SOIL

I want to start by saying that YOU CAN’T USE BURNT SOIL FOR YOUR SUCCULENTS. They absolutely despise burnt soil and will DIE because it is simply too harsh and rough for plants as delicate as succulents. No matter what are the types of soil you use, it must be porous and well-aerated. This is where grained soil comes in!

Soil is for water + nutrients.
Grained soil is for drainage, aeration, and some nutrients control.

Types of succulent soil

  1. Peat moss soil, derived from peat moss. One of the most common succulent soil, but it is not commonly available in local nurseries. It is hydrophobic (it’s 2020!!), meaning if it’s dried completely it will need a few rounds of watering/ soaking to absorb water (you can experiment with it at home). It is also unsustainable because peat moss cannot decompose. Slightly acidic, which can be beneficial to succulents. A bit more expensive in the price range.
  2. Coconut coir peat soil. Still not as commonly available as normal gardening soil, but defo easier to find than peat moss soil.You often have to buy a lot in a go or get them in blocks (some might have salt content which you have to wash away). Unlike peat moss soil, it is sustainable as it is derived from the waste product of coconuts. Also slightly acidic and fairly affordable. Highly recommended! 
  3. Normal garden soil. I’ve stopped using black soil because their bad drainage. Even when it is mixed with grained soil, its drainage is still a little too weak. Its high nutrient content isn’t needed for succulents which growths are often slow.

Both peat soil and coconut peat are preferred for their good aeration, making sure the environment doesn’t become overly moist. 

Types of grained soil

Grained soils are mostly volcanic, and thus have to be imported. They are mostly porous pebbles that control the moisture level by absorbing and storing moisture when it’s too moist and vice versa when it’s too dry. Any liquid fertilizer, vitalizer, or plant booster can also be absorbed and released by grained soil that way. They can also be placed at the topmost layer of soil to prevent soil erosion, act as a layer of insulation against exposure, and to promote aeration.

Some grained soil contains dust and fine particles which can clog your soil or cause respiratory problems, so it is very advisable to treat them with water before using them. You’ll hear some “sizzling” sound if you water them when they are completely dried. There are a lot of grained soil types but they are pretty much the same lah honestly mix two or three that’s on your budget together and you’re good.

  1. Akadama: Acidic premium bonsai soil, very aesthetically pleasing because of their color. It is often used to cover the topmost layer of succulent soil for decoration, protection, and aeration purposes. It’s brittle, meaning it will eventually powderize over time (around a year + depending on its quality), clogging your soil and disrupting drainage and breathability. Repotting and changing your soil once a year will prevent that from happening. It’s usually available in big nurseries in sacks (plant nurseries, not baby nurseries!), around RM80-100 per sack. Remember to always check the bottom of the akadama sack: find one that is the least powdery. 

Overall: Price 2/5 Durability 3/5 Effectiveness 5/5 Aesthetic 5/5 

  1. Pumice: Neutral pH value generic volcanic rocks sometimes used in aquariums. Very solid and durable, rarely turning into fine powder and thus need infrequent repotting. More commonly available than akadama, and you might even find them in aquatic shops albeit in bigger chunks. Unlike akadama and other grained soil though, if its edges are not smooth, it can harm the roots of your succulents. Those pumice rocks sold in aquatic shops are usually edged and unrefined so use them at your own risk. Pumice can also be found in bugger nurseries at cheaper prices than akadama, usually costing about RM80 per big gunny bag.

Overall: Price 3/5 Durability 5/5 Effectiveness 5/5 Aesthetic 4/5

  1. Vermiculite: A weird bunch of minerals with surprisingly good water retention value, often used in seed germination and seedlings cultivation. Slightly alkaline, and not the best grained soil for succulents as it retains too much water. You generally need to include a lot more vermiculite in your potting mix for it to aerate well. I’ve also noticed that if it rains heavily, a vermiculite potting mix will sometimes clog up my pot completely. Because of how light it is, it can sometimes float up on your potting mix when you water your plants, and this is bad because it will disrupt the composition of your grained soil mix (soil will go down, and vermiculite up.)

Besides, it powderizes rather easily and can degrade over time, creating fine particles that can be harmful to our lungs (and thus will need water treatment!). Also available at bigger nurseries at a more affordable price around RM50-60 per sack. Use it only if you have no other choice.

Overall: Price 5/5 Durability 2/5 Effectiveness 2/5 Aesthetic 3/5

4. Perlite: Another type of volcanic mineral that is often used in seedling cultivations. Very similar to vermiculite, but slightly more durable even though it also degrades over time, requiring a repot once every year. Because of its low weight, it might also float up on your potting mix but it’s not as bad as vermiculite. There has been warning of perlite containing asbestos (harmful to our lungs) but that is unconfirmed. Regardless, always wet your perlite before using it. One of the cheapest options of grained soil, it is the most easily available soil type. As usual, check if it’s “fresh” by looking for the amount of fine particles at the bottom of the sack. ACE hardware does sell some common grained soil like perlite and vermiculite in small bags but they are often not fresh. 

Overall: Price 5/5 Durability 3/5 Effectiveness 4/5 Aesthetic 1/5