When people talk about soil, they mostly focus on the naturally occurring types. Still, a plant enthusiast looks beyond that and seeks different ways to improve his potted plant soil.
Growing succulents, you have the option to use a potting mix or succulent soil. But, what are their uses, and how do they differ?
Succulent soil differs from potting soil majorly in the aspect of the drainage system. Succulent soil ensures proper drainage of your soil, while potting soil is almost the same as garden soil in terms of drainage. The drainage system for potting soil is very poor. Other differences are – organic matter, nutrient requirements, aeration, and moisture intake.
Differences Between Succulent Soil and Potting Soil?
More than in physical appearance, succulent soil differs from potting soil in the drainage system, presence of organic matter, nutritional requirement, aeration, and moisture intake. Of these, the drainage system is the major difference between the two.
Let us now consider these differences in detail.
1. Drainage System
Succulent soil contains particles of sand and perlite that helps in draining excess water from the soil. On the other hand, potting soil does not make much provision for the drainage of excess water in it. This soil type retains water.
2. Organic Matter
A succulent soil contains organic matter like; compost, peat wood chips, etc., that provides nutrients for the plant. It can use these organic matters as a source of nutrients because of insects and bacteria.
In a potted plant, little or no insect activity goes on, so it isn’t easy to use natural organic matter as a source of nutrients.
Potted plants use an already prepared organic matter like fertilizers, but these don’t take long to break down.
3. Nutrient Requirements
Succulents are slow-growing plants mostly found in arid areas, and they require fewer nutrients. This better explains the reason why it can use nutrients broken down by insects.
It takes a long time for insects to break down a small number of nutrients. In the case of potting soil, you will have to feed it occasionally with fertilizers.
Too many nutrients will even cause damage to succulents or unhealthy overgrowth.
Succulents usually detest when the soil is compacted and dense as caused by a lack of air. Poor aeration in succulent soil makes it difficult for the root to grow and spread, while potted soil does well in conditions with less aeration.
5. Moisture Intake
The moisture intake of succulent soil is relatively low as it is adapted to mimic the desert environment. Potting soil on a different note takes in a lot of moisture.
Their composition allows them to take in as much water as they possibly can. Potting soils are moisture tolerant and allow for waterlogging.
All these reasons set succulent soils apart from potting soils. You should be able to distinguish succulent soil and the potted one after noticing these differences highlighted above.
Yes, you can use your regular potting soil for succulents, but not all succulents since some varieties of succulents are wholly adapted to drought conditions. However, I would not recommend using regular potting soil for succulents. You can use your regular potting soil only on succulents of the tropical region because they can tolerate high moisture levels.
Most varieties of succulents thrive in dry conditions and have zero tolerance for moist soil. Nevertheless, some varieties like, Hylocereus and aloe will thrive in potting soils.
When using potting soil to grow succulents, you should take extreme care to prevent overwatering of the plant.
Potting soil is good at managing moisture, and some succulents are moisture tolerant. Still, since potting soil drains poorly, the moisture content could become extreme to a detrimental level.
Is Potting Soil Bad for Succulents?
Potting soil is bad for succulents but not all succulents. Potting soils are moist and tolerate much water, succulents. Conversely, succulents are prone to root rot caused by excess moisture in the soil. Thus, potting soils are unfit for succulents. Only a negligible fraction can tolerate potting soils and with extreme care given.
A slightly acidic, porous, and good draining soil is the ideal soil for succulents. Potting soils do not meet these requirements and are thus considered bad for succulents. I recommend you use succulent soil to cultivate any succulent plant.
How Do I Prepare my Soil for Succulents?
You can prepare your soil for succulents by simply mixing particles of organic and inorganic materials with your normal potting soil. Although you can get an already made potting mixture for succulents in any garden shop, it is no herculean task to prepare it yourself. I highly approve of this because here you get to do everything to your taste.
In preparing your soil for succulents, you must consider the following factors;
1. Weather Conditions
Weather conditions are a key factor in determining how you should prepare your soil for succulents.
A cold weather condition is characterized by moisture, so you will need more drainage systems to ensure water doesn’t stay long on the root of your plant.
But your soil will dry faster in warm conditions, so you don’t need to worry in warm weather.
You can either use your succulent soil in an outdoor environment or indoors. Your soil will dry faster in an outdoor environment than indoors, so for indoor cultivation, your sublayer should have more drainage.
3. Medium of Cultivation
Are you planning on growing your succulent plant on the ground, or is it in a container or pot? Well, these different mediums have different requirements too.
On the ground, water is regulated by expanding over the entire soil surface, while in pots and containers, drainage holes are the escape routes.
Thus, the succulents cultivated in containers or pots require more drainage. Another thing you should bear in mind is the type of material used in making your container or pot. Some materials retain water much longer than others.
4. Species of Succulent
Some species of succulents like those found in the tropical region of the world can tolerate certain moisture levels. In contrast, others have already adapted fully to dry conditions.
So, the species that are fully drought plants will need more drainage than the tropical succulents.
The weight of your succulent soil should be in line with the purpose to which you are cultivating it. A light underlayer of soil is needed when cultivating to make supplies.
With all these factors, you can begin with mixing the different components needed to prepare your soil for succulents. You will need both organic and inorganic components for your succulent soil.
Inorganic components required include;
- Coarse sand
- Expanded clay
Organic components required include;
- Wood chips
- Earthworm humus
- Peat moss
- Pine bark
These components are enough to make your succulent soil. You must ensure to use a slightly higher proportion of organic components as these are what make the soil porous and well-drained.
When you are done mixing the components properly, your soil is now ready for cultivating succulents.
The difference between succulent soils and potting soils is in their composition. Your succulent soil is your regular potting soil with a little addition of sand, gravel, and some other components.
Potting soils are not advisable for growing your succulents due to their moisture retention feature. But some varieties of succulents can be cultivated in potting soils.
This article also outlines what you need to prepare succulent soil so you can do it yourself.