Unlock the Secrets of Perfect Succulent Soil: A Guide to Preparation

Soil for Succulents

Succulents, like other plants, need at least three sources of energy and nutrients for their existence – soil, moisture and sun. Soil is one of the most important elements in a succulent’s diet. But it doesn’t get the standard potting soil mix that is commonly used to plant many indoor plants. So what to get for your favorite flower. Our detailed guide will reveal most of the secrets about soil composition and give you some tips and recipes on how to prepare the best soil for indoor succulents. At the end of the article, we also offer a video review of some commercial soil mixes.

Why is soil quality important for succulents?

To understand what kind of soil they need, you need to know what kind of environment natural succulents grow in. Everyone knows that all plants use the four main components of soil for their life – air, water, minerals and organic matter.succulent soil

In nature, succulent plants, for the most part, grow in sandy or gravelly soil. Many species can be found in small crevices or on rock slopes. These natural soils are rarely saturated with rainfall and yet dry out quickly. This has led succulents to develop a unique ability to store water in their organs.  Their root system is shallow and spreads horizontally to absorb moisture and nutrients from a large area.  This is how roots have adapted to live in dry soil with minimal organic matter and plenty of minerals. After all, they spend most of their lives in hot desert conditions. And in order for your favorite plants to thrive and enjoy their appearance for a long time, they must first be planted in the right soil mixture.

What are the requirements for quality soil for succulents

Any soil consists of organic and mineral micronutrients. Organic matter, such as humus and decomposing plant and animal tissue, helps retain moisture in the soil and deliver nutrients to plants. But in deserts green biomass is negligible, and as a consequence there is little organic matter in the soil. Sources of minerals, such as dry clay, gravel, pumice, sand, prevail here.

    1. The first (basic) requirement for the soil is a proper balance of mineral and organic components. How many minerals and organics should be in a soil mixture for succulents?
      • Mineral components: A good rule of thumb is to use at least 50% minerals and up to 70% constituents such as coarse sand, fine gravel, perlite or pumice.
      • Organic matter: no more than 30-50%. In addition to beneficial trace elements, organic matter helps retain moisture in the soil. However, too much organic matter can cause the soil to retain too much moisture, quickly leading to root rot. Suitable organic materials for soil for succulents are coconut coir, peat moss or compost.
    2. The second and important condition is that succulents need well-drained soil that allows excess water to escape quickly. Soil with too much organic matter will hold a lot of moisture for a long time, which will lead to root rot and further death of these plants. Optimal soil composition for succulents should promote rapid drying, as many problems arise from moist soil where the roots are located.
    3. The third condition is that the soil for succulents should be loose and airy to allow free root growth and access to oxygen. Soil that is too dense can limit root growth and create problems for the health of the plant.
    4. The 4th condition is sterility. The soil should be sterilized before planting succulents to protect the roots of the plant from harmful bacteria or fungi. Sterilization can be done by baking the soil in the oven or microwave oven.
    5. 5 condition – pH balance. Succulents prefer slightly acidic or neutral soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Soil that is too acidic or alkaline can cause nutrient deficiencies or the accumulation of toxins in the plant.
      It is important to note that different succulent species have different preferences for soil composition and the amount of organic matter in the soil.
The easiest substrate recipe for succulents
The easiest substrate recipe for succulents

It is important to note that different species of succulents have different preferences for soil composition and the amount of organic matter in it.

What types of soil mixes are used for planting succulents

As we have already found out – the most common soil mixture for planting succulents is a granular, porous mixture containing a combination of inorganic and organic materials. Most plant nurseries and florists use several types of soil that are suitable for succulents:

  • Commercial cactus soil mix is a common solution because this substrate is specifically designed by manufacturers for cacti and succulents. It usually contains a mixture of sand, perlite and peat moss or coco coir. It is essentially a drainage soil with a low nutrient content, making it a good option for growing succulents.
  • Bonsai soil mix: This substrate is often used for growing succulents because it provides excellent drainage and consists of inorganic materials. It usually contains acadama, pumice and lava stone.
  • Sandy soil: this is a homemade loose soil mix that is made up of parts 1:1:1 perlite, coarse sand and fertile soil mix. It provides excellent drainage and allows air to reach the roots. It is also low in nutrients, making it ideal for succulents.
  • Loamy soil: this is also a homemade substrate that drains well and provides excellent aeration for roots. The substrate combines sand, gravel and clay.

Most importantly, make sure that the soil mixture you prepare provides excellent drainage and allows air to get to the roots.

Succulent care information

What ingredients to choose to make succulent soil

If you decide to mix your own substrate for succulent plants, you need to select the necessary ingredients. What can be used?


  • Potting soil for houseplants. This is a regular potting soil mixture without any fertilizers added.
  • Peat moss is a great material for houseplants because it provides the perfect balance of moisture and oxygen.
  • Vermicompost is a product of the process of decomposing plant or food waste using different types of worms. It is packed with nutrients necessary for plant health.
  • Coconut fiber, or shredded coconut husks, adds drainage properties and can be repeatedly wetted, absorbing moisture perfectly. Some flower growers also use coconut coir (bright core).

Inorganic materials

  • Perlite is one of the best ingredients in an ideal soil mixture for succulents. It is a natural mineral created from volcanic glass. It helps keep the soil breathable and drains quickly. A potential disadvantage of Perlite is that it breaks down easily – it breaks down into powder over time.
  • Pumice – a light and airy material, provides good aeration of the soil and its drainage.
  • Crushed stone, granite or coarse sand also promote drainage and aeration, allowing roots to move freely.

An optimal substrate for succulents should contain 30-50 percent organic and 50-70 percent inorganic materials. Which organic and mineral ingredients to use is up to you to choose.

What size mineral ingredients to choose

You can find gravel, pebbles, pumice or perlite in different sizes on the market.

Gravel-based soil for succulents
Gravel is often used in various soil mixes for succulent crops such as Havortia.

Before you buy the ingredients you need, you need to decide which succulents you will plant in the soil and in which pot.

  • If the pot is larger, it is better to use 1/4-1/2 inch (5-10 mm) minerals. Small succulents with fairly dense roots can be planted in it.
  • Pebbles, gravel, pumice, silt and perlite with an average size of 1/2 to 1 inch ( 1-3 cm) are better for planting large plants. It is better to add fine crumbs or sand to large minerals.
  • If you want to grow caudex plants, be sure to add regular river sand and peat to the small mineral pebbles. This promotes good moisture retention by the rhizomes.

Gravel of different fractions is also used as mulch, thereby decorating the plant and emphasizing the conditions of succulents in natural conditions.

Five recipes for succulent soil mix

From the many different recipes for making substrate for growing succulents that you can find on the internet, we’ve chosen for you the 5 easiest and most tried-and-true ones.

Peat-based potting soil
Peat-based potting soil is optimal for young succulents.

Recipe 1: Basic soil mixture for succulents

  • 50% coarse sand or perlite
  • 25% of ordinary potting soil
  • 25% pumice stone or gravel

Recipe 2: Quick-drying potting soil mixture for succulents

  • 50% perlite or coarse sand
  • 30% ordinary potting soil
  • 20 % vermiculite

Recipe 3: Another quick-drying potting soil mixture

  • 50% perlite or coarse sand
  • 30% ordinary potting soil
  • 20% pumice stone or gravel

Recipe 4: Mixture with coconut fibers

  • 30% coconut fibers
  • 30% perlite
  • 30% coarse sand
  • 10% fine gravel or pebbles

Recipe 5:

  • 50% potting soil
  • 25% perlite
  • 25% vermiculite

The percentages are approximate and you can change them depending on your needs and growing conditions. In addition, it is important to use high quality ingredients and sterilize them before mixing to prevent the growth of harmful pathogens.

This video demonstrates the preparation of a general succulent mix, as well as some specialty mixes for “particularly finicky succulents.

How to perform a soil drainage test

You can try to test the soil to see if it is suitable for growing succulents or not. Soak the soil mixture you have prepared, allow it to become saturated with moisture, take a handful of it in your hand and squeeze it. If the lump of soil crumbles, it is ready for planting. If the soil remains compressed, it means that it does not have enough mineral elements. Add these and repeat the test.

Prepared earth mixes for succulents: an overview of popular substrates

On the market, there are quite a large number of ready-made substrates, in which you can grow succulent plants. We propose to consider the most popular in order to choose the best version of the mixture.


This is a common semi-fired clay of different species, which is presented in the form of granules of heterogeneous fractions. The larger the plant you plan to grow, the larger clay granules are used.

Photo of Acadama clay substrate of different fractions.
Photo of Acadama clay substrate of different fractions.

Advantages of Akadama:

  • porosity;
  • Moisture absorption, its even return;
  • lighter composition in weight (relevant for those who have to transfer different pots and containers from one part of the greenhouse to another).

Of the minuses, it is worth mentioning that during the year “Akadama” breaks down, the roots sprout, it turns into a fine dust, on which moss can develop. Therefore, it should be changed once a year.


Reddish granules of fireclay burnt clay. Visually, they look like broken bricks or expanded clay. The mixture is also suitable for other plants (not just cacti or succulents) – it is light, porous, moisture-absorbing. A more durable option, compared to Acadama.


Not a particularly economical version of the composition, gravel in this regard is more advantageous, because it is less costly. The composition adds fertilizer, which is very good for plant health. Lechuza is quite expensive substrate, but you can prepare your own soil mixture no worse than Lechuza and many times cheaper.

In conclusion, soil is essential to the growth and well-being of succulent plants. Remember that a well-draining mixture can prevent water accumulation around the roots and to root rot and other problems. Also, adding organic matter or amendments such as perlite or sand to the soil can improve its texture and help retain moisture, preventing waterlogging. Ultimately, by using the right soil and taking proper care of your succulents, you can ensure that they will thrive and flourish in your home or garden for years to come.

This video offers a closer look at commercial soil mixes for succulents.


Q: What type of soil is best for succulents?
A: Succulents thrive in well-drained soil that allows water to pass through quickly. A common soil recipe for succulents is: 1 part perlite or pumice stone, 1 part coarse sand and 2 parts potting soil.

Q: Can I use regular potting soil for succulents?
A: Regular potting soil is usually too moist for succulents and can cause root rot. However, perlite, sand or other mineral materials can be added to regular soil to improve drainage.

Q: What is perlite and why is it used in soil for succulents?
A: Perlite is a light volcanic rock that has been heated and expanded. It is commonly used in soil for succulents because it improves drainage, prevents compaction and helps aerate the soil.

Q: Can I use sand instead of perlite in soil for succulents?
A: Sand can be used in succulent soil, but it must be coarse enough to improve drainage. Avoid using fine sand or beach sand, as they can cause compaction and make drainage difficult.

Q: Can I plant succulents in a container without drainage holes?
A: Planting succulents in a container without drainage holes is not recommended, as it can lead to water accumulation at the bottom and root rot. If you do decide to use a container without drainage holes, be sure to use well-draining soil and water sparingly.

Мы приветствуем Вас на нашем сайте
Не желаете подписаться, чтобы получать замечательный контент каждый месяц.

Мы не спамим! Прочтите нашу политику конфиденциальности, чтобы узнать больше.

We use cookies to provide you with up-to-date information. By continuing to browse this site, you agree to the use of cookies.