Difference Between Cactus Soil & Potting Soil

Difference Between Cactus Soil & Potting Soil
Difference Between Cactus Soil & Potting Soil

If you don’t read anymore of this blog we want you to know this – succulents should always be potted in cactus soil and not potting soil. Each type of soil has different attributes, will drain water differently, and contains different nutrients. If you own a variety of plants, you know that some like soil that stays moist and others like soil that completely dries out in between waterings. Succulents and cacti prefer the latter. Here’s why:

Potting Soil

potting soil close up texture

What’s in potting soil?

Typically, potting soil is made up of peat moss, bark, and perlite. Peat moss is a dark-brown material that helps with drainage in soil. It adds a lightness to the soil that allows roots to push through the soil more easily. The addition of bark helps prevent plants from being starved of nitrogen. You may recognize perlite as it is an ingredient in cactus soil! Perlite, made out of mined volcanic glass, is a great addition to many types of soil to help prevent compaction.

When to use potting soil

Potting soil is identified by its density and dark rich color. This is the soil used for flowers, vegetables, and large household plants. Potting soil holds onto moisture so that roots can soak it up gradually. The nutrients added to potting soils, like nitrogen and phosphorus, can be harmful to cacti or succulents. Large quantities of these nutrients can cause roots to burn or lead to deformities.

Cactus Soil

What’s in cactus soil?

Cactus soil is mainly a blend of inorganic materials. When purchased in a store, it often consists of sand, gravel, perlite, and/or pumice. Perlite adds the same benefits in cactus soil that it does in potting soil- to avoid compaction and help with drainage. A cactus blend is the best medium for potting your succulent babes because it allows water to easily drain through. Cactus soil can be easily made at home with a mix of only three ingredients – potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite. Note that you must start with a potting soil that is low in added nutrients to avoid root burn and deformities!

When to use cactus soil

Cactus soil is chunky and lightweight and is best used for cacti, succulents, and citrus plants. It allows water to easily run through your pot and drains out almost immediately. Due to the ease of water running through the soil, the Drench + Dry method is so effective when watering your succs. When using this method, you are allowing the soil to completely dry in between each watering. Drench the soil until you see water dripping through the pot’s drainage hole and then allow soil to completely dry out before watering again.

Keep it natural

Cactus soil is the best for succulents because it imitates the natural environment in which our succ babes grow! Succulents have very delicate shallow roots that absorb water quickly and cannot push through dense potting soils. When moving these desert plants into homes all over the country, it’s important to imitate as much of their natural environment as you can. That means lots of sun (or a grow light,) soils that are similar to the desert environments (a.k.a. cactus soil,) and watering methods that imitate desert downpours (drench + dry, baby!)

And that’s the dirt on… dirt. Now you know what kind of soil to plant your succulents and cacti in, the best watering technique for that soil, and why it’s so important. Time to repot with confidence and grow on!

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