How to Plant a Succulent: Step by Step Guide

Updated/Fact-Chacked on February 25, 2022 by John

Succulents are one of the most popular plants to have indoors, but they can also be grown outdoors in the UK.  Certain succulent varieties can be grown in pots outdoors in spring/summer, then brought indoors over winter and kept in a warm dry location like a south-facing window sill or conservatory.

Succulents are native to warm, arid countries like Mexico and Morocco and thrive indoors on a window sill or conservatory. If you are keeping your succulent indoors all year round, choose a succulent variety that is suitable to household conditions (16-20 degrees C).

Whether you are growing succulents in pots outdoors or indoors, the principles of how to plant a succulent are the same. The following steps will help you plant your succulents and give them the best possible growing conditions.

Find the ideal succulent pot

Succulents do well in terracotta trays; these are wide pots with very little height and are available in most stores. Terracotta and ceramic pots both have breathable qualities and keep the soil medium warm. Ensure your pot has drainage holes so water does not sit in the bottom of the pot and rot the roots.  If keeping the succulent pot indoors, use a tray under your pot to catch excess water.

succulent terracotta pots
succulents in wide terracotta pots, able to be placed indoors or outdoors

If you are thinking of growing succulents in a terrarium, check out our guide to making an open terrarium for succulents.

Make or buy the perfect succulent soil

Succulents must be planted in well-draining soil that isn’t nutrient-dense, a good cactus soil works well and can be purchased in most garden shops.

If you are planning to make up a few succulent pots, it will be cheaper to make up your own succulent soil mix.  Buy some house plant soil and mix this with coir and grit. Coir is made of coconut husks and is a low nutrient medium,  which dilutes the nutrient-rich house plant soil or general compost. If you cannot find coir, sharp sand or perlite will also work well. Ideal Mix: 1/3 house plant soil, 1/3 Coir, 1/3 perlite.

succulent soil mix
Perfect succulent soil mix with perlite

If you are buying soil for potting succulents, try something like Westland potting mix for succulents and cacti. This succulent soil has added sand and grit, along with sramis granules for water management. These sramis granules absorb water to stop the succulent root from rotting, slowly releasing water make into the mix over time.

Fill your pot halfway with succulent soil

Succulents do not require a lot of soil, but you should make sure your plant is covered by at least one inch of the substrate. You will need to fill your container about halfway up because succulent plants are compact and shallow-rooted. If there isn’t enough space in the container, the plant will dry out faster and won’t grow as well.

Before you add your soil, make sure the container has good drainage. If using a pot with a large drainage hole, place broken pots over the hole or mesh tape to allow water to drain away, but stop soil from falling out.

Fill halfway up with your succulent potting soil mix and make sure to smooth out the surface.

>> How to care for indoor succulents
>> Guide to rare succulents
>>Guide to monocarpic succulents

Place succulent in the pot

When planting a succulent, make sure to place it in the centre of your pot and close enough to the rim so that you can water it easily. If you purchased a succulent in a plastic nursery pot, slowly remove it without damaging the root system.

Place more of your succulent soil mix around the root ball and fill the container to the top, without leaving a gap at the top.

If you are planting a few succulents together in one pot, try and give them a 1″ spacing gap; they don’t mind being packed together, but it gives them space to grow.

succulent arrangement
Succulents planted together with high soil level and good plant spacing

Add decorative stones

After placing your succulent in its pot, you can add rocks, pebbles or sand around the surface. Adding decorative stones will finish off ‘the look’, but also give the pot additional drainage. White stones will really make the succulent leaves stand out and act as a backdrop.

Water succulent

The succulent will need a good misting, but experts advise to let the plant settle for a couple of days before you water.

Succulents only need to be watered about once a week, but it is important that you wait until the soil has dried a little first. You can tell if your soil is dry by sticking your finger about an inch into the sediment. If you are unable to touch the bottom of the pot, it means that there is too much moisture, and you should wait until it has dried out before watering again.

If you have a succulent with leaves curling up or turning yellow, this means there is too much water. Take the plant out of its container and gently shake or tap off some excess soil before placing it back in your pot.

If you are growing more than one succulent together, make sure to check each plant individually for watering needs because they may require different amounts of moisture.