How climate controls your succulents’ soil needs

I get a bit panicky when I see people tossing out general advice that works for their succulents but could be harmful to others’ in a different location, and I hope this information will help teach everyone how important it is to factor climates into these conversations.

When choosing a title for my book, ‘The Succulent Manual: A guide to care and repair for all climates,’ I really wanted to emphasize how there’s not a one-size-fits-all set of rules that applies to everyone when it comes to caring for your succulents.

Your climate is the primary element that is going to influence what you need to do in order to keep your succulents happy, and while I delve much deeper into this topic in ‘The Succulent Manual,’ we’ll focus on soil in this article and what you need to know based on whether you’re in an arid or humid climate.

Of course if you’re growing indoors where temperatures are regulated, and you have ample light and good air circulation, humidity is less of a concern than for outdoor growers.

In arid climates like Arizona, soil will dry more quickly than humid locations like the Gulf Coast. This means those growing humid regions need more drainage materials in their potting mix to assist in speeding up drying time.

On the other hand, arid growers may need to water their plants more frequently, especially during the hottest months.

And while arid climate growers may be fine with using a basic organic potting mix, succulents still appreciate a soil lightened with drainage materials to help allow more oxygen to get to their roots. Succulents uptake moisture from the air around their roots rather than ‘drink’ the water like other plants, and without drainage amendments, soil can compact around the roots after several waterings which effectively smothers and prevents roots from being able to ‘breathe’ in the moisture properly.

It’s ideal to have a combination of drainage materials in your mix since their different sizes create a more airy and natural soil. However, as long as the balance of organic to non-organic ingredients is allowing the soil to dry quickly, one amendment is perfectly fine.

If I had to choose one material, I’d probably opt for Turface which is made from fired clay and acts as a moisture absorbent. Unlike pumice, it’s widely available locally and quite affordable at about $15 for 50 pounds. While Turface is a brand name, you can also find it sold as porous ceramic soil conditioner by other companies like Profile. They’re both marketed towards athletic fields and is easily identified as the reddish substrate used to keep baseball diamonds dry.

Do note that this product is sold in different ‘fines’ sizes, meaning the size of the individual ‘grains’ range from sand-like which is too small to pebble-sized which can be too large. The ideal size for succulents is sold as MVP by both brands.

You can read more about the different types of drainage materials in the free preview of The Succulent Manual: Chapter 1 – Basic Tips: Soil and Fertilizer.

Along with the online version on this site, the book is also available as an interactive eBook or PDF in the shop and through Amazon Kindle and other eRetailers, so choose the format you like best to read it all!

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