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.

Get this great ebook about caring for succulents indoors and solve your succulent growing cares!

152 Responses to How to Plant a Succulent

  1. Thanks so much for all of the helpful tips! I have a question for you – I am making a bunch (12) little-teacups-with-saucers succulent containers to use as decoration and table settings for a bridal shower. Most of the advice I’ve read for drilling holes is for ceramic…like a “coffee mug” thickness. Do you have any additional tips for china? I’ve already ordered the diamond tip drill bit you recommended. :) And I hate to sacrifice a bunch of cute succulents on the altar of “I surely do hate to drill into cute teacups” – but I admit, I’m tempted to use rocks in the bottom of the teacups instead of drilling.

    • You can do it :) I’d recommend grabbing a similiar cup from the dollar store and practicing on that first. Just go slow and gentle. So far I haven’t had a problem with anything breaking (and I’ve drilled holes in a large variety of materials) but it’s a good idea to practice on something cheap first. For something thin like a tea cup you’ll want to place it on a towel or a somewhat soft surface and don’t press too hard, especially as you are almost all the way through. The last little bit is the most “scary”, but as long as you aren’t pushing down with your full body weight, you should be fine.

    • Also, it’s actually a common misconception that rocks in the bottom will help add drainage. There still isn’t anywhere for the water to go out so it doesn’t help dry the roots out any faster. It can actually be a problem for succulents since there is less soil and the water pools in the bottom so their roots are more likely to be sitting in water.

  2. Hi Cassidy, I just love your blog! I have a question about potting up a bunch of burro’s tails. They are individual rooted cuttings. It’s extremely difficult to keep them from falling over while I’m planting them and adding the soil mix, so several of them have lower leaves that are touching the soil or just under my top dressing. I tried to remove the leaves that I saw were touching the soil, but there’s a bunch that I can’t reach. Do you think they’ll be ok? I’m using Bonsai Jack’s mix, by the way! :D

  3. Hi Ms Cassidy, Good day! Ive been all over the place to have some cactus soil but we don’t have it in our area i’m from South east asia, i’ve been using organic soil (mix of soil and fine barks) it absorbs water and air evenly, will that be enough?

    • I’m guessing it should be fine. You can also try to find some sort of crushed rock or small gravel (about 6mm) if you’re in an area that gets very humid. If the soil you are using seems to be working don’t switch it. Just keep your eye out for signs of problems. It definitely takes some experimenting to see what works.

  4. Hi Cassidy, thanks for your lovely blog! I just have a quick question (sorry if it sounds stupid!) I’m a bit confused about the whole drainage thing – some people tell me to use rocks at the bottom of a pot with no hole, some tell me to keep the plants in their plastic pots and put these directly in a slightly larger ceramic pot so that the water drains. Are either of these options good at all? I notice that you recommend potting directly into a container and that you use one with a drainage hole. My question is whether you use matching saucers or something with these? Does a lot of moisture come out? I’m just thinking about putting plants on bookshelves etc. and so obviously don’t want water to stain anything. Sorry if my question sounds dumb!

    • Adding rocks to the bottom doesn’t add drainage. There’s still nowhere for the water to drain out. The second option you mentioned (a pot in a pot) does work as you can dump out the larger pot once the water has mostly drained into it.

      I do recommend pots with a drainage hole as a first choice, but that’s not always super tidy as you’ve indicated. I keep mine on plastic trays or cork but I move them to the sink when I water and wait for them to stop dripping as much as possible before I move them back. Usually I’ll leave them in the sink for an hour or so.

      These pots are also a great option as they keep the counter dry but you can take them apart and dump the water out.

  5. Love this post, Cassidy! Thank you so much for this great step by step guide! I have mostly small succulents (2″), and I potted them in bigger pots (4″), which I hope is ok. I used our exact process of repotting, but some of the succulents and roots were small and I’m concerned I may not have put enough soil in between the top layer of soil that goes above the roots and the top dressing. Do you think it’s an issue if that layer of soil is on the thinner side? Thank you!

    • I’m glad this was helpful! You should be just fine with the roots in the top dressing. They can take root in just about anything and will eventually start to grow deeper too. Sounds like you did a great job!

  6. Thanks for all your information.

    could you tell me how deep the pots need to be

    could you tell me how deep the pots need to be

      • Hi, I’m a newbie with succulents. I’m working on replanting and bought the bonsai jack formula. Is this all I need for planting? No actual dirt? I hope I bought the correct item. Wasn’t expecting to need a face mask and gloves
        Thank you for this site.

        • The Bonsai Jack mix is all you need. He does recommend using gloves and a mask with any soil. I personally don’t use either and have been just fine. It does get a little dusty though so it would be a good precaution.

  7. Hi. I just repotted my succulents yesterday and I watered them immediately. Should I repot them again with dry potting soil? I’m worried they might rot. I just read about this

  8. Hi there! Is the brown-ing at the tip of this particular succulent normal? I’ve had one for about a month and am afraid it’s dying but I haven’t been able to find any information specifically on this little guy. Thanks! xx

  9. Hello! Your blog was very helpful. Question: I had to replant my succulent fairy garden (after only one month) and now i am worried about them. Should I water them or let them settle in?


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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?


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