How To Make Succulent Dirt

The proportion needed to make top-notch potting soil for succulents. A mixture of two parts sand, two parts gardening soil, and one part perlite or pumice yields the best results when mixing the three components. This translates to 3 cups of sand, 3 cups of soil, and 1.5 cups of perlite or pumice when expressed in cups.

Can I grow succulents in normal dirt?

In their natural habitat, succulents will flourish in sandy soil or even gravel. With this kind of soil, the succulent never has wet feet since the water can drain through.

  • If you only have potting soil on hand, adding crushed stones or coarse sand will be essential because succulents demand well-drained soil.
  • A succulent soil must be able to store nutrients and water and then release them when the plant requires them.
  • To breathe and easily pierce the soil mixture, the roots need air pathways in the soil.
  • A healthy soil should hold the succulent plant upright, encourage root expansion, and anchor the roots.
  • A good succulent mixture should not contain an excessive amount of nitrogen because this will result in huge, leggy leaves.

Which soil combination is best for succulents?

There are many organic and mineral ingredients available, and you can combine different varieties from each category. We advise using pine bark, coconut coir, compost, or potting soil as organic materials. Coarse sand, perlite, volcanic rock, fine gravel, and chicken grit are all suitable minerals. Vermiculite and non-calcined clays should be avoided as they are water-storing minerals.

Texture and Porosity

Based on grit size, the mineral component of soil is further divided into “texture categories.” Sand, silt, and clay are the three categories, in order of largest to smallest size. How much water a soil can hold and how long it will take to dry depends on the ratios of each. Sandier soils dry up more quickly than clay-based soils due to their big particles and pores. For succulents, this is excellent.

You can determine the texture of your soil at home using easy feel tests and jar testing. Aim for a sandy loam that contains 50 to 80 percent coarse sand or fine gravel when planting outdoors. Choose coarse grit minerals with a diameter of between 1/8″ and 1/4″ for potted plants. By doing this, you’ll guarantee quick drainage and prevent your succulents from rotting in wet soil.

What ingredients are in succulent potting soil?

You’ll need containers that can accommodate the quantity of succulent soil you intend to mix and have room for it to be tossed around a bit.

  • The potting mix for succulents works well in a sizable tote with a top.
  • Use your hands, a trowel, and a garden fork to mash up the soil.
  • Long rubber gloves are usually what you should wear to prevent skin irritability and dryness.

Mix It Up!

half a pot of soil

The opposite half:

  • 1/3 fine sand
  • 1/3 pumice or perlite

The remainder should consist of roughly two thirds coarse sand, one third perlite or pumice, and one third poultry grit or turface.

Can I grow succulents in sand?

While succulents can live in sand, only coarse sand will actually work. In fine sand, succulents won’t grow well, if at all, as it holds on to too much water, making it difficult for the roots to breathe.

Sand-grown succulents won’t receive as many nutrients as those raised in potting soil. So it makes sense to think about fertilizing the succulent by incorporating diluted fertilizer with its watering schedule. This guarantees that the plant continues to receive the nutrients required for growth.

Making a sand and soil mix is the greatest alternative to growing your succulent in sand. The succulent benefits from having the best of both worlds since the sand ensures adequate water drainage and the soil supplies the plant with nutrients for growth.

Potting soil suitable for succulents?

Start with a simple cactus and succulent soil mix, or even an African violet mix, both of which are readily available at most garden centers, for the best potting soil for succulents. Then experiment with different combinations of ingredients to discover the one that will enhance drainage, make watering easier, and last a long time without compacting.

Organic matter is a key component of any potting mix for succulents. The primary component of most potting soils, peat moss, is difficult to moisten and rapidly dries out. A small amount of finely crushed bark can be used to make water enter more quickly. Coir, which is formed of fibrous, shredded coconut husks and decomposes extremely slowly, is an excellent substitute for peat moss in handmade mixes. Coir is simple to moisten when it dries out, unlike peat. While compost can also be utilized, it decomposes quite quickly.

The other key component is an inorganic material that keeps the mixture crumbly and airy by allowing water to easily soak into and then drain out of soil. Perlite, crushed granite, pumice, chicken grit, calcined clay used to promote aeration and compaction in turf fields, or non-soluble cat litter are a few options that are all preferable than coarse sand. Any of these will significantly improve drainage and remain intact as the organic matter eventually breaks down.

Can succulents be grown in just rocks?

It should be obvious that succulents will thrive when planted in rocks given these circumstances. They drain very well and do not retain water, which eliminates the possibility of root rot. This does not include another component of soil, though, since all plants need nutrients.

Although succulents are not particularly hungry plants, they do need certain nutrients to grow. Other micronutrients like zinc or iron are needed in smaller levels, whereas macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are essential. The plant won’t grow at all or last very long without these nutrients.

By their very nature, rocks don’t release nutrients quickly enough to keep the plants alive. They are composed of minerals, but since they decompose so slowly over time, they are not appropriate for growing on their own. Additionally, they often don’t retain enough moisture, allowing the roots to quickly dry out after draining practically instantly.

Sadly, this means that succulents cannot thrive permanently without soil in rocks. If not given regular care, they may survive for several weeks or even months on the nutrients found in the stems and leaves.

How do you create soil for succulents and cacti?

With little effort on your side, buying pre-made cactus soil guarantees that it includes everything the cactus needs. Perlite, pumice, sand, and gravel, in the proper proportions, are included in pre-made cactus soil, along with a negligible amount of peat moss or coco coir.

However, you also have the option and it’s simple to make your own cactus soil mix! Combine two parts perlite or pumice, three parts coarse sand or gravel, and three parts potting soil. Use caution when using fertilizer-containing potting soil blends because they can scorch cacti roots and promote lanky growth.

What serves as perlite’s replacement?

Different perlite substitutes will function better or worse depending on the plants you are growing and the circumstances in which they are growing.

Below, we’ll examine the ten most popular alternatives to perlite.

  • rice stalks
  • Pumice
  • Agricultural tenacity
  • granular granite
  • Vermiculite
  • charred clay
  • Bark
  • Peat
  • Coir
  • Sand

Rice husks

PBH rice hulls or parboiled rice husks are excellent substitutes for perlite in soil mixtures. If you’re searching for an organic, greener option, they’re also perfect. When they are parboiled, any weed seeds, mold, or other diseases are removed, effectively sterilizing and killing the rice seed at the same time.

Lightweight rice husks (also known as hulls) aid in soil aeration, drainage, and compaction prevention. Because they are organic, rice hulls are a fantastic source of nutrients for plants and are safe to add to soil for both indoor and outdoor gardening.

The main drawback is that they tend to float to the top of the soil when watered because they are lighter than perlite.

Pumice

Given that both pumice and perlite are porous rocks created by volcanic eruptions, they are quite similar to one another. When comparing “perlite vs. pumice,” many gardeners can become extremely enthusiastic, but the truth is that pumice has a number of advantages over perlite.

It doesn’t float during watering or blow away in the wind because it is heavier, on the other hand. In addition, pumice, unlike perlite, creates less dust, especially the coarser kinds, and contains more nutrients and minerals. Additionally, it does a superb job of maintaining the soil’s airiness, pliability, and drainage. Pumice is by far your finest option if you’re cultivating succulents.

Pumice, on the other hand, is more expensive and can be challenging to locate at most plant nurseries or garden centers.

Horticultural grit

A typical size range for the little stone fragments that make up horticultural grit is 2 to 4 mm. It works similarly to perlite by forming air pockets inside the soil, which gives the roots oxygen while preventing root rot because of better drainage. Grit creates less dust and may be used for both indoor and outdoor plants because it doesn’t contain any lime.

Additionally, it is heavier than perlite, which makes it an ideal ornamental layer for potted plants, particularly if you need to ward off fungus gnats. Succulents, outdoor alpine plants, and lavender respond best to horticultural grit.

Horticultural grit is heavier than perlite, which is a drawback. However, you can make use of this by incorporating it into the soil mixture to balance top-heavy potted plants.

Granite gravel

Perlite and granite gravel have a similar appearance and serve comparable functions in soil mixtures. Both are porous rocks, which are excellent at retaining moisture. They also maintain the soil aerated, well-drained, and free of compaction. Gravel is heavier than perlite, and unlike perlite, even little bits, like pea gravel, won’t wash away during irrigation.

Granite gravel is a perfect option for adorning the topsoil of potted plants because of this, in addition to using it as a garden ornament. In fact, spreading gravel over the surface of the soil can aid with weed management and is a terrific way to aerate and improve the drainage of muddy or clay-rich soils in your garden.

Granite gravel is not a perfect substitute for perlite, mostly because of its weight. It will make potted plant soil mixtures considerably heavier, so use pea gravel instead for smaller pots, especially indoors. Gravel is also a poor choice for germination since immature plants will find it difficult to push through due to its weight.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite is a mineral that is extremely absorbent and is used in both indoor and outdoor gardening. It is lightweight, pH-neutral, and does not degrade like perlite. Additionally, it enhances soil structure and aeration.

When used in pots, vermiculite absorbs water and nutrients and holds them in the soil for later use. Vermiculite is actually a far better substitute for perlite if you’re growing plants that require consistently moist soil because it is considerably more absorbent. It is also the best medium for seed germination.

The high absorbency of vermiculite is both one of its benefits and disadvantages. Vermiculite, in contrast to perlite, does not produce a good soil media for plants like cacti and succulents that dislike having their roots constantly moist. Vermiculite is not a good substitute for perlite if you’re seeking for a well-draining potting soil mix.

Calcined clay

Calcined clay is a soil conditioner that is frequently sold under the Turface brand name. It’s probably been used on sporting fields, but it’s also a fantastic substitute for perlite. Although calcined clay is far more absorbent and can hold its weight in water, both are pH neutral and great at retaining moisture.

Cacti and bonsai trees benefit greatly from its ability to maintain the soil’s aeration and improve drainage, making it a wonderful addition to potting mixes. Additionally, because calcined clay is heavier than perlite, watering does not readily wash it away.

We recommend calcined clay without reservation, but we must emphasize that it needs to be replaced from the soil because it will begin to degrade after a few years.

Bark

One of the key ingredients in commercially available potting soil mixtures is bark, particularly pine bark. It aids in soil drainage, keeps soil from being compacted, holds onto water, and gradually distributes nutrients into the soil, depending on its size.

Keep in mind that compared to perlite, fine bark has a lesser air permeability. Because it is organic and biodegradable, bark is a great growing medium for moth orchids and may be used for both indoor and outdoor cultivation.

The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking of using bark in place of perlite is that it is more acidic than the pH neutral perlite, which ranges between 7 and 7.5. The pH of pinewood bark, in particular, ranges from 4.0 to 5.0. If you’re planting magnolias, ferns, carnivorous plants, or other plants that do well in acidic soils, this can be a great benefit. However, most plants favor a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0.

Peat

Peat, which is also known as sphagnum moss, is a great component to soil mixtures. The soil is kept moist for extended periods of time because to its great water retention ability. It helps prevents the soil from being compacted, keeps it aerated, and retains nutrients and minerals because of its fibrous nature.

For growing tomatoes, blueberries, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving plants, some gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts even go as far as completely substituting peat for soil.

Bark and peat both have an acidic composition. Check the soil pH requirements of the plants you intend to grow before deciding to use peat rather than perlite. Another thing to note is that even though peat is biodegradable, mining for it damages the local ecosystems where it comes from and is not environmentally friendly.

Coir

Coir, often known as coco coir, is a fiber made from the husks of coconuts. It has a texture that is pretty similar to peat moss, and gardeners are using it more frequently because it is easier to create. However, how does it contrast with perlite?

Both coir and perlite are lightweight, help with drainage, and increase air permeability by dissolving dense soils. Coir is a wonderful choice for plants that need moist soil since it has a larger water retention capacity than perlite and, unlike perlite, has a higher ability to absorb nutrients and release them into the soil.

There’s a good reason why coir is frequently suggested as an alternative to perlite instead of peat moss: coir has an acidic pH range of 5.2 to 6.5. Remember that coir has little to no nutrients, so you will need to fertilize your plants frequently if you intend to utilize it as a growing medium on its own.

Sand

Sand may be used in place of perlite, depending on how coarse it is. Sand and perlite are comparable in that they both promote drainage, are pH-neutral, sterile, and are devoid of nutrients. While sand initially absorbs water, it does not hold onto it like perlite does over time, especially the coarser forms.

One of the greatest options for garden soils, particularly clay-rich or highly compacted ones, is sand. Instead of using the extremely fine sand seen in playgrounds for children or construction sites, you should use coarse sand that is around 1.52mm broad.

Remember that sand is significantly heavier than perlite when utilizing it, especially if you intend to use it for potted houseplants.