This website is supported by its readers. If you click one of my links I may earn a commission. I am also a participant in the Amazon affiliates program and I will also earn a commission from qualified purchases.
One of the things I really struggled with was finding the right soil mix to plant my newer bonsai in when I first started my bonsai journey. Luckily I had some cactus soil lying around which I ended up using as an alternative. This got me thinking – can you use cactus soil for bonsai?
Cactus soil is a fantastic alternative to use for bonsai soil. This is because it often mimics the water retention, aeration, and drainage properties all commonplace in traditional bonsai soil mixes. Both organic and inorganic cactus soil mixes can be used.
Cactus bonsai works best as a bonsai soil alternative in warm climates during the summer months.
So why does cactus soil work so well? And should you make your own DIY cactus soil for your bonsai? Keep reading to find out more.
Just a quick heads up, over the past three years of running Plantpaladin, hundreds of people have asked for product recommendations. As such, You can find my favorite indoor bonsai tree here (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), my favorite outdoor bonsai tree (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), or have a look at all the products I recommend here.
Can I use cactus soil for bonsai?
If you ask 100 different people what the best soil mix for bonsai is you will get 100 different answers – This quote is from world-renowned bonsai aficionado Peter Chan and I couldn’t agree more.
You see whilst a lot of us tend to get worked up around the perfect soil mix for our bonsai, the truth is that bonsai are very robust, being able to grow in almost any soil mix.
That being said, using cactus soil is one of the best alternatives to a traditional soil purpose-built for bonsai.
This is for the following reasons:
- Cactus soil holds on to water well (it has to as succulents usually store water for longer than other plants) – This means that you can rest assured that your bonsai will be getting enough water
- Cactus soil drains well – If you pair up cactus soil with a bonsai pot with a lot of holes, you will find that it also allows your water to filter through the pot easily. This is vital as if you leave bonsai roots in water for too long you can get a fungal infection or mold on your plant.
- Cactus soil does not clump – all good bonsai soils are usually smooth to the touch and do not clump when squeezed. The same goes for cactus soil. This means that your bonsai roots will be ventilated and aerated, meaning your plant roots will continue to grow.
- Cactus soils work well in temperate climates – The vast majority of you are reading this from western countries like the US and the UK. Cactus soil then is a fantastic option for these temperate climates and can help mimic the climates of where the plant originated from.
Does cactus soil work better for indoor or outdoor bonsai?
An age-old argument that bonsai owners usually have is if they should keep their bonsai indoors or outdoors. Whilst this will be up to you, there may be a slight preference if you decide to use cactus soil.
Cactus soil when used for bonsai trees may be more beneficial for outdoor bonsai trees than indoors. This is because plants are more likely to become dehydrated outdoors making cactus soil the perfect alternative to keeping your soil hydrated.
Should I use organic or inorganic cactus soil?
Inorganic cactus soil usually works better for bonsai trees when compared to organic cactus soil as it mimics materials like akadama, pumice, and other inorganic items commonly found in traditional bonsai soil mixes.
“If you ask 100 different people what the best soil mix for bonsai is you will get 100 different answers”
How to make the perfect cactus soil mix for bonsai?
So we have covered a lot about using cactus soil for bonsai trees but I want to make sure that you leave this post with a homemade recipe to help you out.
This works well pretty much for any kind of bonsai but the only caveat I would give is the warmer the climate you are in, the less soil I would use.
This is because peat soil typically retains water and so while some soil will be required, I would lessen the amount if you live in a very warm climate.
The ingredients then are as follows:
- 30% traditional garden soil – I find peat soil works best as it does not retain as much water as other kinds
- 30% sand or perlite – This works very well to help water filtration. If you do use sand, opt for river sand or sand that has low sodium chloride content.
- 10% stones – this can be either pebbles, chips, stone granite, marble, or any organic or inorganic stone. You can also use a mix of items
- 10% leaf compost – I’d avoid this if you already live in a wet climate but this is also a great option for natural plant growth
- 10% neem cake powder – great for keeping your bonsai free from fungal infections and insect infestations.
Just be aware that if you do use organic soils in line with fertilizers, that you regularly check the PH levels.
What is cactus soil?
Cactus soil is a mix of compost, peat soil, chips, stones, and sand or perlite used to plant cactus trees. It retains water well, but also drains water effectively, reducing the risk of plant-fungal infections. Cactus soil can also be used for other horticultural activities such as bonsai.
My top picks for the gear you will need!
So like I mentioned earlier, over the past three years of running PlantPaladin, hundreds of people have asked me for my recommendations on the best bonsai gear on the market.
Having spent thousands of dollars on bonsai items these past few years and tested at least 100 bonsai-specific products, I’ve listed my favorite products below – All of which I highly recommend and think you can get great value.
They can purchase directly by clicking the link to take them to Amazon.
Bonsai Tool Set: One of the significant challenges I’ve had is finding a toolset that was not only durable but didn’t break the bank. SOLIGT has recently developed a fantastic bonsai tool set that covers all the tools you need to trim, prune, and repot your trees. – You can grab it here.
Complete Bonsai Set: Many of you will want to grow your bonsai trees entirely from scratch, but finding the varicose seeds, pots, and other items in one place can be challenging. Leaves and Sole then have created a complete bonsai set that I’ve personally used that ticks all the boxes. You can grab it here.
Bonsai wire: The number of times I’ve run out of wire for my bonsai or purchased cheap bonsai wire that doesn’t do the job is embarrassing for me to admit. After a lot of trial and error, I found that using Hotop’s aluminum bonsai wire is one of the best options on the market. This can easily be used for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. You can grab it here.
This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 2 years. He currently resides in the UK and works in sales.