Little about substrate


When you are interested more closely about your plants and especially succulent, the issue of adequate substrate occurs quickly.

Forums and websites are full of tips on proportions to use for the perfect mixt. Of course, this also depends on the origin of plants: desert climate, mountain, hills, seaside …. The closer you get from the conditions of the species that you want to heal, the better are the chances to see them succed…

However, a recurrent condition is that the substrate must be as draining as possible .. In fact, most succulents are sensitive to rot due to excess water, or moist substrate for long.

I do not have a lot of experience, but I have adapted the substrate for my plants to what I can find around me and to my watering habits: coming from tropics, I tend to have a heavy hand watering so I also put even more draining substrate than required

List of components:

  • Gardening soil : it can be full of clay or calcareous, or too rich, so not appropriate alone; so it should be aerated. It is necessary to pay attention on the origin of the soil to avoid toxic waste or pesticides.
  • Potting compost: often made with peat-based mixtures, it is also not suitable alone. For cactus or for sensitive plants, I prefer avoid it in mixtures and i often prefer provide fertilizer during the high season, to compensate for the lack of nutrients in my very mineral substrate.
  • Sand and gravel: the base of my substrate. I use aquarium sand, river sand, of course, of different size and colors. It does not need to be too fine to avoid making cement ( but I added some fine sand especially for seedlings).
  • Pozzolan: it is a draining rock porous. Pay attention to plants with fragile roots as pozzolan is abrasive, and  can injure the roots and put them in contact with moisture. But it is an excellent base material for adult plants.
  • Perlite: very light (it even tends to float when watering) and porous, it aerates the substrates. I put it when I use potting soil.
  • Vermiculite: a very good material as to lighten the substrate but it settles over time. I use little but surely will integrate it into my next planting mixes because it also holds some water.



Depending on the situation, my mixes are composed with different proportions: 

  • Fine seedling

Ariocarpus semis

3/4 sand and 1/4 sand and average gravel.

  • Larger seedling

Astrophytum semis

Adeniums semis

3/4 medium sand and 1/4 sand and gravel.

  • Others seedling

Ipome semis

1/5 potting soil according planting mixtures, 4/5  medium sand

  • Adult plants

Petit Adenium arabicum

3/4 medium sand and gravel without ground for this sensitive plant.

The materials that I do not use

  • Pumice: material with a highly porous structure, light … Excellent basic materials but impossible to find in my area.
  • Expanded clay: sold as a sphere, it would be crushed into pieces with a hammer to make it a good base material.
  • Peat: avoid it and if necessary, replace the original substrate of a newly acquired plant.
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Bords de fenêtres Nord-Ouest

Loving succulents and caudex, but living in Quebec, Canada, I’m learning to give them the best possible care with my growing conditions. I started my collection with fat plants less than a year ago but I am amazing by their strength and that they are full of surprises.

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