Soil mix and fertilizers are two important ingredients in a recipe for beautiful and healthy succulents. We should know that soil mix for succulents has to be different from regular garden soil mix. Well-drained and porous soil is crucial in preventing root rotting in succulents. And despite receiving some necessary nutrients from the soil, succulents will also need fertilizers every now and then to help them grow bigger and create vibrant colors. Read on to find out the best soil mix and fertilizers we recommend for your succulents.
You can start by buying cactus and succulent soil mix that is readily available at your local garden centers. Miracle-Gro potting mix and Black Gold cactus mix are safe and popular choices for beginner gardeners. Then you can add some type of soil conditioner into the mix (such as perlite or pumice) to loosen the density of the soil, leaving the soil mix more porous and improving the drainage.
You can also create your own potting mix for succulents by mixing an organic substance with an inorganic matter.
Photo via DIY Network
The main ingredient in most soil mixes is peat moss, a lightweight substance that doesn’t break down easily. It is usually hard to wet and can dry out rapidly. Coconut coir, which is a natural fiber that comes from shredded coconut husks, can also be substituted for peat moss. Coir is easier to wet but also won’t break down quickly. Compost is another good alternative for peat moss and coir, although keep in mind that compost can decompose very easily. Additionally, blend some bark fines into your soil mix to allow water and air to penetrate more quickly for better drainage.
Our soil mix needs an inorganic matter that lets water soak into and then drain out of soil quickly, keeping the soil dry, crumbly, and airy. You can choose from a wide variety of options: perlite, pumice, calcined clay, chicken grit, crushed granite, aquarium or pea gravel, and non-soluble cat litter. Any of these choices will help increase water drainage significantly for your succulents.
Getting the right soil mix could be daunting to any succulent beginner, so here's our recommendation for basic succulent soil mix that promotes airflow, root growth, and drainage:
After mixing your organic and inorganic matters together, it's time to test your mixture:
✔ Wet a portion of the soil mix thoroughly
✔ Squeeze it into a ball
✔ If it crumbles, your soil mix is well-drained
✔ If it doesn't, add more perlite/pumice
You can experiment with different ratios and ingredients to find the best soil mix for your succulents. But following this basic approach would be a great start for any beginner gardeners.
When you use soil for your potting mix, fertilizers are not an immediate need because your succulents can still get nutrients from the soil. But they will definitely benefit from being fertilized once or twice a year. The best time to fertilize is in the spring when your succulents are actively approaching their growing season and are ready to receive some extra nutrients. But if your plants are winter growing succulents, fertilizing in the fall would be more effective.
Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food. Photo via Miracle-Gro
There are succulent fertilizers available on the market—one popular option is Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food. If you can’t find succulent fertilizers, regular water-soluble fertilizer diluted by at least 50% works fine as well. Highly potent fertilizers are never recommended because they will most likely burn your succulents rather than delivering them any nutrients.
Certain types of homemade fertilizers have been working well for many gardeners—banana peels, coffee grounds, or finely crushed eggshells for example. You can mix one or all of these ingredients with water and place the mixture on top of the soil. Take it off after a few days before it gets moldy and does harm to your succulents. Some people find it helpful to save their fish tank water as a homemade fish emulsion to feed their succulents.
Remember to give your succulents a lot of sunlight if you decide to fertilize them. The boost of nutrients will help them grow quickly but might lead to a lot of stretching if they lack sunlight. If you keep your plants indoors where they don’t receive enough sun, consider buying a grow light to keep them happy and thriving.
Now you’re ready to start creating your own soil mix and have a better understanding of how/when to use fertilizers. Feel free to share with us the tips that you swear by to grow wonderful succulent gardens.
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