As you likely know, most of my succulent gardening is done in containers indoors. I’m able to bring them outside in the summer, but for at least 2/3 of the year my plants are inside. I’ve done a lot of research about the best type of soil for succulent container gardens and I’ve tried several things, some of which work much better than others.
I wanted to tell you today about the best soil I’ve used for my succulents. You’ve heard me talk about the Garden Web Forum before and I want to make sure I give proper credit to Al from the forum. He is the one (as far as I know) that came up with the soil that I use for my containers. If you want to read his post about why this is such a great soil for succulents, you can check out that post here.
If you don’t want to read through the whole thing I’ll sum up what he says here. The first thing you need to know is that succulent roots do not get water from direct contact. Rather, they absorb the water molecules in the air. This is why having a succulent sitting is sopping wet water is so problematic and just makes the plant rot. Everywhere you read about succulent soils they talk about having well draining soil. Usually though people just recommend using regular soil and mixing in something like pearlite, which is what I did originally.
While the soil mixed with pearlite worked pretty well I have a tendency to over water and I didn’t do a very good job of letting the soil dry out enough between waterings. That is when I started researching the best soils for succulents. Al’s Gritty Mix (as the soil mixture is called) is very well draining but retains just enough water for the succulents to get what they need. You need to make sure you use the soil in a pot that has a drainage hole otherwise there isn’t any point in having well draining soil as the water will just sit in the bottom of the pot.
Here is the recipe for this soil:
- 1 part Turface
- 1 part Pine Bark Fines
- 1 part Crushed Granite
The pine bark provides an organic element and holds water but has air pockets in it and doesn’t break down very quickly. The Turface absorbs some of the water and slowly releases it. The granite doesn’t absorb water but allows the water to flow through the pot between all the particles. The mix is very porous so water flows easily and doesn’t really break down. There is plenty of air so the roots are never sitting in water.
There is one other important thing you need to know about this or any other soil and that is particle size. Because of the way water travels and flows, having particles of different sizes will prevent water from flowing very well. When you are preparing each of the ingredients for the soil mixture you’ll want to screen them so the particles are about 1/8 – ¼” in size. This can be a long process but I thought it was worth it in the end. As a person who like to nurture my plants this soil allows me to water more frequently without worrying about overwatering. If you are having a hard time finding the ingredients in your area, you can take a look at this page that lists where to find the ingredients by state.