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Succulents are naturally hardy plants and can survive in almost any climate. However, there are still some things these naturally resilient plants require to thrive. Without proper lighting, water, room to grow, and proper soil, even the strongest succulents may struggle. So, this brings us to the big question: can succulents grow in sand?
In short, the answer is yes and no. All succulents require at least some level of nutrients in the soil, and while just about every succulent requires fast drainage, pure beach sand isn’t going to have enough nutrients for your succulents to grow. This doesn’t mean succulents just won’t grow in sand, though. Sand is an excellent ingredient for improving drainage in your soil mixture.
There are many ways you can use sand to grow succulents, and the easiest one is to use it in a soil mixture. By mixing coarse sand into any potting mixture, you’re effectively creating a new type of soil with high drainage-- the perfect thing for succulents! However, not everyone is looking to use sand in their potting mix. If you want to grow your succulents in pure sand, there are a few things to keep in mind before getting started.
To help your sandy succulents grow, there are a few extra things to keep in mind before you plant in sand:
Your natural environment plays a major role in how well your succulents grow in a given environment, especially if you’re planting outdoors. Outdoor succulents should match their original environment as best they can. Succulents that handle frost well and can survive winters by going dormant will be more likely to struggle if they’re planted in pure sand.
Sand has excellent drainage since its coarse, differently-sized grains allow plenty of room for water to seep through and spread. If you’re going to use sand to grow your succulents, consider mixing it with potting soil or succulent mix to give your succulent the best of both worlds-- plenty of nutrients via organic matter and plenty of drainage via sand.
If you’re working with pure sand in a pot, chances are you won’t be using any type of container with a drainage hole. Sand can easily leak out of drainage holes in pots, so it’s best to use glass, metal, or other non-porous materials for planting with pure sand. Fortunately, sand’s excellent drainage pairs well with no-drainage pots-- just be sure to place a larger inorganic substance like rocks or gravel at the bottom of your pot to encourage extra drainage.
If you’re making your own succulent soil mixture, you’ll need to keep the type of soil your succulents prefer in mind. While some succulents do prefer sandy soil with higher drainage, others may need something a bit different. Like temperature, it’s always best to keep your succulent’s natural environment in mind when planting to make sure they thrive.
A third thing to consider when making your own succulent soil with sand is how your succulent will obtain its nutrients to grow. All soil contains a mixture of inorganic materials (like rocks, perlite, or sand) and organic matter (like peat, coir, or compost). If you’re primarily using sand in your soil, you may need to add nutritional supplements every so often. Using fertilizer or compost during the growing season will help in this regard.
Not all succulents do well in sand, even though most require good drainage to thrive. When looking for succulents to plant in sand, you’ll want ones that do well in environments with low nutrients and can tolerate long periods of drought. Desert plants like cacti work especially well here, but other succulents that do well in sand include:
Lithops is a genus of succulent plants that does well in sand
Overall, you’ll want to look for a succulent that doesn’t mind being flooded with water once every so often. If you’re planting outdoors, consider looking at local wildlife for a reference. Succulents that do best in your home environment might be right in your backyard!
In addition, air plants do extremely well in sand since you can place them on top of the sand itself in a terrarium and remove them from the terrarium to water. Although they aren’t succulents, air plants do extremely well in similar environments and thrive without soil.
When caring for succulents in sand, you’ll need to stay on top of your watering, fertilizing, and repotting routine frequently, just as you would with any succulent in a no-drainage pot. Although sand is great for drainage, it’s essential to avoid overwatering your succulents and only watering when the sand itself is completely dry. To check for dryness, treat your succulent like you would a cake: using a chopstick, skewer, or even just your finger, press into the bottom of your pot and wait a few seconds. When you pull the stick out of the pot, check for any dirt clinging to the stick or any signs of water on the stick. If it’s completely dry, you can water your succulents.
Overall, sand is a great potting material for just about every succulent, but not all succulents enjoy soil that is mostly sand. If you’re going to grow a succulent in a primarily sandy mixture, make sure it can thrive in sandy environments too.
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