How long can succulents live without soil? My personal experience is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.

Every succulent grower knows that succulents are unique plants, with their specific needs when it comes to water, soil, nutrients, and light. Succulents can survive in many types of soil, but they can thrive only in fast-draining soil. What many people do not realize though is that in some instances instances a succulent can survive without soil. Just like we can survive for some time without food, or even without water. But we cannot sustain such a lack for a long time, and the same is true for succulents.

So, how long will a succulent survive with no soil? Succulents can live for a couple of days without any soil. This is because there are always some nutrients “in their body”, that means in the roots, stems, leaves, and succulent can survive living from its “reserves” for a few days. As a rule of a thumb, the bigger the succulent, the longer it will survive without soil. 


Succulent arrangements in beautiful pots with no soil

You might have seen some wonderful succulent arrangements in beautiful pots. In most cases, those arrangements do not have soil. It triggers questions whether they need soil at all. Well, as you know, like other plants succulents need soil to thrive. If you see succulents planted in just rocks or sand, those are just for short term arrangement–just like on an exhibition, or in a shop window, to attract the eye of the passersby. Succulents can go for a couple of days without soil. As a rule of a thumb though, you should plant them in a fast draining soil (check my favorite succulent soil on Amazon).

Why do succulents need soil?

Succulent plants are not epiphyte plants, special natural species that can survive by just attaching themselves to the branches of the trees. Succulents rely on the soil as their primary source of nutrients. However, it is also very important to remember that succulents do not survive long in a compact or garden soil, or at least they won’t reach their full potential in it. These plants need a soil that does not absorb or retain too much water in it, to keep it nicely dry.

Succulents also do not need nutrient-rich soil. The best soil for succulents is the one composed of organic and inorganic materials. Soil like this provides just the right amount of nutrients, good aeration, and drainage, simply a combo succulents love and thrive in. Although succulent arrangements without soil are beautiful and fun to see, they are not designed for long term amusement. Keep it on your mind next time you see such an arrangement and wonder whether you should not make one at home 🙂


Can you do something to increase the time succulents can survive with no soil

Now you know that succulents do not thrive long without soil. But if you really want to make a driftwood arrangement, you might be wondering if there is a way to somehow prolong their lifespan in such an environment, or at least make sure they won’t wilt away in a few days.

And I have good news for you: it is possible. Just add fertilizer or other nutrient sources. The quickest way is to add diluted fertilizer for about a ¼ strength into the water and use it when you water the plant. Because succulents do not need nutrient-rich soil, it will be enough for them to maintain their present condition, and they will survive even if they have no soil around their roots.

The second thing you can do is to add moss or coir into the driftwood. You can just attach the succulents on the coir or moss. These organic materials will serve as the main nutrient sources for the succulents while there is no soil around. If you do this, make sure that you lightly mist the moss or coir to provide enough water and also prevent the plant from dying. When using sphagnum moss (affiliate link), however, you don’t need to mist it regularly. This is because it holds the moisture.

Do succulents need a lot of soil to thrive?

In my experience, this depends on the size of a plant. The bigger the plant the bigger the pot and more soil in it, at least when you aim for optimal results. If you have a small succulent plant, you do not need too much soil. You can just plant it in a small pot.

Having said that, the selection of soil mix is very important. Wrong soil will definitely harm the plants, or at least prevent them from growing healthily. You can make your own soil for succulents, or you can order your supplies online (click here to check my recommended succulent soil on Amazon).

Can succulents grow in shallow soil?

Succulents usually have shallow roots. This means that they can grow in shallow soil. in fact, most of my succulents are planted in a shallow pot. As the succulents grow, their roots spread out throughout the pot.

What I found is that succulents grow well in a 4-inch deep container. I always use pots with drainage holes. This is very important for succulents to drain excess water during watering. Pots without drainage hole are not good for succulents. The excess water will store at the bottom of the pot which will in turn cause root rot. But shallow soil and shallow pot is definitely good.


Final thoughts

Although succulents can live without soil, they can not thrive long without it. Soil is their primary nutrient source, and if they lack it, they will lose their natural color and eventually wilt. However, succulents do not need nutrient-rich soil. What they need is soil that provides aeration and drainage. Avoid pure garden soil because it holds too much water which will cause root rot.

When you want to try putting a succulent plant in a beautiful arrangement without soil, make sure that you provide fertilizer or other nutrient sources such as moss or coir. I hope this helps. Thank you very much for your time reading this post, and do not forget to check my complete guide on succulent growing.