If you are into gardening then it is quite likely that at some point in your journey you will barge into peat moss. So…
Is Peat Moss Good For Succulents? Peat moss is one of the best soil amendments you can use for growing succulents instead of compost or infact you can use peat moss along with compost. It improves the soil texture, nutrition retentiveness of the soil and helps the roots to breathe better.
It is an excellent soil component that encourages better plant growth however it needs to be used in limited proportions otherwise it can do more harm than good, especially for succulents and other indoor plants.
What is Peat Moss in the first place?
Peat moss is nothing but moss composted over a long period of time to form a fibrous material that is used as a soil amendment. The decomposition of the mosses happens mostly under the absence of air and hence occurs very slowly.
- The peat moss which is sold for the horticultural process is obtained from the peat bogs, where the bogs are properly drained and the peat is then dried to be sold in packaged form.
- Peat is formed by the decomposition of a large quantity of sphagnum moss(a kind of plant growing on the topsoil) and hence peat is commonly termed as peat moss (source).
Peat moss has been used as a fossil fuel in some countries and is also popularly used for growing hydroponics.
Is Peat moss Good for Plants?
Peat moss is a great medium to grow plants. It is rich in organic content and is fully sterilized. This is a huge deal as the majority of the organic soil amendment sources are oftentimes not sterilized.
- Peat moss can hold sufficient moisture and is slightly acidic in nature.
- The acidic pH of the peat moss is a beneficial property as with time due to the use of tap water the soil pH becomes too alkaline which in term can affect the plant health. Hence having a bit of peat moss in the soil to neutralize the alkalinity is always a smart thing to do.
Caution: Even though peat moss is great for plant growth you should only use them to a certain amount only as they also help in moisture retention which when not done in a controlled manner is seriously bad news for succulents and most other indoor plants.
What does Peat Moss do to the Soil?
The peat moss acts more or less like compost however, it is less nutritious than the compost.
- Peat moss helps in increasing the soil acidity and maintains that acidity even in the future.
- They also increase the nutrition retentive property of the soil which is an important factor needed for better plant development. Apart from that peat moss also improves the moisture-holding capacity of the gritty soil mix.
Which type of Plants are well suited to grow in Peat Moss?
Peat moss is particularly good for acid-loving plants as it decreases the soil pH. These include Azaleas, Camellias, Daffodils, Gardenias, etc. Succulents, cactuses, and orchids also prefer slightly acidic soil in the pH range of 5.5 to 6.
- However, any kind of plant can be grown in a soil mix made of peat moss, provided you give extra attention to the amount of peat moss you use in the preparation.
- The total organic content of the soil mix must be always less than 25 to 30%.
So, Can you plant Succulents & other potted plants in Peat Moss?
- Succulents are tremendously adaptive plants that can grow under many adverse conditions however they won’t be able to survive under conditions of poor drainage.
- Using peat moss will be beneficial to keep the soil pH compact in the long run and to hold the soil together while letting the succulent roots breathe.
Benefits of using Peat Moss for growing succulents, cactus & other plants
- Helps in improving the soil texture as it is less dense than compost. This means the soil mix will have better aeration. The roots won’t suffocate even when the soil is watered as peat moss along with the other inorganic components will prevent clobbering of the soil.
As a result better root development will occur as the roots will get better oxygen supply and will grow up to be healthy and strong.
- Packaged Peat moss is completely sterile. Using properly sterilized materials is a huge factor for growing indoor succulents as the resources are limited, pest or microbial manifestation can cause serious havoc and the plant will find it hard to recover.
- Peat moss can retain water well. Hence if you use peat moss in limited amounts it will provide suitable weightage and improve the soil texture. It will hold water just long enough for the succulents to absorb.
- It’s widely available in almost all major nurseries, gardening shops, and online stores, unlike many other soil amendments which makes them perfect to be used for gardening.
Disadvantages of using Peat Moss for growing succulents
- Peat moss by itself is not that nutritionally rich. Even though composts are not as nutritionally rich as fertilizers they are sufficiently rich in essential nutrients.
- As it’s acidic in nature you will need to use it in limited amounts or else you will find it hard to grow plants that are not that acid-loving in it. In those cases, you need to add lime from time to time to balance out the acidity and also use a pH strip to measure the soil pH once in a few months to make sure everything is under control.
- As in most cases, Peat moss is imported, it is slightly expensive when compared with compost which is totally free.
- Its non-renewable meaning pea mosses are not co-friendly. It is obtained through a process involving thousands of years.
P.S. Most potting soil contains peat moss in them by default and hence it is always a great idea to add some inorganic materials in the soil mix before planting succulents in them so that the soil texture is suitable for the succulent to survive and thrive.
How do you mix peat moss with soil?
You should never grow any plant solely on peat moss alone as it’s an organic component and is not suited to be used as a medium for growing indoor plants. This is cause drainage is an important factor for the indoor plant.
- Hence Peat moss is always mixed with other soil components and kind of overall gives a balanced touch to the soil mix.
- You can add coarse sand, pumice, gravels, pebbles with it to prepare a perfect mix. You can also add compost and other soil components however it’s not a must.
You should not add Peat moss to more than 20 to 25 % of the mixture and fill the rest with sand, pumice, and other materials. I also prefer to use a bit of horticultural charcoal to further enhance the drainage and protect the soil mix from pest problems.
To know more about preparing soil mix for succulents refer to:
- How to Prepare Soil for Succulents(Indoors & Outdoors)
- Can You Use Garden soil for Succulents & Cactus?
Peat moss Alternatives: What Can You Use Instead of Peat Moss?
Peat Moss Vs Compost
Both are perfectly suitable to be used as soil amendments for decades and compost has been used for centuries. Both of them have a few similarities with a few dissimilarities.
- Compost is suitably nutrition rich in comparison with peat moss and also facilitates the growth of beneficial microbes in the soil. Peat moss is very low in nutritional aspects even though it favors the retention of nutrients added to the soil.
- Compost can be obtained totally free of cost however peat moss can be slightly costly as it needs to be shipped from abroad.
- Peat moss takes a lot of time to decompose however composts are broken down quite promptly by the microbes and should be added once every year for better results. Peat mosses do not suffer compaction that compost dies hence the aeration of the soil is better maintained.
- Compost has got a neutral pH or maybe a slightly alkaline one which makes it more or less ideal for growing most plants. However, for succulents using peat moss is a great idea as the plants love acidity in the soil.
- In the case of Peat moss you can rest assured that the material is sterile however with composts it is stuffed with microbes.
Apart from this it also takes time for the compost to be made. If you dont wanna go through the hassle of manufacturing your own compost and just wanna buy a suitable soil amendment and use it for preparing the soil mix then go for peat moss, especially if you wanna grow slightly acid-loving plants like succulents.
Pumice or Perlite
Both Pumice and perlite are superb soil mix components that are volcanic rocks that help in enhancing the soil drainage and aeration while allowing the absorption of the required amount of water.
- Both are porous which retains important nutrients as well that further nourish the roots.
Perlite especially is quite cheap and extensively lightweight. However, the drawback is whenever you water perlite can end up floating above the topsoil.
You can read more about it here: Is Perlite good for Succulents? (Substitutes included)
Pumice, on the other hand, won’t give you such problems but it can be slightly expensive and not always available in the stores.
Vermiculite like most other soil components does not decompose quickly so it will keep the soil compact.
Also, it helps in promoting aeration in the soil and also retains moisture like peat moss. Moreover, it has got a neutral pH so you can use it to grow just any pants. However, just like peat mosses it can retain moisture so use it in controlled proportions.
If you wanna read more on Vermiculite then refer to this post…Is Vermiculite Good for Succulents & Cactuses? (2020)