alternatives to pumice?

BasicPokeJune 17, 2014

Hello, I have been growing cacti and succulents for about 20 years with varied success. Never paid much attention to the soil. I am trying my darndest to start using a proper potting soil for my cactus, but cannot find some of the things people recommend, especially pumice. I have not found anything like pumice. There is no Dry Stall a the stores with horse stuff. I could probably find aquarium rocks but doesn't seem quite the same. I do have perlite, vermiculite, a wide variety of compost, and pea gravel. I have plenty of clay pots that I could break up, but a lot of work.

Any other ideas what I could use instead of pumice for the drainage material? If there a certain brand of cat litter that would be good?
Thanks
Ron

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Turface MVP, Scoria (lava rock). DE (hard Diatomaceous Earth) - Napa Auto Parts product #8822 (if I remember rightly).

No vermiculite.

Josh

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Scoria is also called cinder and can sometimes be found in 1/4" or 3/8".

I have some cacti in pea gravel mixed with calcined clay (turface mvp). Seems to work pretty well. You can find out more information about it bybsearching Missouri gravel bed.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Perlite would be just fine, please don't use sand at all. Vermiculite holds water, that is to say, helps to retain water, so you don't want that for succulents either.

Perlite can be found at most big box stores. Folks here often suggest rinsing it before using (tho' I never bother).

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cactusmcharris

And for even better results, use granite chips, which can be found in a number of places, one of them being feed stores. It can come in a variety of sizes, from #1 to #6 or larger - the smaller the number the smaller the grit. Make sure you ask for poultry grit, not poultry scratch.

Personally, I use some of the #1 or #2 grit, some Turface, and some screened potting soil, roughly in a 40/40/20 mix, and the plants like it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Greenman28, what is the name of the Napa product? We have a Napa store, I think.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey! I think it might be Floor Dry...or oil absorbent.

Also, as Cactus and Nil mentioned, a non-porous grit such as granite or small, sharp gravel will make great amendments to build a custom mix.

Josh

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

Pumice is apparently easy to find on the west coast, but almost impossible to find in the midwest. There are alternatives that are just as good anyways. The Napa product is called Floor Dry (part# 8822), and it's sold as an oil absorbent. It's the white particles in my mix. The Turface (tan) and granite that you see also make good ingredients.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 4:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

If using aquarium gravel, try to find the natural, unpolished.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 5:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Oil Dri is also available at Walmart auto section. The product on the right is called Growstone. It is a recycled glass material. It is very light weight and I think similar to pumice. I get it from my friend, Wayne Roberts, Robert's Flower Supply, http://www.orchidmix.com. He is located just southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. He also has limited quantities of Diatomite, a diatomaceous earth product.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bob61

bikerdoc I'll have to look for the growstone. Something else to spend my money on.

Bob

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Growstone product:

http://www.growstone.com/soil-aerator-2/

Here is a link that might be useful: Growstone

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

A hydro place local to me carries Growstone, but it's 2-3 times the price of Turface and Floor Dry, so I've never tried it. It looks like a good product, but it seems like any time something is marketed towards hobbyists the price goes through the roof. For example, Schultz aquatic plant soil is several times more expensive than Turface, even though they are the same product.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

I agree, Chris. Sorry state of affairs!!!! I'm not trying "sell" Growstone, but it is much lighter weight. And since I can't find pumice anywhere in SE Michigan, this is a great replacement.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 4:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

At what kind of store can I purchase Turface?
In that Growstone article, it shows 'parboiled rice hulls' in the table. I can get rice hulls at a homebrewing/wine shop, but don't know if they are parboiled.
Ron

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 4:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
angellilly

I started using small chunks of lava rock,pea gravel and zeolite in some of my succulents and cacti with promising results so far.I even rooted a Sansevieria in pure zeolite!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 4:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

I also have large quantities of lava rock, the 1-2" diameter type. I could crush it up. Would that be good to use in the soil, after rinsing? I hate that stuff because the previous owner poured it over large areas and now it's mixed with the soil. I would like to see it come to good use.
Ron

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 5:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Red lava rock (often sold as Scoria, Cinder, and even as Pumice) is an excellent porous grit. The key, however, is getting it in the right diameter. If you can purchase it or break it down to particles approximately 1/4 inch in diameter, you and your plants will be quite happy.

Josh

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 5:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

I've tried crushing lava rock, and it was a slow, laborious process that was not at all worthwhile. If you can find an efficient way of doing it, it would be a good product after sifting, but don't count on it being a quick and easy job.

Turface can be purchased at landscaping stores, usually the type that cater to businesses more than homeowners. I get mine at a midwest chain called Reinders, but I've heard of others getting it at John Deere Landscapes stores. And Floor Dry can be found at Napa Auto stores.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 5:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Joe1980(5)

I recently bought 120# of red lava rock in the ~3/8" range, and the bigger pieces that I sift out I crush. I just put my 3# sledge hammer to work on it and it smashes up pretty easy. I turned on some tunes, grabbed a beer and had at it. After an hour and a few cold ones, I had half of a 5 gallon bucket filled. So, while tedious, it's not too crazy to bust up lava rock by hand. I must mention though, that mixing red lava rock with turface and quartz, makes for quite the handsome mix.

Joe

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 6:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Indeed, Joe, indeed!
And for those plants that like some bark, the ingredients look especially attractive.

Josh

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 6:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have used expanded shale in Cactus mixes. It is fairly light with a bit of absorbency. It is available in the Texas area. Itruns here about $12 0r $14 per 40 lbs. I did find Dystall for 19 for 40 lbs.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 12:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

greenman28, Is that your potting mix we see in the photo or a top dressing? If that is the potting mix, you don't use any organic matter? I have never fertilized my succulents but I suppose I will have to start if there is not much organic matter in the soil. You think it's ok to mix compost with Oil-Dri and perlite for my mix?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 9:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Basic, that is my mix, and top-dressing. The mix is red lava rock, perlite, screened fir bark (a minor organic component), turface, and a small amount of quartzite for the non-porous grit.

I do, however, have a Crassula arborescens growing in pure scoria - red and grey mix. I don't like the look of the grey scoria, though.

Josh

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 12:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The scoria I get here is red.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 1:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

I bought some Oil-Dry premium absorbent. Here are some photos of it.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Oil Dri warning. I like this--It is known to cause cancer, silicosis, and eye and respiratory irritation, but we'll go ahead and sell it to you. I suspect there is little to no risk if you rinse it and use while wet.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Oil Dri description. I won't post a pic of the product because it looks just like bikerdoc5968's pic above. Apparently the product is made of crystalline silica in the form of quartz. Silica is what sand and glass are made of.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

I've heard mixed messages about Oil Dri. Some people say it works great, others say it turns to mush when wet. It may be that some batches are fired hotter or longer than others. You may want to try soaking some in water overnight to see if it holds up or falls apart. I tried this with a different oil absorbing product one time, and it easily crumbled into powder after soaking. You wouldn't want that in a potting mix.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Thank you penfold2, I will test it, but still won't know what will happen over time. I need to call around for pumice or turface.
Ron

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

I have a product called 'organic compost' that appears to be wood chips with some finer components. I think nearly all of it would fall through a 1/2" screen, and maybe half of it through a 1/4" screen. It smells like cedar and is mostly red. Do you think this would be a good part of cactus & succulent soil?
Ron

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

You don't want any wood in the mix. It breaks down quickly, creating heat and absorbing nitrogen in the process. Conifer bark is a much better choice if you're looking for something organic.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 4:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Bark is wood, right? This smells like cedar so I suspect it is, and cedar is a conifer. It is quite possibly bark. I suppose it looks more like bark than the inner part of a tree. It is rather dark.
Ron

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 5:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

The conifer bark used in potting mixes is usually pine or fir. These barks have compounds that resist decay. They are also quite rigid, which allows open pore spaces to form between particles. Cedar mulch is mostly undesirable sapwood and heartwood, but even cedar bark is fibrous and soft, not a good candidate for potting mixes.

-Chris

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 6:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Here is a photo of the "100% organic compost" from Hope Agri Products Inc., Hope, Arkansas. It doesn't say what it is made of, but it looks like bark and some regular wood chips. Does this look like something that would be good for cactus/succulents? Or does it depend on what type of bark it is?
Thanks
Ron

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nomen_nudum

Looks more like a good varied sizes of bark mulch than compost. Indeed it would work very well for a wide range of succulents as long as it's sifted to size. At times it would be used more sparing in smaller sifted sizes as part of a succulent mix than others that would use more smaller and bigger sizes but are different types of succulents.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
penfold2(4b, MN)

Yup, that's bark, not compost. I don't know why some things get labeled the way they do. The lighter colored "slivers" are sapwood. They'll break down faster and rob the soil of nitrogen, so I'd try to pick out the bigger pieces. Otherwise it looks like really good stuff.

-Chris

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Was out at a local nursery and they had a product called PermaTill,STALITE PermaTillî rotary-kiln fired expanded slate particle
(http://permatill.com/home-garden-products.php?cat=8). Has anyone ever used fired slate in their mix? I have tried to find pumice in my area and it isn't never going to happen and this looks like a possible alternative for me.

This post was edited by bikerdoc5968 on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 19:27

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 2:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deva33 Z5 SE Iowa

You can also order it from Amazon. I just bought some lava rock from there because after weeks of searching I haven't been able to find it here.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mingtea(z9 Tucson)

I finally read this thread!
I would really suggest the coconut coir chips (not the fine, peat-like stuff) discussed in another thread. Mark Dimmitt and Arid Lands have really turned me on to this amendment. Bricks are sold economically (Amazon Prime, even!) and the chips provide excellent aeration. Just make sure you're buying stuff with a neutral pH that has been rid of excess salts.

-Ming

Here is a link that might be useful: coconut husk thread

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 12:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Ming, I've been using CHC for years. I am looking for a substitute for pumice because it is totally unavailable in my area and I'm not about to pay unbelievable shipping costs. Thanks, Howard

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mingtea(z9 Tucson)

Howard, I threw that in since others were discussing adding composted/organic/tree bark materials :)

-Ming

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Ah, OK, sorry....

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 4:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

BP - I read through your thread and thought I'd mention a couple of things. First, all oil-dry products aren't created equal. Some are less appropriate because of the particle size gradation, and some are inappropriate because of their instability (turn to clay after prolonged exposure to moisture). Freeze a tablespoon of the screened product in a plastic cup overnight. If it's stable when it thaws, it's ok to use.

Screening the fines out of your ingredients is a practice that retains the important macropores, the spaces between the particles. The more interparticular spaces filled with air and the fewer with water, the more approval your plants will show for the effort of screening.

I/ve done some side bt side tests of various plants grown in a 5:1:1 mix of CHCs:perlite:peat vs the same ratiuo of pine bark:perlite:peat, and there was a significant difference in growth rate, vitality, and appearance with the CHC mix coming in a distant second. You won't need the extra water retention afforded by the CHCs, so I'd stick with the bark. CHCs are very high in K, and potentially very high in soluble salts (if processes with sea water). All CHC products are very low in Ca, potentially high in Mn (which can interfere with iron uptake). Several studies have also shown that the significant presence of phenolic allelochemicals (inhibits growth of other plants) in fresh coir can be very problematic for a high % of plants, causing poor growth and reduced yields if yields are a consideration. CHCs high pH (neutral is too high) also eliminates dolomite as a potential liming agent.

Al

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
BasicPoke

Thanks Al. I have soaked the oil-dri for a week or so and it was ok, but I will try freezing it. I have started making my mix and I rinsed out the small particles pretty well in a collander. There were small particles, like sand size and smaller.
Ron

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Jades Surviving, but not Thriving
Hello! New here, but I've been lurking for the last...
andelice
daves10z7annv
April blooms!
Aloe blue elf and euphorbia milii?Mammilaria eglans...
spikef35
Planting Aloe Pups
Hi guys, its been a while since Ive posted here, I...
0nametaken0
Some new plants
Just got 2 Rhipsalidopsis (Spring cactus), one is red...
rina_
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™