Many succulent growers encounter difficulties while trying to prepare the right soil for their plants. This is mainly because succulents have special needs in terms of soil quality and characteristics, and you cannot just plant them in regular potting mix you get in a random gardening store…
In fact, a typical soil is too dense and moist for the succulent. Adding some river sand into the soil and mixing it well will lighten the succulent soil and allow water to easily drain, which is the key here. Extra aeration is also vital for the succulents. You can use also other materials like a chopped pumice stone, volcanic lapilli or pozzolan.
Key ingredients and characteristics of a perfect soil for succulents
Succulent like dry environment and sandy soil conditions. When you bring home a succulent plant, your goal is basically to recreate that type of environment. And if that’s not possible, you should at least try to get close to it. Let’s have a look at a few characteristics of a perfect soil for succulents.
Excellent drainage and PH
Most succulents don’t need lots of water because their leaves will enlarge and burst. The soil should not compact or hold moisture, which would lead only to root rot.
Hence the ideal soil composition is sandy, and it should contain some particles of varied sized, for example ¼ inch big, for ideal aeration and moisture control, in order to avoid the death of the plant.
Soil in your yard may not have a correct pH balance, The perfect pH level of soil for succulents is pH 5.5 or 6 or less acidic. Keep it on your mind when choosing the soil to buy, or making your own.
Organic Versus Inorganic Matter
Organic matter helps water penetrate the soil quickly–which isn’t necessarily bad. However, one of the problems with organic matter is that it comes in big pieces and will often retain to much water. Hence inorganic matter like perlite or sand should form a part of each and every potting mix for succulent plants.
Related article: How To Grow Succulents? The Complete Guide
Basic potting mix for succulent soil
To put is simply, you should combine the following ingredients in your potting mix for succulents:
- Perlite – 10 % of the mix. These are those little white balls you see in succulent potting soils. They’re very permeable so they don’t retain water for long. Their shape also promotes aeration in the soil, which is their primary purpose. Perlite commonly floats to the top of the soil, spilling over the edge of a pot when watered.
- Pumice – 10% of the mix. It comes from molten lava that cools quickly and very permeable that lets the water drained easily from your succulent. It is chemically inert, has a pH of about 7 and provides no nutrients to plants. It does not compress, but the drainage it provides is permanent.
- Sandy Soil – 20-30% of the mx. It is composed of 35% sand and less than 15% silt and clay. Primarily sandy soil is the small piece of eroded rocks. In sandy soil, most of the soil particulars are bigger than 2mm in diameter, which is great for succulents and their roots.
- Aquarium Gravel – 10% of the mix. Gravel contributes to the overall beauty and appeal of the plant. When combined with plants, rocks, driftwood, and other decor, it helps create a visual landscape that is pleasing to the eye and provides a calming effect.
- Garden Soil – 30-40% of the mix. If you have a good garden soil as a part of your potting mix, your plants won’t need regular fertilizers and pesticides.
Tools you need to prepare your soil mix
Along with the succulent potting mix ingredients, you also need to get tools for you to mix the ingredients and to measure it. You can use your bare hand for mixing the succulent potting mix ingredients but it is easier when you have your tools, since the measurement will be more precise. To the tools:
- Measuring container – will help you to get the right measurement of the potting mix ingredients.
- Trowel – will help you to mix all the ingredients inside the mixing container and also when you are putting the soil inside your pot for your succulent. (Make sure that the ingredients are evenly mixed.)
- Container for mixing – will help you to hold the measured ingredients.
Key things to remember when mixing succulent soil
- Measure it out. The perfect measurement is very important. You need the right amount of measurement for your ingredients.
- Start Mixing. First, put the 2 parts of black soil and put some water in it to keep the dust down. Next, put the sand. You may add some water if the sand still dry and last, add you perlite (or pumice etc). Make sure you mixed it evenly.
- Check the moisture. Grab a little amount of the mixture of succulent soil and squeeze it. The ideal moisture is when there’s not so much water you can squeeze from the soil. Make sure you do not plant your succulent into a compacted and watery soil.
- Pot it up and water it in. Put the mixture of succulent soil inside the pot and firm it gently. Make sure that the soil you have put in the pot is packed a little more so that it will not sink into the pot.
Related article: How To Grow Succulents? The Complete Guide
Storing your leftover succulent soil mix
After preparing the soil for your succulent, you don’t need to dump the leftover soil because you can reuse it for other succulent. You just need to store it in the proper place.
- Grab a big batch and put all the leftover soils.
- Transfer it in a plastic bucket and store it in the garage.
- Make sure that the succulent soil leftovers were stored in an air-tight container, and the pesky bugs will not get there inside to harm your succulents later on.
- If you don’t have an air-tight container, you can buy a bucket sealing lids.
Q: Can succulent survive without soil?
A: They will survive without soil but it is not for long term like another succulent in healthy soil. Think of it as a short term or for a fun project and not meant to last for a long time. The succulent plant can survive without soil because it has the ability to store water in their leaves, roots, and stem.
Q: Why do people plant succulents in all sorts of medium (sand, rocks, etc)
Succulent plants don’t need a highly organic medium to survive. They don’t need to be planted in a soil with lots of nutrients. But they still need a certain amount of organic and inorganic matter for them to thrive for a long time. Keep it on your mind when replanting your succulents, or preparing your potting mix.