Cactus and Succulents forum: Brands of peat-free soil or soil mixes

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Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 4, 2018 7:59 PM CST
What brands of peat-free soil or soil mixes do you add to your own cacti/succulent mixes?

I've heard in several places (from Ireland and many US-based people) that when making their own cacti/soil mixes they use peat-free soil along with all the other usual things (perlite, granite, pumice, etc) but I'm having trouble finding brands of potting soil without peat.

So if anybody has any specific brand names, could you please share them?

Or brand names of other things you use to mix your own soil mediums. It's just so much easier for me to search if I know exactly what I'm searching for...
Keep going!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 4, 2018 8:16 PM CST

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I use a mix of 25% locally produced compost, 25% cocofiber (coir), 50% pumice. I buy the coir in a brick and then rehydrate it before use. It serves the functions of peat. You want to choose the right kind---there is an extra-chunky version for mulch and a more finely ground version for soil mixes. And you want to make sure it is labeled for horticultural use, which would indicate that it has been washed and does not contain salt.
Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 5, 2018 9:18 AM CST
Do you use the chunky or the fine kind (or both)?

As it stands, all of my succulents have wildly varying soil compositions depending on what I had on-hand at the most recent repotting. I want to start doing things at least a little bit more consistently. lol
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Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Apr 5, 2018 9:19 AM CST
Jai, that was how I handled mixes for years, and really haven't noticed any difference. I'm more aware now and try to give each plant the best mix for the best chance.
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Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 5, 2018 9:24 AM CST
Yeah, that's what I want to do.

I know that the succulent plants I have from Southern Africa really do have a different soil requirement than those from Mexico or California.

And I would like to tailor those a little bit more consistently than I have.

One of my Sansevierias burst out of its pot and didn't even have soil at all for the better part of a year. I did not realize that all of the soil had been pushed out and what I thought was dirt was actually the hardened brown roots. It still managed to grow, but I wonder how well it would have done if it actually had soil in the first place and also if it had the right kind of soil instead of the same thing I used for Graptopetalums. lol
Keep going!
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Apr 5, 2018 10:10 AM CST
I am excited to read your responses. I am still a novice with my succulents, I have not been growing them for long at all.

It amazes me how I can read 100 things regarding soil for cacti and succulents and 50 of them never recommend sand, and in fact discoursage it profusely. The other 50 use it like pumice. Is there any plant or any place for sand in soil for cacti and succulents, other than in the open garden, at the surface level?
Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
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skopjecollection
Apr 5, 2018 11:58 AM CST
Here is my newest. Myrtillo is woody/corky in the bottom. its nightime here so its due to light exposure make look like its roting
Thumb of 2018-04-05/skopjecollection/87bfd8
Thumb of 2018-04-05/skopjecollection/b6bfa5

Sure looks the part.
[Last edited by skopjecollection - Apr 5, 2018 11:59 AM (+)]
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Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
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skopjecollection
Apr 5, 2018 12:33 PM CST
Lauri, they mean coarse sand. Like everything ranging from chia-seed sized, to tiny pebbles. I use the latter, the former i replace with zeolite, and slightly less coarse sand.
Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 5, 2018 12:35 PM CST
lauriebasler said:I am excited to read your responses. I am still a novice with my succulents, I have not been growing them for long at all.

It amazes me how I can read 100 things regarding soil for cacti and succulents and 50 of them never recommend sand, and in fact discoursage it profusely. The other 50 use it like pumice. Is there any plant or any place for sand in soil for cacti and succulents, other than in the open garden, at the surface level?


I use very big sand (or very small rocks, depending on your perspective) in my mix for sprouting seeds, but for nothing else.

I would never use regular sands because it is way too small and compact way too easily. You might as well use clay mud.
Keep going!
Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
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skopjecollection
Apr 5, 2018 12:38 PM CST
I use it tiny bit of clay( 3 handfuls to +15 litters of soil). It somehow helps the plants, as long is doesnt clog the soil.
I Only use gritty sand, and zeolite for sowing. Too fine is bad, but so is too coarse. Less germination that way.
[Last edited by skopjecollection - Apr 5, 2018 12:40 PM (+)]
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 5, 2018 1:37 PM CST

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lauriebasler said:Is there any plant or any place for sand in soil for cacti and succulents, other than in the open garden, at the surface level?


People who live in the desert tend to report good results with sand. I do not use it. I think the optimal mix may vary depending on your climate. There is a big difference between beach (fine) sand and construction (coarse) sand. The former is not useful for succulents. The latter can be a good substitute for pumice or perlite if you pass it over a window screen to remove the fines, arriving at a sort of grit. Just be sure to avoid sand with any sort of additives, like wax or whatever.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 5, 2018 1:40 PM (+)]
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 5, 2018 1:53 PM CST

Moderator

Jai_Ganesha said:Do you use the chunky or the fine kind (or both)?


I use the chunky coir for mulch (helps a lot with moisture retention) and the fine coir for potting soil. Some people will use the chunky kind for soil (in big pots) because it traps a lot of air and does not compact. I have not had the need, and the ground product is much easier to work with when I'm potting up plants.

I'm a big fan of a universal mix for all succulents, pretty much from day one. If that's the direction you want to go, consider 3 things.

1. Compost breaks down over time and will turn into dust after a year or two, longer if it's the chunky, barky type. When you choose this organic part of your mix, be aware of its short lifespan (some types shorter than others) and the need for regular repotting to replace it, unless you want to rely on a more durable fiber like coir or peat.

2. Just as important as the actual ingredients are the particle sizes. You generally want to avoid fine ingredients. This applies to the coir/peat, which tends to compact into a brick when given the chance. It's best if you can see the actual fibers. And it applies to the aggregate (pumice/whatever), where you will generally benefit from passing the source material over a fine screen (window screen works) before adding it to the soil. It does not matter so much with the compost, but ideally a chunky type is best there too. The only exception to this rule is when you are sowing fine seeds, in which case you might use a finer grade of rock.

3. The most important thing to be consistent about (if you have to pick one thing) is the ratio of organic material to rock. I like an equal mix (which turns into 75% rock over time, after maybe a year or two, as the compost breaks down). You might vary this ratio, all other things equal, in order to best avoid problems with rot-prone plants. The soil will dry out faster with more rock. But I have found that careful attention to exposure and the judicious use of unglazed clay pots more or less circumvents any need to adjust the mix.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 5, 2018 2:03 PM (+)]
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Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
Om shanti om.
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 5, 2018 2:12 PM CST
I hate glazed pots SO MUCH. But I own a few because they were gifts, super cheap, or I own them and have no idea where they came from.

Thank you for this advice. It's very helpful. Have you ever used just pumice (no soil at all)? I know some people who do that but it seems so risky to me.
Keep going!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Baja_Costero
Apr 5, 2018 2:38 PM CST

Moderator

I have never used pure pumice.

Here are the 3 ingredients I use to make my mix.

Thumb of 2018-04-05/Baja_Costero/345ecb
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 5, 2018 2:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Apr 6, 2018 12:34 AM CST
I have a supply of construction sand I use to cover my sedum beds every 3 or so years. My PNW location is just so wet. It is rather large for a sand, but I won't be using it in my indoor plants. I am trying to pick a mix for my succulents that I can use for almost all of them. My inconsistency has left me with a few plants with a grittier mix than most, and they dry out too fast. I have Ponytail palm that dries out in 3 days. I use to wait two more days but I am experimenting with water a little more often, as the plant looks underwatered a bit to me. Thanks for sharing your recipe Baja!

Really enjoying this post Jai!!!
Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
Om shanti om.
Container Gardener Region: West Virginia Multi-Region Gardener Garden Photography Amaryllis Zinnias
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 6, 2018 5:17 AM CST
My ponytail palm does the same thing. I have found that it looks "dried out" more easily than a lot of other plants but doesn't necessarily suffer because of it. We do though. lol
Keep going!
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Apr 6, 2018 5:25 AM CST
Well that makes me feel better, Jai! These are really a favorite of mine, so it not looking just right is a real thorn in my side.
Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
Om shanti om.
Container Gardener Region: West Virginia Multi-Region Gardener Garden Photography Amaryllis Zinnias
Gardens in Buckets Annuals Houseplants Plant and/or Seed Trader Birds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 6, 2018 5:28 AM CST
Yeah, I have thought about changing the soil in mine (to add more organic matter) or giving it a bigger pot. But I haven't gotten around to either one and I think it's just a quirk that they "look like" they're thirsty sometimes when they're really not. It's a natural part of the plant's growth cycle.
Keep going!

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