Soil is the nutrient source for the growth of all living things. When it comes to succulent planting, soil is always a crucial factor. Have you ever been troubled by not being able to distinguish the types of soil mediums? Or have you unintentionally killed your succulents because you didn't know how to prepare the soil mix? After reading this blog post, you will understand why soil mix is so important and how to prepare soil that is suitable for the growth of your succulents!
Why Is Soil Mix That Important？
Using ideal soil mix for succulents offers numerous benefits that contribute to their overall health and growth. Succulents, adapted to arid environments, are susceptible to overwatering. And one of the key advantages of a well-draining soil mix is that it can prevent waterlogged conditions and root rot by improving drainage. By minimizing excessive moisture retention, the soil mix also helps decrease the likelihood of fungal and bacterial diseases, creating a healthier environment for succulents.
Additionally, the porous nature of the soil mix promotes root aeration, ensuring the roots receive ample oxygen for thriving. Furthermore, a balanced moisture retention level in the soil mix, achieved through organic matter, provides necessary water without saturating the roots. In this case, succulents are enabled to access nutrients efficiently, promoting optimal growth and plant vigor.
Inappropriate soil mix can result in poor root development and weak plant growth. Succulents planted in soil that retains too much moisture or lacks proper aeration may struggle to establish a robust root system. This can lead to weak, elongated stems, sparse foliage, and a generally unhealthy appearance. Click here to learn how to fix leggy succulents.
Therefore, to ensure the well-being of your succulents, it's crucial to choose a suitable soil mix that promotes proper drainage and aeration, and provides the necessary conditions for their specific needs.
The Choice of Soil Media
When it comes to soil mix for succulent plants, there are three main categories:
1. Organic soil
This type of soil is enriched with organic matter and nutrients, providing a nourishing environment for succulents. However, it probably increases the risk of overwatering and root rot if not properly managed. Here are common organic soil for succulents：
Garden soil: Garden soil refers to the soil typically found in outdoor garden beds. It is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, and possibly sand or clay. Pros include its availability and support for plant growth. However, the quality may vary, and it can contain weed seeds or pests. Garden soil may also compact easily, which can hinder root growth.
Peat soil: Peat soil is rich in nutrients, and it is loose and breathable, which is very beneficial for the initial rooting of succulent plants. If you want plants to grow quickly, it's a good idea to add more peat soil. However, the drawback is that if succulents are planted solely in peat soil, the soil will become compacted, and the roots of the succulents will be unable to breathe. Therefore, it is necessary to add a certain proportion of granular soil to create gaps in the soil and prevent compaction.
Coir (coconut coir): Coir is a natural fiber derived from the husk of coconuts. It is a renewable and sustainable option with good water retention capabilities. Coir has a neutral pH, making it suitable for various plants. However, it can be costly compared to other soil components and may require additional nutrients for optimal fertility.
2. Granular soil
This type of soil is characterized by excellent drainage and aeration. But it may not retain moisture for succulents that prefer slightly more consistent moisture levels. Here are some common granular soil for succulents：
Perlite: Perlite is a lightweight volcanic glass that is heated and expanded to form small, porous particles. It improves drainage and aids in aeration. However, it is a non-renewable resource and has limited nutrient retention capacity.
Expanded clay pellets: Expanded clay pellets are granular materials formed by the high-temperature firing of clay, resulting in a porous structure. They have excellent water retention and nutrient-holding properties. Their characteristics include good breathability and a fine-pored internal structure, making them suitable as a substitute for potting stones at the bottom of a pot due to their large gaps that facilitate drainage. They can also be used as a top dressing and to prevent water splashing when placed on the surface of the pot. These particles can be reused after repotting. However, they do not contribute nutrients to the soil.
River sand: River sand is obtained from riverbeds and is known for its good drainage properties. It is cost-effective and widely available. However, it has limited nutrient content and may lead to compaction issues over time. It is important to source river sand responsibly, considering potential environmental concerns.
Maifanitum: Maifanitum can absorb some undesirable substances in the soil and has a purifying effect. Using Maifanitum can reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and soil amendments while economically and effectively improving soil quality and protecting the environment. It has a hard texture and is not easily pulverized, making it an excellent material for paving and compacting. Therefore, Maifanitum has become an essential soil medium for many succulent plant enthusiasts.
Vermiculite: Vermiculite is a mineral that expands when heated, forming lightweight, moisture-retaining particles. It improves water retention and is useful in succulent soil mixes. However, vermiculite is a non-renewable resource and has limited nutrient retention capacity.
Volcanic rock: Volcanic rock, also known as tuff, is a type of igneous rock commonly used in gardening. It provides good drainage and is lightweight. However, it has limited fertility and may require additional amendments. The sourcing of tuff may raise concerns regarding environmental impact, and availability can vary.
Akadama soil: Akadama soil is a type of soil used extensively in bonsai cultivation. It has excellent water retention properties and good aeration, supporting root development. However, it can be expensive, and over time it may compact, affecting its drainage capabilities.
Luzonuma soil: Luzonuma soil is a rare substance found in the volcanic areas of the Luzonuma region. It has an acidic pH and exhibits high permeability, water retention, and aeration. Luzonuma soil contains numerous pores. The characteristics and usage of Luzonuma soil are similar to Akadama soil. And it is prone to crumbling and tends to disintegrate after approximately two years. It is widely used as a soil component for succulent cultivation, although it is not recommended for standalone use.
Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms. It improves drainage, absorbs excess moisture, and can act as a natural pest control method. However, it has limited fertility and may require additional nutrients for plant growth.
Rainbow rock (colored decorative stones): Rainbow rock refers to colored decorative stones used for aesthetic purposes in gardens. They do not decompose and require minimal maintenance. However, they provide limited fertility and do not contribute nutrients to the soil. Rainbow rocks can be expensive for large-scale use but add visual appeal to landscaping projects.
3. Common fertilizers
Some common fertilizers can also be choices of soil mix:
Potassium fertilizer: Potassium fertilizer is suitable for succulents that want to develop a woody stem. Potassium fertilizer can promote photosynthesis, increase stem hardness, and stimulate the growth of succulent stems and roots. If you wish to cultivate woody stems, use fertilizers that are primarily composed of potassium elements. Potassium elements are mainly derived from granular soils such as Akadama soil and volcanic rock.
Phosphorus fertilizer: Phosphorus fertilizer can improve the drought resistance of succulents and promote early flowering and fruiting, making it a flowering-promoting fertilizer. If you want to supplement nutrients during flowering, you can use a fertilizer that is primarily composed of phosphorus and potassium. The recommended application ratio is around 1:2000, which means 1 gram of fertilizer should be mixed with 2 kilograms of water.
Nitrogen fertilizer: Nitrogen fertilizer promotes the growth and health of leaves, slows down leaf aging, and increases the height of leaf stems in succulent plants. If succulent enthusiasts want larger leaves, they can try using nitrogen fertilizer. However, the dosage should be carefully controlled, as excessive use can lead to elongated growth in succulent plants.
Slow-Release Fertilizer: Slow-release fertilizers release nutrients gradually over an extended period, providing a steady supply of nutrients to succulents. They are convenient and reduce the risk of over-fertilization. Slow-release fertilizers come in various forms, such as granules or coated pellets, and can provide balanced nutrition for succulents over several months.
Liquid Fertilizer: Liquid fertilizers are concentrated solutions that are mixed with water and applied to succulents. They provide quick nutrient uptake and are easily absorbed by the plants' roots. Liquid fertilizers can be balanced or succulent-specific, and they often require more frequent applications compared to slow-release fertilizers.
Organic Fertilizer: Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources such as compost, animal manure, or plant-based materials. They enrich the soil with organic matter, improve soil fertility, and provide a slow release of nutrients to succulents. Organic fertilizers are often preferred by those who prefer a more natural and environmentally friendly approach to plant care.
When using fertilizers, it's important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to avoid over-fertilization, which can harm succulents. Additionally, it's recommended to fertilize succulents during their active growth period, typically in spring and summer, and reduce or stop fertilization during the dormant period in winter. Click here to learn how to fertilize succulents.
How to Make Proper Soil Mix?
1. Universal Ratio Application
Remember that you should provide soil mix for your succulent plants with less than 80% nutrient soil and more than 20% granular soil. 50% granular soil and 50% organic soil are the most versatile soil mix which can not only provide sufficient nutrition for succulents but also provide good air permeability and good drainage for succulents.
2. Some Principles of Making Soil Mix
Mix soil based on where you plant them
In ground planting, it is important to consider drainage and incorporate materials with strong drainage properties, such as gravel. For container planting, the focus should be on ensuring loose and breathable conditions while also adding organic matter as necessary. If planting on a south-facing balcony, it is important to consider the dry and well-lit environment. In such cases, it is recommended to add moisture-retaining materials like vermiculite and peat moss.
Mix soil based on succulent genera
When making a soil mix for succulents based on the genus of succulents, it's important to consider their specific needs and preferences. Different succulent genera may have varying requirements for soil composition. Here are some general guidelines for popular succulent genera:
Echeveria, Sedum, and Sempervivum: These genera typically prefer a well-draining soil mix with moderate moisture retention. A suitable mix can include:
1 part regular potting soil or succulent mix
1 part perlite or pumice for improved drainage
A small amount of organic matter, such as compost or coconut coir, for moisture retention
Crassula and Kalanchoe: Crassula and Kalanchoe succulents thrive in a soil mix that balances drainage and moisture. You can create a mix with the following:
2 parts regular potting soil or succulent mix
1 part perlite, pumice, or coarse sand for drainage
Some organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or coconut coir, for moisture retention
Haworthia and Gasteria: Haworthia and Gasteria succulents prefer a well-draining soil mix with higher moisture retention. A suitable mix can include:
2 parts regular potting soil or succulent mix
1 part perlite or pumice for drainage
1 part coconut coir or peat moss for increased moisture retention
Aloe: Aloe succulents thrive in a soil mix that allows for good drainage while retaining some moisture. A suitable mix can include:
2 parts regular potting soil or succulent mix
1 part perlite or pumice for improved drainage
Some organic matter, such as compost or coconut coir, for moisture retention
Lithops and Conophytum: These genera, known as "living stones," prefer a well-draining soil mix that mimics their natural habitat. A suitable mix can include:
2 parts sandy or gravelly soil
1 part perlite or pumice for enhanced drainage
A small amount of organic matter, such as well-rotted compost, to retain some moisture
Always monitor your plants' health and make adjustments to the soil mix as needed to ensure optimal growth and success.
Mix soil based on your location
Take it as an example, in northern region, where the air is dry, and there is a certain requirement for soil moisture retention. In contrast, in southern regions where rainfall is abundant and humidity levels are high, there is a greater emphasis on soil drainage and aeration.
Mix soil based on the growth stages of succulents
During the seedling or propagation stage, succulents are delicate and require a soil mix that promotes root development and prevents excess moisture. As succulents enter the young plant or growth stage, they require a soil mix that provides adequate nutrients and allows for root expansion. Mature succulents have well-established root systems and require a soil mix that supports their growth while maintaining excellent drainage. When succulents enter the flowering or reproductive stage, they may have increased nutrient requirements.
Mix soil based on your preference
If you prefer to control the growth of succulents, increasing the proportion of granular soil is a necessary step. On the other hand, if you want your succulents to grow rapidly and fill the planter pot, it is important to increase the proportion of nutrient-rich soil to provide an ample supply of nutrients.
In summary, soil mix is crucial for succulents, and there are types of soil media beneficial to the health of succulents. However, it’s not required to make precise or exact measurements when making soil mix as long as you follow some principles. It is important to closely observe the growth of your succulents. If your soil mix is suitable for your succulents, it is considered a good mix. With a little extra care and attention, your succulents will showcase their beauty even more.