Some people seem to be blessed with the proverbial green thumb, able to grow and propagate whatever plant they choose to collect. If you think that you have a black thumb and are close to giving up on plants, you just might want to start with succulents first.
Unlike other plants, succulents are fairly forgiving. These plants can grow in different types of environments and require minimal care and maintenance. That, however, does not mean that these plants are bulletproof. It is easy to overwater succulents. And apart from knowing how to properly water these plants, it is essential to learn the best type of soil for succulents.
Succulents do need soil – in the long run
If you received or bought succulents planted in a terrarium or unconventional containers, you will need to transfer these either directly to the ground or into a pot with soil as soon as possible. Although succulents are fairly resilient and can survive for extended periods without soil, succulents still need soil in the long run.
Over time, your succulents’ roots will grow and will require soil for nutrients and structural stability. Simply put, you cannot grow and propagate these plants long term without using soil. But not just any type of soil will do.
What kind of soil do succulents need?
First of all succulents need soil that is fast draining. This type of soil absorbs water fast and dries up quickly. Unlike other plants, succulents do not like to have their roots soaked in water for a long time. Too much moisture can rot the plant’s roots, leading to its eventual demise.
Succulents originally grow in some of the harshest environments in the world, environments which would not otherwise support plant life. These include dry and arid areas like deserts. In a residential setting, you must closely mimic your succulent’s natural environment. To achieve that goal, you should have a basic understanding of what makes soil drain well.
The best soil for succulents contains the right balance between organic and mineral components. A soil’s organic components refer to materials that are derived from living things. Mineral components, on the other hand, refer to inorganic materials or those derived from non-living things.
Organic elements help sustain plant life by providing the necessary nutrients while mineral components provide structural support and drainage.
Whether you are planning to buy or mix your soil for succulents, there is no one formula or recipe that you should remember. There are a few crucial factors that you should consider first, including the species of succulent as well as the environmental factors.
Seasoned succulent growers have used a combination of organic materials like pine bark, compost, potting soil, and coconut coir mixed with inorganic materials like fine gravel, chicken grit, coarse sand, and perlite.
Soil for succulents should have anywhere between 40% to 80% of inorganic materials. The actual percentages will vary, depending on the species of the succulent as well as environmental factors.
Another crucial thing to consider is the texture or grit size of the mineral component of the soil. For succulents, you should opt for soil that has an adequate amount of soil.
The chief advantage of using sandy soil is that it dries out faster compared to silt and clay which have finer textures. Apart from the texture, you should also consider where you want to put your succulents. If you want to add succulents to your front yard for added appeal, use sandy loam with either fine gravel or coarse sand. On the other hand, if you want to grow succulents indoors using pots, experts recommend using coarse grit minerals.
When to repot your succulents
If you received or bought your succulent with a substrate other than soil, you should repot your plant as soon as possible.
There are two main reasons for this recommendation.
First, most succulents that stores sell are already root-bound. Essentially, this means that the roots have grown to such a point that these have already filled up the container. Now, to grow further, you will need a larger container for your succulent.
Second, the soil typically used for these succulents is typically mixed for short-term use. The plant can survive in the soil for a short period. However, there is a good possibility that your succulent will rot over an extended time.
This is because the soil used by growers has a higher density and is mixed to store more water. This is not necessarily bad if you have a young succulent. But over time, your plant will need less water, and eventually, a well-draining soil.
To DIY or not
Should you buy a bag of soil mixed especially for succulents or should you mix your own?
Store-bought mixes are perfect for beginners who may not have access to the materials needed for mixing soil for succulents. However, you should be aware that although these mixes are okay for most species of succulents, these do not drain well. Furthermore, some of the materials used in these mixes repel water. If you have no other option but to use a store-bought mix, add rock substrates like pumice or perlite.
If you are keen on mixing your soil mix for your indoor succulents, start with a soil with a particular size of at least 1/4″. Then you can add 1 part of pine bark fines for the organic component of your soil mix, and 1 part each of turface and crushed granite for the mineral component of your soil.
Many succulent enthusiast have found great success in planting directly to the ground. This is because outdoor soil is fairly forgiving. For one, soil volume is larger, making drainage less of an issue. Plus, the combination of sunlight and air circulation facilitates the faster drying of the soil.
Overwatering is the number one reason for the death of succulents. But it is not just about the actual watering of plants. Overwatering, in part, can be attributed to using the wrong type of soil for your plants. If you want to keep your succulents happy and vibrant, use the right soil mix.
Image: istockphoto.com / evgenyb