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. Anna Huser August 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Cassidy Tuttle August 18, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      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.

    • Cassidy Tuttle August 18, 2016 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      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.

      • Anna Huser August 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

        Thanks so much, Cassidy! I appreciate your helpful tips! :)

  2. Marlene @ Idle Hands Awake August 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    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

    • Cassidy Tuttle August 25, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      It sounds to me like you’re doing great! I wouldn’t worry too much about the ones under the top dressing or touching the soil. As long as you don’t water too frequently I think they’ll be ok. Just keep an eye out for early signs of rot and if you notice any, cut back on watering or see if you can remove those leaves.

  3. Kirari September 11, 2016 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    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?

    • Cassidy Tuttle September 14, 2016 at 12:08 am - Reply

      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. Sophia September 14, 2016 at 3:50 am - Reply

    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!

    • Cassidy Tuttle September 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      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. Stephanie September 27, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Cassidy Tuttle October 7, 2016 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      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. ANN October 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    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

    • Cassidy Tuttle October 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      They don’t have to be too deep. It really depends on the size of your succulent. If you have a 2″ succulent I’d put it in a 2.5″ high pot. Just give it enough room to grow some. Here’s a little more detail about selecting a pot:

      • Jody Wickert November 23, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

        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.

        • Cassidy Tuttle December 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

          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. Pat Lisowski October 17, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

    This article is full of good advice for novice cactiholics! Also for the experienced ones….
    Glad I signed up!

    • Cassidy Tuttle October 17, 2016 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad it was helpful!

  8. Danica October 24, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

    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

  9. Vanessa October 25, 2016 at 11:15 am - Reply

    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

    • Cassidy Tuttle October 26, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure about browning, but definitely a slight color change. You can see in this post that one of mine turned almost yellow with heat and reddish at the very ends. This other post may also help answer your question.

  10. stacie November 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    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?


    • Cassidy Tuttle November 7, 2016 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      If it has been a day or two since you replanted you should be fine to water. Even if you watered right away, just give the soil time to dry out completely before watering again. This post has more details about watering.

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