Cacti in pots do best in a special soil mix. I have many tropical houseplants, and the blends I use for them differ. This is all about cactus soil mix, so you can choose what’s the best to keep your beautiful indoor desert plants healthy and happy.
There seems to be some debate about the optimum cactus soil mix. This 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.
Table of Contents
Cactus Potting Mix Basics
Indoor Cactus Potting Soil Needs
It must 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 cactus soil mixes you use must 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. A cactus doesn’t like sitting in damp soil or having too much excess moisture.
Can I Use Regular Potting Soil For Cactus?
I don’t recommend planting cacti in a regular potting mix. 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 an amendment or two to lighten the mix.
Here are ingredients to make your mix drain faster and be well aerated: pumice, coco chips, perlite, pebbles, gravel, lava rock, and coarse sand.
Looking for guides on succulents? We got you covered: How To Plant & Water Succulents In Pots Without Drain Holes, Succulent Soil Mix
Cactus Soil DIY Recipe
Do you want to make your own cactus soil mix? I’ve shared the soil recipe linked below with friends and 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 used it to plant cactus and succulents in pots for over four years. After visiting multiple garden centers and trying different mixes, I found one I liked at Eco Gro. The recipe for the mix was shared with me via its creator Mark Dimmitt, and I’ve been making it ever since.
I like to use as many organic materials as possible. The mix is made up of coco chips, coconut coir (a more eco-friendly substitute for sphagnum peat moss), pumice, vermiculite, agricultural lime, and elemite.
In terms of mixing, I 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, 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 get one for holding your cactus soil, whether you DIY or buy one.
In case you missed it, here’s the DIY Cactus Soil Recipe I use for all my cacti in pots, indoors & outdoors.
Cactus Soil Options To Buy
Nose around and see what brand or recipe suits your and your cactus’s unique needs the best. I tried many nursery-bought mixes before hitting on the recipe I now use.
Finding the perfect mix for your desert cacti may take a couple of tries. It may be overwhelming if this is your first time trying to find the right potting mix, but this guide will hopefully help you navigate the many options.
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 buying Tank’s (also a local mix), switched to the one at Eco Gro, and now make it.
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 Tank’s. 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. Even though the potting medium varies from brand to brand, the most important component is that they offer superior drainage. The best soil is a perfect blend of good aeration and essential nutrients.
Most of these can be bought in smaller-sized bags if you lack 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 larger quantities and am set for a year or so before I have to replenish any of them. I make multiple batches of the mix a year and always have some ready to go when it’s time to plant new cacti or ones that need to increase to a larger pot size.
The longest I’ve kept any one batch of the mix for is six months, which 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 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 FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have 60+ houseplants. I use straight cactus soil for my succulents and cacti exclusively.
The right soil can make all the difference. When planting cacti in pots, a good cactus soil mix ensures they’ll grow successfully. Whether it’s your own homemade cactus soil or you buy a good cactus soil mix online, you’ll be growing happy cacti in no time!
Note: This post was published on 6/14/2022. It was updated on 6/1/2023.
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Nell, the founder of Joy Us garden, was born into a gardening family and grew up in Connecticut’s countryside. After living in Boston, New York, San Francisco, & Santa Barbara, she now calls the Arizona desert home. She studied horticulture & garden design, working in the field all her life. Nell is a gardener, designer, blogger, Youtube creator, & author. She’s been gardening for a very long time & wants to share what she’s learned with you.