How to Plant a Succulent

While planting succulents seems like an easy thing to do, it does offer some challenges. This step-by-step photo tutorial will help make sure your succulent is happy in it’s new home.

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I’m so glad you’re interested in learning how to properly pot succulents!

Before I get to the step by step, I first want to make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need. Check out this list on my post about essential supplies for planting succulents.

You’ll also want to make sure you’ve chosen a that’s ideal for your succulents. Take a look at my tips for choosing pottery for succulents in this post.

Once you’ve read through those posts and gathered the supplies you need, you’re ready to start potting!

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Now, I’m a very visual learner–so I’d much rather have someone show me how to do something rather try to follow step-by-step instructions. That’s why I’m going to show you, from start to finish, how I pot a newly purchased succulent. It’s super easy, but if you’ve got any questions, I’m here to help!

Remove Your Pot and Soil

The first step of successful succulent planting is to get rid of the nursery pot and remove as much soil as you can.  Nurseries almost always plant their succulents in soil that’s way too rich and retains too much water. The more of this nursery soil you’re able to get rid of, the healthier your succulent’s roots will be. You may not be able to get all the soil off without damaging the roots, and that’s totally fine. Just get rid of as much as you can while being gentle on your succulent.

If you’re planting your succulent by itself (as I am here), you’ll want to leave the roots intact as much as possible. On the other hand, if you’re putting together an arrangement with several succulents, you might want to break off some of the roots. Getting rid of some roots won’t create any big problems–your succulent will survive just fine either way.  And, if you’re lucky enough to have babies attached to your main plant, now is a good time to remove them if you’d like.

The succulent I’m using here is a “Gollum Jade“.

Place Mesh Over the Drainage Hole

Although a drainage hole is important for the healthy of your succulent, you don’t want your soil to fall out of it. Use some mesh tape to prevent the biggest chunks of soil from falling out. Mesh tape works well because it allows for water to flow out easily, but will still hold in most of the soil. You’ll probably get some “dust” falling out, but that’s normal. If you want, you can also use a mesh screen instead of the mesh tape.

Use mesh tape to prevent soil from falling out the drainge hole of your pot

Fill Your Pot Almost to the Top

Before you place your succulent in the pot you’ve chosen, fill it almost (but not quite) to the top with succulent soil. Leave a little bit of room at the top, so the roots will have a comfortable fit, and you’ll be able to add more soil later on.

Fill your container mostly full of soil before putting your succulent in

Put in Your Succulent

Now it’s time to place your succulent in the pot! You can plant it–centered or off-center, whichever you’d like. Nestle some of the roots into the soil, so they’ll get as a bit of a head start on growth.

Fill the Pot All the Way to the Top

Now it’s time to fill up the pot. You want to leave just a tiny bit of room between the top of the soil and top of the pot. Make sure the leaves of the succulent sit completely above the soil, to prevent rotting.

If you’ve purchased soil from Bonsai Jack, you’ll have an awesome chopstick that’s great for poking your soil over and over, which will help remove any large pockets of air between the roots. This will help prevent your soil from sinking down after a few waterings.

Add a Top Dressing

To finish off your potted succulent, add a top dressing. This is why you left a little bit of room at the top of your pot (see, we’re thinking ahead here)! The top dressing can be something bright and fun or a simple gravel, like I used here. As you add your top dressing, press down on the soil to help the succulent stay in place.

Most important!!!

Once your succulent is potted and the top dressing is in place, let it sit for one to two days before you water it. This resting period will give the roots time to heal before they start soaking up water, which helps prevent root rot.

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And that’s all there is to it! Pretty simple, right?

The most common mistakes I see in potting are a) removing the soil from the roots, b) forgetting to add a top dressing, and c) watering too soon. Follow the steps above, and you’ll avoid these common problems, and get a great start on your healthy succulent garden!



  1. Mary Cooper May 19, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I bought my baby succulent plants and soul today. I was planning on using a shallow bird bath for the garden. But now I fear the rain. Should I still holes in it first? I plan on starting tomorrow.

    • Cassidy Tuttle May 24, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Yes, for the bird bath planter I recommend adding drainage holes. I also did this, take a look at it here!

  2. Letty Sison May 22, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    1.How do you prevent squirrels from eating the leaves of succulents?
    2. Where do you keep your potted succulents? Direct sun, shade,indirect sun, inside or outside?

  3. Alex June 9, 2017 at 10:52 am - Reply

    I created my second terrarium today. Although its beautiful in my eyes, my succulents aren’t stable. If I move the glass container they move too like they would fall out of the soil. The roots are covered with soil but I didn’t pushed it so it gets stable. Is it ok when they aren’t very stable?

    • Cassidy Tuttle June 10, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Eventually when the succulents grow deeper roots, they will be able to support themselves. If you are worried, then don’t be afraid to use the soil to keep them upright.

      • Kass Claggett July 6, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

        I use river rocks and larger than pebble rocks to hold them upright until they can stand on their own. I also have a bunch of plastic ducks etc (Schleich are good) and use them to prop up a plant till it takes.

        • Cassidy Tuttle July 6, 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

          Great idea and sounds like it looks pretty too!

  4. Adea Sanders June 9, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I recently got a succulent for my graduation, a Aeonium or dudleya sort of thing. It began to stretch so I put it outside. I watered it for the first time and let it alone but the sun became too much and is drying it out before the soil could dry so it was staying moist. I discovered this site when looking up what to do and as a result, after finding this site yesterday, I now own 6 succulents for the first time ever! I bought new soil and perlite and mixed a few rocks in it all together, and got top soil. I was worried that my topsoil rocks were too large so i only have a small layer on top of the dirt soil, but how much topsoil is okay?

    • Cassidy Tuttle June 12, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

      That is exciting, how fun! If it is a small layer of topsoil then it does not matter the size of the pebbles, as long as the succulents can grow roots in the soil beneath that layer.

  5. Jodi June 21, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    I live in the high desert where already temps are at 110, I’m trying to keep my soil a bit moister for longer than 10 minutes lol. Is it possible to use spaghnum moss AND pebbles on top of my soil? Or should I use one or the other? I have mostly echeverias if that helps.

  6. Cindy Eckenrod July 17, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    This was so helpful. I’m just getting into succulents and I have to say, I am hooked. Thank you.

    • Cassidy Tuttle July 18, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Glad this has been helpful! It is so easy to get hooked!

  7. Karen July 21, 2017 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    I’d really like to know more about planting succulents in containers that do not have holes – like tea pots and cups, serving dishes, old vases, etc. – either deep vases or shallow dishware.

  8. Elle Stewart July 23, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Is it okay to use the same soil I used to plant it with as a topping? It is a soil mix designed for succulents if that makes any difference.

    • Cassidy Tuttle July 31, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Yes that should be just fine :)

  9. SD Jones July 24, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

    Hello there. My succulent’s stem is quite long and the plant has bent over. I’ve addressed the light problem but now it’s sprouted aerial roots! I know I need to change the watering but, in the meantime, I’d like to repot it from the aerial roots. How do I do that? Thank you!

    • Cassidy Tuttle August 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      It’s great you’ve addressed the light issue! It sounds like now you need to water deeper, instead of more frequently. This link can give you some great information on aerial roots.

  10. Sarah Reeves August 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    what if i found this article after i potted and watered my plants! it should be hot tomorrow and they do have a hole in the bottom but i didn’t realie you were supposed to wait to water?? did i just ruin my plants?

    • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team August 21, 2017 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      Not to worry, you didn’t ruin them! Just wait to water them again until the soil is dry. This post will help.

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