Succulent Soil Mix for Central Louisiana (humid weather)

britneylynn1241(8)July 21, 2014

I have been trying to research and find exactly what mix of soil is best for succulents in humid climates. I have gathered the following recipe from different places but I just want to check to be sure that I have it as correct as possible.

1 part - Pine Bark (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

1 part - Turface or Napa's Oil absorbent #8822 *bag should read "diatomaceous earth - (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

1 part - Chicken grit or cat litter (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

1 part - Perlite *the chunkier the better (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

Once all these are mixed this is where I'm a bit confused. Take these parts and I read I should add them to the soil...but what type of soil and how much?

I also read that once my soil is ready it is also a good idea to top the planter with approximately 1" of pea gravel and not to water the repotted plants for about a week or so, allowing for the roots to callous over.

Also, use cinnamon to dust cuttings as natural fungicide?

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Soils for succulents should drain really well, because soil moisture for these plants can cause root rot. Most every recipe I have seen says 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 perlite, or other mineral material. Some sources state to not add organic matter but since potting soil is either peat moss, coir, or finely ground bark, all organic matter, that says either these people have no idea what they are talking about or something else.
If the soil drains quite rapidly and dries out fairly quickly there should be no need for a fungicide.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 6:34AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Hold on. Are we talking about succulents in the ground or in pots? You mention a planter. Are we talking about a raised bed that is open to the ground below or a self contained contair that is more like a pot?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:09AM
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I have included a pic of the planter and succulents that I originally tried in the link below "Our First Fairy Garden". The soil mix consisted of the following: 1 part perlite (not sifted), 1 part play sand (not sifted), and 1 part Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden Soil (not sifted), and I read to add one cup of bone mill to that. This pot of succulents that I made in the pic have already took two months and they all died except for the palm. So I have began researching a new soil mix recipe because they all died of root rot. It is extremely humid here and has been raining a lot, but just to go a little further, this pot was not out in the weather completely. It is on my front porch that is screened in and gets lots of indirect light and a little direct light late in the evening @ about 5/6pm.So if either of yall have any suggestions or a better soil mix, that would be wonderful. I am a novice at gardening period but a read where succulents were the easiest to try and keep but that doesn't seem to be the case in my situation LOL.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our First Fairy Garden

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 12:55PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Oh ok. The easiest solution would be cactus potting soil and perlite in a 50:50 volume ratio. If it were mine with those plants, I would probably use Al's Gritty mix recipe. 1pine bark: 1 turface: 1 gravel or something similar depending on what specific qualities I need. Your substitutions in your list are off. For instance kitty litter does not sub for chicken grit.

Play sand is a terrible container medium ingredient. It is much too fine and retains far too much moisture without air space. Garden soil is for the garden not containers. Most perlite in garden centers is far too fine to use without sifting.

Kimmsr, I routinely make container media without an organic fraction. The cactus and succulent people that recommend avoiding organic matter definitely know what they are talking about. I like to use pure pumice for most cactus and if I need more moisture retention I mix in some calcined clay.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 4:07PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Re-reading the original post, you don't need the perlite in your recipe. You don't add those ingredients to any soil. 1part bark : 1 part turface : 1 part granite is the container medium recipe. I also use a container medium recipe for cactus that is 100% coarse pumice. That's it. No soil in that either. Containers and soil don't go together well. That's with soil being the stuff you dig out of the ground.

With the humidity you have in Louisiana, you could probably just keep cactus and succulents in pea gravel or chicken grit.

An inch of gravel mulch? Wherever are you going to find and inch of space in that container for mulch? In a container like that you need about 1/4" of a small (1/4" sized) gravel for topping. Something about the size of aquarium gravel. And since a topping layer retains moisture, you could omit that if you wanted.

This post was edited by nil13 on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 16:37

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 4:20PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Move the whole shebang to sun. My guess is that a lack of light is more of a problem than the soil mix at this point.

Either that or choose plants that specifically are shade plants.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 4:43PM
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So once more just to check before I go shopping, the following should DEFINITELY be the recipe

1 part - Pine Bark (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

1 part - Turface or Napa's Oil absorbent #8822 *bag should read "diatomaceous earth - (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

1 part - Chicken grit (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

then plant them and gradually move them to the sun, give them a few days and then water (I have always used a mister spray this ok?) correct?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:51PM
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Also, this may sound stupid but I was just wondering if I use that recipe and no type of soil...where are the succulents getting the nutrients that they need? I am just thinking most plants get nutrients from the soil so if there is no soil to get it from then how...?

Thanks in advance for all the help advice :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:54PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Yes thse are the right ingredients, but the recipe is not as important as the reasoning behind it. You need fast drainage and for that you need a large particle size for the medium. The ratio of those ingredients is going to depend on the plant being grown and the environment in which it is grown. For instance a jade plant in Arizona is going to need a mix that retains more moisture than a jade plant in Florida or Louisiana. Most people underestimate how much moisture gravel can retain. I have succulents in a 3:1 mix of pea gravel:turface in Los Angeles that has very low humidity and no rain in the summer. The bark and turface are moisture retentive while the grit is not. You will probably want more grit in your mix than bark or turface. But then granite gravel (poultry grit) is very heavy. Because of that many people substitute 3/8" lava rock (scoria or cinder) for the granite. That said, if you start with equal parts of the three ingredients you have listed you will be off to a good start.

They get their nutrients from either a controlled release fertilizer that gets mixed in to the planting medium or from a water soluble fertilizer that gets mixed in with the irrigation water. Make sure to get a fertilizer with micronutrients as well..

No, a mister spray bottle is not right. You want to thoroughly wet the container medium by watering until water comes pouring out the bottom of the pot.

Read this link for information about container media.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container media

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 7:15PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

You should also read this post about fertilizing plants in containers. Plants in containers should not be treated the same as plants in the ground. The soil web in a container will not provide a reliable supply of nutrients to the plants and as such a synthetic source is the easiest way to ensure the plants get the nutrients they need.

The container and succulent forums are great places to get information about growing succulents in containers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizing container plants.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Ok thanks so much!

One other question, do you have a specific brand or type of fertilizer that you would recommend as the best for me and my situation

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 7:36PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I use Nutricote for my controlled release fertilizer and a powdered vegetative mix with micros and Ca and Mg from a local hydroponics store. My suggestion to you would be to go to your local hydroponics store and tell them you want an inexpensive 2 part liquid vegetative fertilizer with micros. That will be the easiest. For controlled release fertilizer (CRF) you will most likely find a fruit and berry formulation that has micros in around the 3:1:2 NPK ratio. That would be ok. You put some of the CRF in the medium at a low rate (about 1 pound of Nitrogen per cuboc yard) and then when you water with fertilizer you can water with a dilute fertilizer solution that would be somewhere in the range of 1/4 the recommended amount on the bottle. That will come out to about 50-75ppm Nitrogen.

There are a bunch of people over at the container forum that swear by Foliage Pro for the water soluble fert. I can't remember what everyone over there uses for CRF because I have a local source for 50# bags of nutricote.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:49PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I should also note that when you get new succulents, unless you get them from a specialist nursery, they will probably be planted in a mixture of peat and perlite. All that has to be removed before you plant them in the new medium. The best technique for removing the existing potting medium is to soak and swish in a bucket of water until the roots are free of the medium. You can also spray the roots a bit with a spray nozzle but be careful not to damage too many of the fine feeder roots with the spray.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 9:11PM
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1 part - Chicken grit or cat litter (sift to remove fine pieces & dust)

Totally bad idea ... chicken grit is fine gravel and stays gravel when it gets wet. Kitty litter is baked clay and reverts to clay when it gets wet ... so you are adding clay to a mix that was supposed to be sand.

Your "cup of bonemeal" ... for how much mix?

I would use plain cactus potting soil, maybe with a 20% grit or crushed volcanic rock ... in your area you don't need much moisture retention.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Thanks again everyone. I'm going to try it out again with all this new helpful advice :)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:31AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Lazygardens, not all kitty litter turns to mush. I had some that stayed hard submerged for years in an aquarium. It is a highly variable product however and a brand that doesn't turn to mush in CA might turn to mush in TX. The trick is to test it in a jar of wster overnight before using it. It isn't a sub for grit. It is a sub for turface though.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 11:58AM
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