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How to Make the Best Soil for Cactus Plants Indoors

The most important thing about keeping a cactus is how to water it because overwatering will kill a succulent faster than anything else. Of course, your watering schedule is completely dependent upon the soil that you use for your cactus. The best soil for cactus is a well-drained combination of sand, grit, and dirt.

Can you Use Normal Soil for Cactus

potting soil

You should avoid using normal potting soil for cactus. Instead, the best soil for cactus is a well-drained and gritty soil. Cactus soil can have normal potting soil in it as one of its components. However, it should also have sand, gravel, and other ingredients to increase its porosity.

Well-drained soil is soil that allows water to quickly pass through it. This means that it prevents the cactus roots from being soaked in water constantly. Succulents and cacti are adapted to be drought tolerant which means they are at a higher than normal risk of being overwatered.

Why is Regular Potting Soil bad for Cactus

Regular potting soil is bad for cactus plants for a couple of reasons. The first is that they do not drain as well as most succulents require. This means that the cactus roots, its “feet,” will sit in water and develop root rot, which will kill the plant.

Regular potting soil is also made with a high proportion of peat. Peat becomes hydrophobic when it is dry so it will repel water. This means that when you water your succulent again, the water will not be able to get to the succulent roots in the center of the pot. Instead, the water will filter around the soil between the soil and the pot, then out the drainage hole.

Why does a Cactus Need Special Soil

The best soil for cactus plants is one that prevents both of the issues regular potting soil has. Soil with large particles such as bark, perlite, or gravel, will allow water to drain through and keeps the cactus roots dry. The coir fibers, sand, and other small particles also help to reduce the amount of peat in the mix which will prevent hydrophobia.

How to Make the Best Soil for Cactus Plants at Home

Making the best soil for cactus plants is not difficult. You need to find a bowl large enough to mix the ingredients in and then source ingredients to your taste. If you ask ten different succulent growers, you’ll get ten different recipes for the best soil mix. But there is a basic recipe that works for most plants.

Homemade Cactus Soil Recipe

  • 1 part potting soil
  • 1 part pumice or perlite
  • 1 part small rocks or sand

Pour all ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Make sure that the mixture is the same throughout before potting your plant in it.

recipe for best homemade cactus soil

Potting Soil

The potting soil acts as your basic substrate and helps the plant to have something to embed into. Standard potting soil also helps water to stay next to the roots long enough for them to absorb some of the water you put in the pot.

Pumice or Perlite

Pumice and perlite both help to hold in moisture and nutrients without adding weight. Succulents and cacti prefer light and airy soil mixtures. Both are about equal in their effectiveness for the best soil for cactus plants, however there is some debate on that topic.

Small Rocks or Sand

The crucial part to the best soil for cactus plants is the small rocks or sand particles that you add. For tropical cacti and succulents, small rocks are more beneficial. For desert cacti and succulents, sand is better in the soil mix.

What is the Best Soil for Cactus to Purchase

Sometimes, you don’t want to make your own cactus or succulent soil. Or maybe you need just a little bit and you can’t find the basic ingredients in small enough quantities. For those people looking to buy the best soil for cactus plants, you’ll have a few to choose from.

Image credit: Bonsai Jack

Bonsai Jack

The soil that everybody “in the know” recommends is Bonsai Jack #111. This is a soil mix with more grit, sand, and pumice particles than most. There is almost no standard potting soil in this mix. With almost no negative reviews of Bonsai Jack soil, it’s a pretty good bet. If you want more dirt in your soil mix, you can always mix Bonsai Jack with potting soil.

Black Gold Cactus Mix

There’s something about black gold that just provides a quality product. Their inorganic and organic potting soil are definite go-to options for gardeners. And their cactus soil is one of the best store bought soil mixes for cacti and succulents. Black gold is highly recommended for cactus and succulent plants.

What is the Best Pot to Plant a Cactus in

You shouldn’t plant a cactus or a succulent in a normal pot. Of course, they will probably be fine there to some degree. But your plant will do much better in a pot with a few specific details. You’ll welcome these details as well when it helps you keep your plant healthy.


Many plant pots are glazed to make them decorative. These ceramic glazes tend to keep water in though, which is undesirable for succulents and cactus plants. If you do plant your cactus or succulent in a glazed pot, make sure that the inside of it is unglazed. The best pots for succulents and cactus plants are actually terra cotta pots that allow for drainage and aeration.

Large drainage holes

For all succulent and cacti, it is important that the pot have large drainage holes. These holes in the bottom of the pot allow extra water to drain out of the soil easily. After all, the best soil for cactus plants won’t do anything if the water still can’t go anywhere. Prevent that soil from falling out of the pot with a fine mesh screen placed over the hole.


There are several if not hundreds of recipes that you can find for the best soil for cactus plants and succulents. When in doubt, make one that drains faster and is grittier in texture. However, if you feel uncomfortable making your own, don’t hesitate to buy a store bought cactus soil for your plant.

If you do end up with a less than optimal soil for your cactus, make sure to water it less to prevent root rot as best you can. Make sure to keep an eye out for signs of overwatering, such as mushy or translucent leaves.