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How to Make Potting Soil for Succulents (Step-by-Step Guide)

queen of the night succulent in pots

Succulents are some of the easiest plants to grow for beginners, but like all plants, they have their quirks. The main thing to watch for is drainage, and many commercial potting soils need amendment to make it suitable for growing succulents.

A great alternative is to simply make your own well-draining succulent soil mix! With soil and a couple of other ingredients, you can have your succulents thriving in no time. Let’s check out what you’ll need and how to go about it.

garden flower divider Before You Begin

As we mentioned, succulents need well-draining soil. This is because succulents are native to arid climates and can tolerate long periods of drought. Conversely, this means their delicate roots are very susceptible to rot. You’ll sometimes see wet roots leading to root rot being called “wet feet,” and succulents especially hate wet feet.

To balance this, you’ll have to add compounds that add aeration, like perlite and coarse sand. That’s not all, though. You’ll also need containers or pots with drainage holes in the bottom, or you can drill your own into your existing plants. Succulents must have drainage holes or you’re inviting root rot.

Let’s briefly cover what you’ll need below. Keep in mind that we use parts as a measurement, so you can make either small or large batches as needed.

You Will Need:
  • 2 parts garden soil/potting mix – the higher the grit content, the better
  • 1 parts perlite
  • 1 part coarse sand/poultry grit
  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part pumice (optional)

garden flower divider

How to Make Potting Soil for Succulents

1. Start With Soil

open sack of soil
Image By: Singkham, Shutterstock

It always comes back to basics. The main ingredient in your soil should be soil, and the rest used as amendments. You can use your native soil if you want, but you may also opt for a commercial garden soil. The soil should be airy and light in your hand, but it’s not a big deal if not. You can mix the soil in a large bucket or any other container—just pour in the starting amount of soil and move on.

2. Add Sand

Take a minute to mentally picture a succulent’s ideal environment. It’s pretty sandy, right? That’s why sand is an essential ingredient for any succulent potting mix. The sand holds a small amount of water for the plant’s roots to absorb, but otherwise wicks away moisture before it can develop into root rot.

The finer the sand you use, the more water it’ll hold, so you want to look for coarse grit sand. Don’t just grab any old sand, because you could clog up the soil and make things even worse. You can add some fine sand if the soil drains too quickly. Turface and poultry grit are good alternatives to coarse sand.

3. Add Perlite

Close Up Perlite
Image By: RPA Studio, Shutterstock

Perlite is a mineral often used in insulation, but you probably know it as the white bits in soil that look like Styrofoam. It’s a lightweight, inert mineral that helps break the soil, prevent compaction, and keep it airy. Most crucially, perlite doesn’t absorb or retain moisture, so you don’t have to worry about it contributing to root rot.

You can liberally add perlite when mixing your succulent soil. Our recipe calls for 50% perlite, but you can use more or less as needed. Lastly, mix in compost or fertilizer at this stage to provide your succulents with an instant and slow-release nutrient boost.

4. Plant

Once you’ve mixed the ingredients well in your container, add soil to pots and get to planting! We recommend transplanting a mature succulent first, so you can observe how well the soil drains. If it’s not draining well enough for your liking, add more perlite and coarse sand and check again in a few days.

Alternatively, you can add pumice to the soil for extra drainage. The key to making your own soil is to experiment and try different ingredients, so don’t be afraid to deviate from our recipe here.

garden flower divider Conclusion

Succulents are very rewarding to grow, with a unique look and some truly beautiful flower blossoms. The main ingredients for good succulent soil are garden soil, perlite, coarse sand, and pumice if your soil is particularly compacted. Don’t be scared to tweak the recipe. Use what works and discard what doesn’t.

Featured Image Credit: HansLinde, Pixabay


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