Succulents In The Garden – How To Prepare Outdoor Succulent Soil

outdoors succulents
outdoors succulents
(Image credit: alpssimon)

Planting a succulent bed in your garden outside is a tricky chore in some areas. In some places, careful consideration is necessary about which plants to use, where to locate the garden, and how to protect the plants from the elements. One thing you can (and should) do first is to gather the proper ingredients and prepare the soil for succulents in the garden.

Succulent Soil Needs Outdoors

Outdoor succulent soil needs vary from area to area, but the best plant performance comes from soil with amended drainage. Learning how to prepare the soil for a succulent garden depends on how much moisture your climate gets and protecting succulent roots. Keeping roots dry is your goal, so whatever works best in your area is the best soil for your succulent garden. You can use the soil you’ve dug from your garden bed as a base for outdoor succulent soil, then add amendments. Succulents in the garden do not need a fertile soil; in fact, they prefer lean ground without an abundance of nutrients. Remove rocks, sticks, and other debris. You may also purchase topsoil to use in the mix. Get the kind without fertilizer, additives, or moisture retention – just plain soil.

How to Prepare Soil for a Succulent Garden

As much as three-fourths of your soil for succulents in the garden can be amendments. Some tests are currently using pumice alone with good results, but this is in the Philippines, and daily watering is needed. Those of us in less perfect climates may need to experiment. Coarse sand is often used, along with coconut coir, pumice, perlite, and Turface (a volcanic product sold as a soil conditioner). When using Turface for this project, get the medium sized pebbles. Expanded shale is used to amend soil for outdoor succulent beds. And, an interesting product called Dry Stall Horse Bedding includes pumice. Some use this straight into the ground when preparing a succulent garden bed. Don’t confuse this with another product called Stall Dry. River rock is sometimes combined into the soil but is more often used as a top dressing or ornamentation in your outdoor beds. Horticultural grit or some variation is used as an amendment or mulch, as is aquarium gravel. When preparing a succulent garden bed, consider the layout and have a plan, but be flexible when you begin planting. Some sources recommend preparing the soil three inches (8 cm.) deep, but others say at least six inches to eight inches (15-20 cm.) down is necessary. The deeper, the better when adding the outdoor succulent soil to your bed. Make slopes and hills in which to plant some specimens. Elevated planting gives your garden bed an unusual appearance and has the added benefit of further elevating the roots of your succulents and cacti.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.