How to Make Succulent Soil [3 Easy Recipes]

Succulents are one of the most popular choices for indoor and outdoor plants today. To take care of a succulent, one of the most important factors one needs to work on is the soil in which the plant is potted. We’ve put together this simple and easy guide to making your own succulent soil at home.

how to make succulent soil

How to Make Succulent Soil

Succulents are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Their specific needs may differ from plant to plant but succulents are largely known to be fairly easy to take care of.

To make succulent soil, you need three main components. You can make variations in these three components and their ratios according to the climate you live in or the specific needs of the plant you have.

1.   Nutritional Medium

This is the main part of the succulent soil that will carry the basic nutrients required by the succulent. This organic medium will need to be modified according to the needs of succulents.

A common choice for this medium is the regular all-purpose potting soil that is used for all plants and is easily available in most nurseries. There are different kinds of potting soil available in the market at different densities.

For making succulent soil, it is best not to use potting soil that is very dense and nutrient heavy. You will be able to see that some potting soil options in the market are designed to retain high amounts of moisture.

These types of potting soil might contain vermiculite or water-retaining beads. The potting soil might also contain peat moss, which increases its water retention capacity. These types of potting soil should be avoided.

Some people like to mix pine bark or coconut coir into the potting soil as these materials add to the nutrients of the soil while also improving the drainage.

Overall, it is important to choose a potting soil with large particles and good drainage.

2.   Drainage Materials

The second component required to make your own succulent soil is a material that will improve drainage and aeration. This is because most succulents originate in arid and desert areas.

In these regions with dry and arid conditions, the fleshy leaves of the succulent plant absorb and store water that sustains the plant through dry periods.

In order to survive, succulents require well-drained soil, like the soil in the desert. Succulents also require soil that has a lot of air pockets so that the roots of the plant can breathe.

Hence, it is crucial that drainage materials are added to the nutritional medium to improve the aeration in the soil. A common choice for this component is sand.

Sand helps to increase the space between the particles of the soil. This helps to improve the drainage of the mixture. It is important to choose sand that is not too fine and does not have unsuitable chemicals.

The sand found on the beach, for instance, has very fine particles that hold a lot of water.

Sand used for construction can often contain chemicals that are harmful to the skin. If you pick up sand without knowing its source, chances are there can be unsuitable elements mixed up in the sand.

Coarse sand is the most suitable for making succulent soil. You will be able to buy this from shops near you or online.

If you are not able to find a suitable type of sand, you can also use turface. Turface has a consistency like broken up rocks and helps to improve drainage of the soil.

3.  Water Retaining Materials

The final component required to make your succulent soil is a water-retaining material. Compact soil with fine particles holds a lot of water that can lead to the formation of rot in the roots of the succulents.

Water-retaining materials will help regulate the amount of moisture in the soil to prevent root rot in the plant.

A common choice for absorbents is perlite or pumice. Perlite and pumice are made from volcanic glass and absorb a lot of water.

As a result, they help prevent excess moisture in the soil and the large particles help to improve aeration.

Combining the Components

Now that you understand the various components that go into making soil that is suitable for growing succulents, you can make various variations in the materials as well as the ratios in which you use them.

Let’s look at some common recipes used to make succulent soil.

Recipe 1



This recipe uses a simple combination of one part nutritional medium with one part drainage material. There are different options for the nutritional medium, such as regular potting soil or black peat.

This nutritional medium has to be mixed with equal parts of inorganic materials that will improve the drainage and aeration of the mixture. The options for this are coarse sand, gravel or perlite.

Recipe 2

This recipe uses three parts of an organic nutritional medium such as potting soil. This is mixed with two parts of a drainage material, namely coarse sand. Finally, add one part of an absorbent such as pumice or perlite stone.

Perlite is a very light substance and hence coarse sand or gravel is added to make it heavier so that it is suited for outdoor plants.

Recipe 3

This recipe should be used if your succulent plant is less tolerant to soil high in nitrogen and other nutrients. For this, the nutritional medium of potting soil is replaced with pine bark.

Though the pine bark is also an organic material, it is much less dense in nutrients and also provides higher drainage. Pine bark is mixed with equal parts of a drainage material like coarse sand and an absorbent like perlite or pumice stone.

This succulent soil can be used without replacing for a long time as the supply of nutrients is sustained while the pine bark decomposes slowly.


Can I Use Regular Potting Soil for Succulents?

No, regular potting soil cannot be used for succulents because it retains more moisture than any succulent plant can grow in. Regular potting soil is often compact and moist and contains many different kinds of nutrients that may not be suited for succulents.

Using regular potting soil for succulents will lead to root rot and the succulent plant will eventually die. As a result, sand and perlite or pumice are added to potting soil to improve the aeration and drainage.

How Do You Change Potting Soil for Succulents?

In order to make potting soil suitable for growing succulents, you need to add one part coarse sand and one part perlite or pumice to two parts potting soil.

This is done in order to improve the drainage and aeration of the soil so that the succulent plant does not get root rot from excess moisture.

Read more about changing soil and repotting succulents here:
How to Repot Succulents

Do I Need Special Compost for Succulents?

Succulents thrive on poor soils so they do not need special compost.

However, you can use general soil-based compost for succulents by adding materials that will improve the drainage of the compost such as sand, grit, pumice or perlite.

Do Succulents like Wet or Dry Soil?

Succulents are adapted to dry and arid regions where the soil is usually dry. Since there are very sudden heavy downpours in these areas, the soil does not retain a lot of water.

As a result, succulents grow best in soil that is dry. Wet soil can lead to the formation of rot in the roots of the succulent plant and eventually lead to the death of the plant.

Bottom Line

Succulents have fairly simple needs when it comes to watering and nutrients. However, succulents are particular about soil and they thrive in soil that is well-drained, coarse, has a lot of air pockets and is not very densely packed with nutrients.

Succulents are adapted to regions that have sudden heavy rains and then, are completely dry for weeks on end. As a result, succulents are able to absorb large quantities of water and store them in the leaves for future use.

Any amount of water logging around the roots or excess moisture in the soil can very quickly lead to the roots of the succulent getting suffocated and developing rot. Thus, using soil that is not well-drained for growing succulents is dangerous and can lead to all your succulent plants dying, no matter how well you take care of it otherwise.

Making your own succulent soil at home will not only help you save a lot but it is also a better way to make adjustments so that you can cater to the specific needs of each of your succulent plants.

Though there is a general formula used by all succulent soil mixes, the specific needs of your plant might be different. Different climatic conditions can also lead to the need for slightly different compositions of soil.

Making succulent soil is an extremely simple process. Regular potting soil needs to be made more well-drained and aerated and as a result, it is mixed with other materials.

Adding coarse sand helps to make the potting soil less compact and helps to reduce the retention of moisture. Adding perlite and pumice also increases the air pockets in the soil and improves the drainage as well.