How to make your own succulent and cactus soil (and FAQs)

Hey guys! It’s Andrea with Sucs for You in
Houston Texas and today we’re going to be making a big batch of succulent dirt. I
posted about making this video on my YouTube community page, and on other
social media pages, asking if y’all have any other questions that I haven’t
answered before anything in particular and we’ll get around to those during the
video too. Right now the main thing is we want to start making this batch of soil
and then we’ll learn how to adapt it for your cacti your tropical
succulents and you know all that fun stuff so let’s get started! So here are
zee ingredients for zee recipe: I have just normal topsoil- it’s not potting
soil it’s just topsoil- which means it is soil that has been taken from the top of
the earth and of course the ingredients in that vary depending on where it’s
sourced from but it’s just very basic, no extra fertilizer added. This is Turface. I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that. This is the stuff they use on baseball fields to absorb the water, keep it dry, and I have
some expanded shale. And the good thing about this is I was
able to find all of this locally and we didn’t have to have any of it shipped. It
took me some time to figure out a recipe that I can make from local stuff so I
want to make sure you guys know that is an option. You might have to do a
little investigating to be able to find this stuff locally. I already have some
topsoil in here and the good thing about topsoil is it’s really cheap. Again it
doesn’t have any added fertilizers so you have more control over when your
succulents are getting fed basically. You don’t want to feed them when it’s
overcast, you don’t want to feed them during their winter dormancy and if
they’re in a potting soil that already has all that included you know you kind
of don’t have any control over that. So we start with the topsoil – I’m just
breaking it up – there are gonna be some chunks, maybe a little bit of bark in
there. You can pull them out or you can just kind of leave it and then as your
material dries out over time and as you’re going to use it, you can break
it up a little bit more. It’s really not bad- this is actually pretty good stuff.
My friend bought this over for me, it’s maybe four dollars a bag. The
stuff I get is even cheaper. Really any brand, but you do want to smell it and
make sure it actually smells like you know dirt and sometimes it can get funky
and you’ll know what I mean if you ever come across a bag of a stinky topsoil.
Just smell it at the store before you bring it home. That is a very important
tip. So we’ve got our soil in here okay and
and we’re going to start adding or drainage materials We’ll start with the Turface first and
what Turface is… it’s made out of – it’s fired clay basically and it’s cheap – if
you can find it locally you’re going to just be so happy. I get like 40 pounds
for about fourteen dollars from a local shop called Southwest Fertilizer, and you
can find it at irrigation shops, athletic shops, places that do landscaping
sometimes. Again you might have to call around. They do have a store locator on
their website I believe. You can find a distributor near you. One thing you need
to know is that this stuff comes in different sizes – some of its really small,
and if you please check the video description, I don’t want you to wind up
with the wrong stuff. I’m going to make it clear on what size
you need to get. It’s called the MVP and or they do come larger.
That is typical size they sell they keep in stock but I have heard of people
getting a smaller size and I don’t want that to happen to you guys. So I’m just
going to go ahead and add all of this in. What I’m looking for
is just basically equal parts dirt to Turface. Equal parts – you’ll hear it called
organic materials, the brown stuff – to the non organic materials and that’s your
drainage materials that are you know made out of rocks basically. This is looking good. Come in for a
closer look. All right see that? It’s getting
there. Now we’re going to go in and we’re going to add our expanded shale which is
basically the same price for about the same weight, and it’s a good porous
material which means it’s going to absorb and hold water, which means it
keeps it away from the roots. And it also adds drainage by providing
more airflow through the dirt itself right? Imagine you pour some
water directly on this at this point, how long is it going to take the drain
through? But if it has a lot of the larger rocks it’s going to drain through
faster. And right now I’m doing about I’d say equal parts
top soil, Turface, and expanded shale. So this is going to be my base dirt now.
Somebody asked, “If you could only choose one mix to start with,
well if you could only have one mix, what would you use?” and I would say this but
with some added pumice as well, so let’s get some of that. So this is the pumice. I
have to order it online. I do think I found a shop that has it occasionally
but the last couple of times I’ve checked there it’s been out. I have a few
sources linked on my website and I’ll add them below. You can order them
through Amazon and get free shipping. One company I really like, especially if
you want to order directly from them, is General Pumice Products – they’re out of
California. It’s pretty stuff but it is also a pretty penny because for $30 you
get 15 pounds versus 40 pounds of the shale or Turface is for $14 right. But again
it’s worth it – it’s beautiful and I like using it as a top
dressing… Let me explain something really quick. We start with a base soil,
something like this fast draining, and then we can always add more materials to
it, whether we want to make it more organic and add more topsoil, or if we
need to make it faster draining we add more drainage materials. Right? Okay! Since
pumice is a little pricier, a little more precious,
I’m going to start with just adding maybe a quarter parts of the pumice to this. You
don’t have to use it but you do need to account for how much organic material is
in your pots. I’ll talk about perlite real quick – that’s that stuff that’s almost
like styrofoam. It’s basically a puffed version of this and it crumbles
and it’s just so messy. I haven’t used it in a really long time and I’ve
been fine without it. (My plants are fine without it.) Now it’s looking really pretty! I think it’s pretty, for dirt… If you get any little chunks of bark or anything in there like that you can just like
toss them out, leave them in, it kind of doesn’t matter. How does that look? So we
see brown organic dirt, we see a lot of the Turface, we can see the shale in
there, and then there’s a little bit of pumice too, and that is going to be our
basic mix that we start with. All right so now let’s talk about why we might modify
our dirt for different plants. This depends on your climate, it depends on
what kind of rain protection you have, whether you’re growing inside or out, and
the basic thing we’re trying to get at here is to make sure our soil is
draining fast enough for the particular plant that’s in there
or else it’ll get root rot or it’ll split, it’ll take up too much water.
Right away you can tell that the majority of the pots I use are unglazed
terracotta. Why? Because it’s porous, it helps the dirt evaporate more quickly
and that’s our main goal when we’re trying to pot up our succulents. We want that dirt to be drying out as fast as possible and the unglazed clay
will help wick some of the moisture out. Now of course every now and then you’re
going to come across a really cute ceramic planter
that’s glazed and you’re just going to need it – you’re going to need to bring it home,
you’re going to need to put a plant in it, and in that instance you want to make
sure that the soil that you’re adding is less organic, faster draining, you know so
more more inorganic materials in there, and preferably shallow like this guy.
This is like a bonsai pot. Ideally a lot of times when the when the pottists are
making these and they know what they’re doing, they leave the inside unglazed and
they’ll leave the bottom unglazed as well which does help with the
evaporation of the water in the soil. That blue pot with the Sansevieria cylindrica, that is glazed ceramic. The reason why I chose the Sansevieria cylindrica to put in there is, you know, it’s a more tropical/ subtropical native
of South Africa. It’s used to more moisture and it can tolerate that pot – it’s
not ideal but it was pretty and I you know had it and I needed a place to
put these guys so I just made sure that there’s probably about 40% organic material
to 60% drainage materials in that pot. And remember the depth of your pots
is going to affect how fast the soil dries, so if you’re using a larger pot
you’re gonna want to add more drainage materials. Let’s move on to the questions
portion of the video. You guys asked some really good stuff and it’s going to be
really helpful for anyone watching. Y’all are all gonna have the
same questions, I’ve had them at one time or another and I think it’s gonna be
super helpful. Prissylocs from instagram asked: What’s
the best soil for outdoor succulents in the houston heat? And you just saw it
made – we are outside in the Houston heat, my plants are outside in the Houston heat.
They do get some rain if the wind blows the rain in and some of
them are even out just directly under the sky. So just keep
an eye on them. If they do start to get too much water you can bring them in and if there is an emergency situation and you’re really worried about the plant
you can unpot it and just wait for that dirt to dry out. Leave the plant in
an empty pot somewhere and go about your business. Everybody, that happens
sometimes – don’t freak out. Jackie Moon asked: Do you layer?
Meaning I guess to layer the different materials. No, you want them all mixed up
really well so when the water goes in there’s even distribution of the drainage
materials to help the water flow through the soil and down and out. She also asked:
How do you test your soil for dryness? And I just use my finger. I’ve used the
water meter, the little moisture meter things before. They’re fun but um you
kind of run a risk of not getting a precise reading around the roots,
stabbing the roots, and even passing pathogens of the soil on to another
plant if you don’t clean it every time in between. So finger test, chopstick, that
kind of thing. Just get hands-on with it. Don’t mind your
hands getting dirty that’s what nail brushes and soap are for
right? Jade Star from YouTube asked: Do you use the same soil for planting seeds?
No not really – well you know kind of – it’s the
same soil but it’s modified where it’s screened out more. There is more organic
material than drainage materials because they do need to stay moist,
unlike the mature plant. Darriann from YouTube asked: Can I mix aquarium gravel
with my cactus soil and perlite mix? No. I mean you can but the problem with
aquarium gravel, pebbles and other drainage materials that are not porous
is they actually retain moisture in the soil instead of soaking it up into their
own little individual pieces, so you definitely want to stick
with stuff that…and I think aquarium gravel is painted. Those glass beads – all that stuff does not do anything to help
your soil, it doesn’t help with drainage, best left out of the mix and just water
less if you don’t have anything other than perlite. But it’s really
part of the fun and part of the learning experience is finding these
drainage materials if you’re going to keep succulents in a place where it’s not very succulent friendly… like Houston. Romani asked: I am told the best thing
for my succulent roots to absorb the perfect amount of water is putting
charcoal or larger pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Do you recommend this? There’s
like just so many back-and-forth positions on should I put gravel in the
bottom of my pots with or without drainage holes. Of course all pots need
drainage holes, and terrariums, all those things I just don’t even fool with them. Because
the only thing in my opinion that doesn’t need a drainage hole is an aquatic plant. So
there’s really no purpose in putting gravel down in the bottom. What that
does is create a shorter pot so if you maybe wanted to put a smaller plant in a bigger pot, and you want to reduce the size of the
inside of the pot you can put some gravel in there and put the dirt on
top of that, but what you have to worry about then is the bottom of
the dirt where it remains most saturated because of gravity is raised up higher in
the pot and therefore it’s closer to the roots. I hope that makes sense. So also
the more dirt you have in there between the top and the bottom
where the drainage hole is, the more I guess you call it like a
capillary action, there’s there’s just more dirt in there to spread it down and
out of the bottom of the pot and then to pull the
moisture down away from the roots because remember too much moisture for
too long around succulent roots will cause rot and that’s no fun. Who else? Chris from YouTube asked: What is your
opinion on pre-made mixes? Do I use them or prefer to mix my own? I
definitely prefer mixing my own. I never need like just this much dirt. I always
need more. That that probably fills like six to ten small to medium sized pots, that
typical size bag that you can get for like six bucks of the cactus and succulent
mix from Home Depot or wherever, but you still have to you still have to add more
drainage materials to it. A lot of that stuff does still have fertilizer in it even
though it really shouldn’t. S o I do recommend and prefer just making your
own mix and if you if you’re worried about oh I have a 50-pound bag of
topsoil and a 40 pound bag of Turface and a 40 pound bag of shale and nowhere
to put it, or I live upstairs – you know it’s pretty easy to find some friends
around to share it with I would just highly consider trying to make as much
as you can at once, putting it somewhere out of the way where it’ll be kept
dry and you’ll just always have that. Okay not always but you know what I mean
Gail from YouTube asks: When we buy a cactus or a succulent from a store, do we
have to repot it right away? Many plants they say don’t repot
right away but succulents and cacti are almost always in mostly dirt. You know
she’s talking about when you’re bringing them home from the nursery, this is true,
they typically do not use special soil. It’s pretty much the same dirt for all
the plants that particular nursery distributes. So I recommend bringing your
plant home, let it get acc ustomed to where you’re going to be keeping it for
a few days at least, and then go ahead and repot it in your good
succulent dirt that you have on standby. And even at that point you can leave
some of the dirt around the roots of these plants. You don’t just you don’t
have to clean all the organic stuff off. Pot it up in dry dirt and wait for it to dry, and then you can start watering it again. That reduces chance of
broken roots getting water inside of them and bacteria and all that fun stuff. See those were some good questions and I
hope my answers helped clarify some of the things for you. I guess that’s it for
this video. If you have any questions drop them in the comments below.
Always check out the video description – click show more – and there’s a ton of
information on you know where to find me how to reach out all kinds of stuff. Oh yeah! And how to get your copy of The
Succulent Manual! It’s a ‘guide to care and repair for all climates’ and it’s an ebook.
I also have a version online at so it’s a online web version. Both of them are interactive – you’ll see what I
mean once you go and check it out. Thanks for watching!

39 thoughts on “How to make your own succulent and cactus soil (and FAQs)

  1. Hey sweetie hru. Glad to ๐Ÿ‘€ u make a ๐Ÿ“น good info ๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒผ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿ™ˆ

  2. What side of the house do you have your succulents ? Enjoyed watching have a good week !! ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŒฟ

  3. What a coincidence, earlier I was looking up DIY succulent soil ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ perfect timing

  4. If buying large quantities of soil to mix is too much to store, Etsy has sellers that offer small portions. Pretty expensive, but itโ€™s a good start.
    Also I purchased the book and I love it!

  5. Thank you for answering my question!! When you posted that you would be making this video I was checking constantly to see if it was up. I have a bunch of plants I want to repot but I refused to do it until I learned your method!! And just in time, my mom is bringing me home a gorgeous spiral cactus from Arizona tomorrow!!!

  6. And just so I understand the Sansevieria cause I have a new starfish and cylindrical, you are also using this cactus mix with the top soil only with a larger part topsoil?

  7. Love your videos, Andrea. Theyโ€™re all informative specially from a local houstonian. ๐Ÿ˜

  8. Great video! Very informative & I liked how you showed how to make soil for our succulents & cacti!๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

  9. Great information and demonstration of how to make soil for succulents and cacti. Have a blessed week ahead๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘โค.

  10. hi andrea,great seeing you getting down and dirty making your soil mix (haha)very informative,best wishes from north east england

  11. I use safety-sorb instead of turface. It's about 5 bucks for a huge bag, at places like tractor supply co, but it only comes in one size and is a little dusty. Decent option if you can't find turface locally.

  12. hi thank you for this informative video I have a question how do you feel about concrete or cement pots for succulents? love watching your vids I subscribed ๐Ÿ˜Š

  13. Do you have a video about propagating and caring for Jade plants? And if not would you please consider one. Thank you for all of the knowledge that you share!

  14. Very informative. The Q&A helps and gives everybody a different perspective and to keep an open mind. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

  15. Hi! I recently started to buy succulents and so far I have 4 lol. Still learning about them and many other plants. New sub here and Iโ€™m from Houston Texas as well! ๐Ÿ˜
    Also, could you recommend a shop of plants I can purchase here in Houston? I live in the heights area and not sure where to buy plants, thatโ€™s a good place to shop.
    Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป

    -Pachira plant
    -Snake plant

  16. Hey Andrea! Itโ€™s me Michael! lol I know you must have a split rock in one of your videos, you have everything under the sun literally!

  17. I found a 30 qt (around 40lb) bag of pumice on Amazon with free shipping and it costs around $35. It still hasn't been delivered though, but hopefully, it will work just fine.
    Here's the link for it:

  18. Here in the south of Portugal the weather is very hoy so I use regular soil with river sand. It works very well.

  19. Hi Andrea!! ๐Ÿ˜Š As usual you always come through with an informative and amazing video right when I need it lol ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ™Œ I just ran out of my last bag of Bonsai Jack soil mix for sucs, which I have loved, but is so Expensive ๐Ÿ™ˆ So I was definitely praying that you'd come out with a diy video like this and you did not even 3 days later! ๐Ÿ’ƒ So lots of love and thanks for that ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’•
    I did want to know what your thoughts are on using vermiculite as an added ingredient to your soil mix for the benefits of the minerals in it? I saw in a blog post that it helps succulents thrive but the blogger also lives in Wyoming so not sure that would help my sucs in our Houston weather. Just thought I'd add that I also keep my sucs inside ๐Ÿ˜Šโ™ฅ๏ธ

  20. I canโ€™t find anything besides the topsoil locally . The county I live in is the Town Of No Supplies! Canโ€™t even find good succulent planters or healthy succulents in this town . Itโ€™s quite frustrating cuz shipping for Turface and pumice is triple the cost of the products . Iโ€™ll find it somehow without paying a fortune. Thanks for the video ๐Ÿ˜Š

  21. Your videos have been so helpful! Thanks for sharing everything youโ€™ve learned. I went to Southwest Fertilizer the other day and got supplies for a mix! When watering, do you look for signs of thirst? Or mainly check the potting mix for moisture?

  22. Thank you for a very informative video. Iโ€™ve seen where some use styrofoam when needing to use larger pot to reduce amount of soil needed. What do you think about this? Do you ever use other materials to save on amount of soil mix needed in a large pot? Iโ€™m in tropical climate (S FL). and new to succulents. Iโ€™m finding that once I transplant succulents purchased in big box stores they seem to root and then few weeks later they seem loose n find roots died or separated. What would cause this. I use bonsai mix with some organic bc of rainy season here. Thanks again

  23. Hi Andrea, Other than the top soil all I could get here is the shale. I don't want to use perlite anymore if I don't need to. Is the shale enough? I also have lava rock on hand, & crushed granite. I don't know if either of those materials work like pumice or Turface. I'm in zone 6. Your videos have been most helpful. Do you have one on fertilizing? Thanks!

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