Succulent gardening begins with choosing the right growing medium. The most crucial thing to look out for when choosing the best soil for succulents in pots is how well it both absorbs and drains water. As important as the frequency of your watering, choosing the right soil for succulents can make or break them.
The main problem often associated with choosing the wrong soil for succulents is over-watering. Soils that are not suitable for succulents are those that hold too much water for long periods of time. This essentially results in root rot, which is the main cause of death for succulents.
There are many factors that determine the best soil for succulents in pots – mostly environmental conditions – that cause the soil to dry out at different rates. Therefore, different types of succulent potting mix will be ideal for different growing areas.
The 5 Best Soil for Succulents in Pots
We have experimented with various brands of succulent potting mix and have narrowed down to what we consider the few best soil choices for succulents.
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Best Succulent Soil Reviews
The Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil Gritty Mix #111 is a fast-draining soil that can help prevent root rot and over-watering. It is highly recommended and widely used by succulent gardening experts and hobbyists alike.
This soil has a pH of 5.5, which is ideal for acid-loving plants like succulents, cactus, bonsai, and others. It’s ultra-lightweight and airy succulent plant soil is optimized for water absorption, evaporation, bulk density, and particle size. It is also pathogen free with extended pathogen control.
This succulent soil mix consists of the following ingredients:
33% : ¼-inch Pine Bark Fines
33% : ¼-inch Bonsai Block (calcined clay)
33% : Monto Clay (¼-inch Turface)
What makes Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil Gritty Mix #111 stand out is that it is lab-tested and manufactured to spec, unlike other brands that use ingredients derived from reclaimed organic matter containing pathogens that can damage or kill plants. They do that in order to comply with multi-state regulations and to maintain six nursery stamps that allow them to ship to all 50 states.
You really get what pay for the Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil Gritty Mix #111. Being a premium potting mix, the soil is understandably pricier than other competitors in the market. This gritty mix is well-loved by many succulent experts and hobbyists for its amazing drainage and airiness. It also has a pleasing earthy aroma and best of all, is without peat and free of insects. It is also great alternative to sand mix for succulents.
The Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil Gritty Mix #111 wins our vote for the best soil for succulents. We love that it can be used as a stand-alone soil. There is no need to blend with other soil, which saves us a lot of hassle. With this gritty mix soil, you can really have a peace of mind when it comes to overwatering.
Buyer’s Tip: You get more bang for your buck when you purchase the 2-Gallon (8-quart) bags and above.
Verdict: Best fast-draining soil; over-watering is never a problem.
Get the Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111:
Superfly Bonsai Succulent Potting Soils Mix
The Superfly Bonsai Succulent Potting Soils Mix is a gritty mix medium made up of the following ingredients:
25%: Hard Japanese Akadama
25%: USA Pumice
25%: New Zealand Pine Bark
This pre-mixed soil is made up of primarily non-organic components, and no peat or dirt. It is really substrate and has been found to provide optimal drainage, water retention, nutrient uptake and air to the roots that succulents need.
The Superfly Bonsai Succulent Potting Soils Mix is a good choice for most succulents and cacti because of its fast-draining nature. Even though it is made of mostly non-organic components, it is able to retain some water for the plants to absorb. The top of the soil dries out quickly while further down, it remains damp.
This soil can be used on its own or mixed with some soil that contains organic materials. When used alone, this soil ensures you won’t overwater your succulents.
Verdict: Great potting soil mix, albeit on the pricier side.
Get the Superfly Bonsai Succulent Potting Soils Mix:
Bliss Garden Organic Succulent Soil
The Bliss Garden Organic Succulent Soil is a premium hand-made succulents and cacti soil that needs high drainage.
The ingredients consist of:
- Coconut coir
- Peat moss
- Worm castings
- Expanded clay/shale rocks
- Horticultural charcoal
- Mycorrhizae root inoculate
It comes in a one-gallon bag, which is measured by volume and not weight.
This soil is best for succulents that are grown in hot and dry areas where gritty mix succulent soil isn’t suitable, as it still is able to retain some moisture due to its peat content. For succulents grown in more humid areas, it is recommended to add a bit more pumice, sand, or perlite into the blend for faster draining.
Unlike most cactus and succulent soil in the market which is typically very heavy or full of wood chips, this hand-made succulent soil mix is both lightweight and moderately well-draining.
Overall, it is good succulent soil, and cheaper than many popular brands.
Verdict: Best soil for succulents grown in hot and dry areas
Get the Bliss Garden Organic Succulent Soil:
Fat Plants San Diego Premium Succulent Soil
The Fat Plants San Diego Premium Succulent Soil is a nutrient-enriched, professionally blended soil with a pH balanced for cacti and succulent plants. The soil offers optimal drainage for succulents, while still retaining some moisture for plants to absorb.
The Fat Plants San Diego Premium Succulent Soil is one of the best soils for succulent gardening success – it is quick-draining and fertile. When completely dry, the soil is light, fluffy, and clean. It holds a lot of water because of its peat content, yet never feels wet, clumps, or compacts. It has a soft consistency and texture and doesn’t contain stones or wood chips like other larger brands in the market.
This soil is especially great for propagating succulents, where moisture retention is necessary. It has good drainage but doesn’t dry out too quickly.
Verdict: Optimal drainage for succulents; a combination of moisture retention and quick drainage.
Get the Fat Plants San Diego Premium Succulent Soil:
Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix
The Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix is a nutrient-enriched, professionally blended soil with a pH balanced for cacti and succulent plants. The soil contains Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, Reed Sedge Peat, Perlite, Sand, and Limestone.
The Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix is one of the most popular soils among succulent hobbyists. However, we feel that this soil mix doesn’t absorb water well, is dry, and crumbly at first, and retains too much moisture afterward. The coarse materials in the soil mix are in the form of 1/4 in. to 3/8 in. stones and 1/2 to 3/4 in. length twigs, which are simply too large and doesn’t blend well with the soil.
It is important to mix this with coarse sand, perlite, or pumice because used on its own, it’s too wet for most succulents.
Verdict: Not suitable for succulents on its own.
Get the Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix:
- 1 The 5 Best Soil for Succulents in Pots
- 2 Best Succulent Soil Reviews
- 3 FAQ’s
- 3.1 What is the best soil for succulents?
- 3.2 Do succulents need special soil?
- 3.3 What kind of soil do succulents need?
- 3.4 How to make your own succulent soil?
- 3.5 Succulent Soil Recipe
- 3.6 Is Miracle Gro potting mix good for succulents in containers?
- 3.7 Can you plant succulents in regular potting soil?
What is the best soil for succulents?
Based on our experience, the best soil for succulents is Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111. It ranks number one for drainage and has the best value for money. We never had to worry about root rot when using the Bonsai Jack succulent soil. Besides, we’re not the only ones to rave about this product – many succulent growers swear by this brand as well.
Do succulents need special soil?
Struggled with growing succulents and did not known what the problem was? The answer could be in the soil.
In order to cultivate any plant, it helps to mimic the natural environment from which it came. Wild succulents tend to grow in sandy, gravelly soil. Many even thrive in small, rocky crevices or cliffsides. Their native, gritty soils get saturated by heavy rains but dry out rapidly.
The biggest cause of death for succulents is over-watering, and the biggest threat to succulent survival is root rot.
When the roots – the main channel for water and nutrient uptake rots, the entire plant will become weak and eventually die. Needless to say, soil drainage plays a huge role in keeping a succulent alive and thriving.
Therefore, planting succulents in the right soil cannot be stressed enough. Good succulent soil should fulfill the following criteria.
What kind of soil do succulents need?
1. Succulent soil needs to be well-draining
Of course, this tops the list. Succulents and damp soil just don’t get along together.
Many variables influence how long soil stays wet, e.g. quantity of water added, sunlight, airflow, and soil structure. While looking for the right soil, be aware that drying time is a balance of all these factors.
For succulent soil to be well-draining, the secret lies in the ratio of organic to mineral material. The organic materials provide nutrients and store water while mineral constituents improve drainage.
The right ratio will support growth and prevent rot. It will also allow you to water your succulents deeply, but infrequently.
Soil texture and porosity also affect how much water it can hold and how long it will take to completely dry. Sandy soils have large particles and pores, allowing them to dry out faster compared to clay soils. This is ideal for succulents.
When planting succulents outdoors in the ground, aim for a sandy loam that is 50% to 80% coarse sand or fine gravel. For potted plants, use coarse grit minerals about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch wide. This will ensure rapid drainage and keep your succulents from rotting in damp soil.
Soil requirements for succulents planted in the ground are less strict than those planted in containers. Ideally, even landscape succulents would be in a gritty, sandy loam with a gravel mulch. The nature of outdoor conditions eg. sunlight and airflow, however, means you can get away with less than perfectly draining soil.
2. Succulent soil needs to have good aeration
Succulent roots do not like compact and heavy soil. Light and airy soil provide room for the roots to breathe and grow, thus making your succulent plants happy. To add lightness to the soil, consider adding perlite into the mix.
3. Succulent soil must not have excessive nutrients
This may seem odd to you but it’s true.
Soil that contains too many nutrients, especially nitrogen, may cause your succulents to be lanky, brittle, and unpleasant.
4. Succulent soil must not contain too much peat moss
Why is that?
Peat becomes hydrophobic when dry, meaning that it repels water. It takes gradual soaking to rehydrate dry peat and fully saturate the soil. Since succulents need to completely dry between each watering, it is difficult to quickly drench the roots of a succulent grown in peat.
How to make your own succulent soil?
If you choose to make your own succulent soil, you need to consider the following factors:
Let’s face it, this is an important factor for many. If money is not an issue for you, you can move on to the next point.
You can always buy a ready mix substrate for succulents and cacti, but that is more expensive than at home. Especially if you have a large collection or an outdoor succulent garden.
On the other hand, some of the recommended components for substrates may be scarce in your area and it is better to replace it with another. Or there may be an abundance of materials in your area that you can use to make the substrate and that is inexpensive. It is always going to be cheaper to use local materials.
As you already know, the succulent soil must be wet enough so that the plant can absorb and feed on the moisture, but it must also dry quickly so that the roots are not wet for too long and rot.
Logically, the substrate dries faster in dry and warm environments than in cold and humid environments. So if your climate is cold you will need more drainage.
3. Indoor vs Outdoor
You must bear in mind that the substrate responds differently if the plant is indoors or outdoors. Generally dries faster outdoors than indoors. If you have succulents in both environments, it is convenient to make a substrate with greater drainage for indoor succulents than for outdoor ones. And, at the same time, if you live in a warm climate and have succulents outdoors, you should use materials in your substrate that retain moisture for a little longer. This way you give your succulents the opportunity to efficiently use the irrigation water.
In this article, we explain the best way to water succulents.
4. Container, Pot or Ground
In containers or pots, the escape route for water is through the drainage holes, while in the ground the water expands over the entire surface. Thus, succulents in containers need more drainage than those that are planted in the ground.
In the same way, the material of the containers influences the retention or release of moisture and, therefore, you should take this into account when making the soil mix to guarantee adequate drainage. For example, plastic and metal pots retain moisture longer than terracotta or ceramic ones.
5. Succulent Species
Some species tolerate excess moisture better than others. For those that are especially sensitive to humidity and prone to dying from excess love in the form of water, you should use a substrate with greater drainage and porosity. For example, you shouldn’t use the same substrate for a Sedum morganianum as for a Lithops.
The weight of the substrate may be an important factor for you. In the event that you want to make shipments for gifts, sales, arrangements of succulents, transport for removals or simply move your succulents from one place to another, you should have a light substrate. Therefore, you should choose lightweight components that do not add extra weight.
Succulent Soil Recipe
The substrate for succulents is made by mixing organic and inorganic components. In simple terms, the organic components will provide nutrients and the inorganic ones are richer in porosity and drainage (although some organic ones also contribute porosity). Here is a list of the most common components used in soil mixes for succulents and cacti.
- Coarse sand
- Expanded clay
- Volcanic rock
- Peat moss
- Pine bark
- Coconut coir
- Rice husk
- Wood chips
- Earthworm humus
It is advisable to use a higher proportion of inorganic than organic components. This guarantees the three characteristics that the substrate must-have for your succulents: drainage, porosity and low composition in nutrients.
You can study each component, see if there is one in your area and at what cost, what characteristics each one provides and thus make your own succulent soil recipe. Remember, again, that there are also ready-made options.
Is Miracle Gro potting mix good for succulents in containers?
We have experimented with planting succulents and aloe veras with the Miracle Gro Potting Soil for Succulents and Cacti. We found that this blend is not much different than plain regular potting soil and that it was staying moist for days, even though it says fast drying on the label.
Therefore, to those who ask “Is Miracle Gro good for succulents?”, we do not recommend Miracle Gro Potting Soil (both the regular and cactus potting soil) as a standalone succulent potting soil, but to be mixed with coarse sand, pumice, perlite, and the like.
Can you plant succulents in regular potting soil?
The ideal succulent soil should first and foremost be slightly acidic, permeable, and poor. Since regular potting soil does not meet these criteria, specialist retailers offer special succulent or cactus soil. In order to use regular potting soil for succulents, you need to mix with soil amendments.