There are many succulent growers who absolutely live by using akadama for growing succulents. Also, there are others who prefer to use other soil mediums for growing succulents. Let’s take a deeper look at this matter. So,
Are Akadama good for Succulents? Akadama is one of the best potting mixes for growing succulents as it has a top-notch drainage system, favors proper root development, and is highly porous so can retain nutrients easily which helps in better growth of the succulent.
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What is Akadema in the first place?
Akadama is an extremely popular potting medium that originates in Japan. It is formed as a result of continuous eruptions of Mt. Fuji for centuries.
The small granules obtained from the volcanic eruption have been mined & thoroughly processed to give them a suitable hardness.
- Akadama is mainly used for growing succulents and bonsai as these plants thrive wonderfully well in a potting mix containing Akadama. This is because Akadama is highly porous in nature and dries up pretty quickly. It is something that is now getting stunningly popular among succulent lovers all across the world.
- Akadama is traditionally used in the bonsai soil mixes because of its highly porous nature that elevates the overall drainage quality of the soil. Drainage is a very important issue especially when you are growing bonsai indoors under potted conditions.
Indoor plants in potted conditions are much more prone to root rots. So using akadama is a great solution in that regard. This particular trait of akadama really makes them suitable for use not only for bonsai but for all plants like succulents and cactuses that hates soil dampness.
Pros of using Akadema for succulents
Succulents love growing in soil mix rich in akadama
Akadama and succulent are just like a perfect couple. Succulents favor soil conditions that suit their original habitats. Akadama is highly porous in nature, favors faster drainage, and also is highly lightweight. It also helps in retaining a fair bit of nutrients in the soil. It ticks off all the necessary requirements succulents needs for proper growth.
Helps in determining your watering schedule
Watering succulents is a very sensitive topic as succulents are extremely prone to death because of overwatering. Unlike tropical plants succulents are xerophytes and hence you dont need to stick to a particular watering schedule for watering them.
- Succulents must only be watered when the soil gets dry in a proper way. If you grow them in cactus mix soil or homemade soil mixtures then you can use a moisture meter or try dipping a finger in the soil to check the soil moisture from time to time and then decide whether you should water it or not.
However, if you use akadama for growing succulents you dont need to go through all these hassles for determining whether you need to water them or not.
The color of akadama changes to deeper shade the moment you water them. They will stay like that until they are not properly dried up. So you can easily keep an eye over the soil and when the color reverts back to their original shade you can then again consider watering them.
However, be very wary that you are not overwatering them as they can put up with underwatering but not with overwatering. So when in doubt hold back for a few days.
Akadama is not sticky as normal soil mixes
If you use a soil mix severely rich in akadama then you will find that the soil is not sticking with the roots like it would in the case of other soil mixes. This is because akadama is highly porous and does not retain any excess water which can give rise to that sticky trait.
- You can literally just pluck the plant carefully and shake off the excess akadama from the roots without any issue.
Sometimes it gets hard to detect whether the succulent roots are healthy or not after unplugging them at first sight. The soil needs to be properly removed or washed before it can be repotted again. But with akadama repotting succulents or checking them for root rot becomes an incredibly easy task as you can easily remove the excess soil from the roots.
Akadama Has Superior Drainage
Succulents are adapt really well to their soil conditions and are known to survive really survive in arid conditions. They are known to survive under any soil conditions as long as the drainage of the soil is top-notch. This is just one thing they need in order to survive.
- Succulent roots are highly sensitive to damp conditions and if it sits on those moist conditions for days, it catches root rot quite easily. So using soil components that support suitable drainage is a must.
If you use akadama in a majority in your soil mix you will be lowering the risks of having poor drainage conditions considerably. Provided if you dont end up overwatering them, they will probably grow up to be stunningly beautiful and healthy.
Akadama is highly porous in nature and only retains minimal water and nutrients while getting rid of the excess water pretty quickly. Succulents do well with the minimal amount of water they hold which is actually just perfect for them.
- Because of their drainage-friendly physical structure using acadama in the soil mix will ensure that your succulent won’t sit in waterlogged damp conditions for days.
Supports adequate aeration
Aeration is something which is extremely vital for providing room for the succulents to breathe. Proper aeration also helps to prevent fungal or bacterial infections underground.
- Succulents love to grow in well-aerated soil and this becomes more important if they are grown indoors in potted condition.
Promotes stronger root growth
Akadama gives the roots adequate space to breathe and this further helps them to grow deeper and stronger.
- Also, akadama is not rock hard and breaks off due to the pressure off the roots and further encourages the roots to grow newer and finer roots. This is a great aspect as the soil that favors better root development will help in the better growth of the plant.
- A healthy and top-class-quality succulent will have a deeper, wider, and adequately developed branched root system underground. The upper part of the plants is just a mirror reflection of the root health. So the development of stronger roots will help the plant to flourish better (source).
How to use akadama soil for growing succulents?
You can grow succulents only on akadama however if you want them to thrive best try mixing other components along with it. There is no one particular recipe you can always experiment with the ingredients, the end goal is to provide them with a soil which is fairly nutrient-rich and is highly drainage friendly.
- You can mix 20% of Akadama with 20% of coarse sand and add 30% of pumice. Rest you can fill up with potting soil, pebbles, volcanic rocks, and gravels.
- You can even use the rocks as the bottom layer and give an extra coating of the horticultural charcoal above it and then add the potting soil, akadama, etc. This will act as an extra helping hand for improved drainage.
- You can also use cactus mix soil or volcanic soil and add akadama along with other volcanic rocks. There is no limit.
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Cons of using Akadama for growing succulents
There is no real disadvantage of using akadama for growing succulents. It is one of the best potting mediums you can use for growing succulents. However, there some points that you also need to know about them:
- Akadama is not widely available all over the world till now. They are fairly available in most places however as it is Japan-based its availability or supply can sometimes be an issue especially if you are in Europe.
- Akadama can be a bit expensive depending upon where you live. As it is something found only in Japan, it can be slightly expensive in comparison with other potting mixes. It is superbly popular in Japan because it is way cheaper there. So you also have to make note of that.
- The quality of Akadama degrades with time and you need to change the soil at least once in two years as the majority of the akadama underground, will be thoroughly broken down and hence the soil will find it hard to support the plant. However, this is something that happens with most soil components so it is not something you can attribute only to akadama.
How long will akadama be intact in the soil before it breaks?
Well, akadama like all soil components breaks after a fair bit of time. It is as mentioned earlier not extremely hard and that is one of the reasons why it favors faster and better root development. Generally, it lasts for 1 to 2 years comfortably. After that, it will start to break off (source).
- The cheaper qualities of Akadama are found to break down sooner than the expensive ones. It also depends on the succulent age, weather, and container size.
- If the succulent is young and growing fast then the roots are developing faster breaking the akadama. While the matured ones have lesser root development so the akadama will last sufficiently long in this case.
- If the succulent is growing outside and undergoes the chilly weather of the winter then the akadama will also break sooner due to the freezing and melting cycle of the soil water(source). Hence you should try bringing succulents inside especially if your place gets really chilly in winter.
Also, the general advice is to always change the soil or repot the succulents in a new potting mix every two to three years as that is kind of the limit when almost every soil component starts to break off. Repotting succulents every 2 years is a super healthy process and will promote better growth.
Possible Alternatives to Akadama
It is not just that you have to use akadama for growing succulents. There are no direct alternatives to akadama in that sense. However, there are many other components you can use for growing succulents. Succulents will grow up to be just as healthy as they will be if you use akadama. These include lava rocks, pumice, perlite, bonsai soil, cactus mix soil, crushed granite, turface, coarse sand, etc.
Akadama vs Pumice
Well, first both of them are pretty awesome for growing succulents. Both are porous, favors root development, and do not retain excess water so they improve the overall drainage system by many folds. However, they have only one major difference.
- When you water Pumice the color change is not striking however akadama when remains watered transforms from light color to a totally darker brownish shade. It will stay like that as long as the soil remains wet and when it dries up, it retransforms into the lighter shade.
This is an important indicator especially for growing succulents you can literally tell just by looking at the plant whether it needs watering or not. This is just a handy bonus feature you get when you use akadama in abundance for preparing the soil mix. If you want to visualize the color change, you can see the below video.
There is no clear cut answer regarding which one is the best for succulents. Akadama is extremely popular in Japan and now slowly becoming popular worldwide. Pumice on the other hand has been traditionally used for some time for growing succulents. Personally I prefer a mix of both of these components.
Akadama is definitely one of the best quality soil mix components you can use to grow succulents. You can try going with them and see how the results are. It is not an absolute must that you have to use them to grow the best succulents.
Succulents are xerophytes that can grow in any soil as long as that soil is free of pest, is highly drainage friendly, and has a basic amount of nutrition in it. However, you should always experiment with the soil mix to find your own unique recipe for growing succulents. So in that regard, if you have”not tried akadama before, you can consider checking it out.
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So will you try akadama for growing succulents? Let me know what you think about this in the comments!