Growing mediums for your cacti and succulent plants

Desert Cacti and other succulents

Desert cacti and succulents in my greenhouse

Desert cacti and succulents in my greenhouse

Desert cacti and other succulents need to be grown in a very well drained soil mix, as these plants come from areas of low rainfall in their natural habitats.

Different growers will have their own preferences with the growing mediums they like to use and I want to share with you mine.

There are a number of commercial cactus soils on the market that are available from garden centres and they vary in their quality. Sadly though I have found most of these to be of poor quality and full of cheap fillers and they are always overpriced for very small bags, and when you have as many as I have 500+ a small bag of cactus compost is not going to go far haha!

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost

I find it far more economical and better quality to make up my own cactus and succulent soil as I know exactly what is in it and the process is simple to do.

I have had very good success with making up my own cactus and succulent soil consisting of three equal parts (see below)



  • Mix equal amounts of:
  • A soil based compost, (I like to use John Innes no2)
  • Horticultural sand ( do not use builders sand or beach sand )
  • Grit, you can also use perlite instead of grit. The added sand and grit/perlite adds extra drainage.

Check out this video I have made on how to make your own cactus compost.


Here are some reasons why I try to minimize using peat if I possibly can, and the main reason is the environmental damage that removing peat has.

Of course it is impossible to avoid using peat altogether as it is added to almost ALL compost mixes on the market today, and with certain house plants such as Carnivorous plants, epiphytic plants many Orchids and other indoor plants sometimes the use of Peat is unavoidable but I always think its best to minimize the use of peat whenever we have do have a choice 🙂

  • Removing peat disturbs rare wildlife and also releases a million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air every single year.
  • I have found peat based composts also encourages soil pests such as sciarid flies, and root mealy bugs.
  • Peat also has a tendency to dry like cardboard and is difficult to get to re wet again once the soil medium have dried out especially with Cacti and Succulents that need their soil medium to dry oiut in between waterings.

Epiphytic cacti

The Epiphytic cacti are very different to the desert cacti and succulents with their growing mediums and they prefer to be kept moist all through the year.

Although they can survive periods without water, they dislike being kept dry for too long, and therefore do not like to be grown in as sandy a soil mix as the Desert types.

Epiphytic cacti still need good drainage and like the desert cacti mix, I prefer to make my own growing mediums for these plants and I make up a mix of:

  • 60% John Innes number 2 soil based compost
  • 40% perlite.

You can also use a good quality orchid compost with the Epiphytic cacti providing it is of a good quality..

Aporocactus Epiphytic cactus

Aporocactus Epiphytic cactus