Should You Mulch Succulents In Containers? | Green Patches - Mediterranean Gardening

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Should You Mulch Succulents In Containers?


One of my latest additions to my container garden is a small bowl of succulents that I created from scratch.  We went to the nursery last week, and they always stock a large selection of mini cactus and succulents.  They look great stacked against each other, and I always end up buying a few.

I bought a small, shallow pot, and planted all of them next to each other.  I used normal potting mix to plant the succulents even though they would prefer sandy soil.  I have used potting mix with cactus and succulents before, and I didn't have any problems.  I also bought some small gravel from the nursery.  I thought it would bring the whole thing together, and make the container look much better.  After doing some research though, now I wonder if I should.


succulent container
My Succulent Arrangement

Placing a thin layer of gravel on soil has many benefits in general.  It protects the soil from extreme temperatures such as cold and heat, as it acts like a layer of insulation.  It also prevents moisture from evaporating quickly from the soil as it is covered.  This is normally called mulching as is used primarily in gardens where you have a lot of soil.  When used in containers I am not sure if you can call it mulching as well, but it is used for the same effects.

There are all sorts of mulching material, there is the organic kind such as pieces of bark or wood chips that slowly decompose into the soil.  Rocks and gravel and also man made material such as rubber pallets.  (Rubber is not really recommended due to potentially harmful run off in the soil).

My question is, should you use mulching with succulents and cactus ?  These plants require well drained soil, very little water, and prefer the heat.  Covering an already moist soil (potting mix) with gravel may prolong evaporation, which may be a good thing for other plants, but not necessarily for succulents.  On the other hand, does a thin layer of gravel really make that much difference?  

In our Mediterranean climate it never really gets too cold, and the temperatures are ideal for these plants.  In other countries where soil freezes, or gets too cold, perhaps it would be a good idea to cover the soil in winter.  In summer I usually let the soil dry up completely before I give my succulents any water.  They can always withstand some hardship, with gravel they might even endure some more! This poses another question, do you mulch in a Mediterranean climate?

succulent container mulch
Succulent Container with Gravel

I have decided to give it a try.  I have covered the soil with a single layer, just enough to cover the soil, and make the pot look good.  I have also placed the pot in a spot where it will get about four hours of direct sunlight each day.  I can then compare them with my other succulents which don't have any gravel, and see which fare the best.  I will probably have a new post about this towards the end of summer!


  1. What a nice arrangement of succulents.

  2. I always mulch succulent pots with gravel and it works great.

  3. I agree with you and always use gravel to mulch, as I believe it helps with drainage in that it quickly takes water away from the base of succulents and helps to prevent rot . They cope with cold better than wet , which is why they hate our winters here in the uk. I have some but they live inside, only going outside for their 'summer holidays' in June !

  4. Hi all, thanks for stopping by :) Jane I was thinking about gravel on top of the soil not at the bottom of the container. Apparently putting gravel at the bottom of the container does not absorb any moisture, and will make the water line even higher, possibly causing root rot! It's a good topic for discussion.