Succulents are well-loved for their unique shapes and sizes. The soil that they are growing in plays a major role in determining their health and appearance. These hardy plants thrive well in soil that drains well, but what about the soil’s quality? Read on and get to know if succulents have a special preference when it comes to soil quality and if they favor acidic soil or not.
Do succulents like acidic soil?
Yes, succulents like acidic soil and most of these plants thrive well in soil that has a pH level of six. Cacti also typically grow in soil with a pH level between five and seven. However, the exact pH level and acidity may vary among certain varieties.
Certain succulents grow well in limestone soil while some do not, it such as the Echeveria which grows well in peaty soil. This type of soil consists mostly of peat, decomposed vegetable matter or mosses usually found in bogs.
You may also check out our earlier article on what kind of soil do succulents need for additional information related to this topic.
Is the acidity level in succulent soil important?
Succulent growers attest that the acidity level in succulent soil is not a major concern. More emphasis is given to the quality of care given to the plants. They also note that there has been no definitive pH level that is considered perfect for succulents. If the soil is deemed too acidic, succulent owners can always use a succulent soil mix to address the concern.
Additionally, succulents grow well in soil that allows excess water to drain easily. The ideal succulent soil should allow the plants to breathe. Succulents do not grow well in compact soil. It retains water and moisture, which could lead to root rot.
What are the signs of a pH imbalance in cacti and succulents?
These are the signs of a pH imbalance in cacti and succulents:
- Yellowing on new growth
- Brown spots
- Shriveled leaves and stems
Plants showing these signs should be watered with rainwater so they can be saved. Rainwater is acidic and it will maintain the pH levels at an optimal degree. Testing the pH of the soil and water is also a good measure. You can adjust the pH of water before giving it to your plants by testing the pH level.
How to lower or raise the soil’s pH?
If soil pH is too high for your succulents, mix aluminum sulfate in the first inch or so. The amount of aluminum sulfate used will depend on the starting pH level of the soil. Make sure to calculate the amount, as too much could be harmful to your plants.
The ideal mix is 1.2 pounds of aluminum sulfate per 10 square feet of soil. Various compounds can be used to lower the soil pH, such as iron sulfate, elemental sulfur and acidifying nitrogen depending on your personal preference and application.
Inversely, you can raise the soil pH with agricultural lime. Just apply it to the first few inches of the soil. For immediate results, mix potassium carbonate in water since it is very soluble and reaches the root system at once. Low pH is usually due to over-fertilization, so be sure to always test the soil first before adding fertilizers.
How to Make Succulent Soil?
To avoid the perils of acidic soil, you could opt to make your own succulent soil. These are the ingredients that you will need:
- Potting soil
- Coarse sand
- Perlite or Pumice
First, mix three parts of potting soil into two parts of coarse sand and one part of perlite. If you are using a cup, it would mean three scoops of potting soil, two scoops of coarse sand and one scoop of perlite.
The potting soil is the base for your succulent soil. Make sure it is clean and fresh. It should also be light and porous as it means it is fast-draining. Avoid using garden soil or compact soil as it absorbs too much water and moisture.
The coarse sand makes the soil mix breathable but do not use beach sand since it does not provide aeration. Beach sand also has minerals that could be harmful to succulents.
Perlite or pumice is lightweight and organic that makes the soil porous. It looks a lot like Styrofoam. It is a good addition to your succulent soil since it does not absorb or hold too much water and water. It also prevents compaction allowing the soil to become fast-draining.
Mix them all together with a trowel or with your bare hands. That’s it, you now have your very own succulent soil!
The utmost advantage of making your own succulent soil is that you can adjust all the ingredients, unlike commercial soil mixes that tend to be compacted or not coarse enough.
Succulents are low maintenance plants and they can thrive in acidic soil with a pH level of more or less six. However, succulent growers indicate that the soil’s acidity level is not a major concern. Measures can be made to lower or raise the soil’s acidity. Many plant enthusiasts also prefer to mix their own succulent soil to ensure that their succulents will grow and flourish.
Image: istockphoto.com / evgenyb