Nothing is worse than planting a cactus and realizing that the soil you are using to grow it is unsuitable. It can take years for your cactus to recover from this mistake, so understanding the difference between cactus soil and succulent soil before you buy will help avoid these mistakes.
What is the difference between cactus soil and succulent soil? Cacti plants thrive in dry environments, while other succulents require regular watering to survive. Both types of plants have different soil needs: cacti need a gritty, porous type of soil with little organic matter, while succulents need a well-draining potting mixture with plenty of organic material like peat moss or composted manure.
This blog post discusses the differences between cactus soil and succulent soil, including what they need for both nutrients and their environment. So, let us get started.
What Is Cactus Soil?
Cactus soil is a gritty, porous type of soil that has little organic matter. It should not be too wet or hold water for too long, and it should have good drainage to prevent root rot because cacti plants thrive in dry environments.
It is usually made of a huge composition of inorganic matter and a small portion of organic matter such as peat moss and composted manure.
Do I Need Special Cactus Soil?
If you want your cactus to thrive and be happy, the answer is “yes.” The biggest issue with cacti plants is too much moisture.
Their roots are highly fragile and require a dry and gritty type of soil with plenty of organic material to survive. Planting cacti in poorly drained soils can lead to root rot and slow death.
Even if you water your plant lightly and less frequently, it won’t help much if the soil has poor drainage. Sometimes, even high humidity can cause problems to your plant if you are not using the right type of potting mix.
So, if you have tried cultivating cacti plants in your home garden and ran into issues you didn’t understand, try changing your potting mix and see if you will achieve better results.
How Does Cacti Soil Differ from Succulent Soil?
So, how does cacti soil differ from succulent soil? Let us find out below:
1. Reduced Moisture Content
One of the biggest differences between cactus soil and regular succulent soil is the reduced moisture content.
Cacti thrive in dry environments because they have a low tolerance for water, and excess moisture can lead to root rot, which will kill the plant.
This means you should avoid using regular succulent soil as it has more organic material that retains a lot of water.
In fact, some regular succulent soil contains extra hydrophilic components that can hold excess water for prolonged periods making your cacti prone to stem and root rot.
This is why you should always choose soil with reduced moisture content if you plan on planting and cultivating cacti plants in your home garden.
However, planting other succulents in such soils may not be a big issue if the plant has already rooted.
Some succulents, when rooted, will get better over time, even if you use the wrong soil type. For example, many people try to grow the Aloe Vera plant in cactus soil, which does not work out well.
However, an aloe vera that is already rooted will get better with time because succulents have a long life span over other plants. The best thing is to wait and not make any changes until the plant has fully rooted.
2. Better Aeration
Cactus soil must have a lot of air pores to allow water to escape easily, which makes it easy to dry out when wet. On the other hand, succulent soils are more compact, making it difficult for some plants with shallow roots like cacti to survive.
Better aerated soil has a relatively high percentage of inorganic matter such as peat moss, sand, or perlite. These particles will provide the cacti with better airflow and allow water to drain out of its roots easily when it rains.
Aerated potting soil also allows more oxygen, which is good for plant growth. So, you should choose a potting mix with this component if you plan on planting and cultivating cacti in your home garden.
Some succulent soils have a lower percentage of inorganic matter, making it difficult for most cacti species to survive in them.
3. Better Drainage
Cactus soil has excellent drainage because the particles are spread out, making it easy for water to flow through when you irrigate. This is not as much of a concern with succulents since they do well without too much water.
However, if you choose the wrong potting mix, you may end up with a plant that is prone to rot.
The best soil for your cacti must have excellent drainage and should be made of high-quality ingredients like perlite or sand particles. This will help prevent water from pooling at your cactus’ roots which can lead to root rot.
One of the easiest ways to achieve better drainage is by ensuring that the planting container has plenty of drainage holes. Consider adding a layer of pearl gravel and stones at the bottom of the container to ensure the holes don’t get blocked by soil.
Additionally, plant your cactus at a higher elevation, and you might not have to water it frequently as the soil will drain better.
4. Less Organic Matter
Although cactus soil is primarily made of inorganic matter such as sand and perlite, it still contains some organic matter like peat moss to promote plant growth.
This is because these soil types are not always explicitly manufactured for cacti plants and may be used for other plant species that thrive in dry environments.
The plants use the organic matter as a source of nutrients when it is broken down by insects and bacteria. Since there is little activity going on in a potted plant, it may take some time before the materials are completely broken down.
On the other hand, some succulent soils contain a lot more organic material to provide the plant with plenty of food. Choosing such a soil type for your cactus may be catastrophic because your plant will be susceptible to root rot.
5. Fewer Nutrients
The presence of inorganic materials such as sand and perlite means that cactus soil does not contain a lot of nutrients.
In fact, the relatively small amount of organic matter in these types of soil cannot be used as the primary source of food for your cacti plants hence the need for applying fertilizer.
The soil also lacks additional soil nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus essential for plant growth.
Cacti plants are more sensitive to these nutrients and need them to thrive, grow healthy and produce flowers or fruit.
If you want a cactus that is long-lived, blooms frequently, and produces plenty of fruits, then it’s best to establish a regular feeding schedule, especially during the flowering and fruiting season.
However, you need to be careful not to overfeed your plant because too much fertilizer can lead to unhealthy overgrowth or some other damage to the cactus plant as it struggles to use up the excess nutrients.
Instead of using an organically rich potting mix, feed your plant with occasional doses of water-soluble fertilizer.
Can You Make Your Own Cactus Soil?
The simple answer to this question is “yes.” While most of us would prefer getting the commercially prepared cactus soil, you can also make your own potting mix by following a simple process.
Depending on the type of cactus that you have, there are a few options for making your own soil. You can mix in sand or perlite with some peat moss to make an appropriate mixture for these types of plants.
You also need to ensure that any potting material is free from fertilizers and fungicides, so it’s safe to use.
Lastly, add drainage holes in the bottom of your potting container and choose a deep enough soil-filled garden pot or planter filled with appropriate material for cacti plants like perlite or sand.
You can also consider using small portions of organic ingredients such as composted manure which will provide vital nutrients for your cacti.
Just make sure that the soil you make on your own is not too compact so it can drain properly and doesn’t become waterlogged. Resist the temptation of using too many organic components, and everything will be alright.
Cactus plants are more tolerant of dry environments like deserts because they require less moisture than other plants. They also grow well in pots with a reduced moisture content which is perfect for them.
There are many differences between succulent soil and regular cactus soil that you should be aware of if you want to start growing cacti plants in your home garden successfully.