Cacti in pots do best in a special soil mix. I have many tropical houseplants, and the blends I use for many of them are different. This is all about cactus soil mix, so you can choose what’s the best to keep your beautiful indoor cactus plants healthy and happy.
There seems to be some debate as to what is the optimum cactus potting soil is because people have their favorites. The best cactus mix, just like the best succulent mix, has good drainage, is chunky, and lets the excess water flow out.
More Cactus Guides: Growing Cactus Indoors, Indoor Cactus Care, Repotting Cactus, Small Pots For Cactus, A Cactus Arrangement DIY, Our Favorite Cactus Bowls
Cactus Potting Mix Basics
Indoor Cactus Potting Soil Needs
It needs to be a gritty mix with adequate aeration that provides excellent drainage. Cacti don’t like wet soil, especially those that are growing indoors. They have mechanisms to store water and will succumb to root rot if kept wet for too long.
Whatever mix you use needs to thoroughly dry out in between waterings. I always recommend planting cacti in containers with drainage holes but if the pot doesn’t have any, be very mindful of how much and how often you water.
Related: How To Plant & Water Succulents In Pots Without Drain Holes, Succulent Soil Mix
Can I Use Regular Potting Soil For Cactus?
I don’t recommend planting cacti in regular potting soil. It holds too much moisture and has a good chance of staying too wet.
I’ve found that even some of the commercial cactus and succulent mixes can also be too heavy and dense for indoor cactus plants. You may need to add in an amendment or 2 to lighten the mix.
Here are ingredients to make your mix drain faster and be well aerated: pumice, coco chips, perlite, pebbles, gravel, and coarse sand.
I’ve used a lot of different amendments over the years. Now pumice (which I find to be chunkier than perlite), clay pebbles, and coco chips are my favorites, and the ones I use the most.
Cactus Soil DIY Recipe
Do you want to make your own cactus soil mix? I’ve shared the recipe linked below with friends and here on the internet many times.
This Succulent and Cactus Mix Recipe isn’t one I came up with – I’m not a master of all things soil! It’s good for indoor and outdoor cactus and succulent planting. I’ve been using it to plant cactus and succulents in pots for over 2 years now. The folks at Eco Gro shared it with me via its creator Mark Dimmitt.
I like to use as many organic materials as possible. The mix is comprised of coco chips, coconut coir (a more eco-friendly substitute for peat moss), pumice, vermiculite, agricultural lime, and elemite. As I write this in mid-2022, there’s a vermiculite shortage. In the interim, until it comes back around, I’m just adding in a bit more coconut coir and pumice.
In terms of mixing, I simply put all the materials, starting with the coco chips and ending with the lime and elemite, in the bin and thoroughly incorporate them with a trowel.
The coco chips and coco coir come in bricks and need to be hydrated to loosen. I prefer to let them dry out before adding them to the mix as the other ingredients are dry.
If I don’t use the mix again for over a week’s time, I give it another stir in case the lighter ingredients have settled to the bottom.
I use a large tin bowl with handles to blend up the mix. I can easily carry it around whether I’m potting indoors or outdoors. You can see it in the video. It’s like a portable potting station as neither the bowl nor the cactus mix is heavy.
I love my trusty Tub Trug for gathering plant trimmings on the patio and in the garden. These lightweight tubs with handles come in a variety of sizes as well as colors. You could easily buy one for holding your cactus soil, whether you DIY your own or buy it.
Related: Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix For Pots: A Recipe To Make Your Own
Cactus Soil Options To Buy
Nose around and see what brand or recipe suits your and your indoor succulents the best. I tried many nursery-bought mixes before hitting on the recipe I now use.
When I lived in Santa Barbara, I usually bought mix from the California Cactus Center as they formulated their own. Here in Tucson, I started out buying Tank’s which is also a local mix.
If you can’t find any cactus mix at your local garden center, you can buy it online. Below are some options for you.
Brands I’ve used that are available online include Dr. Earth, EB Stone, Bonsai Jack, and Tanks’. I haven’t used these other popular choices but they get great reviews: Superfly Bonsai, Cactus Cult, and Hoffman’s. As you can see, these mixes all contain different components so it’s just a matter of choice.
Most of these can be bought in smaller-sized bags if you’re lacking storage space or only have a few succulents. All the mixes I’ve purchased have been good for indoor/outdoor use.
Storing Cactus Mix
I have many cacti and succulent plants growing both indoors and outdoors.
I buy the ingredients for the DIY mix in bulk and am set for a couple of years before I have to replenish any of them. I make multiple batches of the mix a year and always have some ready to go.
The longest I’ve kept any one batch of the mix for is 6 months and it was still fresh. I store it in the same tin bin that I mix it up in.
A plastic storage bin, small covered trash can, or covered pail can would work fine for storing your mix if you don’t use it too often and want to keep it covered.
Cactus Soil Video Guide
Cactus Soil Mix Questions
Do cactus & succulents need a special mix?
Yes, like orchids, they prefer and do best in a special soil mix. What you buy or make is a matter of preference but I’ve listed some options above.
What soil is best for cactus?
The one that your cacti do well in! I used many different store-bought brands over the years and now make my own. I prefer one with organic ingredients.
If you’re confused about what to buy, you could also blend 2 store-bought mixes.
Is cactus mix the same as a succulent mix?
Some will tell you yes, and some no. I’ve always used the same for both. For a few years now I used a DIY recipe when planting both cacti and fleshy succulent plants.
I live in the Sonoran Desert and plant a lot of cacti in pots. They do just as well as the succulents I have planted in pots in the same mix.
I water my indoor fleshy succulents more often than I do my indoor cacti.
Can I use regular potting soil for cactus?
Regular potting soil has different components and is much denser than cactus mix. Cacti are more prone to staying too wet in potting soil which can lead to root rot.
Can I mix cactus soil with potting mix?
I do for some of my houseplants that like chunky organic matter, but not for cacti. Examples of plants that I mix ½ & ½ are monsteras, snake plants, and bromeliads.
Related: Repotting A Monstera Deliciosa, Repotting Snake Plants
Can I use cactus soil for other plants?
I have 50+ houseplants. I use straight cactus soil for my succulents and cacti exclusively.
Using a good cactus soil mix when planting cacti in pots ensures they’ll grow successfully. Whether it’s your own homemade cactus soil or you buy a good cactus soil mix online, your cacti will thank you!