
Having said that, as my personal experiment proves, some succulents can survive in a soil mix in which paver sand forms a small part of the potting mix. Hence if you are on budget, or do not have any other sand at home, you can give paver sand a shot. I recommend you though to do small-scale experiment first–plant one or two plants in the new soil mix, and see what happens. If they are still fine after a month and the soil does not stick to your finger two weeks after watering the plants, you are probably good to go. Hope this helps, and good luck with your succulents!
May also interest you: Are LECA balls good for succulents?