By Bonnie L. Grant
Cacti are one of my favorite types of plants to grow inside all year and outside in summer. Unfortunately, the ambient air tends to stay moist during most seasons, a condition which makes cacti unhappy. Cactus potting soil can enhance drainage, increase evaporation and provide the dry conditions that cacti favor. What is cactus mix? This medium promotes optimum health for your cactus and mimics the natural gritty, arid and low nutrient soils they grow in naturally. You can purchase the mixture or learn how to make cactus soil yourself.
Cactus Growing Conditions
The cacti families are succulents which store moisture in their pads, stems and trunks to use during dry and drought periods. They are generally found in desert conditions, although a few are tropical to sub-tropical. The plants favor sunny locations with plenty of heat, areas which have little to no rainfall and harsh soil.
The majority of the family will make excellent houseplants due to their minimal needs and forgiving nature. These hardy plants do need water but not on the scale that the average plant requires. They are unique in form and flower with an ease of care that borders on neglect. They prefer a cactus growing mix that is partially sand or grit, some soil and a pinch of peat moss.
What is Cactus Mix?
Cactus potting soil is available in most nurseries and garden centers. It forms a better basis for cactus roots than regular soil and keeps roots and stems from sitting in moisture, which can cause rot. The right planting mix for cactus plants has superior drainage and will dry out quickly after watering. Cacti will harvest the moisture they need immediately to store in their bodies and excess water needs to be evaporated or drained to prevent fungal disease and rot.
Commercial mixes use the classic elements these plants grow in naturally and add peat, which tends to hold moisture. Once the peat has dried out, it is hard to get it to absorb water again which makes the pot too dry. The glass really is half empty in this case because not enough water will stay in the medium for the plant to uptake.
Homemade cactus growing mix can be tailor made for any type of cactus. Just like our personal tastes, one mix is not always right for every variety of cactus and growing region.
How to Make Cactus Soil
It is actually cheaper to make your own mixture. If you live in a very arid climate, you will want the addition of peat in your potted plants but be careful and don’t let it dry out completely. In most other areas and in the home interior, the plants are fine with 1 part washed sand, 1 part soil and 1 part gritty amendment such as pebbles or even pot shards.
A very different mix combines 5 parts potting soil, 2 parts pumice and 1 part coir for a mixture that dries out evenly. You may have to tweak the soil recipe depending on where you are using your cactus growing mix and what variety of succulent you have.
How to Know if You Need Different Soil
Sadly, by the time you notice a decline in the health of your cactus and think of repotting it in a different planting mix for cactus plants, it may be too late. A better option is to choose right the first time. Determine where your cactus naturally occurs.
If it is a desert species, use the simplest blend of clean fine sand, grit and soil. If you have a tropical species, add peat.
Plants such as Euphorbia are remarkably adaptable to almost any soil and can even thrive in dry potting soil. Give the plants a hand by choosing unglazed containers that evaporate excess moisture and watering deeply only when the soil is completely dry but not crusty.