The Benefits of Top Dressing for Succulents

The Benefits of Top Dressing for Succulents

3 minute read

By now, you’ve probably seen countless photos of succulents with decorative top dressings on top of their soil. While the use of top dressing makes for an aesthetically pleasing display, it also has its benefits. In this article we will discuss types of top dressings and why you should consider using them on your succulents.

Types of top dressing

Part of the fun of using top dressing is that there are so many different materials you can consider. While each has its own beautiful and unique look, there are some things to take into consideration when choosing your top dressing.

4 images of different types of prous and rocky top dressings on succulents

Crushed porous stone, lava rocks, gravel, brick chips, pumice – These materials are all very porous and well-draining. They are great options to consider for extra sensitive succulents such as heat-loving cacti or, are highly recommended for those who don’t have adequate airflow, as these materials dry faster than most others.

4 images of different types of sandy top dressings on succulents

Sand, finely crushed stone - any fine materials will be beneficial for pest control (explained below) however, they can slightly hinder airflow. These are recommended only if you are certain your environment provides enough airflow for your succulent soil to dry out after watering.

4 images of different types of pebble and glass top dressings on succulents

Glass stones, crystals, smooth pebble – glass and other hard and/or glossy materials are not moisture-wicking. If the pieces are large, then there isn’t any cause for concern as air travels through large chunks easier. But if the material is finely crushed, then use it with caution as you would with sand or finely crushed stone.

4 images of different types of moss and bark top dressings on succulents

Bark chips and preserved moss – these two options look great as they are both highly decorative in appearance, however, it is recommended to use if your environment is very hot and dry and the succulents you grow need a little more water retention. The downside of using bark is that it is an organic material and will eventually break down and need to be discarded and replaced. 


a photo of a person adding pea stones as a top dressing for their succulent


Benefits of using top dressing for succulents

Moisture barrier – With the exception of bark and preserved mosses, top dressing can create a barrier between the soil and your succulents. This can help protect delicate succulent leaves from being in contact with wet soil after waterings. Pro tip: use the bottom watering method to avoid getting water on succulent leaves and top dressing altogether. 

Keeps soil in place during watering – if you are cautious and do prefer top watering, then top dressing will help keep your succulent soil in place and reduce dust and perlite from flying up into the air.

Temperature moderation – Depending on what your needs are, the type of top dressing you choose can help with temperature control as well. Light colours reflect heat and dark colours absorb and retain heat. 

Pest deterrent – top dressing can help deter pests that like to attack root systems or ones that like to lay eggs in soil.

Weed control – using a top dressing will deter weed and other invasive plants from taking root in your succulent pots. This is super useful If you like to grow your plants outdoors in the summer.


a photo of a Sempervivum succulent top dressed with gravel

There is no doubt that top dressings make your succulent arrangements look professional and uniform in appearance. It is also less distracting to the eyes than soil and really makes colours of your succulents pop. But, aside from being visually appealing, it can contribute to the overall health of your succulent – which is most important. Happy planting!

« Back to Blog