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!

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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.

Al’s Gritty Mix (as the soil mixture is called) is very well draining but retains just enough water for the succulents to get what they need. You need to make sure you use the soil in a pot that has a drainage hole otherwise there isn’t any point in having well draining soil as the water will just sit in the bottom of the pot.

The great thing is now you can buy this well draining soil blend online. This pre-mixed and screened succulent soil is available from Bonsai Jack online. His product is extremely high quality. I think his mix is even better than what I made up myself :)

Well Draining Soil for a Succulent Container Gardens - Turface, Crushed Granite, Pine Bark www.succulentsandsunshine.com

Here is the succulent soil mix recipe (you can click the links to purchase the products online, or here to buy it already mixed):

The pine bark provides an organic element and holds water but has air pockets in it and doesn’t break down very quickly. The Turface absorbs some of the water and slowly releases it. The granite doesn’t absorb water but allows the water to flow through the pot between all the particles. The mix is very porous so water flows easily and doesn’t really break down. There is plenty of air so the roots are never sitting in water.

The best soil for succulents is one with large particles that drains well

There is one other important thing you need to know about this or any other soil and that is particle size. Because of the way water travels and flows, having particles of different sizes will prevent water from flowing very well. When you are preparing each of the ingredients for the soil mixture you’ll want to screen them so the particles are about 1/8 – ¼” in size. This can be a long process but I thought it was worth it in the end. As a person who like to nurture my plants this soil allows me to water more frequently without worrying about overwatering.

If you’d rather not go through the process of screening your own soil, I highly recommend purchasing the pre-made succulent soil from Bonsai Jack online. It comes pre-screened and is extremely high quality! I no longer mix my own as I found the pre-made mix to be much more convenient.

Now are you ready to get your succulents potted in well draining soil to promote better root health and succulent growth? I was amazed at how much of a difference the soil made for maintaining healthier plants. Have you found a particular soil mix that has worked well for you?

Don't let your succulents die because you don't know how to properly water them!

212 Responses to Well draining soil for succulent container gardens

  1. Hi Cassidy,
    I would just like to say I love your blog and I wanted to know what kind of soil should you use for starting out succulents. I’ve just started out propagating some leaves and what to know what soil is the best for succulents when they just start to sprout. I’m not sure if the Bonsai jack mix is too bulky for little succulents. Also what kind of soil and container is good for outside succulents? is bonsai jack too quick-draining for outside succulents or will normal potting soil work?

    • It does seem too chunky for such a small plant but this soil will be really good for it t grow into, to be a healthy plant.

  2. I went ahead and re-potted my succulents in the “succulent soil/perlite mixture but the soil seems to be staying moist much longer than was typical and I am worrying that they are getting too much water. What do I do?

    • Take a look at your pot to see if it has a drainage hole, if it does not you will want to water the plants less often, for more time for the soil to dry out, this post has more information on that. Otherwise you are watering too much and should wait until the soil has dried out. Hope this helps!

      • I have a big drainage hole at the bottom and I have not watered them even once since I planted them. When I planted them I gave them a good amount of water (did not over-water since nothing came out of the drainage hole) just to let them settle in. I went ahead and re-potted them yesterday and the entire mass of soil/perlite was saturated like mud, I couldn’t believe it. I transplanted them into pure succulent soil like I usually use and I’m hoping they come back from that trauma. I guess I’ve learned my lesson that if something is working well for you, don’t change it. My succulents seem to thrive in succulent soil in my environment.

        • It’s good you determined that now. It definitely takes some experimenting to see what works as ever growing environment is different. If they can dry out for several days, or even a week or two, before watering again they should recover.

          • Thanks Cassidy. They are drying out and do look like they are recovering, I’m so glad. And just to mention, my first attempt at propagating with leaves of various types is going very well and I’m super excited.

  3. I’m trying to propagate some leaves and I have bonsai jack soil, but it seems to chunky…can you recommend a good soil for fresh cuttings and leaves. Thanks Cassidy, your wealth of information is so very much apppreciated…

    • Thank you! It does seem odd to be plating leaves and cutting in bonsai Jack’s soil, but I have done it and it still works great! But if you want to look at something else I would recommend this soil.

  4. I am just starting out planting some succulents inside here in MN and bought Bonsai’s soil, but my pot does not have a drainage hole. Is there anything to put in the bottom of the pot before planting them to help drain the soil? Thank you!

    • You might hear of people adding rocks at the bottom of the soil, for drainage. This is not what I suggest, because the water will still sit at the bottom of the pot which will then cause your roots to rot. Bonsai Jack’s soil has great drainage built in it. Take a look at this post here, it will go through how to water your plants in a pot without a drainage hole!

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