Caring for potted succulents 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 potting soil for your succulents can make or break them.
The main problem often associated with choosing the wrong soil for succulents is over-watering. Soil 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.
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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|Succulent Potting Mix||Type||Size (Quarts)||Drainage Rating||Price Rating||Overall Rating|
Next Gardener Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix
|Soil Mix||2, 4, 8||97||95||96|
Superfly Bonsai Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix
|Gritty Mix||6, 12||100||92||96|
Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111
|Gritty Mix||2, 4, 8, 14, 28, 56, 112||100||96||98|
Bliss Gardens Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil
Daniel's Plants Cactus & Succulent Mix
Fat Plants San Diego Premium Cacti and Succulent Soil
|Soil Mix||2, 4, 8||98||94||96|
1. The Next Gardener Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix Review
The Next Gardener Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix is professionally formulated and imported from Denmark. It is a 100% original, light-weight, and well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH of 5.5, perfectly suited for most succulent and cacti varieties.
This Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix feels very light and airy in comparison to the dirt you would find beneath your front lawn. It drains very fast, and dries out very fast as well. Overwatering is greatly reduced in this mix, which is a great choice for the ‘over-waterers’ out there.
This soil holds a great deal of water, yet never feels wet. It is mixed super well and smells the way organic, natural soil smells like – no moldy smell like some soils have. It also has a really nice consistency, and very lightweight. Our succulents also love the slight acidic pH this soil offers.
Verdict: Great soil mix to use on its own
2. Superfly Bonsai Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix Review
The Superfly Bonsai Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix is a gritty mix medium made up of the following ingredients:
- 25%: Hard Japanese Akadama
- 25%: USA Pumice
- 25%: New Zealand Pine Bark
- 25%: Haydite
This pre-mixed blend is made up of primarily non-organic components, and no 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 & Cactus Soil 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 soil mix, albeit on the pricier side
3. Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111 Review
The Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus 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 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 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 and Cactus 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 and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111. Being a premium 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 free of insects.
The Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111 is our choice for the best soil for succulents in pots. We love that it can be used as a stand-alone soil. There is no need to mix 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 Guide: 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
4. Bliss Gardens Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Review
The Bliss Gardens Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil is a premium hand-made soil mix for succulents and cacti that need 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 soil isn’t suitable, as it still is able to retain some moisture. For succulents grown in drier areas, it is recommended to add a bit more pumice, sand, or perlite into the mix 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 soil mix is both lightweight and moderately well-draining.
Overall, it is a good soil, and cheaper than many popular brands.
Verdict: Best soil for succulents grown in hot and dry areas
5. Daniel’s Plants Cactus & Succulent Mix Review
Daniel’s Plants Cactus & Succulent Mix is a premium quality potting soil that will instantly expand to give 4 quarts of nutritious soil for growing healthy, vibrant cacti at home. It is professionally formulated with all the necessary nutrients for a balanced nutrition that succulents need.
Rich in coconut coir, pumice and perlite, this nutritious succulent potting soil provides proper aeration and allows water to flow through quickly, while still retaining the necessary moisture for plants to grow.
Daniel’s Plants Cactus & Succulent Mix works really well and is easy to use. The soil expands very quickly when water is added. One bag can easily fill (16) 4″ pots or (8) X 6″ pots. It is well-draining and does not compact when wet. It is a great soil especially for starting and propagating succulents.
They also provide convenient shipping and storage – important for someone living in a small apartment.
Verdict: Best soil for propagating succulents.
6. Fat Plants San Diego Premium Cacti and Succulent Soil Review
The Fat Plants San Diego Premium Cacti and 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 Cacti and Succulent Soil is one of the best soils for succulent success – it is quick-draining and fertile. When dry, the soil is light, fluffy and clean. It holds a lot of water, 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; combination of moisture retention and quick drainage
When Do You Need to Change Soil?
Changing soil for succulents should begin as soon as you bring home a new succulent. It is important to remove most of the original soil that comes with the store-bought succulent. Keeping succulents in their store-bought soil results in many problems, in particular:
- Succulents that grow in store-bought soil tend to be root-bound, which means that their roots are filling up most of the existing pot. If you repot these succulents with their soil intact, these roots will have a hard time spreading out of their original shape.
- Most store-bought soil are not ideal for long-term growth of succulents. This is because most of their nutrients will have already been depleted by the time you buy the succulents.
What is the Best Soil for Succulents in Pots?
Drainage is very important for succulents, which by nature have the ability to tolerate drought. In their natural habitat, succulents tend to grow in sandy, gravelly soil; many even in small, rocky crevices and cliffsides. In the wild, those soils get saturated by heavy rains but dry out rapidly.
Therefore, the succulents have adapted to survive in this condition – their roots are capable of absorbing water quickly and their leaves and stems can store water for weeks.
The best soil for succulents in pots is therefore one that is a well-draining mix. If left in wet soil without proper drainage, succulents will be prone to rot. Therefore, using a good mix with porous soil is super important to prevent overwatering.
In short, the best soil for succulents must have the following characteristics:
- Holds enough water for them to absorb what they need, but still dries out quickly so the roots won’t constantly sit in wet soil and rot.
- Doesn’t repel water when it’s completely dry, thereby not allowing water to flow through but spill over the sides of the pots.
- It is most recommended to have some large particles such as pumice, crushed granite or perlite in the soil.
Peat moss is the primary ingredient in most store-bought potting soils. By nature, peat moss repels water when it is completely dry, which makes watering a difficult task as the water does not penetrate the soil but simply runs down the sides of the pot.
Why Not Just Use the Best Draining Soil for All Succulents?
While it is best practice to mimic the soil found in the succulents’ natural habitat, many factors come into play when deciding which soil offers the best drainage – the amount of water added, temperature, airflow, and soil structure. When looking for the right soil, it is important to realize that the soil’s drying time is a balance of all these factors.
Thus, what’s best for one gardener may not work well for another. For example, one may prefer a grittier soil mix for succulents grown indoors, while another may prefer less porous soil for succulents grown outdoors with a hotter climate and more airflow. In the same way, what one may use in the garden for landscape succulents will vary greatly from what one may use in pots or containers.
What Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Succulent Soil Mix?
Organic versus inorganic components – this is a key factor when selecting a good succulent soil. Both types are necessary in succulent soil – the organic components provide nutrients and retain moisture while the inorganic components improve drainage.
The right ratio of organic to inorganic components will support succulent growth and prevent rot. It can also allow you to water your succulents deeply but infrequently. The right ratio can range from 60:40 to 20:80, depending on the environmental conditions and type of succulent being grown.
Some recommended options for organic and inorganic components of a good succulent soil are:
- Organic components – Pine bark, coconut coir, compost, and potting soil
- Inorganic components – Coarse sand, perlite, volcanic rock, fine gravel, and chicken grit.
It is also best to avoid inorganic components that retain water, such as vermiculite and non-calcined clays.
Ready-Made vs Homemade Soil Mix for Succulents in Pots
Ready-Made Succulent Soil Mix
Buying ready-made succulent soil mix is a hassle-free option for those who prefer this route. Most cactus and succulent potting mix have gone through lots of research before being put out into the market.
Buying ready-made soil is a great option if you do not have a large number of succulents in your collection, although many still choose to use ready-made soil as they trust in the manufacturers’ products and have personally experienced great success from using them.
Homemade Succulent Soil Mix
Various succulent experts and hobbyists often make their own succulent potting mix to better tolerate local weather conditions, suit the different types of plants, their preference of watering frequency, and even the size of the containers.
It is a more economical option, especially if you have many succulents in your collection. You can also customize the soil ingredients ratio to better suit your local climate.
Tips for Making Homemade Succulent Soil Mix
Peat moss, the main ingredient in most potting soil, is hard to wet and then dries out quickly. By adding some finely ground bark into the mix, water will be able to penetrate more quickly.
A great substitute for peat moss is coconut coir, which is actually fibrous shredded coconut husks and very slow to decompose. It wets easily even when it’s completely dry, a stark contrast from peat moss. Another substitute for peat moss is compost, although it decomposes rather fast.
Remember to include mineral substance into the soil. This will dramatically improve drainage and won’t break down as the organic material slowly decomposes.
Below are some ingredients for making homemade succulent soil mix:
Testing the Soil Mixture
After mixing the ingredients, wet some of the soil thoroughly, then squeeze it into a ball in your hand. If the soil mix compacts and sticks together, the drainage is not ideal. You should then add more inorganic ingredients and test again until the mix crumbles easily when you release your hands.