Tips For Enhancing Succulent Growth: Nutrients, Drainage & Texture


Succulents are often hailed as low-maintenance plants, yet they aren’t entirely foolproof. Renowned for their ability to thrive in arid conditions, these sun-loving plants boast leaves that retain more water than many other species. With an extensive array of over 20,000 succulent varieties available, you can easily find one that complements your gardening style and home decor.If you’ve been struggling to maintain the health and vitality of your succulents, the culprit might be your choice of soil.

What Constitutes Good Soil for Succulents?

Soil serves as both a nutrient provider and an anchoring medium for plant roots, offering stability and sustenance for growth. It also regulates moisture, and the variability in water retention among different soil types underscores the importance of matching the right soil with your plant for its overall well-being.

Nutrient Content

Soil comprises organic and inorganic (mineral) components. Organic matter includes decomposed materials like compost, manure, tree bark, coconut coir, or peat moss. Conversely, mineral elements consist of natural substances such as gravel, perlite, silt, or sand. For optimal growth, soil requires a balance of both types: organic matter provides nutrients, while mineral matter enhances drainage. An ideal ratio creates an environment that nourishes plants while preventing root rot through adequate drainage. The perfect balance varies depending on the succulent species and growing conditions, but generally, the soil should consist of 50-75% inorganic matter.

pH Levels

The soil’s pH, ranging from 1 to 14, denotes its acidity or alkalinity. Succulents typically prefer a neutral to slightly acidic (6 to 6.5) pH range.

Effective Drainage

Succulents thrive in well-draining soil, which translates to a lower organic matter content, as per the organic to inorganic principle. Unlike many common houseplants originating from regions with higher rainfall, succulents thrive in environments with less water and higher mineral content. Their natural habitats, rocky and sandy, endure cycles of heavy rain and prolonged dry spells, leading to the soil’s complete desiccation. Consequently, succulents are more prone to rotting when exposed to excess water or poor drainage.

For outdoor succulent growth, consider amending native soil with sand or gravel if it lacks proper drainage. Conversely, containers offer flexibility in soil composition, where a mix of one part organic matter to one part mineral content in a porous container with drainage holes is recommended.

Specialized succulent soil mixes are also available at gardening stores. Succulents should only be watered once the soil has completely dried out.

Seasonal Considerations

Optimal soil conditions for succulents might shift with the seasons, especially when cultivating them indoors. Some succulents undergo dormancy as winter approaches, requiring adjusted watering schedules to prevent soil saturation and root decay.Transferring these plants outdoors during spring ensures they benefit from natural sunlight.

Texture Variations

Mineral matter texture, categorized based on its grit or pore size, dictates water retention and drying rates. Soils rich in sand dry out faster compared to clay soils, which aligns with the preference for succulents. The key to thriving succulents lies in selecting soil that ensures adequate drainage, regulates moisture effectively, and supports their unique growth requirements throughout the changing seasons.