The majority of cacti and succulents fall under the category of arid plants used to surviving in environments with extreme temperatures and little rainfall. While the succulent can be in hot and cold climates depending on its species, cacti are almost exclusive to deserts. Both plants require a specific type of soil designed to be well-draining, filled with the right nutrients, and light enough to allow the roots to grow deep.
When it comes to identifying the best fertilizer for cacti and succulents, you might have some questions. Each product claims to be the best, but it is impossible for all of them to be. With this in mind, we have identified the top five options currently on the market. We’ve also included a handy buying guide so you know what to look for when trying to find the best soil for your garden or potted plants.
What to Look For
Succulents and cacti need a unique mixture of soil to remain healthy. Plus, because each species is different, some will have slightly different requirements than others. In general, you should choose a mixture which meets the following requirements: well-draining, arid, filled with sand and gravel, and between 40 and 80% nutrition.
Drainage refers to how much moisture is absorbed and kept by the soil when it is watered. Cacti and succulents need to be planted in a potting mix which consists of lighter material such as sand, gravel, and other small, hard substances. These do not become tightly packed and allow water and moisture to filter through. The soil pulls just enough liquid to keep the roots of succulents and other plants satisfied. Excess is removed so the plant does not drown or become susceptible to root rot.
Arid and filled with sand and gravel are related to the required drainage property of the soil. However, they also add other benefits. Succulents and cacti draw many of their nutrients from their environment and are designed to live in nutrient-poor areas that necessitate maximum root growth.
How Often Should You Water?
Succulents and cacti need little water to remain happy and healthy. It is recommended you only give your plants water every 7 to 10 days. Although the cacti and succulents can survive with less water, it is a poor idea to restrict liquid during the growing season of spring through fall.
Like many other plants, cacti and succulents need a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For these types of plants, nitrogen is the most important element necessary to keep them happy. It is important to find soil and fertilizer that has plenty. Avoid using too much filler like wood chips, beads of white fertilizer, or loamy and heavy soil.
Picking a mixture that includes some peat moss is also an excellent idea. Although some gardeners consider it to be a filler, peat moss can create a great environment for roots to grow. For those that don’t know, peat moss is a combination of 380 different mosses which are mixed and blended together to create a source of nutrition and decomposing soil for other plants.
How Often Should You Fertilize?
Because of their nature, cacti and succulents need little extra fertilizer to be satisfied. If you are interested in adding extra nutrition for your plants, limit it to a small application every two to three months.
Finally, it’s important to check the pH of the potting mix. Cacti and succulents, as well as many other plants, work best when planted in neutral soil. On the pH scale, neutral is typically anywhere from 6 to 8. The lower the number, the more acidic a substance is. Higher numbers are basic. If you are struggling to locate a neutral potting mix, it is better to use an option that is slightly acidic rather than basic.
Check Out These Quality Options
This organic succulent and cactus mix produced by Perfect Plants is ideal for individuals who struggle to maintain the perfect balance of air and moisture in their pots. It primarily utilizes composted pine bark, lime, perlite, and organic peat moss. The bark has been broken down so there are no large chunks which could affect drainage, and the rest of the mixture is well blended. At first glance, Perfect Plants doesn’t look like it would have adequate drainage. However, the soil is so light and fluffy that excess water drips right out.
This mix is completely organic and includes an ideal ratio of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. It can be purchased in containers of four or eight quarts and is remarkably inexpensive, making it great for someone with multiple plants that need to be potted. It is best suited for some of the most common, temperate succulents and cacti, including the crassula campfire, lipstick echeveria, and the zebra plant.
- Lightweight and aerated
- Rich in nitrogen
- Adequate drainage
- Includes peat moss
- The aeration deflates rapidly
- Small puddles can appear at the bottom of the pot
One of the best characteristics of The Next Gardener Organic Succulent Mix is how it is handmade in small batches by a company in Denmark. Since the potting mix is ground and composed by hand, it includes many of the elements cacti and succulents need to remain happy and healthy. In this mix, those ingredients include perlite, small rocks, peat moss, and other substrates. This soil is also one of the rare options with a neutral pH (5.5).
The Next Gardener recommends this mix for primarily temperate and arid cacti and succulents like crassula ovata jade, donkey’s tail, and other bonsai species. It should not be used for cold weather succulents because it does not contain the right ingredients.
Finally, this mix is 100% organic, which is excellent for individuals who are concerned about what they expose their plants too. It comes in containers of two, four, and eight quarts. If you would like to try it out, you can always get a small package and then purchase more later.
- Neutral pH
- Completely organic
- Contains peat moss
- Comes in multiple sizes
- Does not contain vermiculite as advertised
- Smells bad
The Superfly Bonsai Succulent and Cactus Mix is popular for many reasons. It is one of the only soil products that primarily includes inorganic components such as rocks and solid but small chunks of wood. A low amount of perlite and peat moss forms the rest of the recipe. This means it possesses more than adequate drainage and will prevent your plants from suffering from root rot, mold, mildew, and the growth of fungus. The downside to having such a well-draining soil is you will need to monitor your water levels well.
This is a versatile, organic option handmade in small batches. Superfly works not only on succulents and cacti but also for bonsai. The drainage allows air to reach the roots, supplying extra nutrition. Unlike some other options, Superfly offers a full money-back guarantee. You can try this soil and return it if you are unhappy with the results.
Finally, Superfly Succulent and Cactus mix is available in small batches like 1 to 2 quarts.
- Primarily inorganic matter
- Allows air to reach the roots
- Made in small batches
- Works for bonsai, succulents, and cacti
- Only available in small batches
- Low nutrition
The Bonsai Jack Succulent soil also works for cacti and bonsai. It is another mainly inorganic potting mix for individuals who fear their plants will not experience adequate drainage and air to the roots. It has a soil pH of 5.5, making it a great neutral option. The soil uses rocks and small chunks of perlite, but also incorporates monitor clay and pine bark. It works well for the majority of temperate succulents, including echeveria, crassula, lithops, jade, aloe, haworthia, and the crassula family.
Bonsai Jack is one of the only companies which sells succulent soil in large sizes. When shopping, you can choose from one to twenty-eight gallons so you always have enough to keep your plants satisfied. To ensure you get the highest quality, containers are screened and washed before being shipped. This significantly reduces the chances of getting pests or other problems and also helps lower the possibility of developing root rot and similar diseases.
- Neutral pH
- Works for the majority of cacti and succulents
- Sold in large quantities
- Screened before shipping
- Little organic material
One of the perks of growing cacti and succulents is how they have experienced a boom in popularity, meaning you will always have access to specialty soil. Out of these high-quality options for your plants, Superfly is the best choice. It works for almost every species, has the right amount of drainage, and combines inorganic and organic ingredients without going heavy on the rocks. The only catch is you might need to buy more than one bag to have enough material for multiple plants.