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For many, succulents are a wonderful choice of plants due to their longevity and hardiness, but that doesn’t mean that you can ‘set it and forget it.’ They need special treatment – including different soil. So, can you use mulch with succulents?
Succulents do well in mulch made from stones and gravel as they need soil that can drain water easily. They may not necessarily need mulching, but it can be beneficial to do so for various reasons.
Soil moisture control can be one of the most prominent advantages of mulching, but different kinds of mulches have different benefits for succulents. Below, we’ll talk through whether you should mulch, some of the choices of mulch for succulents, and their specific advantages.
Should You Mulch Succulents
Whether you need to mulch succulents is something that is contested amongst those who are passionate about them, with some claiming that mulching at all will cause the soil to become too soggy, the roots to rot, and the plants to die.
But others say that a small amount of mulching would be acceptable for succulents, but it would require a lot of drainage to make sure it doesn’t become too moist.
The best way to do this is to plant them in a place where drainage is very good, such as:
- A plant pot with large holes and loose soil
- On a slope
- In a raised bed
Since it is so contested as to whether succulents need mulching at all, there are no real rules to doing it aside from ensuring soil moisture control, but if you choose to do it, then it may depend on a few different factors:
- What your climate is like (hot, cold, rainy)
- The type of succulents you have
- Whether you want the mulch to act as part of an aesthetic
Below, we’ll talk about some of the different varieties of mulches and their pros and cons. Once you understand the pros and cons, it might be easier to know what kind of mulch you need.
What Kind of Mulch Can You Use for Succulents?
There are a number of different mulches which you can use for succulents, some better than others, but we shall go through them all so you understand all the options open to you.
Gravel, Rocks, and Pebbles
Called an inorganic mulch, since they don’t rot and provide nutrients when mixed in with the correct quantity of soil, it can work really well to help keep the soil moisture at the correct level.
Stylistic stones, such as colored glass beads or pretty rocks, can also look beautiful next to the plants themselves.
The pros of stone mulch are:
- Since they don’t decompose, they don’t need reapplication as other mulch does
- They look beautiful, and different shapes, colors, and varieties can allow you to get creative!
- This may be the best mulch for succulents.
However, the cons of stone mulch are:
- They need a bit of elbow grease to make it look right (any leaves or debris will ruin the aesthetic)
- Using dark-colored stones/pebbles may absorb more heat from the sun, and that can damage the plants
- Mixing in the wrong proportion of mulch into the soil can leave you with problems.
Chip or Bark Wood
This is known as organic mulch as it decomposes, which can help provide some nutrients for the plants when it does. It also does a good job retaining water in the soil as well.
The pros of wood mulch are:
- Wood mulch is very natural, which can be pleasing for both environmental and aesthetic reasons
- Wood chips come quite cheap
- Generally, it lasts a few years before needing to be replaced
- It can be easy to move around if you want to plant new plants
The cons of wooden chips are:
- Does need to be replaced, typically once a year
- We need to be careful with proportions, so it doesn’t retain too much water
Hay or Straw
Another organic form of mulch, which can be used in a pinch for succulents, but it is mostly used for vegetable gardens due to its ability to retain water. For succulents, it is not all that great.
The pro of straw is:
- It can be used easily to save succulents if you live in a particularly dry area or hit a dry spell
The cons of straw are:
- Straw retains a lot of water and may keep too much for succulents – too much water and succulents will rot. Avoid if you live in a rainy climate.
- Not a very aesthetically pleasing choice.
Compost (Mostly Leaves)
One more organic mulch is generally considered a gardener’s favorite and nature’s form of mulch. They are very effective at retaining water, but as we’ve covered, that might not necessarily be an advantage when talking about succulents.
The pros of composted leaves are:
- Very effective at retaining water
- Absolutely free
The cons of composted leaves are:
- Not terribly aesthetically pleasing
- It can easily retain too much water for succulents to thrive
Not only can you use newspaper as a mulch, but with many of them switching to more organic inks in their printing, it’s becoming more eco-friendly.
The pros of newspapers are:
- It can retain moisture quite well
- Paper is great for controlling the temperature of the soil
- It does the best out of all these mulches for keeping weeds at bay
The cons of newspapers are:
- It needs to be replaced quite frequently
- Must be careful not to over-saturate the soil with water
So those are a number of the best mulches available for succulents. Non-organic mulches are best for succulents, but with careful application, you could use any of the variety if you are careful.
Best Benefits of Mulching Succulents
If you would like to mulch your succulents, there are some benefits. The main reasons people will decide to mulch come down to five main reasons:
- Helps retain water – this is the main reason for using mulch. If you apply a layer of material on top of their soil, you would create a barrier that stops the soil from drying out quickly. It may get a bit too dry, even for a cactus, if you live in a hot climate.
- Protects succulents from extreme weather – a protective barrier on top of the soil will help protect plants from hot and dry weather and cold and frosty weather. Succulents do not generally do well in the cold, but mulch can help them survive the winters for those who can tolerate it.
- Adds nutrients to the soil – as mentioned a few times throughout this article, when organic mulches decompose, they provide extra nutrients for the plants, which can help growth.
- Can stop weeds – random plants popping up in your garden can be annoying, but an extra layer on top of the soil around the succulent can act as an obstacle to their growth.
- Looks beautiful – some prefer a garden with the ‘zen garden’ look of pebbles, and others prefer the forest floor aesthetic of composted leaves, but mulching your plants also helps you to control how your garden looks and change it to your style.
Whether succulents need mulching at all is something that is contested between those with green fingers, but if you decide to do it, then there are a number of advantages: extra water retention, protection against extreme weather, adding extra nutrients if it is organic mulch, and blocking weed growth. The best kind of mulch for succulents is stone, but you can also use wood chips, newspaper, or straw.