Dish the Dirt: The best dirt for succulents (2021)

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Have you ever struggled with succulent plants and not known what the matter was? The solution might be down within the dirt. during this dish the dirt we dive into the simplest dirt for succulents in 2021. Succulents need different soil from most plants so as to actually thrive.

Indoors or out, there are tons of things that determine the proper soil for healthy, beautiful succulents. Use the incorrect soil and you’ll end up endlessly troubleshooting care issues. But fear not!

This comprehensive guide explains everything you’ve ever wondered about the simplest dirt for succulents. It covers the key factors for various growing conditions, reviews top commercial succulent soils, and shares an easy diy succulent soil recipe to assist you combine your own dirt reception .

  • What is the Best Dirt for Succulents?
  • Key Succulent Soil Factors
  • Soil Reviews and Recommendations
  • DIY Succulent Soil Recipe
  • Outdoor Soil for Succulent Landscaping
  • Peat Moss vs. Coconut Coir
  • Conclusion
best dirt for succulents

What is the Best Dirt for Succulents?

The short answer: a well-draining one.

There are tons of conflicting ideas about soil, but when it involves succulents, drainage is vital. That’s because succulents’ ability to tolerate drought makes them susceptible to plant disease if left in wet soil. 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.

Succulent Soil Drainage Factors

the most drainage factors are soil type, watering frequency, container choice, sun and airflow.

With of these factors at play, what works for one gardener might not work well for an additional . as an example , indoor growers with less airflow might prefer a grittier soil to stop pests. 

Conversely, an outside grower during a hot, windy climate could use a less porous soil to avoid having to water too frequently. 

When choosing a container for your succulent the foremost important thing to seem for is drainage holes. Always use pots with drainage holes. you’ll drill your own holes in non-draining pots, but a layer of rocks at rock bottom of the pot doesn’t add good drainage. In fact, it creates large pockets during which water collects and breeds bacteria. the simplest succulent soil within the world can’t prevent plant disease during a non-draining container if you aren’t careful with watering.

You can find more information on this in our Guide to Growing Succulents.

best dirt for succulents

KEY SUCCULENT SOIL FACTORS

Organic Material versus Inorganic Material

Material Soil is formed from organic and mineral components. during this context, organic refers to things that were once alive. Minerals, however, are natural, inorganic matter(not derived from living organisms). for instance , tree bark and other plant debris are organic components, but gravel is mineral. 

Both types are necessary in soil. The organic materials provide nutrients and store water while mineral constituents improve drainage. the proper ratio of organic to inorganic material will support growth and stop plant disease . 

it’ll also allow you to water your succulents deeply, but infrequently. 

The inorganic content can range from 40%-80% by volume counting on environmental conditions and therefore the varieties being grown. 

There are tons of organic and inorganic ingredients to settle on from, and you’ll mix multiple types from each category. 

For organic matter, we recommend pine bark, coconut coir, compost, or potting soil. Good inorganic options include coarse sand, perlite, igneous rock , fine gravel, and chicken grit. Avoid minerals that retain moisture, like vermiculite and non-calcined clays. 

best dirt for succulents

Texture and Porosity

Soil Texture and Porosity

The inorganic portion of soil is further categorized into “texture types” supported grit size. The three types, from largest to smallest, are sand, silt, and clay. The proportions of every affects what proportion water a soil can hold and the way long it’ll fancy dry. With their large particles and pores, sandy and gritty soil tends to dry out faster than clay soils. this is often ideal for succulents. 

Soil Texture Triangle

There are simple feel tests and jar tests you’ll do reception to estimate the feel of your soil. When planting outdoors within the ground, aim for a sandy loam that’s 50% to 80% coarse sand or fine gravel. For potted plants, select coarse grit minerals about 1/8″ to 1/4″ in diameter. this may ensure rapid drainage and keep your succulents from rotting in soggy soil.

Baby Succulent in soil

Succulent SOIL REVIEWS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Here you’ll find a side by side comparison of some commercial succulent soil mixes. We tested each for volume unit (i.e. what proportion water they hold when saturated) and drying time. All were in plastic pots with drainage holes under an equivalent indoor light conditions with moderate airflow. 

There’s nobody correct soil for each succulent varieties and every of those options are often amended to suit your needs. 

Potting Soil-Miracle-Gro Houseplant Potting Mix

  • Drainage Grade: B
  • Price: $4.89 – $5.47 per 8 qt.
  • Sources: Any garden center Potting Soil

Regular potting soil isn’t the simplest choice for straightforward succulent cultivation, but with a few of precautions you’ll make it work. Potting soil is usually organic materials like bark, peat moss, and compost. it’s a dense structure and it takes a short time for it to dry. But if regular potting soil is all that’s available, here’s the way to make it work for succulents. 

First, pick the lightest mixture you’ll find and avoid any with vermiculite or moisture retaining crystals. Also, make certain to use a container with a drainage hole…or three. And lastly, water less frequently therefore the mix has time to dry. And if you actually want to show standard potting soil into a rapidly-draining succulent soil, mix a 1:1 or maybe 1:2 ratio of potting soil to mineral grit. 

best dirt for succulents

Black Gold® Cactus Mix

  • Drainage Grade: C
  • Price: $5.99 per 8 qt.
  • Source: Ace Hardware, Walmart Black Gold Cactus Mix

With a reputation like “Cactus Mix”, I expected better drainage from this soil. While it drained excess water well initially, it took the foremost time to dry of all the samples tested. it’s some pumice for drainage, but mostly it’s comprised of forest products, compost, and worm casings. Even amending the mixture to be 50% perlite only decreased the drying time by at some point . 

That said, Black Gold Cactus Mix isn’t a nasty soil. It might be the proper soil for pots in hot climates, for thinner leaved succulents like hardy Sedum, or for growers who rarely remember to water. Those trying to find truly rapid drainage, however, might want to seem elsewhere.

Miracle-Gro® Cactus Palm, & Citrus

  • Drainage Grade: B
  • Price: $4.58 – $4.78 per 8 qt.
  • Sources: Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Mix

This mix has an organic base of forest products and sphagnum with both sand and perlite added. It drains well and features a little bit of added Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous—enough to encourage growth, but not enough to burn vulnerable plants. The peat does make it somewhat difficult to rehydrate after the soil has completely dried (more thereon below). 

this is often a pleasant , standard mix for growers who skills to measure when a container of succulents needs water. those that tend to over-water or try to grow extra low-water plants like cacti should amend it. you’ll turn this into a grade A soil by mixing it with an equal volume of mineral materials. 

Bonsai Jack Succulent & Cactus Soil

  • Drainage Grade: A+
  • Price: $29.49 per 8 qt.
  • Sources: Bonsai Jack, Amazon Bonsai Jack Succulent & Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111

This soil is during a whole different league in terms of price and performance. it’s only available online and therefore the price includes the value of shipping. it’s a radically different makeup than the opposite products analyzed, namely calcined clay and fine particles of pine bark. This super light, gritty mix has giant pores that keep it from ever retaining an excessive amount of water. When utilized in a pot with drainage holes, it’s nearly impossible to over-water your plants. 

For succulent newcomers, cactus growers, or loving plant parents who sometimes water too often, Bonsai Jack soil is well worth the price. i attempted this mix one winter when low airflow in my apartment turned my succulents into breeding grounds for fungus gnats. Now i exploit it year-round. Water the whole top surface of the soil to make sure maximum absorption. Some lovers of xerophytes don’t appreciate having to water more frequently, except for many indoor growers, it’s the crème de la crème. 

Just attempt to over-water Bonsai Jack soil

best dirt for succulents

DIY SUCCULENT SOIL RECIPE

True, mixing your own succulent soil may be a little more involved. But, it’s an excellent thanks to economize and obtain the right soil blend for your particular varieties and growing conditions. consider this as a general, all-purpose recipe. it’ll work indoors or outdoors, in containers or within the ground, and may be adapted supported your environment and therefore the materials available. 

Make Your Own DIY Succulent Soil Recipe

This really could also be the simplest sort of dirt for succulents because you’ll create the type of soil that your sorts of succulents in your environment got to thrive. to form a balanced succulent soil, mix one part organic materials from the left column with two parts mineral materials from the proper . you’ll pick one from all sides or mix and match multiple ingredients. Just make certain the entire volume is 1/3 organic matter and 2/3 mineral materials. Recognizing that the majority succulent plants are adapted to environments where the soil is usually completely dry, use a potting mix that drains quickly. Make your own by mixing one part (by volume) of every of the subsequent :

  • pumice (Perlite is a less desirable, but acceptable, substitute)
  • clean, coarse sand (insoluble chicken grit for chicks is good)
  • coconut coir (peat moss or a peat-based potting mix is OK but not ideal)
pumice
clean, coarse sand
coconut coir

When you water, do so thoroughly. Then don’t do it again until the potting mix has dried out. And don’t forget to do some research to find out the proper watering regime for your succulents. If you water during a time of year when they’re dormant, you risk root rot.

A couple notes on some of the soil options listed:

Potting Soil

There are seemingly endless sorts of potting soil on the market. Check the ingredients so you recognize exactly what you’re getting and whether it contributes to moisture retention or drainage. Avoid peat-based potting mixes (more thereon below). 

Sand

For a well-draining soil, it’s important to use a rough grit like builder’s sand. Additionally, don’t use beach sand because it can desiccate succulents with salt. 

Testing Soil Types for Succulents

Perlite

This natural, volcanic rock makes a soil light and airy. Just don’t confused it with vermiculite, which retains moisture rather than draining it.

Gravel

Search for particle sizes between 1/8″ and ¼” in diameter. Rinsing removes fine dust particles which will clog soil pores and reduce drainage. 

Other Mineral Possibilities

Diotamaceous earth, chicken grit, decomposed granite, and non-soluble cat litter or oil dry (both are calcined moler clay) are often substituted in equal volumes. 

OUTDOOR SOIL FOR SUCCULENT LANDSCAPING

Soil requirements for succulents planted within the ground are less strict than those for container plantings. Ideally, even landscape succulents would be during a gritty, sandy loam with a gravel mulch. the character of outside conditions, however, means you’ll escape with a but perfectly draining soil.

Hardy Outdoor Succulents

The most reason is that outdoor plants are during a greater volume of soil and obtain more sunlight and airflow than indoor plants. This draws water out of the soil through evaporation, helping them dry faster, and reducing the incidence of rot and disease. the simplest thanks to improve drainage without changing the soil structure is by mounding it into berms or raised beds. By building a sloping topography, you increase the area exposed to sun and wind and let gravity do a number of the drainage work. It also adds visual interest. For more details on the method , inspect our guide the way to Build a rockery . 

Succulent Rock Garden Soil Berm

Mounding soil into berms helps it drain faster and adds levels to a rock garden

Most raised, outdoor soils can support succulents if watered at the correct frequency (see Watering Succulents: A Complete Guide). The one exception is heavy clay soils. Clay easily saturates with standing water and is not recommended for succulent cultivation. It takes massive quantities of sand to amend clay soil. Often, it’s easier to pick a different location for your succulents or grow them in containers.

PEAT MOSS VERSUS COCONUT COIR

Succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens are never grown in peat, nor do we recommend it. We use a medium of coconut coir (pronounced COY-er), sometimes with added perlite. This mix is tailored to young plants in greenhouse conditions, and it can work for outdoor succulents in hot climates. Indoor growers, however, should use about one part coir for every two parts mineral ingredients.

Watering Peat Moss versus Coconut Coir

Watering coconut coir (left) and hydrophobic peat moss (right)

Performance

Why not use peat moss in succulent soil? 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.

Watering coir (left) versus sphagnum peat (right)

When watering dry coconut coir (left) and peat moss (right), water soaks into the coir but runs off the hydrophobic peat

Environmental Sustainability

On top of being poorly suited to a succulent’s watering regimen, peat is a less sustainable option than coconut coir. Peat is harvested from wetlands of Sphagnum moss that slowly decompose over hundreds to thousands of years. Peat does not develop quickly and the destruction of peat bogs is a loss of a major global carbon sink.

Coir, on the other hand, is the fibrous byproduct left over after husking coconuts. Coconuts regenerate far faster than peat bogs, so coir is a more sustainable product and puts to use the massive quantities of what would otherwise be a waste product. For even more reasons to choose coir over peat, check out “Coir is Sustainable Alternative to Peat” (Oregon State University).

Coconut Coir Closeup

Is Coir Right for You?

While coir is an ideal choice for young plants in a nursery setting, it isn’t perfect for all situations. Because it’s light and stores a lot of moisture, it can be a decent choice for succulents growing outdoors in hot climates. To improve coir drainage for indoor growing or humid climates, we recommend amending with coarse sand or perlite. A 2:1 mineral to coir soil has a drying time close to that of Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Succulent Potting Mix.

Plant Mug Houseplant Lover Cup Plant Lady Mug Gardener image 3

CONCLUSION

There is no one perfect succulent soil and most can be adapted to suit a variety of growing conditions. A few differences stood out in our comparison of commonly available succulent soils.

  • SOIL
  • DRAINAGE
  • APPROX. PRICE (8 QT.)
  • Potting Soil
  • Amend with Extra Grit

Don’t feel like getting into the nitty gritty of succulent soil?

Keep it simple by using a gritty, well-draining soil that is at least 50% mineral materials by volume.

Pay attention to the amount of time it takes the soil to dry after a thorough drenching and adjust the mineral to organic ratio as necessary.

And because soil is only part of the succulent care puzzle, we highly recommend reading through the following guides and filling in all the gaps:

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