Yes, there are some drought-tolerant succulents that can grow in sand, but most succulents cannot.
Sand is poor in nutrients compared to soil. Sand is also very porous and does not retain water well. Even if most succulents do not need that much water, it still needs to stay in their planting medium long enough for them to absorb it. This can lead to the roots drying up.
Sand is best used as an ingredient in succulent soil mixes because it helps with draining the water and in keeping the soil airy.
Can succulents grow in sand?
In nature, most succulents grow in the driest, most arid places on earth. They thrive in the deserts of North and South America, Africa, and Europe. There are a few that can be found in the mountains, and even in rainforests.
These plants are known for how tough and adaptable they are to the extremes of their environment and they can survive in places with low humidity and high temperatures. They all possess the ability to absorb water and store it in their bodies and leaves to essentially tide them over during times of drought with little to no rain.
So if you are asking whether succulents can grow in sand, then yes, succulents can live in pure sand but they will not live for a very long time. Even if these plants can adapt to dry conditions well, they will still need a nutrient-rich component in their growing medium if you want them to live as long as they can possibly live.
Plants in sand terrariums may look beautiful, but they are not meant to last.
Can succulents survive in fine sand?
No, succulents do not like fine sand as it retains too much water and becomes very compact. It does not give the plant’s roots space to breathe and will only end up killing it.
Succulents prefer coarse sand because it is porous enough to allow the roots to dry out and breathe.
A major downside of planting succulents in sand is the lack of nutrients. If you are adamant in trying to grow succulents in sand, make sure you still provide their much-needed nutrients. You can do this by diluting fertilizer in water, about half strength, and using that solution to water the plants.
Can I use sand in a succulent soil mix?
Yes, in fact, this is the best option for a growing medium for most succulents.
Gardening soil mixed with sand is recommended for growing your succulents because the soil mix should not have too many nutrients and have good water drainage at the same time.
Drainage is important because excess water will lead to root rot, and excess nutrients will make the roots brittle. The right combination of soil and sand is needed to work for your plants.
Mix three parts gardening soil, two parts coarse sand, and one part perlite. Perlite adds more effective water drainage to the soil mix. Make sure you mix the ingredients well before using it to plant your succulents.
How do I make sure my succulents remain healthy?
Succulents do not like soil that is too rich with nutrients, but that does not mean that they do not need it, so make sure you give them low strength liquid fertilizer three times during their growing period.
If you think the plant has become too big for its pot, replant it with new soil in a slightly bigger pot. This gives the plant fresh soil with nutrients and also gives the roots more space to grow. A small pot can restrict root growth and stunt a plant’s growth.
Do not overwater your succulents. Water them a little more frequently than normal during warmer months, and a little less during colder months.
Make sure you plant them in a pot or container that has drainage holes at the bottom so they do not get root rot or become susceptible to fungal and bacterial problems.
If you live in a place with harsher winters, take your succulents indoors and buy them a growth lamp to give them the light they need everyday. A 60-watt bulb shining on the plants for 10 hours a day should be enough.
What are some succulents that grow well in sand?
Senecio serpens ‘Blue Chalksticks’
This succulent does well when planted in sand because it is used to growing in crevices in rocky sandstone slopes.
Aloe ferox ‘Bitter Aloe’
Aloes normally do well in sandy soil, and the Aloe ferox is one of the best examples. It is also known as Cape aloe and can be mistaken for a cactus because of its thorny leaves.
Agave americana ‘Century Plant’
Agaves also do well in sandy soil. This particular agave has large, fleshy leaves that are adaptable to any kind of growing medium.
Euphorbia milii ‘Crown of Thorns’
This plant can survive in sandy soil. It has real leaves, which not a lot of succulents have, which are thick, fleshy, and tear-shaped.
Corpuscularia lehmannii ‘Ice Plant’
Despite its common name, this is not a cold-tolerant plant. It is, in fact, drought-tolerant. It has blue-green leaves and produces flowers that look like daisies.
Can succulents grow in rock with no soil?
Yes, there are a few succulents that have adapted to living in environments with no need to cultivate in soil. These plants have learned to survive on the nutrients and moisture from the air or using their leaves as funnels to collect water.
Species like the Echinocereus, Cephalocereus, and the Astrophytum myriostigma can be grown in indoor gardens with no soil. You can use rocks or lime-free sand in a bowl or terrarium and they should be perfectly fine. Just put them in a humid spot and spray them daily with lime-free water.
Yes, you can grow succulents in sand, but most will not live for very long. Sand does not have nutrients that succulents need, and it drains water too quickly and leaves the roots to dry out.
Before you go about planting succulents in just sand, do your research and identify properly whether the succulents you have can live on just sand as a growing medium.
Ideally, most succulents prefer a succulent soil mix over just pure sand. You can make a succulent soil mix with three parts gardening soil, two parts coarse sand, and one part perlite. This mixture is a well-draining soil with just enough nutrients for your succulents.
Image: istockphoto.com / Boyloso