How to make a perfect soil for your Succulents and Cacti

Finally, after so much research about the best and perfect succulent soil mix, I got the recipes.

Now you may think about why it is important. Well… Choosing the right soil for succulents and cacti is as crucial as giving them water.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the perfect succulent soil recipes and where to get those components.

If you are in a hurry, you can click on the topic you need, to jump straight to that part.

If you live in a colder environment where the temperature can go below 6 °C, it is highly recommended to plant your succulents in containers. So you’ll be able to bring your succulents indoors in a harsh season.

If you do gardening in containers, you should pay extra attention to the type of soil mix you use. Because this is almost everything for your plant.

That being said, if your plant is of 2-bits and you got 10 dollar soil, you can see its bright future. But if you do the opposite, i.e. 10 dollar plant in a 2-bit soil, the plant has a future full of limitations.

There are a lot of things that must be kept in mind while planting succulents in containers. I’ll discuss the crucial ones in this guide.

Your succulents may die soon because of the improper soil they are planted in.


What makes soil perfect for succulents?

So, how do you say that soil is perfect, or what you should be looking for in the best succulent soil?

Well… The soil should be well-draining and should be able to hold water for enough time to be absorbed by your plant… and not to mention the nutrients as well.

In other words, the perfect succulent soil should be

  1. Able to hold water for enough time to be absorbed by the plant
  2. Able to dry quickly to avoid roots rotting.
  3. Well aerated, i.e. supply air or expose to the air circulation
  4. Full of nutrients that plant need

If you use a soil other than these qualities, you may lose your succulents quickly.

If the soil is lacking the ability to hold water for enough time to be absorbed by your plant, your plant will die of the underwatering issue. Because it won’t be able to absorb water.

If the soil stays wet for a longer time than needed. This will cause your plant roots to rot, and they won’t be able to absorb any more. That is the worst situation because you’ll not be able to save it by repotting in new soil.

Btw, succulents do not like to sit in wet soil for a longer time.

The aeration in your soil is also equally important, otherwise, your plant roots will rot soon. The soil should be able to produce or allow air circulation. Allowing air circulation is better for your plant.

And lastly, if your soil does not have what your plant needs, then it is useless. Pay attention to nutrients as well. I am a big fan of organic nutrients sources rather than artificial nutrients. So I will suggest the same.

Many environmental factors around your succulent containers also affect the soil. For example, if your environment temperature is high, or the airflow is high, the soil will dry quickly. Same as temperature, if the air humidity is high, the soil will dry slowly. So, keep your environment in mind too.


Benefits of making your DIY succulent soil mix

The main benefit of making your soil is that you can control the ingredient and save some bucks as well.

Since you are in control of the ingredients, you can modify the soil to meet exactly your succulents or other plant need, and where they will happy.


So, How to make Succulent soil?

Now, this is the fun part.

The qualities that make soil perfect for growing healthy succulents have been mentioned above. We need to find those ingredients that possess those abilities.

I.e. It must be able to absorb water quickly, drain water quickly, allow air circulation, and must contain necessary nutrients. … Just these 4 …

During my research, I read a very long and in-depth gardening forum post by “AI”. I’ll link the forum post in the last of this article, and will highly recommend reading it. Although, it is long and might be boring to some as it includes some physics concepts. But worth the time.

AI also mentioned some quality ingredients in that post that work extremely well for succulents especially in containers. The recipe to make a perfect soil for succulents and cacti includes:

  • 1 Part “Pine Bark Fines” (partially composted fines)
  • 1 Part “Turface” - A rock with absorption quality
  • 1 Part “Crushed Granite”

The “Pine Bark Fines” is a source of organic nutrients as well as it holds the water. It also has air pockets for ventilation.

The “Turface” absorbs the water quickly and then releases it slowly. While the “Crushed Granite” is used to drain the water.

The size of these particles must be about 1/4" i.e. 6mm and plays a key role in this recipe.

As the whole soil recipe is very porous, the water drains very easily and quickly. The air-flow is also very good. The roots of your succulents won’t rot in it, like in traditional soggy soil that falls in love with water.

This soil works best indoors and in a cold environment.

One other recipe for gritty mix succulent soil

The above succulent soil works great for almost every succulent. It prevents your succulents from overwatering and rotting their roots.

If you can not find any of those components, you can use the following as well, which I took from that forum post that I mentioned before.

The Gritty Mix Succulent Soil formulae

  • 1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4" particles sizes)
  • 1 part screened Turface
  • 1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
  • 1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil (eliminate if your fertilizer has Ca)
  • Controlled Release Fertilizer (Optional)

If you want to add fertilizer, and your fertilizer does not contain Magnesium (Mg), then use 1/8 - 1/4 tsp Epsom salts (MgSO4) per gallon of fertilizer solution.

Where to find Succulent soil components?

Most of the succulent soil ingredients can be easily found in your local nurseries. But always pay attention to the size of these ingredients particles. It should be 1/4" or 6mm.

The Turface can also be found from auto parts stores, which are used to absorb any oil spills. They call it “Oil-Dri”.

If you can not find these ingredients, you can substitute other ingredients as well. For example, if you can not find Turface, you can use “Pumice” or “Perlite” etc. If “Pine Bark Fine” is not available, you can use another type of Bark.

But, the ratio of organic to inorganic components and the particle sizes (i.e. roughly 1/4" or 6mm) should be the same.

Note, you can use sand, but I’d never recommended it. It improves the drainage but reduces aeration by filling the available valuable pores in the soil. So it should be avoided.

If you can find coarse sand that has roughly the same particle size, i.e. 1/4" or 6mm. Then sure it is a well-draining ingredient.

If you can not find these components at local nurseries or stores, you can always order online.


How to make succulent soil for the outdoor or hot environment?

The above mentioned succulent soil recipe is best for almost every indoor and cold environment. It’ll prevent your succulents from overwatering, and will save their roots from rotting. It is airy, dry, full of nutrients, durable, and long-lasting than any other alternative.

But if you are planting outdoors, where the soil dries out quickly, you can try the following one, which will be good enough.

  • 3 parts ordinary potting soil
  • 2 parts coarse sand, surface, or poultry grit
  • 1 part perlite or pumice

If you want to use this soil recipe for your succulents, you should pay extra attention to never overwater your plants. Because succulents and cacti do not like to sit in a pond of water. Learn about watering your succulents efficiently.

To use this soil recipe for cacti, add 1 part extra coarse sand (turface or poultry grit) and 1 part extra perlite or pumice to the mix. It’ll make the soil more draining. As cacti like dry soil the most.

This recipe is good for hot environments where the soil dries soon due to high temperature, low humidity, or high air-flow.

You can also use the following recipe for outdoor planting.

  • 1 Part - Coconut Coir
  • 1 Part - Pumice or turface or crushed granite

This recipe will drain the water quickly enough to avoid roots rot. But only recommended for outdoor or hot environments. If you need to use the same for the indoor, just double the amount of Pumice, Turface, or crushed granite (the inorganic part).


Never use Peat moss for Succulents and Cacti

Succulents and Cacti need dry soil between watering schedules. Otherwise, your succulents may die due to overwatering and roots rotting.

On the other hand, Peat moss does not dry quickly. It becomes hydrophobic when dry and repels water. You’ll need to soak it gradually to rehydrate and fully saturate the peat moss soil.

So your plants will not be able to quickly get the water, which is also important for growing succulents and cacti.

If you take sustainability and durability in mind, then peat moss is not good at this point as well.

Use Coconut Coir instead of Peat moss, because coconut coir is more sustainable. [Source]


What's wrong with the succulent soil mixes at big box stores?

The soil mix that you get from big box stores usually does not drain well and usually tends to repel water when dry.

So if you got this type of soil, just add some inorganic minerals like pumice, perlite, or crushed granite to make it drainable.


Should I repot my succulents?

Like I mentioned in the beginning, the perfect soil for your succulent strongly depends on the environment where you plant.

So, if your succulent is happy in soil, leave it there, do not repot it yet. But if you see that your succulents are struggling or dying frequently, then it is time to set a new bed for them.

Keep in mind, replacing soil may not be the right answer for your succulent's problems. It might be because of over or under-watering.


When to repot Succulents?

When you buy a new succulent, it is better to re-pot it as soon as possible. It’ll avoid most of the succulent problems, that often come when keeping it in the original store-pot.

Most nurseries, sell succulent in a soil that is designed to be perfect for every plant. In other words, it is not specifically designed for succulents. The second problem is that most of the new succulents are root bounded, i.e. it filled up most of the pot.

The nursery's soil is usually designed to work in a greenhouse environment, and for every type of plant.

When the succulents are small, they need to be watered more frequently. So the regular dense soil works at that time. But when they grow up a little bit, the watering schedule needs to cut off gradually and the regular soil should also be changed.


Best soil recipes for Succulents and Cacti Cheat Sheet.

Here is the list of ingredients of perfect succulents and cacti soil.

The Perfect Soil Recipe #1:

Best for an indoor succulents and cacti container garden, or cold environments (especially). Best if you want to avoid overwatering.

  • 1 Part “Pine Bark Fines” (partially composted fines)
  • 1 Part “Turface” - A rock with absorption quality
  • 1 Part “Crushed Granite”

The particles size should be about 1/4" or 6mm in diameter. This is important for aeration.

The Perfect Soil Recipe #2:

Best for an outdoor succulents container garden, or hot environments (especially).

  • 3 parts ordinary potting soil
  • 2 parts coarse sand, surface, or poultry grit
  • 1 part perlite or pumice

Add an extra part of inorganic minerals like coarse sand, surface, or poultry grit, and an extra part of perlite or pumice, if you want to use the same recipe for the cacti plants. So the water will drain faster.

The Perfect Soil Recipe #3:

This is also perfect for an outdoor succulent container garden.

  • 1 Part - Coconut Coir
  • 1 Part - Pumice or turface or crushed granite

Add an extra part of inorganic minerals like Pumice (or turface or granite) if you want to use this soil recipe for indoor container plants.


Pre-mixed options

If you can not find the components, or if you can not do the hard work of mixing them. I've researched and written down a list of the top 10 best succulents soil reviews. You can always check it out for pre-mixed succulent soil. But always pay attention to its ingredients.

Source to check:

The best soil for succulents (pre-mixed option)

Gardening Forum Post from AI

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[…] can make your succulents and cacti soil, which I encourage you to do so. Because it is more fun. I’ve written an ultimate guide about DIY Succulents soil […]


[…] a succulent and cacti mix (soil) having bigger particle sizes, i.e. about 1/4 inches each. This will drain the water quickly […]

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