The exotic succulent and cactus cultivators, like our succulent growers, use akadama, a similar and (maybe once) mysterious media, either entirely or in some variation as a primary base. To flourish, succulents need a medium that drains incredibly well. In addition to not overwatering, using the right growing medium can greatly lower the danger of root rot.
In addition to maintaining the special advantages of Akadama, this soilless blend is made to further improve porosity and nutrient mix from the various grain kinds and sizes. It is designed to replicate an even closer match to a succulent’s natural habitat.
Akadama (30 percent Fine, 30 percent Regular) The majority of Akadama comes from Japan and was created as a result of Mt. Fuji’s eruptions on Honshu Island over many years. They are highly prized by succulent and bonsai growers all over the world, mostly because of their porosity. It is able to drain off any extra water while holding onto nutrients and water within its small pores and cavities. Additionally, akadama darken when damp, letting the gardener know when to water the plant.
Pumice (25 percent ) Pumice, also known as volcanic glass, has the capacity to absorb moisture and then release it once it has dried. Pumice’s open, free-draining design avoids water logging while allowing for efficient plant root development and aeration.
volcano rock (25 percent ) Iron, magnesium, nitrogen, and other minerals found in abundance in volcanic rocks make them ideal for thriving succulents. In addition to being visually appealing, volcanic rocks’ jagged and uneven edges leave gaps in the medium, which improves airflow and porosity.
Does Akadama soil work well with succulents?
A form of volcanic clay called akadama is great for cactus, succulents, and bonsai. They provide great drainage and ventilation while still maintaining sufficient height to support happy, healthy plants.
Many succulent growers even use pure akadama to grow their plants!
These small rocks will give ventilation and drainage to succulent soil, keeping your plants extremely content.
For succulents, what does akadama mean?
Akadama is a type of volcanic pumice that is frequently used in Japan for bonsai and succulent cultivation. It serves as a growing medium as well as a topping material. The plant type, the needs of the soil, and the climate all affect how it is used.
With succulents in particular, the drainage that utilizing as a growing medium offers is beneficial. It enables the presence of air in the growing media, which encourages root development and maintains a healthy moisture level.
What uses does Akadama soil have?
Because it retains water well and drains efficiently, akadama works well as a potting media for bonsai. Even better, over time, akadama particles degrade gradually.
When transplanting bonsai, cut roots require soil that drains properly in order to encourage the growth of new roots. These roots expand quickly and aid in the recovery of plants after repotting.
Akadama particles are broken down over time by root growth and continuous watering. The ability of the particles to hold water rises as they disintegrate and get smaller. The particles will fully degrade over time until only minute clay fragments are left.
Smaller soil particles encourage slower growth, hence the breakdown of soil particles is crucial for bonsai cultivation. Slow growth is a fundamental objective during the bonsai development stages of refining since aggressive shoots can thicken branches and make elderly trees appear young.
Drainage may become sluggish as akadama begins to decompose and roots start to fill the container. It is challenging to keep bonsai flourishing in poorly draining soil because healthy roots require both air and water. When there is inadequate drainage, the tree is watered cautiously until the following repotting season, when it can be securely repotted. The technique is repeated after the bonsai regain some strength in new soil.
Are all plants compatible with akadama?
Akadama is a tool used in plant cultivation. It can be utilized on its own or combined with other soil substrates like lava rock, pumice, stone, peat moss, bark, etc. as an amendment. The sizes available for it include “Shohin” (less than 1/16 inch), “Small” (1/16 inch to 1/4 inch), and “Medium” (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch). All sizes are appropriate for many different types of potted plants, but shohin, or little, is the size of choice for succulent and cactus plants.
What might I substitute for akadama?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many excellent alternatives to Akadama soils. Since akadama is such a rare mineral, it is challenging to grow it in different soils. Nevertheless, you have choices that you can weigh. The most popular soil substitutes for Akadama are listed below for your consideration:
- A lava rock
These materials are excellent alternatives to consider for bonsai growing even though they aren’t an exact match for akadama.
Akadama—is it a pumice?
A naturally occurring, granular clay-like material called akadama (akadamatsuchi, red ball earth) is used as soil for bonsai trees and other container-grown plants. It is surface-mined, promptly filtered, and bagged before being delivered in different grades, with the deeper-mined grades being a little harder and having greater horticultural value than the shallower-mined grades. When coupled with other components like sand, composted bark, peat, or crushed lava, akadama may also serve as one component of the growing media. When damp, the color of akadama darkens, assisting the gardener in deciding when to water a tree. 
Although akadama costs more than other soil ingredients, farmers praise it for its capacity to hold onto nutrients and water while also allowing for porosity and easy drainage. Many bonsai growers believe that the price of akadama is excessive or unnecessary despite all of its benefits. Other growers contend that the granules gradually break down into tiny bits in cold and wet regions, preventing drainage—a undesirable trait of bonsai soil. By adding sand or grit to the soil mixture or by using the harder, deeper-mined grades, this issue can be avoided.
Japan has abundant volcanic resources as a result of volcanic activity. Near the volcano, volcanic rocks and pumice gather after eruptions. Japan has created a variety of rich horticulture products using these special resources. The soils of Akadama and Kanuma are two examples.
Akadama can be used alone or combined with other collocation substrates, such as pumice, stone, peat, etc., depending on the various types of cultivated plants. All types of potted plants, notably succulent and cactus plants, benefit from medium particle size.
Does akadama fall apart?
At Michael Hagedorn’s, we only washed the roots of trees that were extremely young or in the early stages of training. When repotting the mature/established trees, we didn’t even approach the inner root ball. A prime example is the latest video from Bjorn. The only things that change when pumice or lava is combined with akadama are the edges, a little below, and perhaps a layer on top. Although the akadama decomposes, it still drains well and fosters excellent conditions for slow, long-term root growth. Which is just what established bonsai require.
Is lava rock the same as akadama?
There is a thread here that discusses the differences between pumice and lava; to put it simply, akadama is water retentive and served as your water retention piece of the jigsaw. Lava and pumice don’t degrade either, although the majority of akadama varieties do after a year or two. To actually locate an excellent read, I’d Google each type or just utilize this site’s search function. Although the topic of soil is contentious, akadama serves as a water-retaining soil mixture that is necessary unless you are able to water your plants continuously throughout the day.
Which substrate is ideal 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.
Do the nutrients in akadama soil exist?
Simply put, volcanic clay is akadama. Although it is believed to prolong their presence and make them easier for plants to absorb, it doesn’t actually give any specific nutrients per se (FWIW, I’ve always questioned how much of that is true).
Having said that, you shouldn’t fertilize right away, and especially not with fertilizers high in nitrogen if you have recently repotted and worked on the roots.
Aakadama is a type of soil, right?
Japanese master gardeners utilize a premium bonsai soil called akadama. In Japan, volcanic soil is mined to produce akadama soil. Once removed, the material was dried and sorted into different grain sizes.
For their conifers and deciduous trees, many of our seasoned clients prefer Akadama soil, but it’s also advisable for inexperienced gardeners. When moist, akadama soil changes color (darkens), acting as a visual cue for when to water your plant.
Particle sizes for large grain range from 1/4″ to 1/2″. bigger trees are used.
Please be aware that although the akadama will be repackaged, it will still be Ryusen akadama.
A variety of volcanic soil imported from Japan for usage as bonsai soil is called Akadama Tsuchi, which translates to “Red Ball Earth.” It has drainage and moisture retention qualities that make it the perfect soil component.
The best for conifers, although it can be used for any purpose. Use alone or in combination with other soils. Japan has used the ideal soil for bonsai for decades.
What akadama size should I employ?
The experts respond to several inquiries from Bonsai Empire regarding Akadama and its use as bonsai soil. Their precise input is listed below.
(1.) Do you use akadama? If so, for all your trees? And for trees in all stages of development?
Yes, all of my trees are akadama. In training, I apply less akadama on the tree (25 percent or less). (Boonyarat Manakitivipart) (Bonsai Boon)
For Japanese maples, I attempt to use Akadama because I haven’t found anything better. Unfortunately, this is not always practicable due to the high cost and unstable availability in the USA. Additionally, I incorporate recycled Akadama as a component of all-purpose soils. Cole Lewis
Since more than ten years ago, I have stopped using Akadama for my own trees. On rare instances, a client has insisted I use it for deciduous trees (which can be bare-rooted), but I will never repot a coniferous species into Akadama. It makes sense that any akadama injected into the soil of a Pine or Juniper will get severely compacted before there is a chance to remove it as Pines and Junipers cannot have a complete soil-change to remove Akadama and repotting is infrequent. (Harry Harrington)
The solution is straightforward because I don’t use Akadama. I’ve tested it, and it doesn’t work in this situation. It is pricey, it doesn’t suit the growth conditions in this region of Northern Europe, and other high-quality soils are readily available for less money. Denmark, a nation with a long history of gardening and a strong greenhouse culture, has made significant contributions via extensive research and development that have led to the development of the best soil mixtures for container cultivation, such as: So why import a soil when there are excellent, tried-and-true soils nearby? (Morton Albek)
No, all of our Indonesian bonsai are grown on soil made from volcanic lava. for every step. Excellent and inexpensive! Mr. Robert Steven
(2.) If you use akadama in soil mixtures, would you share what mixtures you personally use?
For every five gallons of soil mixture, we add one part lava rock, one part pumice, one part akadama, half a cup of horticultural charcoal, and half a cup of decomposed granite (per 5 gallon mix). Use a small size mix (1/16-1/4″) for deciduous trees and add an extra portion of Akadama. All ingredients must be screened, sized, and completely dry. The dust is thrown away. Pumice (5/16″) should be used for bottom layer drainage. Use a medium size mix (3/85/16) for conifers from the desert and high mountains. Use a small size mix (1/161 / 4″) for conifers that prefer water and those that grow at lower elevations. Note: This mixture should only be used when proper repotting techniques are used. It is advised to use organic fertilizer at the appropriate periods and seasons for the greatest results. Over the fresh soil, spread a thin layer of coarsely screened New Zealand sphagnum moss. During irrigation, the moss will hold the soil in place. The amount of moss should vary in thickness depending on the weather and watering practices. North America has seen success using this soil mixture. (Boonyarat Manakitivipart) (Bonsai Boon)
Depending on what is readily available right now. Turface, lava, or pumice, along with some organic material (to form a “living” medium) and a lot of coarse sand to enable proper drainage. Species differences in sand and organic content can be seen. Cole Lewis
Diatomaceous Earth, also known as “Diatomite,” is a brand of cat litter that is available in the UK, and I use different amounts of it in the soil mixture I use for all of my trees, depending on the amount of water retention needed for each species of tree, the strength of the individual tree, and even the shape of the Bonsai pot. (Deep pots have lower water tables and a tendency for the soil to dry up more rapidly; shallow pots have higher water tables and are inherently more water retentive.) (Harry Harrington)
For plants that like an acidic environment (like azaleas, which adore this soil), I use sphagnum peat, and for other trees, I use alkaline basic nursery soils. accessible at reputable garden centers. This I combine with lava or Leca pebbles, for example, to modify transpiration and drainage. Up to 80% of the combination for Shohin Bonsai is soil, and 20% is drainage pebbles or small stones like lava pebbles. A basic soil mixture of around 50/50 is utilized for large trees that don’t want a free-draining soil. When planting pines and other trees in greenhouses, a mixture of 70–90% Leca pebbles and 10–30% sphagnum peat is added to regular garden soil. These trees require a particularly free-draining soil. (Morton Albek)
We only utilize pure volcanic soil, with the exception of adding slow-release organic fertilizer (sun flower seeds made). I’m done now. Mr. Robert Steven
(3.) When using akadama, how often do you repot your trees? What is your experience with akadama breaking down, as in, after how many years?
depends on the size, age, form, and type of your tree as well as its container. Each year, shohin are repotted. Repottery occurs once a year or every other year for medium-sized conifers. Conifers that are older and larger, every 2 to 5 years. (Boonyarat Manakitivipart) (Bonsai Boon)
I believe that many individuals repot their trees far too frequently; the minimum time between repottings should be three years. Akadama does falter. Although the inferior grades degrade more quickly than the superior grades, and the exterior of the pot degrades more quickly than the interior, it still drains properly and functions as it should. The particles do not cling to one another since it is not clay. Compared to trees cultivated in other all-mineral soils, trees grown in pure Akadama appear to require repotting less frequently (see 4, below). Cole Lewis
Depending on the akadama’s quality, the frequency of watering, your climate’s freeze/thaw cycle, and other factors, akadama decomposes over a period of one to two years. It would be incorrect of me to say that a bonsai growing in a damaged Akadama will necessarily die. However, as with all decomposed, airless clay soils in bonsai pots, drainage is poor, water absorption into dry akadama is poor, and the overall health and vigor of the tree are significantly diminished. Simply put, the Akadama shouldn’t be utilized unless it can be totally removed every two years (the tree bare-rooted). The fact that Akadama has been used for many years in Japan does not mean that it is the “best” soil for bonsai, as many fans tend to believe. It’s just that it was, or at least still is, a reasonably accessible and inexpensive hobby in Japan. (Harry Harrington)
Because akadama is quickly broken down in cold temperatures, it should not be used. Over prolonged periods of time, not even the harder akadama kinds are resistant. Akadama is a clay soil that, when broken down, will become extremely compact and oxygen-poor, damaging the roots. My experience shows that the akadama will degrade and start losing value after just one or two seasons. The survival of all trees brought in from Japan and planted in akadama soil has proven to be quite difficult. They choose akadama due to the climate in Japan and the scarcity of other soil types there. Aakadama is practically the preferred Bonsai soil of choice in Japan due to the country’s humid summer environment and numerous tree repottings (also economically compared to importing soils). Therefore, akadama might be a good option if you reside somewhere with a climate similar to that of Japan. Otherwise, you might discover another source that is more appropriate (both practically and economically). (Morton Albek)
I once tried Akadama on a handful of my bonsai many years ago. It stopped working after two years or so, and I gave up after finding nothing more expensive or superior to our volcanic soil. Mr. Robert Steven
(4.) Do you have experience with possible alternatives to Akadama, like cat litter, turface, Primera one, permatil, mule mix, Calidama, Mocha Lava, etc?
There are no viable alternatives to Akadama, unfortunately. If not, I’ll use lava, pumice, a little bit of charcoal, and crushed granite (clean sifted, free of dust). (Boonyarat Manakitivipart) (Bonsai Boon)
Because roots may enter every grain of Akadama but not other minerals, there is no mineral component that can replace it. This indicates that the pot’s entire volume is open to Akadama roots for growth. The roots only have access to the space between the grains in a mixture of other minerals, which could make up as little as 30% of the pot’s content. Manufacturers advise adding soil amendments like Turface at no more than 10 to 15 percent of the overall volume. I take such advice into account. When used on newly harvested plants, turface appears to produce decent results for a year, potentially even two years, but during year three, when one would typically anticipate an improvement, there is a decline in vigor. Although cat litter is a comparable product to turface, I steer clear of it because it can be contaminated. I’ve worked with lava a lot, and I’m pleased with the outcomes I’ve had with recently-collected plants. Although I don’t have any scientific proof, lava seems to have readily available healthy minerals. However, I discover that the coarse texture of the grains at lower levels in the pot traps too much water by surface tension, which ironically prevents drainage given the size of the particles. Lava has another drawback: its surface has rough edges that can easily harm delicate roots during repotting. This calls for special caution when handling lava-rich soil in the area around the roots. Turface and lava have both been replaced by pumice. Although roots still can’t get through the grains, the surface texture, water retention, and drainage are all close to ideal. Cole Lewis
I’ve used turface, seramis, kitty litter, and a variety of other solutions on my own trees as well as on clients’ bonsai. I’ve been applying “Diatomite” (Cat Litter), also known as diatomaceous earth, to my trees for about ten years. More details can be found here. (Harry Harrington)
For trees that prefer an acidic soil (such as azaleas, which adore this soil), I primarily use sphagnum peat (not to be confused with the fresh mosses used for air layering, i.e.). For other trees, I primarily use alkaline basic soils, which are all generally based on a good soil structure that is water-holding while also having a high level of oxygen. All are offered at reputable garden centers. This I combine with lava or Leca pebbles, for example, to modify transpiration and drainage. have been quite effective for my bonsai growing for the past 20 years, therefore I have no reason to experiment with soils that don’t meet my desired standards. (Morton Albek)