Sempervivum forum→Mineral soil amendments

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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
Jan 28, 2021 2:20 AM CST
I stumbled upon a few mineral based soil additives last year and it's had me thinking: If Sempervivum are from the mountains where erosion is common and topsoil is sparse, then wouldn't they likely respond well to mineral amendments?

Using too much compost can cause rot in sempervivum and so I'm looking for other ways to try and give my semps a boost, if anyone is familiar with mineral soil amendments I'd love to hear your opinions on this.

So far I've seen several different types of amendments.
Some, like "glacial dust", and "volcanic wonder dust" do not boast a ph or an npk rating, instead they vaguely describe the potential benefits of various minerals. Some like iron I've imagined could benefit semps, but others like manganese and silica I wouldn't think could help much and other minerals listed like lamproite I'm completely unfamiliar with. These additives often reference a volume of contents without listing specific elements, like a statement that says "this product contains over 60 different minerals", some also make allusions to "natural vermiculite".

Some also boost calcium.

Other mineral additives seem to be more about ph adjusting, like limestone, plaster, dolomite sand. We've had the discussion about ph and semps on the forum before but I think the conclusion was that they do well in both acidic and basic soil so that's less interesting to me, what I am curious about is whether these might have other benefits besides ph.

Some like baked clay, turface akedama, horticultural sands, various gravels and pumice, seem to be more about adjusting drainage. Anyone trying to engineer specialized soil for sempervivum knows how important drainage is, that's not really what I'd like to discuss in his thread, but I am curious if any of those sorts of additives also add beneficial nutrients as a side effect.

On a final note, I once read sempervivum are salt tolerant, not that I'm sold on the idea yet. However I could see how salts might stave off some of the bacteria that cause rot in sempervivum. Some of the mineral additives reference "beneficial salts" which isn't really something I understand, are there different kinds of salts? Other materials (even some organic ones like coco peat and oyster shells) have the potential to introduce residual salt into the soil. In my experience salt kills plants so I've always been averse to anything that might have it, but if adding some beach sand to the soil won't hurt the semps and will help prevent rot I'd be tempted to give it a shot. I know there are some forms of succulents which grow on the coast, so I suppose it might be possible that salt could be benign or even beneficial to sempervivum, but I have major doubts.

Anyways I just wanted to open the topic for discussion. Up to this point I've only used compost and fertilizer to speed up my plant's growth, just curious if anyone has tried mineral supplements to speed things along.

-Sol Zimmerdahl
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 28, 2021 3:53 AM CST
I have used before dolomite sand and even dolomite small gravel (so basically calcium magnesium carbonate), seems to have been good.
I've noticed pretty poor growth in pots where there was a ton of perlite, already at 50% is too much in my experience, it can slow down growth.
Not all cultivars seems to mind it, some even got I would say better shorter not so elongated leaves, which I like.

I had the chance to see a salty place, smelling like salt, dripping salt and it had sedum, hyloteltpoum and many other plants, ironically a sanctuary of plants because people wanted to cherish the small salt hill (mostly covered in soil and plants).

[Last edited by PaleoTemp - Jan 28, 2021 3:54 AM (+)]
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Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jan 28, 2021 9:03 AM CST
Sol,

Ed Skrocki swore by fritted trace elements for semps and he got incredible growth on his plants and huge sizes too. Right now I'm happy with my combo of Quick Start and the premium perennial mix.

Anyway, it might be worth trying some supplements. Many iris growers swear by Epsom salts and dried milk as additions to their soils.

Kevin
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 28, 2021 9:50 AM CST
JungleShadows said:Sol,

Many iris growers swear by Epsom salts and dried milk as additions to their soils.

Kevin


Epsom salts is basically magnesium sulfate, also has some anti fungal proprieties, reason for which it will work on feet sometimes, the sulfate part which is more than magnesium anyway.
Dried milk has the typical know contents of milk: calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, in that order (which quantity is higher) I mean this is why it was always recommended for consumption.
There are other mineral too in very small quantity like zinc and selenium, sodium.


Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
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GeologicalForms
Jan 28, 2021 3:57 PM CST
Paleo,

The gravel distributor near my garden sells big sacks of dolomite gravel and it comes in some very fine sizes which border on sand, I've been very tempted to try it out but wasn't sure if there would be a big benefit of using it over regular gravel but your experience makes me think it might be worth a try. Knowing that it introduces calcium and magnesium carbonate to the soil sounds like a valuable benefit, it's certainly much cheaper than glacial dust which claims to add the same things.
I've always thought pearlite was sort of trashy looking, as I understand it provides 0 nutritional benefits to the plants aside from adding drainage. I guess it's lighter/cheaper than pumice, plus it's clean, which is probably why folks use it instead, but I love the way the fine roots grab onto the pumice and doubt they'd hold as tightly to pearlite.

Kevin,

That's cool to hear about Ed. The volcano and glacier dust claim to have trace elements though I'm not sure that their fritted. Possibly the volcano dust because I read an article that mentioned the elements becoming infused in rock during the extreme heat and pressure of it's formation, which is probably the same thing. I suppose them being encapsulated in frit/stone slows the release of the minerals, similar to a slow release fertilizer.

I haven't really determined whether the traditional semp rot we see in wet weather is from fungi or bacteria, but if it's fungi I imagine the epsom salts might help. It doesn't seem like the positive relationship that trees/other plants have with mycorrhiza exists with the more vulnerable roots of sempervivum. In bonsai it's a big plus to have mycelium growing on the roots because it breaks down nutrients in the adjacent soil which can then be absorbed by the trees, in the case of semps I think it might dissolve the roots to!

I know you want to avoid excess nitrogen to keep the growth tight in semps, and it sounds like calcium helps to, so maybe the dried milk would provide some benefit as well. Sounds like things that work for irises often work for semps to. I've had an iris potted up in one of my semp mixes for a couple years now and it's doing well so far.

Thanks for the input,
-Sol
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Jan 28, 2021 4:09 PM CST

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I can't contribute much in the way of scientific evidence.
I used the #2 granite chicken grit in Dallas, and did not wash it of the dust. All went into the beds, dust and all.
Since we moved I am now using 1/4 minus, again dust and all. I really feel the dust does add some nutrients to the soil.
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 28, 2021 4:13 PM CST
I had fine dolomite like sand, I know.
I also do not like perlite around the plants, I don't really like how it looks, but it is cheap and ultra light weight, which means shipping is cheap for a lot of it.
There is the question weather adding liquid fertilizer would make perlite be filled with minerals, instead of being "neutral".

Pumince is nicer, however as far I have have seen, it is much more expensive and the sellers seem for some reason to only sell it wet, which becomes heavy for transportation. I cannot find it anywhere at the big commercial plant places anyway.

I wonder about the Thiamine HCL, seems to be used for plants by some people and the active ingredient in some products, not sure about it. Well, not really for mineral soil amendment.

https://www.intechopen.com/boo...
[Last edited by PaleoTemp - Jan 28, 2021 4:32 PM (+)]
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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
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GeologicalForms
Jan 29, 2021 2:21 AM CST
Lynn,

I wouldn't be surprised if the extra fine dust from gravel provides minerals small enough to be absorbed by the semps. I use a fine horticultural sand I think may be sourced from a river, maybe that also provides some usable mineral content. I've been concerned about it's use as an additive lately though because it's so fine it may not be helping all that much with drainage, other horticultural sands I've seen have a coarser particle size. It does create a loose texture when used with peat, but when I replaced the peat with bark the soil became much more solid, I think it's the interplay of the fine fibers and granules that make the sand useful, the bark is much coarser than the peat, so if I continue to use it I think switching to a thicker sand particle might mesh better.


Paleo,

I skimmed the article and it does sound like Thiamine might help the rot problem. Toughening the structure and acting as an antioxidant, defending the plant from fungus and bacteria. Sounds like it doesn't act the same in all plants though, so it'd still be an experiment to try it on the semps. If I recall correctly there was something in there about some plants forming dependencies on direct B1 supplements, that'd be something to watch for, wouldn't want plants to grow well under your care just to not be able to defend against external stresses when whoever you give them to doesn't continue to treat them.
-Sol
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 29, 2021 3:06 AM CST
Sol,
That is why I linked to the graph it seems to help with defense against pathogens.
Superthrive and Liquinox seem to be based on thiamine, even if they are basically not the same in terms of NPK and depending on the product they also have NAA (which seems some do not agree with).
Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Jan 29, 2021 4:28 AM CST
When I grew cannabis organically I used a product called sea-90 from a company called SeaAgri.

"All SeaAgri products are produced from the Sea of Cortez containing 92 minerals and trace elements, plus more than 50,000 organic compounds. Scientific data shows that SEA-90's minerals and trace elements stimulate, feed and enhance micro flora populations in soil, and as little as one ounce of SEA-90 Essential Elements provide nearly complete mineral nutrition."

I also used Mycorrhizae and compost teas as inoculants to get the food web going.

It's funny, I put so much effort into growing cannabis and now I literally do nothing with my sempervivum. I still have my amendments, maybe I will do a test with sea90 and see what happens.
[Last edited by JesseInCT - Jan 29, 2021 5:35 AM (+)]
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Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 29, 2021 7:18 AM CST
Damn, 92 minerals and trace elements, the entire period table is in that product, hopefully there is not that much EinsteiĀ­nium only traces or too much Chlorine for that matter.
[Last edited by PaleoTemp - Jan 29, 2021 7:18 AM (+)]
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North Richland Hills, TX (Zone 8a)
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Rido
Jan 29, 2021 9:36 AM CST
Sol,
Thanks for starting this topic. I have been thinking about this as well. Last winter, I bought one large bag of crushed granite, same one that Lynn has mentioned. I had to wash some of the fine particles out since it had too much dust in it. I also purchased small bag of dolomite powder and bone meal. I mixed them in organic soil where I used them in large wood planter I had my seedlings growing. That planters had 100+ seedlings and they were resistant to heavy rains we had in May. I had lost almost all except a few in other locations where I did not use rock dust and bone meal. I had 1 yard of crushed granite and manufactured sand delivered last August so I am using it in all soil mixes now. Also using sifter to get the dust out first however leaving some dust behind. We will see how semps will do in May/June.
I am using a few different biofungicides what seems for short time.
Using Quick Start helped them grow faster and healthier as well.
PaleoTemp, that is very interesting topic about thiamine. I may need to give it a try on trial basis to increase resistance for heat stress when soil get wet. I need to learn more to see what form to use, legumes powder may be? Thinking
Ridvan
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 29, 2021 11:40 AM CST
Well in these commercial plant products they use thiamine hydrochloride as far as I have seen, basically what is commonly sold as B1 for human supplementation.
There are various other fancy ones for human like Thiamine Tetrahydrofurfuryl Disulfide, which I have tried a couple of times.
You may find thiamine mononitrate for horses.

Animed brand has Thiamine HCL (hydrochloride) powder which you can mix in water and try to achieve a 0.1% solution.
[Last edited by PaleoTemp - Jan 29, 2021 11:48 AM (+)]
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Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
Jan 29, 2021 11:55 AM CST
Regarding dust, I have to say I saw bad results from substrate mixes where I used perlite which came with massive amounts of dust perlite particles, the sempervivum in those seem to have very slow growing roots, underdeveloped roots.
Sometimes these bags can have 20% perlite dust which is literally making the entire substrate white when mixed. I assumed somehow because of the larger perlite pieces the dust would drain itself out after a while from the containers, but it seems not and maybe it has to do with the fact that perlite floats no matter what and perlite dust does the same.
I would be careful to not have any large amount of perlite dust I guess.
[Last edited by PaleoTemp - Jan 30, 2021 1:01 AM (+)]
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Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
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Gypsi
Jan 29, 2021 8:34 PM CST
This is very good information. I'd been using perlite to lighten my succulent soil and improve drainage.
Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
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GeologicalForms
Jan 30, 2021 3:57 AM CST
Paleo,

I'll be keeping my eye out for a fertilizer product that contains Thaimine but is low in nitrogen, something I could use which might toughen the plants as well as keep the tight colorful growth we love to see.
Yes I'd agree that dust of any kind should be used with discretion, especially perlite dust which probably doesn't provide any nutrients. In the case of extra fine particles, I think it's positive to have enough of them to somewhat coat your larger particles (so long as they might provide nutrients which could benefit the plants), but too many fine particles can lead to a soil more reminiscent of concrete which is difficult for roots to permeate. I bought decomposed granite to use as mulch once... big mistake! it dissolves almost entirely into fine rock dust which seals the soil with a hard shell, good for a pathway perhaps, but not as a gravel mulch around succulents.


Jesseln,

I buy most of my seed flats at grow shops which specialize in cannabis, it was at one of these shops where I first discovered mineral additives beyond lime. They do cary some wild stuff at some of those shops. I think I actually recall seeing some SEA-90, I was concerned that the semps might not appreciate it's organic compounds though (and at the time I was going out of my way to avoid products which may have contained salts), my thoughts are the same for the Mycorrhizae which I'm thinking may actually attack the slower growing, sensitive roots of sempervivum. Cannabis is much more akin to annual garden vegetables, growing ferociously for one year then dying back, all of those types of plants seem to be on the opposite side of the flora spectrum from sempervivum with regards to optimal conditions.
Anyone can plop a semp in the ground and it'll probably live, it does take some research to grow them to their full potential though. My early plantings were in the awful local clay we have here, but when my first colorful semps didn't produce or grow in the first two years I had them, I decided to look deeper into designing a soil that would suit them better, and for the most part my efforts have payed off. Aside from my recent mistake of using un-composted bark mulch in my soil, I think most of my new ingredients have lead to better growth.


Ridvan,

I thought this topic was one that hadn't really been touched on, we talk so much about soil/compost/drainage/fertilizer but never about the minerals that these plants may be starving for.
It's exciting to hear you've also had luck with dolomite, now I'll definitely have to try it. With you and Paleo both noticing positive results I'd say that definitely warrants some experimentation. Bone meal has also interested me some, combined with bio char it completes a well rounded low nitrogen fertilizer that also wouldn't be likely to attract the same microbes that might attack the semps. I am thinking about avoiding as many plant-based additives as possible these days, try to stop the rot by not giving it a reason to enter the substrate. I know Mark did some experiments with sensitive semps potted in completely inorganic substrates, don't know if he ever reported his findings though.
I often use crushed granite gravel as a mulch and quickstart during the growing season, the plants seem to like that.
Biofungicides might be something to look into as well.

Alice,

I don't think there's anything majorly wrong with pearlite, it just doesn't have nutrients to contribute and it's unsightly. Pearlite dust on the other hand sounds like a choking hazard, both for the plants and the gardener.

-Sol
Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
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Gypsi
Jan 31, 2021 11:49 AM CST
my first semps (not from Lowes, I still have the Lowes ones), have been shipped. I'm off today and I need to mix potting soil, I have a formula for my onions that I am sure the semps will not like.

I need to make enough soil for the plants I have ordered. I can only find dolomite as a vitamin for humans, I'm not finding it online anyway at lowes or home depot. I have some hydrated lime but it contains very little magnesium oxide, for gardening. I do have epsom salts. I can get decomposed granite easily. I can get bone meal. for a base on my potting mix I am using peat moss and I suspect that might not be good for semps.

On a base for my water lilies i use black velvet, because it has less bark and organic debris in it, but Probably too much nitrogen for semps?

my existing succulents and semps are potted in Miracle Gro (not the moisture control kind) with perlite dust. i think I have some more of that. I had some in cactus mix. HELPPPPPP
[Last edited by Gypsi - Jan 31, 2021 11:54 AM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Jan 31, 2021 11:55 AM CST

Moderator

Right now I would stick with the Miracle Grow potting mix, (no moisture control), add coarse sand and pumice or granite chicken grit. I wouldn't use the perlite. The pumice would be the best because of the way it holds some moisture without drowning roots.
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jan 31, 2021 12:23 PM CST
I don't know ANYONE that grows semps in pots better than Melissa! Hers are gorgeous. Learn her secret!

Kevin

Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
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GeologicalForms
Jan 31, 2021 2:25 PM CST
Alice,
Melissa grows hers in Mirical Grow moisture control with 1/4- gravel added and she mulches the top with a layer of the same gravel, I've done it this way (also adding sand) and it's worked well for me. I've added as much as 1/3 inorganic grit with some success but 1/4 should be enough.
Peat does hold water which the semps don't like, but it does a great job of keeping the soil loose which they do. Coco peat might be better.
Dolomite grit might be available at a rock/gravel dealer near you, you can certainly get the gravel/sand you need at the same place. Nurseries also tend to have a better stock of additives than home depot. Biochar is pretty expensive but the semps do like it, you can collect your own charcoal from the fire pit (which works fine) but to make a similar substance to the biochar sold at nurseries you'd have to remove the dust and boil then dry it, I've heard that "activates" the charcoal so it's nutrients can be more easily absorbed, but I just throw mine in there raw at 1/9th of my mix. When engineering a succulent mix from scratch the suggestions I've read are to shoot for a lean mix, keeping your materials around half organic and half inorganic. Just watch that your organic materials aren't ones that will be actively rotting in the soil, many commercial composts and fresh bark mulch will transfer rot to the plant's when they are at their weakest. Seasoned soil amendments containing bark are usually ok. I've mixed several different batches from scratch to find out what works best, it's all trial and error though. This one was pretty successful, less rot than the miracle grow moisture control + gravel mix but it grows the semps much slower without such a high peat content or the slow release fertilizer:
1 charcoal
2 horticultural sand
2 fine lava rock(scoria and/or pumice)
2 coco coir
1.5 native soil and/or commercial topsoil
.5 worm castings
That was probably my most rot resistant recipe, but growth is slow without fertilizer. I'm planning on swapping the coco coir with a G&B soil conditioner that contains mostly seasoned bark with some added nutrients in my next mix. I'll probably step up the grit size of my sand and use some fine dolomite gravel to, maybe toss in some volcanic or glacial dust to get some trace minerals and salts in the mix. That's the new plan, but without trying it I can't say it'll work forsure.
-Sol

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