Cactus can be an excellent houseplant due to its low maintenance and forgiving nature. Since these have very different needs from the usual tropical houseplants, understanding what kind of soil cactus need is crucial.
Cactus needs well-draining and porous soil, so it grows best in a commercial cactus mix that is readily available. If you want to prepare it yourself, mix 3 parts potting soil, 3 parts sand, and 2 parts perlite. Add peat to the soil mix if your cactus is a sub-tropical species.
In this article, we will dive deep into understanding the ideal soil mix for cactus and some soil recipes so you can prepare one for your cactus yourself.
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Which soil type would a cactus do well in?
Cactus will do well in soil that is porous and sandy.
It will not do well in the usual soil mix you prepare for other houseplants.
If you are wondering why cacti have different requirements, it prefers different environmental conditions from the other houseplants.
Cacti prefer to grow in dry conditions and can grow in full sun.
If you use the regular soil you typically do for your usual houseplants, it will get overwatered and die.
Therefore, you must be careful when deciding on the soil for your cactus.
Some signs of good soil for your cactus are:
- It is well-draining.
- It provides proper aeration.
- It has plenty of organic matter.
- It retains the required moisture that cacti need.
Importance of organic and inorganic ingredients in cactus soil
While regular potting soil mostly contains organic matter, cactus soil needs a significant amount of inorganic matter.
The main reason behind using inorganic ingredients in cactus soil is to improve the aeration and drainage and keep the soil light.
The most common ingredients used are perlite and pumice.
Perlite is affordable, which is why it is preferred over pumice, but pumice lasts long and works better than perlite.
Cactus soil also needs organic matter that helps provide the necessary nutrients to the cacti.
Some common organic ingredients added to cactus soil are coco coir, peat moss, and mulch.
If you use peat moss, don’t let the soil go too dry.
Can I use regular potting soil for cactus?
You might ask, why can’t I use regular potting soil for my cactus?
You can use it after making some amendments, but you can’t use it as it is for your cactus.
To understand this better, let me explain the difference between regular potting and cactus soil.
|Factor||Cactus soil||Regular potting soil|
|Drainage||Cactus soil drains water faster and better than regular potting soil. Cactus soil retains the amount of moisture that a cactus needs and drains all the excess water, so there’s no chance of root rot.||Potting soil is used for plants that need more retention than a cactus. So, although it does drain water, it doesn’t do it as well as your cactus would like.|
|Aeration||Cactus soil contains elements like perlite that allow proper airflow into the soil and the roots of the plants. This is important for the health of the cactus.||Potting soil is denser compared to cactus soil. Although it might support aeration, it will fail to provide as much aeration as the cactus needs.|
|Ingredients||Most cactus soil contains more inorganic matter like perlite, gravel, pumice, grit, etc.||Potting soil contains more organic matter like vermiculite, pine bark, and peat moss.|
|Nutrients||Cactus soil doesn’t need to be nutrient-rich as these plants are accustomed to harsh soil conditions.||Potting soil needs more nutrients and proper feeding from time to time, as plants growing in regular potting soil need more nutrients than cacti.|
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Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.
Best soil for cactus
There are two ways to get the best soil for your cacti: get a readymade one or prepare one yourself.
Best commercial soil for cacti
If you don’t want to opt for the hassle of preparing the soil by mixing everything yourself, consider getting a commercial cactus soil.
I have used commercial cactus mixes for my cacti, which have worked pretty well.
Here are a few commercial cactus mixes you can choose from:
- Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Mix
- rePotme Cactus and Succulent Classic Potting Mix
- Espoma Organic Cactus Mix
You can easily find these in the market or get them online.
However, not all cactus mixes will be ideal for potted cacti, as many are suitable for cacti grown outdoors.
So, if you want a more customized mix for your cactus, it is best to prepare one.
How to prepare cactus soil mix?
Like different plant species have different soil requirements, different cactus species have different needs.
Some hail from desert regions, while some are native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.
So, it is quite obvious that the requirements might differ.
This is the reason many like to prepare a customized cactus mix for their cactus instead of going for an all-in-one solution.
Follow these steps to prepare a cactus mix for your cactus.
1. Do your research
First, find out the species of cactus you own.
Once you know, do some research to find its specific requirements.
You can use the same ingredients for all your cacti.
But, the ratio of the ingredients will depend on the species.
2. Get the ingredients
Cactus soil mix requires both organic and inorganic materials.
So gather the ingredients you’ll need. Some materials you can get are:
3. Mix the ingredients
After gathering all the ingredients in one place, mix them.
As I mentioned earlier, the ratio of the ingredients might vary depending on the cactus species.
But let’s take a look at a few popular cactus mix recipes.
Recipe for jungle cactus
The cactus that belong to jungle regions can grow on rocks and surrounding trees, so their requirements will differ from regular desert cactus.
You can use the recipes I’ve mentioned above and make some amendments.
These will improve the aeration of the soil.
While preparing the cactus soil, do a sample test by taking some and adding water to it.
If the soil forms chunks, add more pumice or perlite.
How to take care of the cactus soil?
After you’ve prepared a cactus soil or bought one and potted your cactus in it, your work is not done.
You also need to take care of it properly so the plant can stay healthy in that soil.
Here are a few things you should remember.
- Don’t water your cacti like other houseplants. Cacti don’t need as frequent watering as other houseplants. If you don’t water them sparingly, they will get overwatered and die out of root rot.
- Always use a pot with drainage holes. Cacti need proper drainage as it doesn’t like sitting in moist soil. Not getting a pot with drainage holes will again lead to root rot.
- Try to get an unglazed pot, which will allow excess water to evaporate. Water your cactus thoroughly when the soil is dry.
- Don’t forget to replenish the soil with organic matter every 1-2 years.
- Repot the cactus whenever the roots outgrow the pot. You might find roots coming out of the drainage holes. Wear gloves or use tongs to take the cactus out of its pot and place it in a new pot with fresh cactus soil. Water after 2-3 weeks.
When should I use cactus soil?
Many use regular potting soil for growing their cacti, and when they find that the plants are not doing well, consider switching to cactus soil.
But, that is not the right way to go about it.
If you are reading this, don’t use regular potting soil for your cactus in the first place.
Prepare a cactus soil using the regular potting soil and then plant the cactus in it.
If you use regular potting soil without any amendments, you might see your cactus becoming unhealthy, and you might not even be able to save it.
Where to buy cactus soil?
Cactus soil is available in the local nurseries or garden centers and also online.
Home depot cactus soil
If you get plants from your home depot, or even if you don’t, you can get cactus soil from there.
Some cactus soil mixes you might get here are:
Never pot your cactus in regular potting soil. If you prepare cactus soil with potting soil, add enough inorganic matter like perlite, pumice, grit, etc.
If you buy commercial cactus soil, it might work great for your cacti. If not, consider making some amendments to it. Ensure the soil drains water fast, allows proper airflow, and remains light.
Make sure to use a pot with drainage holes so the cactus doesn’t get overwatered.
Reference: Wikipedia, Quality improvement of cacti and succulents with alternative substrates.