Using Succulent and Cactus Soil for Non-Succulent Plants

The right soil for a cactus may be different than the potting mix youre used to Trending Videos

Cactus soil mix and standard potting mix are not the same and it helps to understand the differences. Not all plants can grow in regular potting soil or potting mix. Some plants, like cacti, need special soil that works for them. Discover why cactus soil is the best way to grow happy, healthy cacti indoors and how it’s different from regular potting mix.

Succulent and cactus potting mixes are specially formulated to provide the fast drainage, dryness and aeration that desert-adapted plants require With their abundance of perlite, sand and gravel, these soils seem very different than standard potting mixes. This leads many gardeners to wonder – can you use succulent and cactus soils to grow non-succulent plants? While these soils are tailored for succulents and cacti, the answer is yes – with some caveats and adjustments

The Properties of Succulent and Cactus Potting Mixes

To understand how these soils can be modified for other plants, let’s first look at their unique properties:

  • Fast drainage – Succulent/cactus mixes drain quickly to avoid moisture buildup. They contain up to 50% perlite or pumice.

  • Low water retention – Sand and grit limit the ability to retain moisture between waterings

  • High aeration – Lots of air pockets from coarse particles allow air circulation to roots.

  • Low organic matter – A minimal ingredient like peat provides nutrition. Some mixes have no organic matter.

  • Neutral to acidic pH – These mixes tend to be around pH 6.0-6.5.

These properties create a fast-draining, dry environment needed for succulent health. But they are the opposite of what most plants prefer in terms of moisture and nutrition availability. Modifications can make succulent and cactus soils usable for other plants.

Non-Succulent Plants That Appreciate Fast Drainage

While not ideal for all plants, succulent and cactus soils can suit those that prefer drier conditions, such as:

  • Rosemary, lavender, thyme – Mediterranean herbs
  • Dichondra, sedum – Groundcovers
  • Aeonium, jade plant, kalanchoe – Non-succulent but drought-tolerant plants
  • Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant – Vegetables that need good drainage
  • Sun-loving annuals like zinnias, cosmos, nicotiana
  • Cactus-like stapeliads and hoyas

For these plants that appreciate dryness and aeration, succulent/cactus mixes are often perfectly suitable without amendments. Monitor moisture levels and water thoroughly as needed.

Adjusting Succulent & Cactus Mixes for Other Plants

Many common garden plants grow best in soil with good moisture retention. For those plants, some modifications can make succulent and cactus mixes more usable:

  • Increase organic matter – Add compost, coir, peat, rotted leaves to hold moisture. Aim for 20-30% organic content.

  • Include slow-release fertilizer – Dry mixes lack nutrition that must be supplemented. Choose a balanced all-purpose fertilizer.

  • Reduce perlite/pumice – Cut the aggregate content by 10-20% to increase moisture holding capacity.

  • Grow in glazed or plastic pots – These retain moisture better than terracotta or fabric pots.

  • Use potting trays – Sit pots in trays filled with pebbles and water to increase humidity.

  • Mulch – Mulching the soil surface slows evaporation between waterings.

  • Water more frequently – Check soil moisture often and don’t let it dry out completely.

Modifying succulent and cactus mixes allows them to support plants like annuals, perennials and vegetables that need more moisture. Combine amendments with careful watering and potting techniques.

Challenges of Using Succulent & Cactus Soils

Even with modifications, using succulent and cactus mixes for non-succulent plants carries some challenges:

  • Drier plants like thyme may suffer if organic matter is increased too much. Adjustments require balancing.

  • These soils tend to resist taking up water when bone dry. Pre-moistening before planting helps.

  • With lower fertility, monitoring nutrition and supplementing is important.

  • The pH is not ideal for acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries.

  • Salts and minerals may build up over time, requiring more frequent flushing.

  • Soil becomes compacted after a season or two, hurting drainage.

While succulent and cactus mixes can be modified for other plants, they are still formulated for succulents first and foremost. You may need to experiment and tweak the blend over time to get it right for the plants you want to grow.

Making Your Own Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix

You can easily create your own customized succulent or cactus potting mix to suit your particular plants. Here is a simple recipe to blend together:

  • 1 part potting soil or compost – Provides nutrition and organic matter

  • 1 part perlite or pumice – Creates air pockets for drainage

  • 1 part coarse sand or fine gravel – Adds weight for stability

  • 1-2 tbsp slow-release fertilizer per gallon of soil

  • Lime (optional) – To raise pH if needed

Combine ingredients thoroughly. Adjust proportions according to your plants’ preferences. This versatile blend allows excellent drainage along with moisture retention.

Using Succulent & Cactus Soils for Other Plants

Succulent and cactus potting soils lend themselves well to plants that also thrive in dry, well-aerated conditions. While they require modifications for most other plants, a little tweaking makes these fast-draining mixes usable for a wide variety of plants. Get to know your plants’ preferences and make adjustments accordingly. With extra care taken to enhance moisture and nutrients, succulent and cactus soils can help provide proper growing conditions for herbs, annuals, perennials and more. Pay close attention, and your non-succulent plants can thrive in these specialized soils.

Why is Cactus Soil Beneficial?

Cactus soil is beneficial for growing cacti for several reasons:

  • It’s like the place where these desert plants are used to growing naturally.
  • Cacti don’t do well in potting soils that are too dense or that hold too much water because their roots are shallow and fragile.
  • Also, cacti can survive in dry conditions, but their roots can rot easily. This means they won’t do well in soil that is high in organic matter and keeps too much water around the roots.

Cactus soil mixes, which are actually “soilless” mediums, meet all of these specific needs and are made to help cacti do well when they are grown indoors. Regular potting soil is not suitable to provide these desert dwellers with the conditions they need to thrive.

can you use succulent soil for other plants

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

What is Cactus Soil?

It is sometimes called “cactus mix” or “cactus soil.” It is made up of mostly inorganic things like sand, gravel, pumice, and/or perlite. These materials drain better than other materials, so plants don’t sit in soggy, waterlogged soil, which could cause root rot. Cactus soil is ideal for growing cacti, succulents, and bonsai trees thanks to its superior drainage.

Other succulents are often grown in cactus soil, but many of these plants can’t handle drought as well as cacti. Some cactus soil that says it’s good for both cacti and succulents might have a little more organic matter, like peat moss, added for the succulents. Add some coarse sand, grit, or perlite to this soil if you want to grow a cactus indoors. It will help the soil drain better.

In addition, do not confuse cactus soil and orchid mix, either. Orchid mix drains well, but it has organic materials in it like peat moss, bark, and sphagnum moss that keep more water than cacti need.

Best Soil for Succulents & Cacti – Bonsai Jack Gritty Mix or Miracle Gro Succulent Soil

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