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How to mix your own cacti and succulent compost

It’s getting to the point now where my desire for a greenhouse has turned from want to need, purely based on the windowsill real estate situation in my home. There is basically next to no space left on my windowsills for my ever-expanding collection of houseplants. The reason for this is partly due to my cat, who likes to sit on them, but mostly because of my newly-found penchant for houseplants. More specifically, succulents.

What is not to love? They’re low-maintenance, hard to kill, and gorgeousBut these symmetrical evergreen wonders grow surprisingly fast, and produce little succulent ‘babies’, more often than you think. All of this growth means frequent potting-on, which, of course, means more soil.

Succulents require a special soil to thrive – you may get away with multipurpose compost, but if you want to ensure your plants can grow as quickly and as healthy as possible, a special succulent mix will work a treat.

I found that getting my hands on a special compost was neither easy nor particularly economical. I was only able to find a 4L bag in a large garden centre which was about 40 minutes away. (I found the particular cacti and succulent compost on Amazon, though the price is a lot higher per kilo than normal compost).

So I thought why not just make it? On the telly, Gardeners are always making all sorts of special mixes for plants and it can’t be that hard.

Who would have thought that it could be this easy though?

The mix

The goal with this ‘soil’ is to improve the drainage as much as possible. These plants come from arid areas of the world, where the soil is sandy and water is scarce. You probably have the climate sorted, and thankfully watering is an easily-controlled variable, so now it’s just the substrate. Your peat-based compost won’t help you here, friend.

The mix I use is equal parts compost, grit and sand (1:1:1):

  • 1 part compost – I used Jack’s Magic. It’s a really fine texture and has good drainage.
  • 1 part horticultural grit – My local B&Q had this, but if you can’t get a hold of any, perlite or pumice would work instead.
  • 1 part sand – I just used building sand which was only £1 or so per bag.

I washed the horticultural grit before I mixed it with the sand and the compost, but this probably isn’t necessary as you’ll be watering the plants after potting them on anyway. I’ve read online that building sand shouldn’t be used, but none of my succulents have died from this yet, so there you go.

When you have the three ingredients ready to go, find a bucket and just mix the three together and get potting. The builders sand and grit is, well, gritty, so use a strong trowel for this.

A handful of succulent soil

Never thought I’d be taking a photo of my hand full of soil tbh.

One thing to bear in mind is these materials are a lot heavier than normal compost – especially after watering – so consider the size and material of the plant pot before planting if it needs to be moved around.

The important thing to remember with succulents is their original habitats. While this mix will be suitable for most cacti and succulents, some from very dry areas may need an even grittier mix. According to the British Cacti and Succulents Society (BCSS): “For more difficult species and those known to originate from drier areas, the proportion of gritty materials is increased, even to as much as 75% of the total mix.”

Honestly, mixing it all together I felt like a proper gardener Longmeadow or something – any moment I was expecting the camera crew to arrive. But then I realised I was in Scotland, had an office job and my chickens needed to be fed. Such is life.

Happy planting!

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