How to Make Soil Mix for Succulents & Cacti




Introduction: How to Make Soil Mix for Succulents & Cacti

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Do you plant succulents and cacti on the regular like me? Have you ever wanted to make your own mix? I always have some kind of potting project going on and keep a variety of ingredients on hand. I’d like to share this recipe for succulent and cactus soil mix so you can make your own too.

I get asked 1 of these questions every month or 2 and wanted to answer them here. “What kind of soil should I use for my cactus and succulents?” “What soil is best for my succulents in a pot?” “Can I plant my succulents growing indoors in potting soil?”

Step 1: Ingredients

This applies to whether you’re growing them indoors or outdoors. 1) The mix needs to have excellent drainage. 2) It important to be well aerated. 3) It needs to be soil-less. Regular garden soil is way too heavy. 4) Which leads us to: it needs to be light.

The roots, stems and leaves of succulents and cacti all store water and can easily succumb to root rot. The roots need oxygen and a mix which is light, well aerated, drains well and is soilless helps to prevent overwatering.

You can make your own succulent and cactus mix, buy it online or at your local garden center. When I lived in Santa Barbara, I would usually buy my mix from the California Cactus Center as they formulated their own. Here in Tucson, I stated buying Tank’s which is also a local mix.

I was visiting my friends at Eco Gro (a place for we plant aficionados) a few weeks ago and was in need of succulent and cactus mix. They were out of Tank’s and sold me a bag of their own mix. The mix is formulated on sight but the original recipe comes from Mark A. Dimmitt who is local and well known in plant circles. That’s why it’s known as “MAD Mix."

Step 2: Soil Mix Recipe

This mix is suitable whether you’re growing succulents & cacti indoors in pots or outdoors in pots.

I bought all my ingredients at Eco Gro & will list similar products but different brands which you can find online below.

  • 6 scoops of coco chips n fiber. I bought all my ingredients at Eco Gro & will list similar products here. Similar.
  • 1 scoop of coco peat. Similar.
  • 4 scoops of pumice. Similar.
  • 1/2 scoop vermiculite. Similar.
  • 1/2 cup agricultural lime & elemite.

What you use for a scoop is up to you. At Eco Gro they use a good sized soil scoop which is approximately equal to a large yogurt container. I’m not sure if the 1/2 cup measurement is 1/2 a cup of each or 1/2 cup combined. I went on the side of caution and added in 1/4 cup of each. I’ll get the measurement next time I’m back at Eco Gro and clarify it here.

Peat moss is often used in soil mixes but I prefer coco coir. It’s a much more environmentally friendly alternative and if you’re interested, can read more about that here and here.

The coco bricks need to be hydrated prior to using (usually a few times) and you can see that in the video. They expand after hydrating and you can use them damp or dry. There’s no need to hydrate them again when using in this or other mixes.

Cost to make the amount of mix I made: I bought all the ingredients locally. The cost may vary for you depending on where you purchase everything. The only thing completely used up was the pumice – I have a good amount of everything else left over to make more batches.

Approximate cost: $9

This mix can be used for: Indoor succulents, which includes cacti too.

All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti. We generally think of “succulents” as fleshy succulents like Burro’s Tail, String Of Pearls, Aeoniums, Aloe Vera & the like. Now that I live in Arizona, cacti are a big part of my horticultural life!

Outdoor succulents, including cacti.

Propagating succulents & other plants too. I have some Baby Rubber Plant stem cuttings rooting right now in water & I’ll plant them in this mix in a 4″ pot while they’re establishing. I could have also planted them directly in this mix. This works when propagating hoyas and snake plants too. Mixing in with potting soil and other ingredients for hoyas, snake plants, bromeliads, peperomias & any other plants where I want to up the ante on the drainage & aeration.

Step 3: How I Plant Succulents

I’ll water the plant a few days before & then plant it into this mix. I leave the rootball up a bit because it’ll eventually sink down into this light mix. I keep it dry for 3-10 days while it’s settling in & then water thoroughly. You want your succulents to dry between waterings, especially cacti. More on succulents here.

This mix is so easy to make and cost effective to boot. It’s very light unlike much heavier bags of potting soil and planting mix. If you live in a small space, it won’t take up much room to store. And, most important of all, succulents and cacti love it!

Happy gardening,

Nell Foster

Learn More About Planting Succulents in Pots:

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    3 years ago on Step 2

    It's hard to sometimes find smaller portions of sand and what not where i live and if anyone else has that problem, I make a big batch from miracle gro cactus soil, organic potting mix and perlite. I usually do 2 cactus soil to 1 mix to 1 perlite. The potting mix gives big chunks to the soil while perlite aerated of course and the miracle gro is quick draining kinda plus adds feeding to the soil too. I have like close to a hundred succulents and this method works great for me since it's a pian trying to find sand and such.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing. I don't use sand either when potting succulents but many people do. Nell