Succulents make perfect houseplants for those who are looking to choose their first plant. They are colorful, bold, and at times downright odd.
These are perfect plants for those who don’t have a ‘”green thumb” and for people living in smaller spaces with limited light. Succulents are pretty hardy; they don’t need much care, attention, or water to thrive; they offer beauty, versatility, and convenience to space. Succulents belong to a family of drought-resistant plants, they store water in their leaves, stems, or roots, and as a result, these areas on the plant feel fleshier and swollen.
The thick parts of the succulents draw curiosity, which makes them an exciting visual accent. In their natural environment, succulents can grow exceptionally large, but at home, they remain smaller.
Growing Media for Succulents
There are various kinds of products that are available in the market containing different growing mediums in different quantities. It sometimes gets confusing, which one to choose.
Unlike other plants, cacti and succulents need a special kind of growing media. A medium that mimics the naturally gritty and free-draining soils from their native habitat is perfect for the growth of these plants. A proper potting soil for succulents should encourage quick drainage because wet soil can cause damage to the roots of these plants. The difference in the traditional plant media and the succulents media lies in the water retention aspect. Soil that is well aerated and well-drained, while still holding moisture, is good for other plants, while the succulent soil mix should encourage moisture to exit the container quickly.
In this article, we will explore some of the most popular cacti and succulent growing mediums. We will learn about their composition, their usage, their need, and what makes them a “Perfect Substrate.”
An organic loam soil with a nice crumbly texture will have nutrients in it which are beneficial to your plants. Along with providing nutrients, soil also protects the plant from dramatic temperature changes, it also anchors the roots in place, providing the structure and nutrients from the soil around. In natural soil, the quantity of clay is very little; this is why it drains so well.
In succulent and cacti soils, soil particles are larger, which allows the water to enter easily and drains away without compacting the soil.
However, clay is made up of small particles that prevent the proper water seepage, which decreases air transfer between soil particles. Clay soils, over time, become compacted, and growing plants in it will make them suffocate.
Peat is an organic, brown material that is made of decomposed plant matter formed in the base of peat bogs. It is usually used for soil conditioning within the horticultural world because of its ability to withhold water. It is great for standard gardening, but not ideal when you need a drier, free-draining medium for succulents.
When peat is left without water, it can become crusty and will not absorb water, this under absorbency factor is a massive problem when growing succulents. If you have ever watered pot plants and seen the water beads on the surface of the soil medium, you can pretty much say that there will be a large proportion of peat in your potting mix. So it is established that peat is not a good growing medium for succulents.
Sharp sand contains large sand particles, small pebbles, and tiny pieces of rocks and shells. This medium has a nice crumbly texture and is just perfect to use in your cacti and succulent potting mix. It not only provides brilliant drainage for a drier compost mix, but it also emulates the naturally sandy soil of your succulents’ native environment, and this what we are trying to achieve.
Vermiculite is actually a form of clay that has gone through an intense heating process, which results in a translucent granule mineral medium with the superb shrink-swell ability and high cation exchange capacity. Simply put, we can say that vermiculite can store necessary plant nutrients, air, and moisture; and provides these to the plants when they need it.
Most good quality compost mixes contain some quantity of vermiculite. Using vermiculite in your cacti potting mix can promote rapid root growth, which in turn, provides stability to your plants. Many people also use this grainy medium for growing plants in soil-less and hydroponic systems.
Some home gardeners also use vermiculite as a soil conditioner to tender their Plant Beds. It has a neutral pH level and good aeration properties that help in creating air channels within the soil for plants to breathe.
When using this medium, it is recommended to wear gloves and avoid creating dust. Prepare your vermiculite in a well-ventilated outdoor area and avoid bringing dust particles into your home.
Perlite is usually used to lighten the soil. It improves the air circulation of the soil, aids in the soil’s water retention capability, reduces compaction, and improves drainage properties. Being a light-weight material which is cheap to produce, buy and transport, it is no surprise that we see a lot of perlite added to compost mixes.
There are a few cons of using this product while watering; the perlite balls do have a tendency to float up through the soil to the surface of your pot, which is not helpful. Perlite can also be quite messy to work with and is more susceptible to growing moss and mold when used for root cutting and seed starting practices.
In horticulture, pumice is commonly used as a suitable substrate for growing cacti and succulent plants. It is a light-weight volcanic rock, which is a natural and unprocessed product. It is highly porous; the tiny holes contain air, which helps in soil aeration. Pumice also releases moisture slowly into the growing medium and is naturally rich in micronutrients. It is also eco-friendly and long-lasting.
The shredded husks of the coconut, add drainage and can be watered repeatedly, as opposed to other mediums that do not accept enough water after the initial wetting. It is produced as a by-product in the coconut harvesting industry and is a recommended organic medium to use for the soil amendment. It is perfect as a succulent and cacti planting medium. Being course in nature, it lasts for a long time.
Turface is a soil conditioner and calcined clay product that adds aeration to the soil, provides oxygen, and monitors moisture. It is a pebble type substance, and it does not compact. It can be used as both a succulent soil mix additive and as a top dressing.
Expanded Clay Pellets
Expanded clay aggregate pellets are light-weight, which are made by heating clay at a temperature of 1,200 °C (2,190 °F) in a kiln. The resulting product is a small, round, honey-combed textured pellet.
Clay pellets are used in the horticultural industry as a soil amendment or a hydroponic growing medium. When blended with other mediums such as peat and loam, it makes an oxygenated growing soil, which is not only well-draining but will also retain water during periods of drought. This improved soil also provides insulation against frosts and inclement weather.
Shredded bark is a fibrous material that can be used for soil amendment and mulching. It is a porous, free-draining medium that can improve the soil aeration. It also protects the roots of succulent against frosts and provides essential nutrients to your soil.
Sphagnum Peat Moss
Sphagnum Moss is an organic product that is harvested from natural wetlands. Sphagnum is a mixture of over 300 species of moss, all of which have a fibrous structure and are grown on the surface of peat bogs. This is a perfect medium that can be used for soil-less planting and has the benefit of being extremely light-weight. It is perfect for the direct planting of succulents, especially when you are making wall-hanging planters, terrariums, and wreaths, as there is no weight issue.
It is quite an acidic medium and is often used for soil conditioning on clay soils to counteract the alkaline pH value.
Although these little, cute and beautiful drought-resistant creatures require less maintenance, taking care of them can be rather difficult if you do not make the right choice about the growing media you are using for them. Two factors are important that you must keep in mind while preparing or buying a soil mix for them.
- The soil mix must be sandy
- It has good drainage
Using media with these two primary characteristics can be better than any other rich organic soil. After making a good soil mix, you must also take care of their water and light needs, as soil alone cannot ensure healthy plant growth.