Mix your own soil for cacti and succulents


Cacti and succulents are plants adapted to survive long periods of droughts. They have a remarkable ability to store water and nutrients in their stems and leaves and use them later. You can find them growing in well-drained and not very fertile soils and naturally, if you want to grow cacti and succulents in pots, you should provide the same type of soil.

What soil is suitable?

Well, you should provide a rather loose and very permeable soil containing a high percentage of minerals such as sand or expanded clay and gravel. If you want to prepare your own substrate for cacti and succulents, mix 80% of material that will serve as a drainage and a maximum of 20% compost or all-purpose soil. Foundation should follow 4: 1 ratio and should be loose but not lumpy. See the following sample substrate designed for cacti and succulents:

  • 20% regular soil without added peat or compost,
  • 20% sand, particles 1-5 mm,
  • 20% gravel, particles 1-5 mm,
  • 20% washed quartz sand,
  • 20% perlite (the finest pumice).


Photo: Pixabay

The most important aspect of soil

The most important rule of thumb is to use a rather large drainage layer (sand, gravel, expanded clay, pumice) in relation to the amount of regular soil or compost that you put in the mixture. For example, 20% soil + 80% permeable mixture is best for the vast majority of cacti and succulents. This rule of thumb ratio applies to soil but not to the other components. There is no general rule to follow when choosing other components. The suggested percentages should allow free flow of water, but each cactus grower may have different opinion.

Why so little soil?

Imagine a desert or rocky slopes where cacti occur naturally. There is no black absorbent layer of land because the climate is too dry for organic matter to accumulate. These inhospitable areas are usually covered with small amount of dry vegetation and by various cacti and succulents because only these plants can survive in conditions like that thanks to thick, fleshy leaves that accumulate water during the rainy season. If you want to add minerals to the soil use different ones to give your plant a wider range.

Substrate sold in shops

If you are a total beginner, you should buy a ready-made soil designed for cacti and other succulents so you don’t need to experiment with your own mixtures. Ready-made substrate contains a well-balanced structure and suitably sized particles as well as a long-acting fertilizer. Nevertheless, if you learn to produce your own substrate you can definitely save money.

Preview photo: Pixabay

Radek Štěpán

Gardening is my hobby, I have a lot of experience and I am happy to share it.


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