How to Make Your Cactus Soil?

Under the right conditions, cacti plants make outstanding houseplants. You can grow them year-round as an indoor plant, but they do have unique needs in soil. Not just any potting soil will do. Stay tuned as Plantly will teach you how to make your own cactus soil mix.

While you can find readily available cactus soil mix to buy online, you can always create potting soil by yourself. But before we provide you recommendations on how to make your cactus soil mix, it helps to know how each one differs from the regular potting soil.

What is Cactus Potting Soil?

making cactus soil

A cactus mix, or cactus soil as some garden centers refer to it, is a blend of inorganic matter like gravel, sand, perlite, or pumice. This potting medium provides a perfect mix for growing succulents like cacti, providing suitable drainage.

Why Do You Need it for Your Cactus Plants?

cactus in one container

Most cacti have thick yet fleshy stems to help store water in dry periods. As the plants are native to some parts of Africa, Europe, South, and North America, they need to store water for long drought periods. No wonder they’re considered the best outdoor plants in hot regions.

Hence, the cacti plant’s roots do not absorb water regularly and are backed by the type of soil it grows in the desert. These succulent plants do not enjoy wet feet for a long time. Regular potting soil will not do as the cactus mix needs to be well-draining to prevent root rot.

So, your potting mix needs to be non-compact with good aeration to provide sufficient space for the roots to breathe and absorb nutrients.

Difference Between Soil Cactus Mix and Regular Potting Soil

cactus soil mix

There are huge differences between potting soil and commercial cactus soil. First, the standard soil mix composition has more organic materials like compost, coconut coir, and peat moss.

This organic matter is better for your foliage-type plants. In contrast, cacti do not need the same level of organic material and should be more composed of inorganic amendments like grit, coarse sand, pumice, or perlite.

Secondly, these two mixes have different moisture retention. Regular soil does drain well, but the organic matter retains more moisture. The opposite happens with cactus potting soil which has less organic matter. Moisture retention is less to prevent root rot.

As cactus plants have delicate roots, they need better aeration. The usual potting soil is less dense, allowing the roots to thrive. But the cacti potting soil mix are less compact allowing more pore spaces within.

How to Make Cactus Soil Mix?

Making your cactus soil mix is not that difficult. Here, we have a recipe with ingredients you will need for your DIY cactus soil. Remember that the best soil recipe allows excess water to drain freely through the drainage holes while still holding moisture without resulting in wet feet.

DIY Cactus Soil Ingredients

Regular Garden Soil

regular garden soil

To prepare your cactus mix, you can buy regular garden soil from your local garden center. Or, you can use whatever you have available. The garden soil must be sterile. Light porous soil works well. Avoid using heavy garden soils.

The Best Potting Soil With Sand

perlite for cactus soil

Cactus roots thrive in a porous cactus mix, so adding sand to the regular potting mix is crucial. It does not matter what type of sand you use. The result needs to provide good drainage for your cactus plants. We recommend coarser sand than the fine ones. Alternatively, you can use a poultry grit as an alternative.



Perlite and Pumice are lightweight organic materials resembling styrofoam. They help prevent soil compaction by enhancing aeration and improving drainage for your cactus plant.

Peat Moss

peat moss for cactus soil

When planting succulents, it helps to provide them with the right pH level. If you find the level is high, you can lower it using peat moss but only with a tiny portion. However, adding it to your potting mix ration will make it challenging to re-wet your soil.

Gravel/Lava Rocks

gravel for cactus soil

Another decent addition to adding to your potted plants like cacti are lava rocks and gravel. Adding them makes the potting mix coarse that is airy, and loose.

Charcoal & Coco Coir

charcoal for cactus soil

The best air conditioner to use in your cacti soil is charcoal. This amendment helps prevents diseases and harmful microorganisms from attaching to the cactus roots. The coir helps retain moisture amounts and has a non-compact structure. You can use it to replace peat moss.

Supplies You Will Need

You will also need a measuring cup, an airtight container, and a trowel with gardening gloves.

Recipe for Soil Mixes

Now that you have your supplies, the first and most important thing to do is make sure you are not exposing your desert plants to pathogens.

So, it helps to sterilize the soil before you use it. The best way to do this is to heat it. You can place the planting mix in a glass container or pot and put it in a larger container in hot water over a slow cooking mode.

Once the water reaches the boiling temperature, you can gradually turn the heat down and leave the soil to cool down.

Making Your Cactus Plant Soil

mixing cactus potting soil

To start, you will need the following ratio for your soil recipe:

  • Three parts regular bagged potting soil

  • Three parts of either sand, gravel, poultry grit, or surface

  • Two parts, pumice, and perlite

So, whether you use a cup or scoop to measure one part, use the same one to measure two parts and more. Now, get those hands dirty and start mixing the potting mix ratio.

  1. Start by moistening the standard soil to help prevent dust from escaping from the bucket when mixing.

  2. Next, add your coarse sand to the soil and mix thoroughly.

  3. Now add the perlite or pumice to your mix, stirring well.

  4. By now, you should have a good cactus soil mix, and the best to test a small sample for the pH.

  5. If the pH is low, add some peat and take another reading for the desired results.

How to Use Cactus Soil Mixes?

large batch of soil mix

One of the fantastic things is that you can store the cactus soil made up of big batches in sealed, airtight containers for future use. You can use it for propagation, potting, and repotting. But remember to leave the soil to dry before you pot your cactus plants.

Benefits of Using your Own Cactus Soil Mix

Mixing your cactus soil is cheaper than buying a commercial one. In addition, you control the ingredients to make the soil drain faster, removing excess moisture depending on the cactus species.

It is excellent to use to plant succulents that need superior drainage. It also helps keep pesky bugs away and is better than the home improvement store soil. In addition, you can control it in an air-tight container for further use later.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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