Cactus and succulent soil mix for Dubai’s climate (includes recipe!)

Why is the right soil so important for your succulents.

In our plant collector’s journey, often we start with succulents and cactuses. We do so because we’ve been told that they are easy plants but then we see them dying on us after few weeks of life in our homes.

When customers visit our shop and look at the succulents section we always hear comments on the lines of “I love succulents – …But i hate them!”.

So we live in the desert, we get plenty on sunlight, we give the right amount of water, but how and why do they die on us?

A possible answer may be in the soil.

If you are struggling with your succulents, even if you believe that your care is correct, we may need to verify the quality of the soil.

Succulent and cactuses are found in nature in arid climates and usually get water infrequently. Most of the species grow in sandy and arid substrate which is unable to maintain high levels of humidity. So how do we recreate such soil mix?

At the secret garden we started following recipes found commonly on the internet. The problem with most of those is that we deal with a different climate. A formula that works for north America may not be suitable for our unique climate of the UAE.

Our succulent soil mix recipe is based on 5 ingredients which you can find in Dubai and surrounding Emirates.

Organic cactus/ succulent potting soil
Organic cactus/ succulent potting soil mix. Recipe available below.

Organic cactus and succulent soil recipe:

1. Sweet sand (40%)

Sweet sand is a very fine textured quality of sand, usually sourced from Ras al Kaimah’s desertic areas. It’s particular because of the very low quantity of salt.

We mix this particular ingredient as it’s capable to retain the moisture for a brief time. Enough for the delicate roots of our succulents to get hydration.

You can replace it with common desert sand, but we prefer to buy it commercially in order to ensure consistency and quality.

2. Perlite (30%)

Perlite is a marvelous discovery for horticultural applications. The lightweight and water absorbing grains of perlite allow some water retention but most importantly air circulation. This ingredient, with the right proportion, is key for the soil to drain water and let airflow in.

Commercial succulent and cactus soil mixes use Pumice. You won’t find it easily in the UAE but it’s very similar to Perlite. Both serve similar purpose.

3. Organic peat moss (10%)

Peat moss is a natural compost with an unique texture and loads of organic nutrients. We use it mostly to balance the acidity of the soil as the previous ingredients tend to shift the Ph to Alkaline.

4. Organic soil (10%)

Dutch organic soil mix (usually white and green bag) is our extra touch of nutrients for the plant. It also serves as Ph balancer and has a decent soil moisture retention capability.

5. Cat litter (10%)

Yes, you read it right! As controversial as it may sound, this ingredient has been working so well for our mix that we cannot stop using it.

Some qualities of cat litter contain 98% calcinated clay. The granules loosen the texture of the soil and help to keep tiny amount of moisture in the soil.

Please be careful to avoid anything with colorants, perfume or clumping capabilities.

Final notes.

Getting the right cactus soil is one of the most important factors to grow successfully your cacti and succulents. The roots aren’t capable of tolerating water-logging and you need to get them the right substrate to be able to survive. 

The right formula can be obtained with some trial and error but we aimed to create our own based on research and specific properties of the ingredients. We’re very happy with the results!

Feel free to mix your own soil and in case you want a ready solution, you can buy it cheaply from us:



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