Well draining soil for succulent container gardens

Having well draining soil is crucial for succulents. This post has the perfect succulent soil mix recipe and tells you where to buy the components!

Most of my succulent gardening is done in containers, whether indoors or outdoors. I’m able to bring my succulents outside in the summer, but for about 2/3 of the year my plants are inside. I do have several containers of cold hardy succulents that I leave outdoors year round. 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 mix 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.

Succulent soil is so important to keeping them alive! Find out the best soil for succulents in this post!
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

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 in sopping wet soil is so problematic and makes the plant rot.

Everywhere you read about succulent soils they talk about having well draining soil. A lot of people recommend using regular soil and mixing in something like pearlite, which is what I did originally. While the soil mixed with pearlite worked ok for a while it still didn’t dry out quickly enough and I ended up with quite a few plants with early signs of rot. That is when I started researching the best soils for succulents.

Click next to get the recipe for the perfect succulent soil mix!


(I’ll also tell you why the mix is so great and show you where you can buy the mix already made!)

Don't let your succulents die because you don't know how to properly water them!

188 Responses to Well draining soil for succulent container gardens

  1. I tried making my own gritty mix using the ingredients you described. I sifted it, and it seemed like all the components were the same size. My plants started to look unhappy, so I repotted them. The bottom of their pot was like cement and damp. There was a drainage hole in the pot. What would cause this?

    • I wonder if the drainage hole isn’t big enough to allow the soil to dry completely? It could also be that you are watering when the top of the soil is dry but there is still water in the bottom of the pot so the roots aren’t drying out completely before the next watering.

  2. Thank you for all these tips, your blog is amazing! I’m a beginner in the world of suculents and I would like to have this soil you recommend but I live in the UK so I’m wondering if you know some website or an online shop in the uk to buy it. Thanks you in advance and best regards.

    • I’m not aware of anywhere that sells in the UK :( However, you can use a coarse grain sand, pumice, or other inorganic material that has about 1/4″ particles. Jack will ship internationally but it is quite expensive. Maybe if you got a few friends together to purchase it wouldn’t be quite as bad? I’d see what you can find locally though as alternatives. Usually there is some sort of 1/4″ rock or bark fines available.

  3. For UK and European inhabitants, try using :

    Perlite (instead of Pumice)

    Alpine grit 2-4mm or chicken/poultry grit (0-2mm)[make sure it’s oystershell less. Avoid ones called ‘mixed’]

    Tescos low dust cat litter

    Other often read about options such as barks, turface, coconut coir and others are not worth the hassle of importing.

    Read Al’s guide as linked above in this article and take it from there. Ratio should be either 1:1:1.

    If you do throw in some low peat (little peat as possible) soil mix, do 20% soil and the rest equal parts of perlite/grit/litter.

  4. You are mistaken when you included cactus(singular) cacti I would be in a crisis if I used a5.5 ph soil mix for my alkaline loving cacti.
    I have been using a mix of peatmoss perlite, horticultural charcoal,
    1/8″ pebbles, course sand and last of all limestone screenings!! Bonsia Jack is a rippoff on his prices for potmix wow. Please edit cacti from your post and check your info, also natural habitat of many of my plants are limy mudstone flats.This is a good way to discourage neophytes.Why not grow in vinegar, its close to ph level you suggest.Ive been growing for over 28 yrs some of my plants are 60+ yrs.old so I think I know regarding some of the cacti I grow.
    You should always judge by the weight of your pot and the last time you watered.Use clay pots!!
    W/ drainage only water when cacti are in growing cycle ie summer.

    • Great input. The soil acidity seems to depend a lot on the area you live and the acidity of the water you are using. I’ve heard conflicting information from many of my succulent friends who work professionally with succulents. It’s definitely worth a little experimenting and seeing what works for you. For indoor growing however, acidic soil seems to do well with most succulents.

  5. What can I do. I want to plant my succulents in the dishes of my lazy susan. No drainage holes. Any suggestions. By the way the plants will be grown inside

    • Succulents in a pot without drainage holes can still be healthy. :) Finding well-draining soil is the biggest key, and also knowing the amount of water the succulent needs. All of this info is on this post, and I think it will be super helpful for you!

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I'm Cassidy, a professional photographer turned succulent addict and the author and photographer here at Succulents and Sunshine. This is me with my wonderful husband and super cute baby!

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