Fat plants

Loam succulents

Habitats and specific characteristics

The world of "succulent plants" is vast and varied: they come from similar environments, even if in geographically distant areas. Although each has different needs, which should be investigated individually for the best results, for the neophyte we can set a more general discourse so that it takes confidence without causing too much damage.
The succulents, as we should call them, grow in arid environments both from the climatic point of view and as regards the soil. They have adapted to life on stony soils, rocky walls or on particularly sandy and draining soils and, in any case, poor in nutrients. They have developed a metabolism that allows them to store water in tissues. These have become particularly tough to avoid excessive transpiration.

General indications for the substrate

For best results we will need to simulate those conditions as much as possible. Temperatures should never be too low and sunny exposure. As far as the substrate is concerned, it is important that it is composed of elements of great granulometry, very well ventilated and therefore guaranteeing excellent drainage. We absolutely must avoid that there is a strong concentration of clays: they are the main cause of water stagnation, to which rots are linked. We also avoid soil too rich in organic matter or in synthetic fertilizers: succulents are slow-growing and do not need them. On the contrary, they could favor the development of pathologies or attract more parasites (such as scale insects).

"Basic" components

However, we analyze the individual components more carefully and introduce some more specific ones, usually available in specialized nurseries or in building warehouses.
First of all there is the garden soil: it is certainly better than the soil that is on the market because it is structured and rich in microorganisms that live in symbiosis with the roots. A small part should always be added to the vessels: in this case, however, to decide the percentage, it is important to evaluate how clayey it is (let's bathe it and see if it becomes similar to "plasticine").
Depending on this parameter, we mix it with the purchased soil: it is usually obtained from vegetable compost and a percentage of peat. We avoid those where the latter component is predominant: in the long run it becomes an inert material, similar to felt, which is heated too easily.

"Draining" elements

In this respect the sand is fundamental: it favors drainage and at the same time helps to keep the roots fresh. We always choose the river, large grain size: at retailers of building materials we will find large bags at affordable prices.
The pozzolana is the ideal material to aerate the substrate and favor drainage even more. It is a volcanic rock similar to gravel. In building warehouses it is easily found: we choose the small grain size one.
Perlite is also a volcanic rock, but has undergone a "blowing" process: it is inert and very light. It can also be used to make the substrate fresh, but draining. You buy in nurseries.

How to compose a "basic" substrate for succulents

In nurseries it is easy to find a specific product that will fit discreetly to our needs. However, it is true that if you want to experiment with this type of crop, it is good to immediately take confidence with the individual components: the advantage is experience, but let's not forget that buying the parts individually often leads to savings and better results. The first few times it will be sufficient to mix 75% of universal soil (and little garden soil) and 25% of sand, to which we will add some pozzolana or perlite.
Important is the stratification of the vase: on the bottom it takes a draining layer of pozzolana and then the plant with the soil prepared previously. Around the collar we create a layer of at least 5 mm of sand: we will avoid rot. We always choose terracotta containers because they guarantee transpiration.

Loam succulents: Other formulations

However, different mixes can also be made. A quick formula that works quite well consists of mixing universal soil and sand in equal measure: it is especially suitable in the most humid regions.
With equal parts of garden soil, sand or pozzolana and universal soil, good results can be obtained on almost all succulents, as long as the first is of good quality and not too clayey.
Finally, getting even more passionate about it, we will be able to create ad hoc compounds, informing ourselves first of all about the specific needs of our succulents or cacti. In particular, we will better modulate the presence of the components we have already mentioned, but we will also be able to consider more specific materials such as dark peat, blonde or vermiculite.