What Can I Use Instead of Cactus Soil?

what can I use instead of cactus soil

As a new cactus grower, I thought that commercial cactus soil is like a panacea for all varieties of cacti. By and by, when I matured from new to advanced, I experienced that every cactus is different so they all need different types of soil mix. 

Today, I decided to share my knowledge with you who are new cactus growers even advanced also.

Most commercial cactus soils are made out of forest products and peat, which are not re-wetted. Some re-wet, well- drainage materials are pumice, perlite, coir, Turface, NAPA oil dry #8822, chicken grit, rice husks, horticultural grit, etc.

There are so many alternatives to commercial cactus soil. Here, In My Cactus Garden, I  produce and use my different types of cacti. They are growing well which gives me immense joy.

Commercial Cactus Soil versus Various Homemade Cactus Soil

Commercial cactus soil: 

There are many commercial cactus soils available in the market such as Schultz Cactus,  Scotts Miracle-Gro® Cactus, and  Palm & Citrus Potting Mix.  But ridiculously, these all commercial mixes are nothing but a mixture of forest products-  bark pieces and wood chips, peat, and lava rocks.

Disadvantages Of Commercial cacti soil 

  1. Commercial soil mixes are good for some  kind of cacti, but not for all cacti species.
  2. It’s common ingredients, peat and sand, are not so good for well-draining.
  3. Commercial soil’s peat inhibits to re-wet the soil mixes.Surface water of soil can’t drain out very easily. That stagnated water decays the roots of the cactus plant.
  4. This soil mix is composed of forest products, peat moss, and organic materials(for example,sawdust). They don’t allow water to drain out very fast because they have some properties to hold water.
  5. This so-called soil becomes so hard when watering a second time.
  6. Compared to benefits, commercial cactus soil is expensive.
  7. Commercial soil sometimes uses bricklaying sand which is very fine. So it retains water, not helping to drain out.
  8. Sometimes they use sea salt which contains salt. The salt is not suitable for many cacti plants.

Isn’t it a good idea to prepare your own cactus soil mix?

What Materials can be Used Instead of Commercial Cactus Soil?

  1.  Pumice is a comparatively lightweight volcanic rock that is porous, well-drained.There are also many substitutes of pumice which you can use.
  • Perlite,
  • non-soluble cat litter: feces of cats
  • calcined clay or Turface , 
  • NAPA oil dry #8822, 
  • chicken grit, 

Unlike commercial organic substances, these are all inorganic substances that make sure to pass water through the cactus soil very quickly.

2. Coir: Coir is also known as coco peat or coir peat. It is very porous and takes time to decompose. It is a great alternative to peat moss. However, it brings more advantages than peat because coir re-wet is very fast and does not solidify.

What Can I Use Instead of Cactus Soil

Some  Alternatives I can Use with my Homemade Cactus Soil

Coarse-grained river sand: It gives the soil more porosity. But be aware of its salt. Before using it, wash it out again and again.

Coarse-grained river sand

Zeolite or fired clay: Name referring it has not enough water retaining properties. It helps the soil to become more porous and dry out quickly.

Zeolite or fired clay

Some alternatives I can use instead of cactus soil

Leaf ground: Rich in nutrients, loose, light, easily absorbs water. After the winter season, the trees start to shred leaves. So you can collect those leaves. Though leaves are organic matter, they are looser than peat. To bring more looseness, you can use brick chips, and coarse sand.

leaf ground

Clay sod land: drain out and soak water very fast because of its dryness. Moreover, it has the ability to retain nutrients more often than.

Clay sod land

Regular Potting Mix Ingredients: Alternatives of those Ingredients

Regular potting soil mixes consist of coarse sand, pumice, and peat. But these ingredients are not always available in the local store. Don’t worry. There are many alternatives now available in your logical store. Let’s explore one by one.

Ingredients #1 Cactus Soil Sand: What Could  be Used Instead of Sand?

Materials that can be used as Replacement for Sand in the cactus soil mix

  • M-Sand (Manufactured Sand).
  • Washed Bottom Ash:solid residue from the combustion of municipal waste.
  • Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag: by-product of blast furnace.
  • Sheet Glass Powder.
  • Quarry Dust: by-product of crushing rocks.
  • Construction and Demolition Waste.

Ingredients #2 Cactus Soil Perlite: What Can be Used Instead of Perlite

Perlite is a volcanic glass and has high water content. Don’t need to always depend on perlite. There are some substitutes available in the market.

  • Rice husks: coating of rice
  • Pumice: volcanic glass
  • Horticultural grit: quartz stone
  • Granite gravel: a natural stone
  • Vermiculite: hydrous phyllosilicate mineral
  • Calcined clay: used to improve drainage
  • Bark: Outside tissue of trees
  • Peat: less decomposed organic matter
  • Coir: coco peat
  • Sand

Ingredients #3 Cactus Soil Peat Moss: What Could be used Instead of Peat Moss

Peat Moss Alternatives

  • Coconut Coir. Coconut coir, also known as coco peat or coir peat.
  • Wood-Based Materials.
  • Compost: decomposing plant and food waste 
  • Rice Hulls or rice husks: hard coverings of rice
  • Pine Needles.
  • Leaf Mold. 
  • Composted Manure: feces of animals

What Ratio should I Use for Homemade Cactus Soil?

University of Florida (UF), IFAS Extension has written an article about the ratio of homemade cactus soil.

Soil-Based Mix

Peat-based mixes are not heavier than this soil-based mix. Perlite or vermiculite is an alternate option for sand. 

1/3 compost; 1/3 topsoil; 1/3 sand

Blocking Mix

Blocking mix is used for seedling or transplant growing.  

  •  30 quarts (28.5 L) brown peat
  • 20 quarts (19L) sand or perlite
  • 20  (19L) quarts compost
  • 10 (9.5L) quarts soil
  • 3 cups base fertilizer (equal parts blood meal, colloidal phosphate, greensand)
  • ½ cup lime

Can Cactus Survive Without Soil?

The cactus can live without soil but needs to take care of the proper environment. The reasons why they can live without soil are:

  1. Cacti has the ability to store water in their system.
  2. Because of their water  storage tissues they are hot weather resistant. How? Cati stores water into their leaves, stems and roots.  
  3. For the above reasons, they don’t need nutrients enriched soil.
  4. In terrariums, cacti can live on gravel or sand.

How Long Can a Cactus Last Without Soil?

A desert cactus can live without soil for up to 2 years. But this is not true for indoor cacti because the indoor environment is totally different from the desert.

Can Cactus Grow in Rocks without Soil?

In terrariums and deserts, they can live without soil. But their growth will be very slow.

Special Notes:

  1. Young cacti and dive seedlings need looser and nutritious soil.So leafy soil is the best to fulfill their need.
  2. But for an adult cacti, compact soil is needed. Indeed, clay-turf  land is perfect  for an old cacti.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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