I have four succulent potting mixes here that I will be comparing side by side. These 4 are some of the most used and popular succulent mixes out there. I recently ran out of succulent soil. I usually just go to the store and pick up a bag or two but with this shelter-in-place situation, I went ahead and ordered a few bags online and thought this would be a great opportunity to compare them side by side.
I will start from the least expensive to the most expensive item, which brings us to this first one:
Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix, 8 qt.
Price: $4.98 (8 qt bag) – price at the time of purchase in 2020
Product description: The fast-draining formula is enriched with Miracle-Gro Plant Food, so you can be sure your plants are getting the nutrients they deserve.
On the bag it says: Grow strong cacti, palms and citruses with Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix. Get beautiful, colorful results with Miracle-Gro.
It also contains forest products, sand and perlite to help prevent soil compaction and improve drainage. Specially formulated for use with cactus, palm, citrus and succulents. This product is formulated from processed forest products, sphagnum peat moss, sand, perlite, fertilizer, and a wetting agent. Fertilizer used: nitrogen, phosphate, potassium.
I’ve used this product a lot and am very familiar with this. It is not the best quality but I’ve used it a lot because of the price and how accessible it is. I usually just run to the store (like Home Depot or Lowes) and they have them available. I have not run into problems with this soil but I know others have.
This is probably one of the cheapest brands of cactus potting mix you can find. I’ve tried other cheaper brands and have not had a good experience with them and ended up throwing out the entire bag because of mold or other problems. So far, after years of use, I haven’t had problems with this brand.
The best way to use this product is to amend it with perlite to make the soil more porous and fast draining. Combine it w/ perlite using a 2:1 of potting mix and perlite, or 1:1 solution of potting mix and perlite if your plant tends to stay too wet. This works for me and I’ve never had a problem with it most likely because I live in a dry climate and I also tend to underwater my succulents.
The second one is:
Price:$14.97 (2-pack, 4 qt bag) at the time of this purchase.
Ingredients: Compost, Peat Moss, Sand, Limestone (pH adjuster)
Product description says: Hoffman Horticultural Perlite is a lightweight soil conditioner that is specially formulated to loosen clay and reduce caking while improving drainage and aeration leaving behind a high quality soil. Designed to start seeds, propagate cutting or store bulbs and is ideal for blending with peat moss and perlite.
My first impression is, the soil looks rich and good quality. I don’t really use this brand that much because it is not usually available in hardware stores around me. It is easy to purchase online if you don’t mind the price. As the product description says, it is ideal for blending with peat moss and perlite. The way I would use this is to add perlite to make it more porous for succulents, so it’ll drain faster.
I’ll add about a quarter perlite to whatever amount of soil I’ll be using to make it more fast draining. Perlite doesn’t cost that much but that adds to the expense so it’s something to keep in mind. When purchased online, it costs $15 for these two bags so it’s about $7.50 for each 4-qt bag.
This costs 3x more than the miracle grow product. If you do the math, these 2 bags cost $14.97 total. Each bag is 4-qt in size. So for 8-qt this would cost $14.97, which is 3x more than the Miracle-Gro bag. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget. Prices vary depending on location, where and when you purchase, etc.
After I’ve trialed this brand for a few months and have used it several times, my opinion is that it is an OK product. It tends to stay wet so you really need to add perlite to it or something that will help the soil drain faster.
This third one is:
Price: $29.99 (2-Pack, 8-qt) at the time of purchase
So just from doing a quick math calculation, you will find that this costs almost the same as the Hoffman’s. These come in 8-qt bags as opposed to 4-qt.
Product description on the bag says: Our unique combination of perlite/pumice, earthworm castings and compost provides the perfect soil structure and drainage for all types of cacti, bromeliads and succulents. Black Gold Cactus Mix is the first step in creating your own beautiful garden oasis.
Ingredients: Pumice, cinders or perlite, processed forest products, processed softwood bark, compost and composted worm castings.
At first glance, this looks like a high quality soil mix. To be honest, I don’t usually purchase this brand because I usually run to the store to buy my soil but my local hardware store usually does not have this available. With this whole shelter-in-place situation going on, I am getting used to purchasing most things online, even my succulent soil mixes.
I thought I could get away with just using this as is without amending it. After using this for a few months though, I noticed that the soil tends to stay wetter than what I’m used to. If using this, make sure you amend your soil with perlite so that the soil does not stay too wet for too long. Of course, that would add to the cost. Perlite is a lot cheaper than pumice and easier to find in stores as well. This product is not cheap in my opinion. These two bags cost $29.99 so one bag is about $15, but it is a pretty big bag, 8-qt in size.
If you do a quick math, Hoffman and Sungro cost about the same at around $15 per 8-qt. bag.
And finally, we have:
Price: $39.85 (3.5 gallon, 13.24 Liter) at the time of purchase online.
This might be cheaper when purchased from their website directly, but I’m not sure of shipping charges.
When you receive this in the mail, it’ll come in a box. Let me tell you guys, the box is heavy. If you’ve never used this before, As soon as you take it out of the box, you know it is different from other succulent soil mixes you’ve used. It does not even look like a potting mix, it looks more like something you would use as topsoil. It comes with this chopstick potting tool and this little plastic clip or tab to close the bag.
Product description from the website:
Ultra fast draining design helps prevent root rot and overwatering. Contains no heavy potting soil ingredients such as sphagnum or peat moss. Provide your prized plant with a potting soil that mimics its natural dry environment. Optimized pH of 5.5. Perfect for succulents, cactus, bonsai and other acid-loving plants.
- Pathogen free with extended pathogen control.
- Ultra-lightweight and airy.
Ingredients: 33% Pine Coir, 33% 1/4 Bonsai Block (calcined clay) and 33% Monto Clay (1/4 inch). pH: 5.5
You can tell they used top-quality ingredients. It even smells good. It has a faint earthy or woodsy, campfire smell, if that makes sense.
This is a super fast draining mix. In fact, this is too fast draining for my liking. I tend to keep my succulents pretty dry and frankly, run into problems with underwatering sometimes. So I can tell right off the bat that I would have problems with my succulents being too dry when using this mix alone. What I would do is add some of the succulent potting mix that I have and mix together, about a 1:1 solution. The reason is I need some water retention, not a lot, but some, for my plants to draw from.
I’m just telling you how I would use this product. I’m not recommending you do the same. I can see how this product would be great for those people who run into problems with overwatering or having wet succulents all the time, or for those who live in a really humid climate. I am not doubting the quality of this product because it is top notch, but like me, some of you may need to adjust this a bit to make it work for you.
So there you go, that’s my comparison of these four succulent soil mixes. I did a YouTube video on this soil comparison and I mentioned that my top choice is the Black Gold cactus mix. But after I’ve used it for a while, I’ve learned that it tends to stay too wet for my liking. So I’m going to say that my top choice is Miracle-Gro combined with perlite and some Bonsai Jack. The price of Miracle-Gro works for me and I like to just amend it a little to make it better. Bonsai Jack is great but for the price, I like to mix it with something less expensive.
Some of you may disagree with me. I really think you have to find what works best for you. And sometimes, that would take a few trial and error before you figure this out for yourself. Also, I don’t see anything wrong with combining and mixing these ingredients and products together.
I hope you found this helpful and as always, happy gardening!!!
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