Getting Garden Planter Soil Right(1)(1)

Getting Garden Planter Soil Right!

If you don’t get the soil right, it’s all wrong.

When planting your succulents and sedum in a garden planter, getting the soil right is one of the most important details that you need to consider. If the soil isn’t right, then the water won’t drain and the roots drown. It may take a while, but the plant will just drown in its own planter. ( I have more posts on my Backyard Flower Garden here. )

And don’t forget your drainage holes!

Just about any container can have holes drilled into it if it doesn’t already have holes, so don’t pass by an interesting container you find if it doesn’t have holes already. This includes ceramic pots and cement planters. Just use the right drill bit and go for it. 

Even larger commercial planters such as those for a store front or parking lot will have the container’s bottom drilled with one or more holes. Excess water must drain away from the plant’s root system or the plant or plants within will slowly decline and die.

The whole root system is the anchoring  and feeding mechanism . It is those tiny root hairs located along the growing ends of the elongated root that are important for the plants hydration and feeding. 

Root hairs are damaged very easily and are replaced daily as they absorb the water and mineral salts necessary to feed the plant. These nutrients pass by osmosis into the plant’s delicate cell walls, and cell by cell, these nutrients are transported to the rest of the plant.

But the root hairs need to be able to reach into the soil and gather the nutrients, and the texture of the soil itself determines its water holding capacity.  So it follows that creating a coarser texture in your soil, the looser it is and the more water freely drains through. Roots can more easily grow through and seek needed micro-nutrients too.

Growing succulents, sedum and alpines usually requires very well-drained soil. So it is important to create a soil mixture that is  coarse and free-flowing  so that your containers will drain freely.


Hypertufa planters or faux concrete planters are free draining and porous by design. As you can see in this close-up of the texture of the hypertufa garden pot, the sides are porous and allow water and even oxygen easily into and out of the planter itself.

So there you go. With a combination of freely draining soil mix and this special porous garden planter made of hypertufa or faux concrete, we have created the best growing conditions for this type of plant: The Succulent!

A succulent plant holds its own water well so really needs to be planted in well-drained soil. Its roots and crown do not like sitting upon wet soil and so many of us use a gravel mulch on the top of the soil. It looks awesome too!

I usually mix up a large amount of soil and I don’t really use any exact measurement. I judge by the texture of the soil. How it feels when I move it around with my hands, stirring it, and then holding it in a fist and seeing if I can get it to clump together. If it will, then it needs more coarseness.


I usually start with a good quality bagged soil. I prefer to get one without fertilizer inside it already because I would rather control the feeding myself. But, alas, sometimes  soil without added fertilizer is hard to find. I have gone to a local landscaping company where they sell compost, mulch, garden soil mixtures, etc. They even sell rocks and large boulders, slab stone, slate, etc. ( Love those!)

Anyway, this is the best place to get soil because you can buy it in any measure. Your local company may have different policies, but I can go up and take a 5 gallon bucket and buy garden soil that way. Just enough to fill the bucket. Or sometimes I buy a cubic yard if I need to top off a bed in the spring and haul it with the pickup or a utility trailer.

Then I just store the leftovers in a clean garbage can like a 30 gal or 50 gal size with a lid. It will save in the corner of the shed or under the deck until I gradually use it all.

 I have a discarded utility sink (my son got rid of it from his garage) and I have put this in my garden shed. I like to have a large amount of soil mixed up and ready to plant new hypertufa pots so this will be the perfect mixing container. It is deep enough to hold a large amount, but also deep enough to mix and stir easily. 

I use the bagged mix unless I have soil available from the landscape company. I like to use vermiculite or perlite to mix into the soil for even better drainage, and if needed, I add some poultry grit or very coarse sand.

Getting Garden Planter Soil Right

I usually mix up a large amount of soil and I can’t really give any exact measurement. I judge by the texture of the soil. How it feels when I move it around with my hands, stirring it, and then holding it in a fist and seeing if I can get it to clump together. If it will clump, then it needs more coarseness. Since I am planting succulents or alpines, this extremely well-draining soil is important for my plant’s survival.

So give a lot of consideration to your soil and its mix. You will be giving your plants their BEST chance to grow and multiply.

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