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 perlite, which is what I did originally. While the soil mixed with perlite 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?

222 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!

  5. So much information! I love this website. I do have a question… How often do you replace your soil for your succulents?

    • Thank you! When using Bonsai Jack’s soil I don’t ever worry about the soil going bad, because it lets the water drain so well and is not a threat to rot. When I am re potting a plant, then I usually will replace the soil to give it a good start.

  6. Hi, Cassidy My name is Wil Feliciano, this is my first time ever trying to grow succulents and I’m a little concern because I went to crazy and bought different types, I know it was wrong from my part, I went by the way they looked and what I liked lol! I couldn’t resist most of them are rare and beautiful I most have like a hundred right now- I consider my self lucky when it comes to planting I have 40 different Plant roses different kind and colors not only roses other plants as well I believe I inherited the “green thumb” from my Grand-mother. However, I haven’t grown succulents before- I started 3 weeks ago, I read and informed my self by the way I have to thank You! The website has helped me tremendously regarding this plant.

    • Sounds like you are getting to be addicted to succulents like me! :) That is amazing, your garden must be beautiful. Thanks for sharing, and I am glad I can help.

  7. I live in New Jersey as You know our weather changes a lot, I know we growers have to take in consideration our location, I have a room as I speak designated only for my succulents Is bright In the morning- Now that the weather is getting warmer I have been taking them out to help them grow well, I also bought “bonsai jack soil” I was not going to take any chances And Informed my self with your website, also read About watering, lighting they need and so on. Right now since I bought so many I’m trying to classified them from summer growers and the winter growers I have been reading a lot about succulents – Ibmade 4 arrangements with them already My friend and family were very surprised, the arrangement came out nice even I’m surprised lol! Thanks for your time and If You have any advise please let me know, since I bought so many I’m concerned because I will be very upset If they die.

    • You are doing great, I bet your succulents love you. Making arrangements is so fun I hope you enjoyed doing that! Bonsai Jack’s soil has been so good for me and my succulents, you’ll be happy you got it. Succulents are very good at telling you how they are doing, so make sure and check for any warning signs. This post will help identifying that as well!

  8. Love the variety of succulents in Mountain Crest Gardens. I am from Wellington , New Zealand and I cannot find these varieties here. We had a couple of weeks of rain and I carried my pots I into the house. I left a few pots out for a day and found that the succulents have just grown so much more but they were brought out in when the sun was shining. They are planted in bonsai soil. These are growing better than my mixture of soil and perlite. The puppies of some echeverias are also growing well in bonsai mixture. I love your blog. I wish I could get all the echeverias here! I started getting the succulents in September and it has grown into an addiction. I am constantly in a look out for more…

    • Thank you :) That is so good to hear! Yes, Bonsai Jack’s soil works so well for succulents. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Love your blog! My favourite mix to use is equal parts pumice, LECA, akadama, and quartzite crush. It works so well! I also usually mix in some kelp pieces and organic high phosphorus fertiliser pellets that are slow release. My little babies love it!

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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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