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Potting Soil Recipe for Cacti and Succulents

Perfect drainage makes this recipe succeed

Fine Gardening - Issue 125

Just as creating a healthy soil environment is crucial for your in-ground plants, providing a suitable growing medium for your container plants is a key factor to success. Most gardeners do fine with bagged container mixes available at the nursery, but these one-size-fits-all options might not be the best options, especially if you are growing plants, like cacti and succulents, with specific soil needs.

Making your own container soil might sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but it can improve your plants’ performance. And because these mixes have the optimal amount of nutrients and proper drainage, they reduce the amount of time you spend feeding and caring for your containers. And in the end, your container designs are only as good as the soil you fill your pots with. Insufficient soil, with too little drainage or too little nutrients will cause your plants to suffer and decline, never reaching  their full potential. Ask any nursery owner what the key to raising gorgeous plants is and they will tell you it’s all about the quality of the soil.

The following recipe can be mixed in a wheelbarrow or garden cart and tweaked based on your needs or what is available to you. You can also save time and money by purchasing the items in bulk and making large batches to set aside for a later date or to share with your gardening friends.


5 parts perlite
4 parts bagged potting soil
1 part coarse sand
Pinch of rock dust

Top-dress the container soil with small river rock, gravel, aquarium stone, or a fine-grade roofing gravel to keep the crowns of the plants from rotting.

To increase acidity just slightly—something all succulents like—add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to 5 gallons water when watering.


—Jeff Moore works at Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California.

Previous: Potting Soil Recipe for Woody Plants and Perennials Next: A Basic Potting Soil Recipe
View Comments


  1. user-7007731 07/26/2015

    English is my 3'rd language, what do you mean when you say parts? A hand full?

    1. user-7007897 11/12/2015

      It means parts of the whole, which is ten (5+4+1)

      Half the mix is perlite (5/10)
      40% potting soil (4/10)
      10% sand (1/10)

    2. noor_sani 09/22/2017

      Parts is referring to what ever measuring amount you want to use example, 1cup potting mix +1 cup perlite + 1 cup gravel. Or 1 bucket of potting mix + 1 bucket perlite + 1 bucket gravel.

  2. fishmonster 07/23/2016

    Commercially available cactus mix commonly available is NOT the way to go. It holds moisture for a surprisingly long time and it dries much to hard. I have had to come back and dig some of my cacti up and they become extremely hard in North Texas. I recommend two parts of commercial potting mix, two parts of perlite, small rocks (gravel) and one part sand-the coarser the better. This is much better tan just Miracle Grow potting soil. I have forty-nine many variety of cacti and all of them are outside sitting in the direct sun. Our summer temperatures average 100 degrees and the cactus thrive. I keep my bags of Miracle Grow potting mix outside and after a heavy rain they are wet for a surprisingly long time. I used to keep them in my garage but I learned from an open bag that this stuff really has an unpleasant odor. Although I live in North Texas I have eight tons of rock in the back yard including a multi-color flagstone patio.

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