Soil is the single most important thing you need to be cautious about for growing succulents. The succulents are quite forgiving plants however they are really picky about their soil. They can live in a variety of soil conditions but they can only thrive well in particular soil conditions that match their habitat. When I started to grow succulents indoors I once came across this idea of using bonsai soil for growing succulents as I already had a few bonsai at home. So,
Can You Use Bonsai Soil for Succulents? Succulents can grow really well in bonsai soil as the bonsai soil has superior drainage and aeration conditions along with a minimal amount of organic materials. Succulents hate damp soil conditions and thrive best in soils with low water retention ability.
Bonsai soil fulfills these criteria and hence it is one of the best soils you can use to grow most succulents.
What is Bonsai Soil Made of? what makes them special
Soil is very basic that we oftentimes ignore its importance. Most plants are highly adaptable to the soil conditions and can manage to grow in soils that are not ideal for their growth.
All of them have their own favorites and grows better in particular mixtures than others. There is no ideal or universal bonsai composition. The ingredient list and their quantity vary.
However, roughly the composition of Bonsai soil can be differentiated into two main parts:
The Organic Components
These components are essential for providing succulent with a suitable time to absorb the needed moisture from the soil. Along with this, they also help in providing them with the required nourishment.
- Orchid Bark: Adds a proper shape to the mix. Can retain limited moisture.
- Sphagnum Moss peat (or organic potting compost): Can retain sufficient moisture so must be used with caution. They help in binding the potting soil together. Moss also facilitates better root development.
- Potting Soil: Provides a suitable bulky shape to the whole mixture. Makes it slightly heavy.
These are vital components that enhance the drainage and aeration abilities of the soil. They help in letting the roots breathe.
- 1/3rd of Akadama(red clay): It is a popular Japanese clay component used in almost all bonsai soil mixes. It helps in retaining water in needed amounts and gets rid of excess water.
- Pumice & a variety of volcanic rocks: Helps in fast drainage of water and retains water for a short period of time. They are hardy and won’t degrade easily like akadama or other organic components.
- Turface: It looks similar to Akadama but it plays a huge role in keeping the air circulation viable in the soil. It is popularly used in golf courses because of this ability.
- Crushed brick, Granites, Sand, and pebbles further enhance drainage and aeration
What are the qualities of a Good Succulent Soil Mix?
- Good Drainage: This is a very specific need of all indoor growing potted plants. However, for succulents, this is a must. Most succulents are prone to grow in drought-prone areas where the soil has fast drainage properties. So with time the Succulent roots have adapted themselves to those places and have gotten highly sensitive to damp soil and when exposed to a waterlogged environment, the root starts to rot.
- Water Retention For a short span: Even though succulents love drainage friendly soil, they cannot grow in soil without water retention ability. The soil needs to be wet just long enough for the roots to absorb the required amount of water.
- Superior Aeration: Proper air circulation in the soil provides the root with better oxygen and as a result, the plants grow up to be much healthy and strong,. The chances of fungal infections also decrease a lot owing to proper aeration.
So Is it okay to use Bonsai soil for succulents?
It is totally fine to use bonsai soil for succulents. In fact, succulents love having proper drainage friendly components in the soil along with minimal amounts of organic matter for nourishment. So the components found in the bonsai soil commonly are just ideal for them.
It is always a great idea to go over the ingredient list of the soil pack just to be sure. Most indoor plants prefer soil with better drainage and aeration so all bonsai soils are designed that way by default. However, for succulents, the drainage abilities need to be prioritized more than anything.
As long as the bonsai soil has organic content of less than 35 percent in it and has optimum amounts of volcanic rocks, coarse sand, pebbles & other dust compositions, things will be fine.
- Bonsai soil is rich with drainage friendly items like crushed rocks, pebbles, other volcanic rocks, pumice. All these along with drainage promote aeration and provides proper shape to the soil. In case you find the mix to be devoid of sand you can add coarse sand on your own to the mixture.
- Pumice and organic components in the soil help in retaining moisture for a short time. The potting mix or the compost along with sphagnum moss will provide suitable nutrition to the succulent.
- There is no ideal soil mix recipe that works for all. You should stick to a rough soil recipe outline and then on the experiment from time to time.
Pros of using Bonsai soil for succulents
- The soil is superbly drainage friendly.
- The soil facilitates better air circulation. Hence the roots of the succulents will be stronger.
- The soil has just the right amount of moisture retention ability and sufficient organic matter to provide suitable nutrition to the plant.
Cons of using Bonsai soil for Succulents
- Akadama present in the bonsai soil can break down after 1 to 2 years depending on the climate of the place. This will result in decreasing the aeration in the soil. So its ideal to change the soil and repot the succulent once in 1.5 to 2 years. This is not a big con cause it is best to re pot succulents once every two to three years to make sure they remain healthy.
- Bonsai Soil can be slightly pricey when compared with cactus mix soil.
Can you use Bonsai soil for cactus and aloe?
Cactuses and aloes are succulents so yes bonsai soil can be used for growing these plants. The drainage friendliness of the bonsai soil makes it highly suitable for growing plants that dislike dampness in the soil.
There is no one ideal soil recipe for growing succulents. Succulents can thrive in any soil that favors faster drainage, is not too heavy, and have organic matters in controlled amounts. As long as these criteria are met, they can easily grow in bonsai soil. These criteria are being met by the optimum presence of organic and inorganic materials in the required amounts in the soil.