Succulents need to be planted on soil that drains well as they do not do particularly well in regular soil. Creating a mix of compost, sand and perlite will emulate a succulent’s natural arid environment where water is scarce. This growing medium is porous and will allow excess water to drain away from the roots of your plants.
The guaranteed success of a succulent’s growth starts with its soil. In this article we will learn more about how to make your own succulent compost.
What kind of soil do succulents like?
Succulents are not like most plants that originate from relatively moist areas. Most plants love moist, nutrient rich soil. Succulents, on the other hand, prefer well-drained soil. Putting them in rich soil, with manure or other organic material that holds moisture well is a quick way to kill your succulents.
The best potting soil for succulents is a potting mix composed of porous soil in order to avoid overwatering. There may be conflicting information regarding the type of soil to use for succulents, but the one constant is that drainage is key. Succulents have the ability to withstand drought but wet soil will cause them to rot.
The best way to cultivate any plant is to simulate the natural environment from which it came. Succulents in the wild grow in sandy and gravelly soil, some even in rocky areas and even cliff sides. Their natural gritty soil may get saturated with water during the rainy season, but dries out quickly.
Succulent soil key factors
Porosity and texture
Soil’s mineral layers are categorized based on texture types. Based on grit size, the three types are clay, silt and sand. The amount of time it takes each type to dry is based on their proportions which in turn affects the amount of water it can hold. Sandy soil holds less moisture and dries out faster than clay soil, making it better for succulents.
Mineral vs organic
In the context of soil, organic means that it came from anything that was alive at one point, while mineral is any natural, inorganic substance that was not derived from a living organism.
Plant debris and tree bark are examples of organic components, while gravel is mineral. The organic components help with nourishment, while the mineral components help with the drainage.
Getting the perfect ratio between organic and mineral components is important for it to properly support the succulent’s growth and to help avoid root rot. This can also allow you to water your succulents heavily but infrequently.
There are plenty of mineral and organic components you can mix and match depending on the plant you are using them for. Potting soil, compost, coconut coir and pine bark are great choices for organic ingredients, while chicken grit, gravel, volcanic rock, perlite and coarse sand are fine mineral choices. Try not to use non-calcined clay or vermiculite because they tend to store water.
Can I use garden soil for my succulents?
Vegetable garden soil has a lot of additional organic matter and is not suitable for succulents. Garden soil is ideal for most plants that want moisture retention. Garden soil is far too rich for a succulent that prefers lean soil with little to no organic matter or excess nutrients. The richness and the moisture retention will cause root rot and kill your succulent.
Can I make my own succulent compost?
Yes, making your own succulent compost is very easy, economical and you can control the amount of each ingredient you add. You can modify the recipe until you get the perfect succulent compost for your plants. Your goal with making succulent compost should be to improve the drainage as much as possible. Succulent plants come from parts of the world that are dry and where the soil is sandy and water is not retained. For indoor succulents, water is easily controlled as a variable, so the substrate remains as the main concern.
How do I make succulent compost?
If you have a large bucket or tub, get one ready because you will need a lot of space to be able to mix the succulent compost properly.
1 part compost – using a multi-purpose compost with an open texture is ideal
1 part horticultural grit – this is made from crushed rock, specifically granite or limestone
1 part sand – building sand is perfectly fine and very cheap
Place all of the ingredients in your bucket or tub and give it a good stir, sifting it through your hands and fingers to make sure the distribution of each component is even. Remove any clumps until everything looks properly mixed together.
Keep in mind that these materials, when mixed together, will be a lot heavier than normal compost, especially after watering, so make sure you take that into account when choosing the pot before planting your succulent.
Scoop your freshly-made succulent compost into garden sacks for storage. Now you have proper succulent compost you can use anytime.
Soil for outdoor succulents
Succulents that are planted in the ground are often not as finicky about the soil compared to those planted in containers. Of course, outdoor succulents still need a sandy soil with grit and compost, but the conditions in the outdoors means you can have healthy succulents even with less than adequately draining soil. This is because outdoor plants have more soil, have ample sunlight and have more airflow than indoor plants.
You can improve drainage for outdoor plants by mounding it into berns or placing it on raised beds. Sloping topography exposes more soil to the sun and uses gravity to contribute to the draining of water.
Succulents will not thrive in normal garden soil because it is too rich with organic matter and retains too much water. Succulents require nutrients but not too much and what is most important is proper drainage to keep the succulent from getting overwatered which often results in root rot.
A mixture of one part compost, one part horticultural grit and one part sand will do wonders in helping your potted succulents flourish. This mixture simulates the natural arid environment of these plants, which is the best way to cultivate them.
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