The perfect succulent soil guide for a very happy cactus
A distinctive feature of succulents is their ability to grow at high temperatures with very little water. Due to their arid nature, they often grow in areas with coarse, dry, nutrient-poor soil, such as areas with desert sand, clay, or dry gravel. However, unless you’re a plant lover who gardens in Arizona or New Mexico, you probably don’t live in the desert. If you’re growing plants indoors, you’ll need to pick up some succulent soil that’s specially formulated to help your plants grow. Although succulents and cacti typically require less maintenance than other houseplants, you still need to set them up for success.
Succulent soil is crucial for healthy plants because it can help them avoid common problems like overwatering and root rot. Learn how it differs from traditional potting soil in our complete succulent soil guide and get our easy succulent soil recipe.
What is succulent soil?
Unlike the traditional, dark, nutritious potting soil you use for houseplants, cactus and succulent soil drains quickly and is composed of a coarse texture that helps plant roots attach and grow strong. The entire soil consists of a mixture of organic matter (decomposed plants and humus) and mineral matter (rock fragments and sand). Succulent soil simply contains much less organic matter and more mineral matter.
Because succulents are drought-tolerant plants and don’t need constant moisture or regular watering, the soil they’re planted in needs to be well-drained and contain less organic matter than a traditional indoor soil mix. A loose, granulated soil mixture with plenty of sand and perlite or pumice is ideal because it is less dense and does not compact easily. This looser, more porous soil allows more water to pass through and not be absorbed.
Soil components for growing succulents
Any good succulent soil is made up of three parts: sand, soil, and perlite or pumice. The ratio of these three ingredients varies depending on the type of succulent and personal preference. If you’re mixing your own, a great starting point is 2 parts sand, 2 parts soil, and 1 part perlite or pumice. Once you know what’s best for your plants, your home, and your environment, you can adjust the proportions to create your perfect succulent soil recipe.
Sand provides great aeration, increases drainage, and has a rough texture that succulent roots love to cling to.
Regular potting soil
Succulents may be hardy, but they still need some organic matter and plant nutrients to be a happy plant. The best soil for growing succulents is well-drained soil. Since you’ll be mixing it with other things to make it more porous (sand, perlite or pumice), you can choose a standard houseplant mix. Just be sure to avoid using any type of soil specifically designed to retain or moisten water.
Pumice or perlite
Resembling small white stones, perlite and pumice are mixed with soil and sand to improve drainage. They work like drainage rocks that you place at the bottom of a large plant pot to help water flow more easily. For succulent soil, you can use pumice or perlite. Perlite is often cheaper and more readily available in stores, but people like pumice because it is heavier and less likely to float during watering.
Our favorite store-bought succulent soil
Kate McGregor is the SEO editor at House Beautiful. She’s covered everything from curated decor collections and shopping guides, to glimpses into the home lives of inspiring creatives, for publications like ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever.