Choosing the right soil for your succulents is one of the most crucial elements for giving your plants the conditions they need to thrive. At Lyngso, we understand the complexities of choosing the best soil for projects such as succulent landscaping or potted succulent plants.
In this article, we’ll guide you on what to look for and how to choose the best soil mix for your needs. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to gardening, we will provide you with the knowledge you need to give your plants the best chance for healthy growth.
Why Do Succulents Need Special Soil?
Succulents need special, well-draining soil because they are adapted to store water in their leaves and stems. Dense soils hold too much water and can lead to root rot, eventually killing the plant. Therefore, we recommend using succulent-specific soil mixes that contain less organic material and more soil amendments, such as coarse sand and horticultural lava. These make succulent soil airy and improve drainage compared to regular soil.
Ideal Succulent Soil Characteristics
The best succulent soil should have the following characteristics:
Succulents need soil that drains quickly and doesn’t retain moisture to prevent root rot. To improve drainage, you can use soil amendments such as coarse sand, perlite, horticultural lava, or vermiculite and reduce the amount of organic matter in the soil.
2. Lightweight (For Potted Succulents)
Potted succulents thrive in soil that is lightweight and airy. Soils that are too rich in organic matter are denser and more difficult for water, air, and succulent roots to penetrate.
3. Dense but Well-Draining (For In-ground Succulents)
Succulents planted in-ground for landscaping require a denser soil mix than potted succulents. A good soil mix for in-ground succulents will provide the necessary drainage while also providing enough support for the plants.
4. Slightly Acidic pH
According to the USDA, a pH range between 6.0 to 7.0 is generally the most favorable for plant growth, and succulents are no exception. Since most plant nutrients are readily available in this range, a well-draining, slightly acidic soil should be enough for healthy succulent growth during most seasons.
Most Common Succulent Soil Problems
Problems with succulent soil can take different forms, but they are almost always related to overwatering.
1. Poor Drainage
Poor drainage can lead to the accumulation of excessive moisture around the roots for long periods of time. This will deprive them of oxygen and lead to root damage. Root damage hinders growth and can lead to the plant’s death since it prevents water and nutrient absorption from the soil. Excessively humid environments may also attract pests and plant diseases. Remember, plants deteriorate faster due to overwatering than underwatering.
2. Soil Compaction
Soil compaction occurs when the organic matter in the soil is packed too tightly or compacted down, preventing air and water from reaching the roots or not allowing water to drain, which in turn, damages the roots. These are two sides of the same coin. In both cases, the plant’s growth is hindered since soil compaction makes it difficult to absorb the necessary nutrients. It also makes it harder for the roots to penetrate the soil, which exaggerates the situation.
3. Lack of Nutrients
Succulents do not need a lot of fertilizer, but they need certain essential nutrients to grow, just like all plants. We recommend using a slow-release organic fertilizer only occasionally during the plant’s active growth period, which is typically from spring to early fall. Fertilizing during the dormant period is not advised and can be extremely harmful to your succulent plants. In fact, fertilizers for succulents can be avoided altogether if a nutrient-dense compost is used seasonally to replenish the soil’s organic matter.
What Types of Soil Work Best for Succulents?
Generally, the type of soil you should use for succulents depends on whether these are outdoor in-ground plants or potted plants. Outdoor succulents often have different sunlight, humidity, and soil conditions than potted succulents. Therefore you need to pay more attention to the soil mix used for your potted plants and the water levels it retains.
Best Outdoor Soil for Succulent Landscaping
Succulents typically grow in well-draining, sandy or rocky soils with low organic matter. Therefore, a mixture of cactus potting soil and coarse sand or perlite would be a great choice as it mimics its natural environment and provides good drainage. For tips on how to amend, see our guide to amendments for California soils.
Best Potting Soil for Succulents
For potted succulents, it’s best to avoid heavy soils such as clay that retain lots of moisture. We recommend a regular potting mix instead that you can further amend to improve drainage. When it comes to amendments, this lightweight horticultural lava is one of our favorites for aerating soil mixes. It’s great for creating custom potting mixes for succulents, cacti, orchids, and plants that require ample drainage.
Fun fact: contrary to popular beliefs, succulent roots can grow several feet deep with good soil and drainage. In fact, when Lyngso’s raised succulent garden planted in our Essential Soil was disassembled for a move, the succulent roots went down about 3-4 feet deep!
Where to Buy Soil for Succulents?
When it comes to finding the perfect soil for your succulents, Lyngso stocks a variety of potting mixes and soil amendments, such as coarse sand, perlite, and pumice, ideal for both potted succulents and succulent landscaping.
We invite you to visit our large showroom and landscaping yard in San Carlos, and our staff will be happy to help you choose the perfect soil for your needs and advise you on how to care for your succulents.