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!

156 Responses to Well draining soil for succulent container gardens

  1. You may have already answered this, so I apologize in advance. I just started using the soil mix from bonsai jack (thank you for the recommendation!). Since this soil drains very well, how often do you water your succulents? Thank you.

  2. Cassidy, I just found your blog and it’s great.. Am interested in the succulent mix and where to find components. On March 12 you answered Barb Beaman and said a list for where to buy parts by state would be at end of post. I could not find that list. Also, diatomaceous earth was mentioned as a substitute for turface The diatomaceous earth that I have is a powder, that is for sprinkling around for bugs. There must be another kind? I live in Michigan and would appreciate where I can get the parts. I have not responded to a blog before nor have I read the responses and enjoyed them . Thanks for your time.
    Nancy Berlew

  3. Hello, I appreciate the way you answer reader’s questions, and all the helpful information you give. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this.
    I have found the DE, and poultry grit. I can not locate pine bark fines, and the only coir I could find was the type used in hanging baskets. Is this what is needed or should it be more like a soil? I checked the pet stores for 60 miles around my location, and they only stock crushed walnut shells or chestnut shells. Would these work? Also, is the DE needed for this mix supposed to look like powdery sand? Thank you

    • I’m thinking there must be a different term for DE as it’s supposed to be grainy, not powdery. It will look like small pebbles. An automotive store is actually the easiest place to find it, something like Oil-dri. The pine bark fines look like miniature bark. If you can’t find the pine bark fines or some similar, try a mix without it (equal parts of the DE and grit, assuming you can get DE that is like small gravel). You can try the crushed shells too. I haven’t tried it but it would be worth an experiment! One of the most important things is particle size.

  4. Hello Cassidy!
    I’ve been following your blog for a year or so, and have scoured my city to find the gritty mix ingredients. I found 2 out of 3 and have not have much luck with a crushed granite equivalent. I live in Hawaii, at the end of a wet valley, so you can imagine how important is for me to keep my succulents well drained. I settled for a bag of gravel, but dislike the odd sizes and dust. I am still looking for something like Bonsai Block… but more economical. Even chicken grit is expensive in Hawaii… shipping costs can easily double the price of anything!

    I found fine pine barks as it is used for baby orchids, and turface from a automotive parts store as suggested by someone in your site. But crushed granite?
    Please help!

    • That is tricky! Do you know if you can find pumice? That is another ingredient that people use quite a bit with succulents. It tends to be fairly common, but nothing is really common in Hawaii :) Bonsai Jack does include shipping, even to Hawaii I believe, if you want to go that route. If you can’t find pumice, try just using the two ingredients you have and see how that goes. Do 2 parts turface to one part pine bark fines.

  5. I love the site and truly appreciate your integrety in siting sources. I tried to order two of your ebooks through paypal and was stopped because the setup did not allow for Alberta, Canada billing. Is there anyway the paypal interface can be amended for Canadians?

    With the increased number of senoirs downsizing to condo living I imagine the interest in succulent container gardening will be increasing.

    Grace Adamson

    • That is really odd… I’ve had people purchase from all over the world using PayPal. I’m not sure why it isn’t working. As far as I can tell everything is operating as it should be. I’m not able to accept credit cards from other countries, but I’m pretty sure using a PayPal account as the payment option gets around that. I’m double checking with PayPal customer service right now, but I likely won’t hear back for a few days.

  6. I am needing some help regarding propagation with leaves. How do you water them during this period? how do you keep water from sitting on the leaves when you spray them? Is there a better way to water them than spraying daily?

    Any help is much appreciated thank you for all of your tips!

  7. I also wanted to ask. I have some babies in need of saving as they are still in the soil I originally had them in… All garden supply stores were closed today (sunday) so I resulted in buying coarse sand (which is really just small pebbles) and perlite. Did a 1:1 mix of that and put them in that for now…. Do you think that’s ok for them?

    Thank you!!

  8. Any suggestions for substitutes for the soil mix, I’ve called everywhere local and I might be able to get some turface for $16.99 but they didn’t know how big the bag was, and no one has crushed granite or fine pine bark mulch. Is there any other mulch or pumice or gravel that you think would work. I’ve tried store cactus soil and hate how the soil separates from the pot, makes watering difficult and then days to dry out, I’ve mixed in sand like some sites say and even worse results. Really want a gritty mix but homemade to save money, and allow enough water to get the plant.

    • I’d recommend looking for a coarse grain sand or pumice. The most important thing is finding something with the right particle size, about 1/4″ (6mm). I know a lot of people who use pumice as their only “soil” ingredient and love it. It drains really fast so you’d have to water more often. But, basically look for some sort of material with a “large” particle size and give that a try.

      • Thank you! I finally found a nursery/landscape supplier who actually understood what I was looking for, I was able to get a soil that she uses for her succulents and added in equal parts bark mulch compost and decomposed granite for extra drainage. Looking forward to seeing the results versus MG Cactus Soil.

        • I’ve been propagating cuttings and hen and chick offspring’s on my kitchen table. Its the only place indoors that gets the most sun from my south facing deck, although with the slight roof overhang, I still notice stretching. I cant find any information about setting up an outdoor propagation area or if a small greenhouse will work so I can reclaim my table and have more space for cuttings during the warmer months. I tried placing them in my shadier corner of the deck but was still too much for them and they look a little less lively than before, so I brought them back in. I was thinking maybe using a 50% fabric shade on the deck? Have you tried or read anything about outdoor propagation setups.

          • I have been propagating some succulents outside and I have them in an area that gets shade all day. Direct sunlight for more that an hour really isn’t great for these new babies. The shade cloth is a great option and will also help protect them from too much heat (just as bad as too much sun). You want to keep them warm, but not hot, in indirect sunlight.

  9. Aloha, Thank you for this very informative website!

    However, I am hoping that you can help… I followed the soil recipe except that I used 1 part cactus/palm soil which had a lot of bark in it, 1 part diatmaceous earth (from car parts store), 1 part lava rock cinders. I put them through a screen so they are pretty much the same size. My problem is… when I watered it and let it drain, the soil was still very, very wet and the pot was very heavy (water being retained). I am worried that I created the exact opposite than what I was hoping to, and now have soil that holds too much moisture. I just mixed the soil this afternoon so I don’t know how it will be after sitting overnight. Any advice?

    • It sounds like it should drain ok, but maybe your problem is actually the drainage hole. If the drainage hole isn’t very large it may take longer for the water to drain out. I’d give it another day or two and see what happens. If it still seems really wet, I’d do more of the rock-like materials and less of the pine bark.

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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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