Is Sand the Perfect Home for Your Succulents?

Succulents are wonderful plants to grow in your own home. Increasingly popular for their beauty, low maintenance and drought tolerance, succulents are perfect for those who don't have much time or space to take care of them.
A colorful succulent terrarium.

Succulents are relatively hardy plants and can survive in almost any climate. They are highly forgiving because they store much water in their stems and thrive in harsh environments where other plants would die within days. But the big question is; can these plants survive when grown in the sand? Most importantly, how long can they survive in the sand, and what must you do to make them thrive if you decide to go down that route? We are here to help you unravel this mystery.

So, is sand the perfect home for your succulents? The short answer is both yes and no. Like other plants, succulents require some nutrients in the potting mix to thrive. Although sand aids fast drainage, which is critical to the overall growth of succulents, pure sand doesn’t have enough nutrients to sustain succulent growth. But it doesn’t mean succulents won’t grow in pure sand ultimately. Some of the most beautiful succulent arrangements you see grow in pure sand. Just make sure to provide supplemental nutrients for your succulents occasionally.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about growing succulents in pure sand and whether sand is the perfect home for your plants. Read on to learn more.

Understanding the Natural Habitat of Most Succulents

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of whether sand is suitable for succulents, it’s essential to understand where these plants naturally grow. Most succulent species come from desert regions in Africa, Mexico, and North America.

For many of them, especially cacti plants, their natural habitats are typically arid and relatively sandy. These areas receive minimal rainfall, and the soil is mainly sand and gravel. It’s safe to say that succulents are used to living in sandy conditions.

Succulents Terrarium
They have adapted to relatively kinder growth conditions and require some nutrients to thrive.

Plants and animals that survive in these areas have adapted to the harsh conditions. They embrace what mother nature offers and fight their way to survival.

Succulents rely on the infrequent rainy seasons to gather and store enough water in their stems and leaves.

Furthermore, pure desert sands hold few minerals. That is why some desert succulents get their food from the air.

These plants experience a unique type of photosynthesis where they collect carbon dioxide in their leaves and store it.

Once the sun comes out in the morning, they use the sunlight to convert the stored carbon dioxide into glucose and other nutrients. That is how they manage to get their daily portion of valuable nutrients.

However, you must understand that growing succulents at home is a different ball game. Plant experts and specialists have carefully propagated and nurtured most of the succulents we grow in our homes.

Different kinds of cactus in a terrarium.
You must understand that growing succulents at home is a different ball game.

Therefore, they have adapted to relatively kinder growth conditions and require some nutrients to thrive.

Mixing other components with the sand is crucial when growing succulents at home.

If you make the mistake of growing such succulents in containers filled with pure sand, they will only survive for a short time because you are reverting them to their primary survival mode.

Although most of them will try to hang on for some time, the truth is that they will eventually give in and die.

Can Succulents Survive in Sand?

As we mentioned, the answer to this question is yes and no. You can successfully grow succulents in pure sand; however, it requires much work.

The key thing to understand here is that all plants need some form of nourishment for their growth and normal functioning. Succulents are no different in this regard.

Therefore, if you want to grow succulents in pure sand, you must consider providing them with additional nutrients occasionally.

So, it’s not about the sand but how much effort and attention you give your plants.

A ice plant blooming.
You can successfully grow succulents in pure sand; however, it requires much work.

If you plant succulents in the sand without providing additional nutrients, they will only survive for a short time. In this case, you should only think of short-term fun projects that last only a short time.

Furthermore, unlike other houseplants, succulents can survive without organic medium for a relatively long time. That means they don’t require potting mix rich in nutrients to thrive.

What Is the Biggest Problem with Growing Succulents in Sand?

One thing you must remember before you decide to grow your succulents in the sand is that sand doesn’t hold water. This may sound great because these plants don’t like being waterlogged, but it has a downside.

Even though these plants don’t like sitting in water for too long, their roots still need enough time to absorb enough water for the plant’s needs.

The organic material added to regular succulent soil plays a critical role in retaining moisture, giving the roots enough time to absorb sufficient water for future use.

We have also mentioned the problem of sand’s inability to contain nutrients. Even though succulents don’t need many nutrients to thrive, they still need some to survive.

That is why it is vital to your succulents’ health that you provide them with additional nutrients from time to time. Otherwise, your plants will need more energy and resources for normal functioning.

How to Grow Succulents in Sand

When growing succulents in sand, you should always mix them with other components to give your plants additional nutrients.

You can use coconut coir chips and perlite to loosen the soil and help it retain moisture.

You can also add a thin layer of fertilizer at the bottom of your container before adding the sand. This will give your succulents some much-needed minerals and other elements needed to thrive.

A round sand terrarium.
Growing succulents in the sand should be easy.

Another important point is always to use a potting mix explicitly designed for cacti and succulents, not regular potting soil. Typical soils are too rich in organic matter, which can quickly rot the plant roots.

Water your succulents regularly but be careful not to overwater them. Overwatering can cause root rot, a common problem in succulent-filled containers.

Once you have all of these things taken care of, growing succulents in the sand should be easy.

Which Succulents Do Best in Sand?

Most succulents will do well in sand, but some are more adaptable. Here are some of the most popular and hardy varieties for growing in sandy soil:

These succulents have one thing in common — they are all low-maintenance plants that generally thrive in sandy soils in their natural habitats.

Some have even developed unique features, such as thick and waxy leaves to help them survive in harsh conditions.

What Is a Good Alternative to Growing Succulents in Sand?

An excellent alternative to growing your succulents in the sand is using a mixture of sand and regular succulent soil.

The large sand particles are crucial in aiding drainage, while the soil particles provide valuable nutrients for your succulent to thrive.

A simple recipe involves 1 part sand and two parts succulent soil. It is important to note that you should always use a commercial potting mix designed for cacti and succulents, not regular potting soil.

Add some perlite or pumice to the mix to loosen it up further. This will help create a well-aerated environment with proper drainage, essential for healthy succulents.

Caring for Succulent Grown in Sand

Maintain your routine care schedule when caring for succulents growing in pure sand. You must ensure that watering, repotting, fertilizing, and pruning are done regularly.

Watering succulents grown in the sand is a tricky task. You must be aware of the level of moisture it contains and only add water if necessary. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so take extra caution when watering your plants.

To check for the dryness level, use the knuckle test — stick your finger into the soil up to your first knuckle and if it feels damp, then hold off from watering it.

A person watering the plant in the terrarium.
Always use a well-drained potting mix for growing cacti and succulents when repotting.

Fertilizers should also be used sparingly since sand cannot retain nutrients long. Your succulents will need some additional support from you in the form of supplements to help them grow and thrive.

You may also be required to repot your succulents every few years since sand only retains water or nutrients for a short time.

Always use a well-drained potting mix for growing cacti and succulents when repotting.

You may also be forced to prune your succulents at some point due to overcrowding. Pruning should be done carefully and only when necessary, as it can damage your plants.

Final Thoughts

Growing succulents in the sand can be done successfully if you know how to do it right.

You should always mix the sand with other components, such as coconut coir chips and perlite, and use a commercial potting mix for succulents.

Do not overwater your plants and provide them with additional nutrients occasionally.

You can keep your succulents thriving in a sandy soil environment for many years with proper care and attention.

Last update on 2023-10-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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