How to Plant a Succulent

While planting succulents seems like an easy thing to do, 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 want to make sure you have the proper supplies you need. I have a list for you on my post about essential supplies for planting succulents.

You’ll also want to make sure the pot you select is ideal for succulents. You can see my tips for choosing pottery for succulents in this post.

Ok, now that you’ve read through those and gathered the supplies you need, you’re ready to start potting!

I’m am very much a visual learner and prefer to have someone show me something rather than simply read step-by-step instructions. I want to show you, start to finish, how I pot a newly purchased succulent. It’s easy to do, but I’ve had some people ask about it so I thought a tutorial would be helpful!

This post will help you make sure you are potting your succulents correctly
“Gollum Jade”

Remove Pot and Soil

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove the nursery pot from your succulent and remove as much soil as you can. Generally the soil succulents are planted in at nurseries is really rich and retains too much water for succulents. Removing this soil will help the roots of your succulent to be as healthy as possible. You may not be able to get all the soil off and that is just fine. Just get as much as you can.

If you are planting the succulent by itself (as I am here) you’ll want to leave the roots intact as much as possible. If you are making an arrangement with several succulents you might want to break off some of the roots. It’s not a big problem to remove some of the roots. The succulent will survive just fine either way. The succulent I’m using is a “Gollum Jade“. Also, if you are lucky enough to have babies attached to your main plant, now is a good time to remove them if you’d like.

Remove as much soil as possible before potting your succulent
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Place Mesh Over the Drainage Hole

You don’t want your soil to fall out the drainage hole in the pot you are using so use some mesh tape to prevent the bigger chunks from falling out. The mesh tape works well because it allows for water to flow out easily but will hold in most of the soil. You’ll still get some “dust” falling out but that is normal. 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 Pot Almost to the Top with Soil

Before you place your succulent in the pot you’ve chosen, fill it mostly full of succulent soil. Leave a little bit of room at the top for roots and more soil later on.

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

Put in Your Succulent

Place your succulent in the pot, centered or off center, whatever you’d like. Nestle some of the roots into the soil already in the pot.

Place your succulent on the soil and cover some of the roots
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Fill the Pot to the Top with Soil

You want the soil in your pot to reach the top of the pot. 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 you can use to poke into the soil over and over to help remove any large pockets of air between the roots. This way your soil won’t sink down after a few waterings.

Cover the roots of your succulent with soil when planting
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Add a Top Dressing

To finish off your potted succulent add a top dressing. You might be thinking, but you just told me to fill the pot to the top with soil! As you add your top dressing, press down on the soil to help the succulent stay in place. The top dressing can be something bright and fun or a simple gravel like I used here.

Use a top dressing to keep the soil in place and make the arrangement look finished
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Most important!!!

Once your succulent is potted and the top dressing is in place, leave it for 1-2 days before watering. This will give the roots time to heal before they start soaking up water and helps prevent root rot.

Learn how to pot your newly purchased succulents - a few tips you may not know!
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

So that’s it! Not too bad right? The things I’ve found people often miss are removing the soil from the roots, using a top dressing and waiting a couple days before watering. Following the steps above should give you a good start to a healthy succulent garden.

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108 Responses to How to Plant a Succulent

  1. Hi, I have a question. I recently repotted my newly bought succulents. The old soil were very wet and I repotted them to a new soil were it is completely dry. Would that be okay? Or should I water them after 1-3 days?

    • It’s great to plant them in dry soil. You could even wait a few extra days to water them since the soil they were in was wet.

  2. Hi Cassidy! I’m so pumped! I just bought my first baby succulents :) They of course have the small pots I bought them in and I also bought three cache pots that sadly don’t have the drainage holes in the bottom. They are so cute!

    Are there any cons to leaving them in the pots from the store and just sliding them in the cache pots? Thank you!

    • Sweet! The biggest downside to the pots from the nursery is the soil inside. It tends to be very dense and can cause the succulent to rot more quickly. If you can, I’d recommend removing the succulent and soil and then filling the pot with a well draining soil. That should help keep things healthy. Essentially, the nursery pot itself isn’t a problem… just the soil they use.

  3. Very helpful site–thanks! I live in Florida, didnt think of ordering proper soil mix from Amazon, just went to Home Depot and bought soil for “citrus and cactus” because the limited information given to me prior to seeing this site was that “as long as the soil was good for cacti, it would work well for succulents.” So i made a large succulent garden with it in a clay bowl with bottom drainage. But I dont think the plants are thriving, so I wonder if it is the soil more than anything else. The container is outside, mostly in shade with some dappled sun.

  4. I found a small succulent (not sure which kind) just lying on the ground. I picked it up and have read your instructions, which I will follow.The plant I picked up is about three and a half inches in diameter, with very shallow (almost no) roots. What size pot should I plant it in?

    Also, for the time being, until I have a chance to buy the proper potting materials, I’ve put it in a small, shallow food-prep bowl filled with water in hopes that it might grow some more roots. Is this okay?

    Many thanks,
    Rowann Gilman

    • I would remove it from the water as soon as you can. Succulents don’t like to have their roots wet for very long. It would likely be better just sitting on the counter on a wet rag or paper towel. I would place it in a 4 or 5″ pot. It can be shallow or deep.

  5. Hi! Thanks for all the information. I’ve planted and killed many succulents so maybe you can help me turn that around.
    I live where it is hot and humid. I would like to put two large pots to either side of my front door for some visual appeal. However, I hate to fill the pots with the more expensive special potting mix if I can still have success filling the bottom with something else and topping it with the succulent mix. Any experiences or suggestions?


    Now to research what can take my full morning sun porch and lackluster watering habits.

    • I’ve tried using empty water bottles as well as pinecones. The water bottles work a little better, but it’s hard to keep the soil from slowly sinking down. You could try using a smaller pot flipped upside down inside. That should prevent the soil from settling as much. A terra cotta pot would work well for that.

      Take a look at Aloes and Echeverias. They tend to do well with morning sun and limited water :)

  6. hello again :) I just posted another question elsewhere and I just thought of one more. when planting succulents, do they require the ‘top dressing’?

    • The top dressing is not required. It’s more for aesthetics although it does help keep the soil in place. It is optional though.

  7. Hi! Great article, thank you.
    I’m just getting into succulents and plants now, and the one thing I’m really unsure about is when I should be repotting them into bigger pots. How will I know when to repot a succulent? Will putting it in a bigger pot earlier help encourage it to grow faster, or stunt the growth? Thank you for your time.

    • A lot of the times it depends on the type of plant because some grow only to a certain size. Repotting is a good option and can be a fun project and gives them a chance to grow without boundaries. You could also look into pruning if you like how the arrangement looks right now. I hope this helps :)

  8. Hey ! I’m new to succulents , but have been doing a lot of research on them . One question I have that I absolutely cannot find a straight answer for is … can I plant a succulent into a pot with ONLY rock && no soil or anything ? I know the pot has to have holes so the excess water can drain out , but I was just curious .

    Thank you so much in advance ,
    Sara :)

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