With unique shapes, vibrant colours, and low-maintenance requirements, succulents are a popular pick for home gardeners and indoor plant owners.
However, growing healthy succulents can be a bit tricky for you, especially if you’re new to this. One vital aspect that can affect the health of your succulents is the soil they’re planted in. And that’s where perlite comes in.
But do succulents need perlite?
Yes, Succulents need perlite, as it can be beneficial to their soil mix as it improves drainage and prevents overwatering.
Perlite is a type of lightweight material that has tiny holes in it. Adding perlite to soil can create tiny spaces for air to move around, which helps water drain better and stops it from getting trapped around the roots of succulents.
What is Perlite?
Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that’s been heated and expanded to create lightweight, porous, and moisture-retentive particles.
It’s used in soil mixes to enhance drainage, aeration, and moisture retention. Further, which can be quite helpful for plants like succulents that are prone to root rot and overwatering.
Benefits of Perlite for Succulents
Here are some benefits of perlite for succulents:
1. Improved drainage
Succulents need soil that drains well to prevent root rot, which can be fatal to the plant. Perlite can improve drainage in the soil by creating tiny spaces for water to move around, which helps to prevent water from pooling around the roots and causing damage.
2. Better aeration
Succulent roots need access to air to stay healthy and thrive. Perlite’s porous structure allows for better air circulation in the soil, which can enhance the health of the plant.
3. Increased moisture retention
Although succulents don’t need much water, they do need some. Perlite can help to retain moisture in the soil, which means that succulents can access water as needed without getting waterlogged.
Perlite is lightweight and won’t weigh down the soil, which can be important if you’re using a heavy pot or planter. It’s easy to mix into the soil, making it a suitable addition to any soil mix.
5. Neutral pH
This means that adding perlite to your soil mix won’t change the pH level of the soil. By using perlite, you can avoid any potential pH-related issues and ensure that your succulents have the best possible growing conditions.
6. Help with better root development
Perlite’s porous structure allows for more oxygen to reach the roots, which is essential for healthy growth. Further, the spaces created by the perlite allow for roots to grow more freely and spread out, promoting stronger root systems.
What kind of Soil does Succulents Need?
A good succulent soil mix should be well-draining and low in organic matter. This is because succulents are prone to root rot if their soil stays too wet for too long.
- Sandy soil – Sandy soil has larger particles that allow water to drain away quickly, which is important for succulents. Avoid soil that’s too fine, as it can become compacted and hinder drainage.
- Perlite or pumice – Perlite and pumice are lightweight materials that can help create air pockets in the soil, which improves drainage and prevents water from pooling around the roots.
- Coarse sand – Coarse sand, such as builder’s sand, can also improve drainage and help prevent compaction.
- Sterilized soil – It’s a good idea to use sterilized soil when potting succulents. Using sterilized soil for potting succulents can help prevent harmful bacteria, fungi, and pests from growing and causing damage to the plant.
- Minimal organic matter – While some organic matter is necessary for soil health, too much can hold onto water and promote the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. A good succulent soil mix should have minimal organic matter, such as peat moss or compost.
Check this out: Are worm castings good for succulents?
How much perlite should you add to the soil for succulents?
Adding perlite to your soil mix can be advantageous for your succulents, but it’s essential to use the right amount. Too much perlite can lead to soil being too dry, while too little can result in soil that stays too wet.
First, make a good soil mix for your succulents, you can use a ratio of two parts sand, two parts gardening soil, and one part perlite or pumice. This will help give your plant the right balance of drainage, nutrients, and aeration. This will help give your plant the right balance of drainage, nutrients, and aeration.
However, the perlite required for your succulent soil mix can depend on the type of succulent, your local climate, and the type of soil you’re using. It’s a good idea to try out different ratios of soil and perlite and see how your succulents respond.
How to Use Perlite for Succulents or Cactus?
Perlite is a great option for your succulent or cactus soil mix, and it’s easy to use. Here is some information on how to use perlite for your plants –
- Mix it with soil – You can use a ratio of one part perlite to three parts soil, or adjust the ratio depending on your plant’s requirements. Mix the perlite and soil well before adding it to your pot.
- Add it to the bottom of the pot – Another way to use perlite is by adding it to the bottom of your pot before adding soil. This can help enhance drainage and stop overwatering. Simply add a layer of perlite to the bottom of your pot before adding soil.
- Use it as a top dressing – You can also use perlite as a top dressing for your succulent or cactus. This can help enhance the look of your plant and prevent soil from splashing onto the leaves. Simply add a layer of perlite on top of the soil.
(Read this article: Are Eggshells Good for Succulents?)
Drawbacks for Perlite
While perlite is a useful material for your succulent or cactus soil mix, there are also some drawbacks to keep in mind –
Dust and mess – Perlite can be quite dusty, and when you’re mixing it with soil, it can create a bit of a mess. Breathing in perlite dust can cause respiratory problems and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat.
Floats to the top – Perlite is very lightweight, which means it can sometimes float to the top of the soil. This can leave the roots of your plants exposed and make it more difficult for them to absorb water and nutrients. You can add a layer of sand on top of the perlite to help keep it in place.
Not environmentally friendly – Perlite is a mined product, which means it’s not the most environmentally friendly option. If you’re looking for a more sustainable alternative, you could try using coconut coir or rice hulls instead.
Quick water drainage – While the quick drainage that perlite provides can be helpful for succulents, it can also be a drawback if you’re not careful. Perlite can cause water to drain away from the roots too quickly, which can leave your plants thirsty and dry.
How To Make Your Own Succulent Soil?
To make succulent soil, you’ll need sand, garden soil, and perlite or pumice. The sand and perlite/pumice help with drainage, while the garden soil provides nutrients.
Mix the ingredients. Mix two parts sand, two parts garden soil, and one part perlite or pumice in a container. You can adjust the ratio based on the needs of your plants.
Sterilize the soil. To stop pests and diseases, it’s a good thing to sterilize the soil before using it. You can do this by heating the soil at 180-200°F for 30 minutes. Let it cool down before using it.
Fill your pot. Once your soil is ready, fill your pot with the mixture. Make sure to leave enough space at the top of the pot for watering.
Plant your succulents. After filling your pot, plant your succulents by gently removing them from their original pot and placing them in the new soil mixture. Gently press the soil around the plant to make sure it stays in place.
Water your succulents. Now, water your succulents sparingly, as they don’t require much water. It’s best to wait until the soil has completely dried out before watering the plant again.
Perlite and cactus mix for succulents (Recipe)
Here’s a recipe for making your own succulent soil mix using perlite and cactus mix –
Perlite and Cactus Mix for Succulents Recipe –
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part coarse sand
- 1 part peat moss
- Choose a large container or bucket that can hold all of your ingredients.
- Add perlite, vermiculite, coarse sand, and peat moss.
- Mix the ingredients together well using your hands or a gardening tool.
- Once mixed, your succulent soil is ready to use.
Moreover, this recipe is just a starting point, and you can modify the proportions of cactus mix and perlite based on the needs of your specific plants.
Tips on Using Perlite for Succulents
The amount of perlite you need will depend on the type of succulent you’re growing, the climate, and what soil you’re using. A good starting point is to mix one part perlite with two parts soil.
Don’t overwater. Perlite can help prevent overwatering by improving drainage, but it’s still important to avoid watering your succulent too much. Water your plant only when the soil is bit dry.
Be careful with dust. Perlite can produce dust, which can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation. Wear a mask and gloves when handling it and try to minimize dust as much as possible.
Store properly. Perlite should be stored in a dry place to prevent it from absorbing moisture. Keep it in an airtight container.
Combine with other materials. While perlite can be beneficial for succulents, it’s best to combine it with other materials like sand, peat moss, and vermiculite to create a balanced soil mix.
Can I use perlite instead of sand for succulents?
Yes, perlite is a great alternative to sand, especially if you’re looking to improve drainage and aeration in your soil mix.
Succulents need well-draining soil to prevent root rot, and adding perlite can help achieve that. Perlite also has the added benefit of being lightweight, which makes it easy to handle and mix into soil.
Can you mix perlite with succulent soil?
Yes, you can mix perlite with succulent soil to create a well-draining soil mix for your plants. Perlite can help improve the soil’s drainage and prevent overwatering, which can be beneficial for succulents.
Can succulents grow in just perlite?
Growing succulents in just perlite may not be the best idea as perlite is mainly used to improve soil drainage and aeration, and doesn’t contain many nutrients that plants need to grow. Without the necessary nutrients, succulents may not thrive and may eventually die.
Moreover, growing succulents in just perlite can make the plant more susceptible to overwatering and underwatering.
Is too much perlite bad for plants?
Perlite is a useful ingredient for soil mixes, but too much of it can cause problems for your plants.
If there is too much perlite in the soil, it may cause excess water to drain away too fast, and the soil may not hold enough moisture for the plant.
Does perlite prevent root rot?
Perlite can help prevent root rot in succulents by promoting good drainage and aeration in the soil. Perlite keeps the soil loose and well-drained, which lowers the risk of root rot and other moisture-related problems.
However, proper watering and good soil drainage are key factors in preventing root rot in succulents.
Is perlite good for cactus?
Perlite is great for cactus. It can enhance soil drainage problems and aeration, which helps prevent waterlogging and root rot in cactus plants. Perlite is also lightweight and doesn’t compact over time, which is great for cactus because they prefer loose, well-draining soil.
Perlite vs vermiculite for succulents: Which is best
Perlite is often preferred for succulents because it is lightweight, porous, and doesn’t decompose. This allows for good drainage, which is important for succulent plants.
Vermiculite, on the other hand, is more water-retentive and better at holding onto nutrients. It can be useful for plants that need more moisture, but can also retain too much moisture and lead to root rot in succulents.
However, perlite is a better option for succulent soil mixes due to its ability to improve drainage and prevent soil soggy.
Perlite substitute for succulents
Sand, pumice, or crushed granite can be used instead of perlite as a soil amendment for succulents. These alternatives provide good drainage and aeration for succulent roots. Experiment with different ratios to find the right mix for your succulents and growing conditions.
Perlite is a useful addition to succulent soil mixes, providing good drainage, aeration and preventing root rot. However, it’s important to use the right amount of perlite and to balance it with other soil components.
Perlite can also be substituted with other materials like coarse sand or vermiculite. Further, with proper usage, perlite can help create a healthy growing environment for succulents and cacti.