Whether you’re new to succulents or you’re a hardcore collector, you’ve no doubt had questions about the right kind of soil to place them in. There’s nothing worse than watching a beautiful plant struggle because it’s been placed in the wrong type of dirt.
Since succulents are desert plants, they’re adapted to a dry environment, and thrive in especially dry soil. Of course, some succulents are more sensitive to wet soil than others, depending on their varietal. In particular, rare, specialized succulents like Crassula barklyi or Echeveria rainbow are much more temperamental about their surroundings. More mainstream succulents are less finicky and more likely to survive, even in less than ideal soil.
Below we’ve rounded up some tips about maintaining the perfect soil for your succulents, and even included the ingredients in our “secret recipe” for Vivid Root’s signature soil mix.
#1 - Invest in a good mix
Our advice for anyone trying to invest in more interesting, exciting succulents is to invest in high-quality, carefully mixed soil. Long before Amie founded Vivid Root, she struggled with store-bought soil mix, even when it was specially made for succulents. She lost more plants from soil challenges than any other environment-based cause.
Rather than continue to use conventionally-made mix and cross her fingers that it would work for her plants, she decided to invest in experimenting to create the perfect mix for her rare succulents. It took some time, but after getting all the components just right (more on that later), she found her succulents were not only surviving, but thriving in her home.
#2 - Get gritty with it
This tip may surprise some avid conventional gardeners, but planting a succulent in soft, dark soil is harmful to any succulent. It’s an easy mistake to make; soft soil seems so much healthier for a plant, doesn’t it? But for desert plants, grit is vital. Anything too wet or too dense can lead to rot in your plant, so it’s important to avoid overly damp dirt at all costs. It’s essentially re-creating their natural habitat: dry dirt and sand. Sand is one of the many components that makes my soil mix successful, but we also recommend adding additional “gritty” elements to support your succulent’s growth. Below, we’ll go through all of the ingredients we use in our mix to create a gritty, loamy environment perfect for rare succulents.
#3 - Humidity matters
Your outside environment should factor into your soil mixture, especially if you live in a humid climate. Consider those factors as you select your soil combination. This will also factor into how much drainage your plants require, which you can read up on below.
#4 - Drainage + absorption
The perfect succulent mix will do two things at the same time: it will allow for drainage of the majority of the water it receives, while simultaneously absorbing some of the water for the benefit of your plant. The right ratio of these two factors is important: too much drainage and your succulent won’t get any water at all, too much absorption and your plant will be at risk for rot. At Vivid Root, we’ve pretty much perfected the ingredient list and ratio that leads to the ideal combo
#5 - It’s all in the mix
After massive amounts of trial and error, we’ve found that these four ingredients in the right ratio has it all: drainage and absorption, grit, protection from root rot, and it’s even environmentally friendly.
We start with coco coir, which is shredded coconut husk. Coco coir is a very eco-friendly product because it would otherwise be considered waste, and it replaces peat-moss which can be destructive to harvest. Coco coir absorbs water and nutrients, letting the plant roots access it for a little longer.
Then, we add pumice; you might already be familiar with pumice, a porous rock that lets water drain through it. All the little holes in the stone hold onto the water for a little while and let the plant root absorb it without allowing the soil to get soggy. It also keeps some air in the soil and prevents the mix from getting compacted.
We mix in coarse sand to keep the soil loose so that water can drain through it easily. The best sand has larger grains and sharper edges, not smooth rounded grains. Keeping the soil less compacted and more loose is preferable, because if it gets too compacted then water will not be able to get in at all.
Finally, we top it all off with calcined clay (turface), a unique material made up of granules of fired clay. It’s the perfect finishing ingredient because keeps the mix from getting compacted, and absorbs extra moisture to keep things from getting too wet.
We mix our ingredients by hand at our headquarters using the perfect ratio of these high-quality ingredients and package them to be sent out to our customers. A pack of soil mix makes a great, affordable addition to any order, especially for folks who are new to succulents. It also makes a great gift when you include our cute planters and a small succulent.
We offer 2 formulas of soil, with different amounts of coco coir customized to different types of plants.
30% Soil Mix contains 30% Coco coir which is very fast draining and good for most rare succulents.
10% Soil Mix contains 10% Coco coir for those really special plants like Lithops, Conophytum, and Haworthia.