What Kind of Soil Is Used for Cactus?
If you are someone who loves to grow houseplants, you might have at least one cactus plant at home. Cacti are among the most popular houseplants preferred by many. Under the right conditions, you can keep them inside your home for years. That being said, they are not the easiest plant to grow.
Unlike other kinds of plants, their needs are quite unique, especially when it comes to the question – “what kind of soil is used for cactus plants?” If you are on the lookout for the best soil for cactus plants, you are in the right place. In this post, we will be telling you about the kind of potting mix you need to have for your cacti to grow well and remain healthy.
Let us get started!
Also Read: What Kind of Soil Is Used for Money Trees?
What Kind of Soil Is Used for Cactus?
If you are someone who loves having cacti as houseplants, you may have heard of the term cactus soil or cactus mix. This is the soil that is ideal for growing cacti and is readily available in the market. However, what exactly goes inside a cactus mix? If you are wondering the same, we have the perfect answer for you.
Typically, cactus mix (or cactus soil) is a blend of various inorganic materials that have superior drainage properties. These together make a mix that is ideal for growing cacti and succulents. Usually, the inorganic materials that go inside this soil range from materials like sand and gravel to pumice and perlite.
All in all, cactus soil is the ideal soil for growing cacti. The keyword you need to look for when finding such a kind of soil is – proper drainage. Materials like sand and perlite are some of the ingredients that you must keep in mind if you are looking to purchase store-made cactus soil. Alternatively, if you want to mix up your own soil, these ingredients will still come in handy.
Why Should You Use Cactus Soil for Cactus?
When it comes to using the right soil for your cactus, it should be able to mimic the native environment in which they are accustomed to growing. Cactus soil does the same for these desert plants. Cactus soil is usually aerated and not too compact. This is beneficial as cacti have delicate root systems. These cannot thrive in soil types that are overly dense.
Further, you must know that this drought-tolerant plant is easily susceptible to root rot. Therefore, soil that holds excess moisture is not good for it. The same goes for a soil mix that is high in organic matter. Luckily, cactus soil covers all this. It addresses all the unique needs that are required for cacti to do well when grown indoors as houseplants.
Now, these desert dwellers are of various types. For instance, two of them include the Christmas cactus and the Thanksgiving cactus. The former (Schlumbergera bridgesii) has scalloped or teardrop-shaped leaf projections while the latter cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) has pointed and claw-shaped leaf projections.
When it comes to “what kind of soil is used for Christmas cactus,” it needs to have a high proportion of organic matter. This can be achieved with peat or well-decomposed compost. In addition to this, it also needs to have sand or gravel for drainage and aeration. Similarly, when it comes to “what kind of soil is used for Thanksgiving cactus,” the needs are slightly different.
This kind of cactus needs a potting medium that is well-drained and has good aeration. However, the need for nutrients is not much. Ideally, cactus soil that has 60-80% of potting soil with 40-20% of perlite works well for Thanksgiving cacti. From here, you can see that the kind of soil your cactus needs will also depend on the kind of cactus you choose to grow.
What Is an Ideal Soil pH Level for Cactus?
When using a potting medium for cactus, along with being well-drained and airy, the soil mix should be pH balanced. For this, you must know the answer to “what is the best soil pH level for cactus?” If you are unaware of the same, fret not. We are here with all the answers regarding the cactus soil pH range you will need.
For desert plants like cacti, acidic soil works wonders. Since these are acid-loving plants, a pH of anywhere between 5 and 7 works well for them. While this is a general range, each type of cactus species has its own ideal pH range. Typically, most of them grow the best between the pH of 5 to 6.5. Still, you can look it up depending on the cactus variety you get.
For this, research your specific type of cactus. With a little research, you can readily find the pH it prefers. Once you know about it, make sure that the soil maintains that pH range. While doing so, there are several things you need to take care of. For instance, the pH of your soil can even change with the water you are giving it. So, make sure you use it carefully.
Further, over time the pH range may increase. If this becomes over 8, it can affect the absorption of nutrients by your cactus plants. It means that along with making sure that you get a soil mix of the right pH range, it is also crucial to regulate and maintain it. Once you know the pH of your soil and water you can easily do that.
The first thing you can do is test the pH of your water before watering. You can also use various soil amendments to regulate the pH range. For instance, adding sublimed sulfur on the surface of your soil is an effective method to lower its pH range gradually. Here are some other ways you can use for regulating the soil pH range for cacti:
- You Can Lower the pH Range Using Aluminum Sulfate
If the pH range of your soil is more on the alkaline side, you will have to look for ways to lower it. For those who need more immediate results, aluminum sulfate is the solution. You have to mix it into the top layer (first inch or so) of your cactus soil to see the results. Now, if you are wondering about the amount of aluminum sulfate you need to use, it will depend on the starting pH level of the soil.
For instance, if the pH range is way too high from the acidic range, you will need more aluminum sulfate. Make sure to calculate the amount you will be needing well. It is because using too much of this substance can actually harm your cactus plants. Typically, you can use 1.2 pounds of aluminum sulfate per 10 square feet of soil.
- You Can Raise the pH Range Using Lime
While a low pH range is not as common as a high pH range, what should you do if you experience it? If you are wondering the same, we have a solution. in order to raise a pH range that is too low, you can simply use agricultural lime. This needs to be applied to the first few inches of the soil only. In case you are looking for immediate results, potassium carbonate and water mix can be used too.
Do keep in mind that this potassium carbonate solution is highly soluble. Due to this, it can reach the root system almost immediately. Therefore, use it wisely. Now, as we mentioned earlier, a low pH range is not as common as a high pH range. In that case, how to prevent it completely? Most of the time, a pH that ranges this low is usually due to over-fertilization.
If you wish to avoid this condition as much as possible, the best way out is to have a proper fertilization regime. Also, testing your soil is crucial. Make sure to do so, especially before you add the fertilizer. This will not only help you determine what kind of fertilizer to add to the soil but also prevent you from overdoing it.
- You Can Maintain the pH Range Using Water
As mentioned earlier, the water you use for the soil can affect its pH range. Therefore, another method you can use to regulate and maintain the pH level of your soil is simply using water. For this method, you should test the water you are going to use before doing so. This method is the easiest, most affordable, and most efficient way to go about regulating your soil pH range.
For instance, if you are using rainwater to water your plants, you should know that it has a pH of around 5.1. With this kind of pH level, you can easily keep the pH range of your cactus soil at an optimum level. If the pH level of the water you are using is high, you can use a variety of things to lower it.
However, the easiest method you can use for it is vinegar. You can simply add vinegar to water for it. For it, you also need to take an initial pH reading of the water you are about to use. When you add vinegar to the water, make sure to add it little by little. Also, between these additions, check the pH from time to time. This way, you can easily keep it around 5.1. If it is a little more than that, you can simply add water to adjust it.
How to Make Your Own Cactus Soil?
Now that you know the answer to “what is the best soil mix for cactus,” let us find out how to make your own cactus soil. While purchasing a pre-made cactus soil is possible, you can always make one on your own. Not only is it easy but you can also decide what goes into your mix. As a basic recipe, you can mix together the following:
- Three parts potting soil or peat,
- Three parts gravel or coarse sand, and
- Two parts perlite or pumice.
When choosing a potting mix for this, make sure that it does not have fertilizers. It is because these can cause leggy growth in cacti and even burn their roots. That being said, each variety of cacti has its own soil mix needs. So, here is how to make soil for cactus plants in a few easy steps. Have a look:
Research Your Cactus Species
The first thing that you need to do for deciding on a soil mix recipe is to determine the species of your cactus and research it. With a little research, you can readily find the correct soil mix for it. Since different cacti have different needs, the materials and the ratios you need for the cactus soil mix may vary.
For instance, if you are looking for a solution to “what are the necessary conditions for a saguaro cactus to grow,” simply research about it on the internet or other resources you can find. Generally, this variety of cacti needs well-drained soil and low levels of water to grow well. Also, the soil should be able to dry completely during every watering cycle.
Further, for such a kind of cactus, annually fertilizing it with cactus food is crucial. If you do this in the spring season, it is great for your plant. Doing so will help it complete its growth cycle readily. Similarly, if you have a nopales cactus, you can simply search for “what soil to use for nopales cactus?” For this variety of cactus, the general cactus soil recipes work well too.
Collect All the Materials
Once you research your cactus species and know what you will be needing for the soil mix, you need to collect it in one place. You also need to make sure that their amount is accurate. For instance, if you have a Christmas cactus, do you know how much perlite you add to potting soil for Christmas cactus?
For an ideal soil mix, if you are using one-part potting soil and two-part peat moss or compost, you will be needing one-part perlite. Another example you can take here is of Columnar cacti. What type of soil is used for cactus cuttings? Let us tell you. For this cactus kind, you will need to collect materials like pumice as a rooting medium.
Alternatively, you can also use equal parts of peat moss and sharp sand. Keeping all this in mind, collect the necessary organic and inorganic materials needed for the soil recipe. Some of the materials that are popularly used in cactus soil mixes include coarse sand, perlite, crushed granite, gravel, coconut coir, pumice, chicken grit, etc.
Mix Everything Thoroughly
Once you have all the materials needed for the soil mix in place, take their desired ratios in a large container. Mix all of these thoroughly before using them to plant your cactus plants. You can also use water if needed in the soil recipes. While DIY cactus soils are great, it is not what everyone can do or want to do.
In such a case, you can simply purchase a premade cactus soil mix. Of course, even in this case, you need to take note of what ingredients are present in the mix. Also, make sure that all of these are in accordance with your cactus variety.
Final Thoughts: How to Use Cactus Soil Mix Properly?
Now that you know what kind of soil is used for cactus plants and how to make it, let us conclude this post by telling you how to use cactus soil properly. Irrespective of whether you decide to get pre-made cactus soil or make your own DIY Cactus soil mix, there are some tips that you need to keep in mind when using it to plant your cacti. These are:
- Do Not Overwater Your Cacti: Firstly, always make sure that you water your cactus sparingly to avoid root rot. Since these desert plants are highly drought-resistant plants, you can even go with watering them with less than half a cup of water every week or two. Also, between the watering sessions, you must check the soil to make sure that it is dry.
- Always Use a Pot with Drainage Holes: Along with watering your cacti sparingly, also make sure that the pots they are planted in offer good drainage. For it, make sure that the posts have drainage holes. This is extremely essential for all growing succulents and cacti as it can minimize the risk of overwatering them.
- Make Sure to Repot Your Plant When Necessary: Next, you also need to check the roots. If they are reaching through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, you need to change the pot. When you place your cactus into its new pot, make sure to use fresh cactus soil for it. Also, it is ideal to wait a few weeks before you water it.
- Add Organic Materials as Needed: While your cactus does not need many nutrients, our last tip is to keep an eye on the soil for its nutrients. Since these can break down after a year or two, make sure to add fresh organic materials if or when necessary. Happy Gardening!