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When it comes to succulents, there are two main types of succulent substrate: soil and grit. The line between them can (and often does) blur, but it's important to know the difference.
In this article, we'll compare and contrast the two substrate types, and take a close look at the two best examples on the market today!
Related article:Juicy taxonomy
- what is ground
- What is a coarse mix?
- Is succulent soil or gritty mix better for succulents and cacti?
- A look back at the best juicy gritty mix: Bonsai Jack
- A look back at the best succulent soil: Black Gold
- Conclusion: adapt your substrate to your plant
what is ground
The soil is a mixture of quarried rock, clay anddecomposed organic material. The organic matter (sometimes just referred to as OM) is the important part of this recipe. Organic matter, of course, contains nutrients that all plants need, but it also contains themWater.
Why does organic matter hold water? water has bothcoherentAndadhesiveCharacteristics. It likes to stick to itself and it likes to stick to other things and from these two properties we get phenomena like capillary action and surface tension.
Decaying organic material tends to have a large surface area for water to adhere to. Organic matter also tends to be electronegative (essentially having a weak electric charge). Water LOVES to stick to polar and electronegative things since it is highly polar itself.
Sorry for the chemistry tangent. Soil contains dead matter, and dead matter contains water. For most plants, this is a good thing.
What is a coarse mix?
Gritty Mix is not a scientific term like soil, but a commercial term for a horticultural substrate with little or no organic matter. A typical gritty mix contains ingredients such as:
- decomposed granite
- Turf (calcined clay)
- expanded clay
- pine bark
- chicken semolina
Of all the items on this list, the only organic matter is pine bark. And anyone who knows pine bark knows that it is more stone than plant.
Gritty mixes areextremelywell draining. Not only is the average particle size very large (so it doesn't compact and has a lower relative surface area for water to cling to), but pretty much every ingredient is inorganic so water doesn't feel forced to cling there. The large gaps between the particles ensure plenty of airflow and dry quickly.
Is succulent soil or gritty mix better for succulents and cacti?
As you might have guessed, the answer is "it depends". Here are some factors that influence the best substrate for your succulents:
- their water needs
- yourwatering habits
- intensity of the light
sale#1 Best Seller
Miracle-Gro Succulent Soil Mix: Fertilized Soil with Premium Nutrients for Indoor Cacti, Aloe Vera and More, 4 qt.
- Designed for those who love growing succulents as much as we do, Miracle-Gro Succulent Potting Mix contains the nutrients...
- This fast-draining succulent potting soil contains a blend of sphagnum peat moss, forest products and fertilizer
- Great for growing happy and beautiful succulents like Burro's Tail, Echeverias, Houseleek as well...
#2 Best Seller
Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix and Succulent Food - Bundles of potting soil (8 qt.) and liquid plant food (8 oz.) for growing and fertilizing indoor succulents
- Spoil your succulents with Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus Potting Soil and Miracle-Gro Succulent Food
- The 8-qt. Bag of potting soil is specially formulated for use with cacti, palms, citrus and succulents
- This potting soil contains forest products, sand and perlite to prevent soil compaction and improve drainage
"Succulent" is a term that encompasses a wide variety of plants, so their needs are quite different. Some succulents, likeKalanchoefor example how much water. There are succulents that don't mind being wet for a while, like many of themtrailing succulentsand mostSansevieriaAndCrassula.
On the other hand, we all know those succulents that tip over at the mere thought of water.Lithopsare perhaps the best-known example, but there are many species that require cautionHaworthiaand lots of cacti too.
Here's a very scientific scale I created to give you a frame of reference for how well different substrates drain. Plants that like it a bit more humid prefer a substrate that is more to the left; Most succulents and cacti start somewhere in the right half.
So even though we compare (great)juicy soiland somber mix in this article, the truth is they're both on the same end of the spectrum. We rate both products as above average.
A look back at the best juicy gritty mix: Bonsai Jack
No joke, I'm in love.
Have you ever seen these pretty juicy pics on Instagram or Pinterest, but what catches your attention the most is the howPrettythe substrate is? You can say it's not justTop-Dressingbecause the plant looks alive and healthy.
This is Bonsai Jack.
It feels like a bespoke plant supply, just as a badger hair shaving brush and shaving soap make you feel as suave as James Bond. When you pour water over it, there will be a faint hissing sound as the water runs to the bottom of the pot. It's aesthetic and satisfying.
More importantly, Bonsai Jack is very effective. It dries out within minutes, soroot rothasn't even crossed my mind since I started using it. Since theSucculents are only wet for a short time, gritty mix has the hidden bonus effect of allowing you to water the succulents more often... which means they grow faster.
There are other gloomy mixtures. Akadama is a popular tree used primarily by bonsai practitioners, but it costs around a million dollars.Bonsai-Jackis by far the most popular gritty mix for succulents because it's affordable and effective.
I would highly recommend it for your drier succulents and cacti. It was honestly a game changer.
A look back at the best succulent soil: Black Gold
Having bought a variety of commercially available substrates labeled "succulent soil", I didn't have high expectations for this one. In my experience, it's usually regular potting soil with some added perlite, hardly anything to phone home about.
This is not the case with Black Gold.
It turns out there's a reason everyone is raving about it. It really is a cut above the competition. There's a pretty fine line between "too much organic matter" and "too much inorganic matter," but this succulent substrate nails it.
The first thing you will notice is that it is adark, nutrient-rich soilwith a generous helping of inorganic chunks. Almost half of the mix is perlite or pumice; another third is the same pine bark used in coarse-grain mixes. The rest is a mixture of compost, worm droppings, and other fertilizer.
It holds moisture for about a day in my experience. That's not bad, and the trade-off is a nutrient-rich substrate that speeds up plant growth (and greatly reduces the need for fertilizer). My slightly wetter succulents,Kalanchoemostly love the stuff.
Sun Gro's Black Gold Cactus Mixis overall the best succulent soil out there, no competition.
Conclusion: adapt your substrate to your plant
It's not the answer you wanted to hear, but it's the truth. There is no silver bullet for succulent soil. Each plant has specific needs and you can't really refine them until you have some practice taking care of them.
That being said... it would be hard to go wrong with either of the substrates discussed here. Both make it virtually impossible to overwater your succulents. You can also approach these yourself at home with the ingredients mentioned!
Would you like more floor recommendations? Here is ourList of the best succulent soils, and this is theultimate guide to everything you will ever need to know about dirt and fat plants.