How To Make Your Own Succulent Potting Mix

  • 3 components of potting soil
  • coarse sand in two pieces (turface or poultry grit)
  • Perlite, one part (or pumice)

How is a succulent mixture made?

The proportion needed to make top-notch potting soil for succulents. A mixture of two parts sand, two parts gardening soil, and one part perlite or pumice yields the best results when mixing the three components. This translates to 3 cups of sand, 3 cups of soil, and 1.5 cups of perlite or pumice when expressed in cups.

Can I grow succulents in normal potting soil?

Every soil mixture contains both organic and mineral components. Mineral matter, such as clay, silt, and sand, support soil drainage, whereas organic matter, such as humus and decomposing plant tissue, serves to retain moisture in the soil and give nutrients to the plant.

Because succulents can withstand drought and don’t require constant watering, their potting soil should be permeable, well-draining, and contain less organic matter than typical indoor soil mixtures. Ideal soil is a loose, granular mixture with a good amount of sand and perlite or pumice.

What kind of potting soil is ideal for succulents?

Start with a simple cactus and succulent soil mix, or even an African violet mix, both of which are readily available at most garden centers, for the best potting soil for succulents. Then experiment with different combinations of ingredients to discover the one that will enhance drainage, make watering easier, and last a long time without compacting.

Organic matter is a key component of any potting mix for succulents. The primary component of most potting soils, peat moss, is difficult to moisten and rapidly dries out. A small amount of finely crushed bark can be used to make water enter more quickly. Coir, which is formed of fibrous, shredded coconut husks and decomposes extremely slowly, is an excellent substitute for peat moss in handmade mixes. Coir is simple to moisten when it dries out, unlike peat. Compost can be utilized as well, albeit it decomposes quite quickly.

The other key component is an inorganic material that keeps the mixture crumbly and airy by allowing water to easily soak into and then drain out of soil. Perlite, crushed granite, pumice, chicken grit, calcined clay used to promote aeration and compaction in turf fields, or non-soluble cat litter are a few options that are all preferable than coarse sand. Any of these will significantly improve drainage and remain intact as the organic matter eventually breaks down.

What type of potting mix do you use for succulents?

Regular potting soil from your yard won’t work for succulents since they need soil that drains. Select cactus soil or potting soil that has been mixed with sand, pumice, or perlite. Be gentle when repotting because succulent roots are extremely brittle.

What distinguishes succulent soil from potting soil?

Succulents need well-draining soil to be healthy. A succulent stores moisture in its leaves instead than the traditional potting soil, which is designed to hold water. In actuality, the cactus or succulent will develop root rot if the soil is excessively wet. So even though I’ve said it before, it bears reiterating that drainage holes must be safeguarded from clogging in succulent plant containers with holes in the bottom (see the full post on how to pot succulents here for more details). Of course, the following step is to select the kind of soil that will allow the water to drain.

I’ve bought and used this palm and cactus mix, which is also priced a little higher on Amazon, and it does appear to work well for succulents—but 8 qts can go rather quickly! I’ve started making my own succulent potting mix as a consequence using just three basic materials (get the printable version at the bottom of the post). What you’ll need to prepare the ideal soil for succulents in pots is listed below:

Can succulents be grown in just rocks?

It should be obvious that succulents will thrive when planted in rocks given these circumstances. They drain very well and do not retain water, which eliminates the possibility of root rot. This does not include another component of soil, though, since all plants need nutrients.

Although succulents are not particularly hungry plants, they do need certain nutrients to grow. Other micronutrients like zinc or iron are needed in smaller levels, whereas macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are essential. The plant won’t grow at all or last very long without these nutrients.

By their very nature, rocks don’t release nutrients quickly enough to keep the plants alive. They are composed of minerals, but since they decompose so slowly over time, they are not appropriate for growing on their own. Additionally, they often don’t retain enough moisture, allowing the roots to quickly dry out after draining practically instantly.

Sadly, this means that succulents cannot thrive permanently without soil in rocks. If not given regular care, they may survive for several weeks or even months on the nutrients found in the stems and leaves.

What serves as perlite’s replacement?

Different perlite substitutes will function better or worse depending on the plants you are growing and the circumstances in which they are growing.

Below, we’ll examine the ten most popular alternatives to perlite.

  • rice stalks
  • Pumice
  • Agricultural tenacity
  • granular granite
  • Vermiculite
  • charred clay
  • Bark
  • Peat
  • Coir
  • Sand

Rice husks

PBH rice hulls or parboiled rice husks are excellent substitutes for perlite in soil mixtures. If you’re searching for an organic, greener option, they’re also perfect. When they are parboiled, any weed seeds, mold, or other diseases are removed, effectively sterilizing and killing the rice seed at the same time.

Lightweight rice husks (also known as hulls) aid in soil aeration, drainage, and compaction prevention. Because they are organic, rice hulls are a fantastic source of nutrients for plants and are safe to add to soil for both indoor and outdoor gardening.

The main drawback is that they tend to float to the top of the soil when watered because they are lighter than perlite.


Given that both pumice and perlite are porous rocks created by volcanic eruptions, they are quite similar to one another. When comparing “perlite vs. pumice,” many gardeners can become extremely enthusiastic, but the truth is that pumice has a number of advantages over perlite.

It doesn’t float during watering or blow away in the wind because it is heavier, on the other hand. In addition, pumice, unlike perlite, creates less dust, especially the coarser kinds, and contains more nutrients and minerals. Additionally, it does a superb job of maintaining the soil’s airiness, pliability, and drainage. Pumice is by far your finest option if you’re cultivating succulents.

Pumice, on the other hand, is more expensive and can be challenging to locate at most plant nurseries or garden centers.

Horticultural grit

A typical size range for the little stone fragments that make up horticultural grit is 2 to 4 mm. It works similarly to perlite by forming air pockets inside the soil, which gives the roots oxygen while preventing root rot because of better drainage. Grit creates less dust and may be used for both indoor and outdoor plants because it doesn’t contain any lime.

Additionally, it is heavier than perlite, which makes it an ideal ornamental layer for potted plants, particularly if you need to ward off fungus gnats. Succulents, outdoor alpine plants, and lavender respond best to horticultural grit.

Horticultural grit is heavier than perlite, which is a drawback. However, you can make use of this by incorporating it into the soil mixture to balance top-heavy potted plants.

Granite gravel

Perlite and granite gravel have a similar appearance and serve comparable functions in soil mixtures. Both are porous rocks, which are excellent at retaining moisture. They also maintain the soil aerated, well-drained, and free of compaction. Gravel is heavier than perlite, and unlike perlite, even little bits, like pea gravel, won’t wash away during irrigation.

Granite gravel is a perfect option for adorning the topsoil of potted plants because of this, in addition to using it as a garden ornament. In fact, spreading gravel over the surface of the soil can aid with weed management and is a terrific way to aerate and improve the drainage of muddy or clay-rich soils in your garden.

Granite gravel is not a perfect substitute for perlite, mostly because of its weight. It will make potted plant soil mixtures considerably heavier, so use pea gravel instead for smaller pots, especially indoors. Gravel is also a poor choice for germination since immature plants will find it difficult to push through due to its weight.


Vermiculite is a mineral that is extremely absorbent and is used in both indoor and outdoor gardening. It is lightweight, pH-neutral, and does not degrade like perlite. Additionally, it enhances soil structure and aeration.

When used in pots, vermiculite absorbs water and nutrients and holds them in the soil for later use. Vermiculite is actually a far better substitute for perlite if you’re growing plants that require consistently moist soil because it is considerably more absorbent. It is also the best medium for seed germination.

The high absorbency of vermiculite is both one of its benefits and disadvantages. Vermiculite, in contrast to perlite, does not produce a good soil media for plants like cacti and succulents that dislike having their roots constantly moist. Vermiculite is not a good substitute for perlite if you’re seeking for a well-draining potting soil mix.

Calcined clay

Calcined clay is a soil conditioner that is frequently sold under the Turface brand name. It’s probably been used on sporting fields, but it’s also a fantastic substitute for perlite. Although calcined clay is far more absorbent and can hold its weight in water, both are pH neutral and great at retaining moisture.

Cacti and bonsai trees benefit greatly from its ability to maintain the soil’s aeration and improve drainage, making it a wonderful addition to potting mixes. Additionally, because calcined clay is heavier than perlite, watering does not readily wash it away.

We recommend calcined clay without reservation, but we must emphasize that it needs to be replaced from the soil because it will begin to degrade after a few years.


One of the key ingredients in commercially available potting soil mixtures is bark, particularly pine bark. It aids in soil drainage, keeps soil from being compacted, holds onto water, and gradually distributes nutrients into the soil, depending on its size.

Keep in mind that compared to perlite, fine bark has a lesser air permeability. Because it is organic and biodegradable, bark is a great growing medium for moth orchids and may be used for both indoor and outdoor cultivation.

The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking of using bark in place of perlite is that it is more acidic than the pH neutral perlite, which ranges between 7 and 7.5. The pH of pinewood bark, in particular, ranges from 4.0 to 5.0. If you’re planting magnolias, ferns, carnivorous plants, or other plants that do well in acidic soils, this can be a great benefit. However, most plants favor a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0.


Peat, which is also known as sphagnum moss, is a great component to soil mixtures. The soil is kept moist for extended periods of time because to its great water retention ability. It helps prevents the soil from being compacted, keeps it aerated, and retains nutrients and minerals because of its fibrous nature.

For growing tomatoes, blueberries, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving plants, some gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts even go as far as completely substituting peat for soil.

Bark and peat both have an acidic composition. Check the soil pH requirements of the plants you intend to grow before deciding to use peat rather than perlite. Another thing to note is that even though peat is biodegradable, mining for it damages the local ecosystems where it comes from and is not environmentally friendly.


Coir, often known as coco coir, is a fiber made from the husks of coconuts. It has a texture that is pretty similar to peat moss, and gardeners are using it more frequently because it is easier to create. However, how does it contrast with perlite?

Both coir and perlite are lightweight, help with drainage, and increase air permeability by dissolving dense soils. Coir is a wonderful choice for plants that need moist soil since it has a larger water retention capacity than perlite and, unlike perlite, has a higher ability to absorb nutrients and release them into the soil.

There’s a good reason why coir is frequently suggested as an alternative to perlite instead of peat moss: coir has an acidic pH range of 5.2 to 6.5. Remember that coir has little to no nutrients, so you will need to fertilize your plants frequently if you intend to utilize it as a growing medium on its own.


Sand may be used in place of perlite, depending on how coarse it is. Sand and perlite are comparable in that they both promote drainage, are pH-neutral, sterile, and are devoid of nutrients. While sand initially absorbs water, it does not hold onto it like perlite does over time, especially the coarser forms.

One of the greatest options for garden soils, particularly clay-rich or highly compacted ones, is sand. Instead of using the extremely fine sand seen in playgrounds for children or construction sites, you should use coarse sand that is around 1.52mm broad.

Remember that sand is significantly heavier than perlite when utilizing it, especially if you intend to use it for potted houseplants.

Does perlite have to be used for succulents?

There are a ton of recipes online. Most people start with either standard potting soil or the soil mix sold in bags for succulent plants. If you decide to create your own blend, use ordinary potting soil free of additives. We’ll go over additional components to include when amending or creating your own succulent potting soil.

Succulent growth medium frequently gets the following additions:

Fine Sand

Improved soil drainage results from using coarse sand in amounts of 50 to 30 percent. Avoid using materials with fine textures, such as play sand. A higher sand content may be advantageous for cacti, but it must be coarse sand.

PerlitePerlite is frequently used in succulent-growing mixtures. This product improves drainage and promotes aeration, although it is light and frequently floats to the top when watered. Use between 1/3 and 50% when mixing with potting soil.


Turface is a calcine clay product and soil conditioner that delivers aeration, oxygen, and moisture monitoring to the soil. It has the consistency of pebbles and does not compact. Although it goes by the brand name Turface, the phrase “product” is also frequently used to describe it. used as a top dressing as well as an ingredient in succulent soil mixes.

PumicePumice is a volcanic substance that may store nutrients and moisture. Some people utilize significant amounts of pumice. Some growers report successful trials when using only pumice. But using this kind of material necessitates more regular watering. Depending on where you live, you might need to order this item.

Coconut CoirUnlike other goods that might not absorb water well after the initial soaking, coconut coir, which is made from the shredded husks of the coconut, offers drainage qualities and can be repeatedly wet. Coir, which is pronounced “core,” was never brought up before to the typical succulent grower. Coir is a component of at least one well-known distributor of succulents’ peculiar mix. I have healthy plants in my nursery and use a mixture of 1/3 normal potting soil (the inexpensive variety), 1/3 coarse sand, and 1/3 coir.