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Growing cactus plants is the best way to get started with an indoor garden because they require little attention.
Of course, there are certain things you need to be careful about when growing any type of cactus, including the moon cactus, Christmas cactus, etc., and one of those things is the growing medium you choose.
We all know you cannot use any old substrate for your plants, so it’s important to learn the best soil for cactus, which needs to be well-draining, aerated, and not too fertile. We’ll talk more about all that in the following sections!
Requirements For The Best Soil For Cactus Plants
The best soil for cactus plants needs to be aerated, well-draining, and shouldn’t be too fertile. Imagine desert conditions and try to mimic them in terms of the growing substrate.
If you plant your spiky buddy in an inappropriate medium, you will soon notice your cactus turning black, which is something no one wants.
Below, you can read about what good cactus soil needs to have so that your plants can thrive.
Plants require oxygen for proper growth and development, and if the substrate is saturated with water and turns into clay, the roots will suffocate.
Aeration means that the growing medium is loose, and there are air pockets between the soil particles (imagine the gritty mix, which is anything but compacted when wet).
To ensure proper airflow, you can add all sorts of materials with different particle sizes, such as perlite, crushed granite, coarse sand, lava rock, etc.
A cactus soil mixture needs to be fast-draining. High water retention of the growing medium can quickly lead to overwatering and root rot because cactus plants can’t survive in standing water for too long.
The main purpose of this substrate is to allow the cactus to absorb moisture only during irrigation and for a short time after that. It should then drain as fast as possible.
This technique reflects the desert conditions perfectly because rainfall is scarce in these locations, and plants have to absorb moisture quickly before it evaporates.
The ideal type of soil for these houseplants is, therefore, very porous, meaning it allows moisture to seep through it and can dry out within 1-2 days after irrigation.
Another thing that can help your cactus thrive is choosing the appropriate pot. The best planter for cactus plants contains drainage holes which allow the excess water to drain straight through.
The Best Cactus Potting Soil Shouldn’t Contain Fertilizer
The growing medium for cactus plants shouldn’t contain any fertilizers as they can lead to burns and result in legginess.
You should also steer away from mediums rich in organic matter (unless you amend them with materials that provide excellent drainage, such as perlite, gravel, rocks, sand, etc.).
Don’t think that cactus plants can grow without nutrients! If the soil is deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, or iron, these plants will grow more and more slowly.
Be sure not to overfertilize them, but also remember to give them some nutrients at the beginning of their growing season.
Can I Use Regular Potting Soil For My Cactus?
No, you shouldn’t use regular potting mix for cactus plants, as these blends retain too much moisture and can lead to overwatering and root rot.
Instead, amend the potting soil with some draining and aerating ingredients such as vermiculite, orchid and pine bark, etc.
Or you can just get high-quality commercial cactus soil and rid yourself of all doubt!
Homemade Cactus Soil DIY Recipe
Cactus and succulent mixes are pricey, but did you know that you can mix your own cactus soil mix that’s perfect for your spiky plants?
You will need both inorganic and organic ingredients to make it well-draining and aerated, but if that can save your cactus plants from rotting, why not give it a go?
You will need certain ingredients that retain moisture, such as coconut coir, potting soil, or peat moss (but don’t use too much as they can hold water for much longer than your plants might need it to). Then, add the ingredients that improve drainage and bring aeration to the plant roots, such as orchid bark, perlite, coarse sand, etc.
There are many different cactus soil recipes, and you can experiment with various ones as long as you use the ratio 1:2 in favor of draining materials.
For instance, you can add 1 part loam-based compost, 1 part perlite or horticultural grit, and 1 part sand. You can play with different ingredients – add orchid bark or pumice for more drainage, or use other organic materials like coconut coir, peat moss, or potting soil instead of compost.
Here are more tips for making a cactus soil mix at home:
7 Great Succulent And Cactus Soil Mixes
If you’re worried about your cactus roots and scared you might not get the measurements correct for your own cactus and succulent potting mix, you can always buy one at the nursery or your local garden center.
These mixes usually come without any fertilizers, prevent compaction, and are suitable for potted plants that require excellent drainage.
Below, you can find our top seven products suitable for beginners and those who don’t have enough time to mix their own cactus blends.
We’ve all heard about the wonders of Miracle-gro cactus soil, but this mix is perfect for many different cactus, bonsai, and succulent plants.
It nurtures them and provides excellent drainage and aeration, so you can forget about overwatering and root rot.
This mix is more suited for plants that love acidic soils because it is optimized for 5.5 pH, is pre-washed, and ensures proper absorption and evaporation.
|Well-draining and aerated||Pricey|
|Optimized for moisture absorption and evaporation|
If you’ve ever wondered how to repot a cactus properly, you should know that you only need a pot with drain holes and a high-quality cactus soil mix.
This particular mix drains well and quickly, so it’s perfect for succulents and cactuses. The good news is that you don’t need to mix it with other ingredients to get the drainage and aeration you’ve been looking for.
The mix comes with instructions for repotting and caring for cactuses, which is perfect for beginners. It is easy to store due to its resealable package, so you won’t have to worry about the mess.
The limestone is added to adjust the soil pH level, making it perfect for most plants.
You can also use this mix to amend your garden soil to make it looser and more draining or for starting seeds and propagation.
|Easy to use and store|
This product contains everything your succulents and cactuses might need for optimal growth. It encourages their growth and provides suitable aeration and drainage.
Espoma organic cactus mix contains peat moss, humus, and perlite without any added chemicals.
This brand adds its signature blend of ecto and endo mycorrhizae which encourage root growth and development.
You can use Espoma organic cactus mix when potting and repotting your cactus and succulent plants or for starting new seeds and cuttings.
The blend is completely organic, so you won’t have to worry about it hurting your plants
|No amendments needed||May arrive infested with gnats|
|Well-draining and aerated|
|Organic and easy to use|
When looking for the best soil for succulents and cactuses, try and find a blend that offers you a perfect ratio of drainage and moisture retention, which is definitely something that this brand has to offer.
This potting mix is made of forest humus, compost, perlite, pumice, peat moss, fish bone meal, and limestone and can provide a perfect growing medium for all plants that need good drainage.
It contains limestone for a more balanced pH level and can be used for all sorts of drought-tolerant plants. This blend is multipurpose and can be used in both indoor and outdoor gardens.
The good news is that you don’t have to mix it with other ingredients to achieve optimal drainage!
Harris premium succulent & cactus potting mix does contain added nutrients, so it’s not the best choice for plants you’ve just bought. However, if you have a potted cactus that needs to be transplanted into a larger planter, you can use this blend as it will provide an additional boost.
Simply put on the best gloves for handling cactus plants, grab a nice container, and get ready for planting.
The best thing about it is that it comes with a zip-lock bag, so you won’t have to worry about the mess!
|Contains added nutrients|
This blend doesn’t contain organic materials, but it can still hold some moisture thanks to the pine bark, Haydite, and Japanese akadama it has. These ingredients are also well-draining, so there won’t be excess moisture around your plant’s roots.
This medium comes in a resealable bag, and it has a pleasant fragrance, so you won’t have to keep your cactus and succulent plants somewhere far away from everyone.
The Superfly mix is suited for plants that need extra drainage, and it looks amazing in every pot, so you won’t have to look for pebbles or marbles to polish the surface.
Finally, you’ll have to water the plants in this medium more frequently than you would in other mediums that contain soils because moisture drains from it quickly.
|Easy to use and store|
• Customer review: 4.6/5
• Natural ingredients
• Ready to use
This product is suitable for many plants, not just succulents and cactuses. Gardeners all over the USA use it for seeding, flowering plants, and vegetables, but you might have to amend it a bit to make it perfect for every species.
It is aerated and well-draining, which is why the majority of plants love it. These features prevent overwatering and root rot, but you still have to be careful when irrigating cactuses and succulents.
(Remember, less is more!)
It is made of all-natural ingredients and enriched with organic matter, so you won’t have to use any fertilizers for quite a while. It might contain some artificial plant food, but not enough to burn the roots of your spikey buddies.
The Valley Garden organic potting mix is lightweight compared to garden soil and prevents compaction, so it’s suitable for potted plants. This potting mix provides proper pH for many different varieties, which optimizes the absorption of nutrients and moisture.
|Multipurpose||Pricey and might be smelly|
|Lightweight and prevents compaction|
|Rich in organic matter|
This cactus mix doesn’t contain any peat moss, so it’s an eco-friendly option to other products (harvesting peat moss damages the peatlands). It is also biodegradable, so you won’t have to worry about its disposal.
This mix is rich in nutrients and contains humus, worm castings, coco coir, pumice, rock minerals, mycorrhizae, etc. Mycorrhizae encourage the development of strong roots and stimulate the activity of beneficial organisms introduced by worm castings.
It stimulates growth and encourages excellent drainage and aeration, so your cactus and succulent plants won’t drown in water.
The Wonder Soil cactus & succulent mix can be used for germination, flowers, herbs, etc., as it is not too compacted.
It expands up to 4X when it comes into contact with water, so there’s plenty of the medium for your spiky houseplants.
The mix is ready to use, durable, and can be reused; just flush it with water!
|Ready to use, durable, and reusable||Pricey|
You might’ve noticed that all cactus mixes have one flaw: they’re expensive. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many growers want to make their own soil for these plants.
We decided to cover all our bases and included the main requirements for the best soil for cactus plants, brought a fantastic recipe to make it at home, and presented seven top products on the market you can get if you don’t feel like making it yourself.
Cactuses, succulents, and all other drought-tolerant plants require excellent drainage and aeration.
Therefore, make sure that the potting mix you use contains good drainage materials, such as perlite, lava rock (pumice), crushed granite, orchid or pine bark, etc. (whether store-bought or homemade).
There are many mixes and DIY recipes out there, and you only need to find the one that fits you and your plants’ needs best.
Until next time!
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