Can I Use Cactus Soil for Succulents?

One of the most common categories of plants that make their way into people’s homes is succulents. These are generally quite small compared to most other indoor potted plants, characterized by their green, thick, and fleshy leaves.

Succulents are super popular among the global plant parent community because of their generally low watering requirements. As a matter of fact, succulents thrive when they are underwater and can die prematurely in overly moist conditions.

Hence, indoor succulents must be potted inside a well-draining potting mix, such as cactus soil, that helps keep its roots healthy and relatively dry at all times.

Keep reading to learn about cactus soil, how you can prepare it at home yourself, and what potting mixes you can use to keep your succulents healthy and alive.

What is Cactus Soil?

Cactus soil is one of the most sought-after potting mixes in the plant community and is known for its excellent draining qualities. The reason this mix is called ‘cactus soil’ is that it is ideal for all kinds of desert plants that are generally adapted to thrive in bone-dry conditions.

Moreover, while all cactus soils are highly draining potting mixes, there is always a wide variety of soil qualities to choose from.

For instance, some cactus soils are made entirely from inorganic ingredients such as pumice, pine bark, peat moss, grit, and perlite, while others contain a significant portion of sand.

Although one can find the different varieties of cactus soils easily from a local plant nursery, you can also prepare the perfect well-draining cactus potting mix at home. To learn how you can do that, keep reading.

How to Prepare Cactus Soil at Home

If you cannot find high-quality cactus soil from the nursery near you, or you simply want to prepare a large batch of cactus soil at home for all your succulents, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Some types of coarse sand
  • A potting soil that offers some drainage
  • Pertile
  • Pine bark

Now, follow the steps below to prepare a batch of cactus soil:

  • Take at least one part or perlite
  • One part pine bark (if readily available)
  • Three parts sand
  • Two to three parts potting soil
  • Finally, gradually mix all the different ingredients and store the extra in a dry and well-aerated container

Why Do Succulents Grow Best in Well-Draining Potting Mixes?

As mentioned earlier, succulents grow best in relatively drier soils. The key tip to keeping a succulent vibrant and alive in your home in the USA is to water it only when the soil is bone dry.

Although an indoor potted succulent will need water to photosynthesize its plant food and maintain its fresh and plump appearance, too much water can be dangerous for the house plant.

Unlike a desert plant’s roots which have the unique ability to absorb any amount of water it finds, succulents have limited water absorption abilities.

Whenever an indoor potted succulent is overwatered, its root cells only absorb the amount of water their individual cell capacity allows.

Once the cactus reaches that limit, it will stop absorbing water and the cell walls will prevent more water from crossing into the plant.

As a result, the extra water added to the soil accumulates inside the succulent pot. If the potting soil lacks proper drainage or the container’s drainage holes are blocked, the accumulated water will remain stuck inside the ground for an extended period.

This creates a moist organic environment, which is extremely attractive to airborne fungal spores.

If any fungal spores manage to fly over to your potted succulent, it will only take a few days for the fungus to reproduce and spread to the succulent’s roots.

In general, a fungal infection is not easily detected and will only become obvious once the fungus has completely engulfed the succulent’s roots, causing them to decay and die.

When this happens, the succulent’s water supply is cut, and signs of dehydration and water deprivation become evident once its fleshy leaves lose their thickness, natural turgidity, color, and firmness.

If such conditions continue for too long, the succulent’s dried-up and discolored leaves begin curling inwards to reduce the plant’s exposed surface area before it eventually succumbs.

On the other hand, if the succulent is planted inside a highly draining mix like cactus soil, the plant can avoid fungal diseases such as root rot and can retain its health, beauty, hydration, and ability to produce its own plant food.

Moreover, this allows the succulent to grow new fleshy leaves, produce flowers, and retain its vibrant colors and variegations throughout its lifespan.

As long as your indoor potted succulent grows inside a batch of high-quality cactus soil, you will not have to exert extensive effort to keep their green plant upright and healthy.

Other Types of Potting Mixes for an Indoor Potted Succulent

Although you can produce great quality cactus soil at home, it can become challenging if the respective ingredients mentioned above are not easily available.

If this is the case, you can always use some other kinds of well-draining potting mix for your indoor potted succulent.

Some of these other commercial options that you can easily find are as follows:

  •  Mixed containing high amounts of orchid bark
  • Mixes with gravel instead of sand
  • Mixes containing vermiculite
  • Mixes made mostly from peat moss

Bonus Care Tips for Indoor Potted Succulents

  • Always plant your succulent inside a highly porous pot that facilitates better drainage.
  • For instance, you can use an unglazed terracotta pot, a play pot, or an unglazed ceramic container
  • Moreover, change your indoor potted succulent’s watering routine according to the external atmospheric conditions.
  • For instance, if the atmospheric humidity is high, water your succulents less frequently than when the air is very dry.
  • Similarly, if the external temperature is high, water your succulents more to make up for the water loss caused by evaporation.

FOLIAGEMS Live Succulent Cactus Plants from USKC (2"Pot Anacampseros Rufescens Variegata)

Final Thoughts –Prepare Your Own Cactus Soil Now!

If you are new to plant parenthood, it is best to begin your green journey by first bringing home an easy-to-care-for succulent. However, since indoor potted succulents require a well-draining potting mix to survive, you must fill their pots with a draining mix – such as cactus soil.

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