Soil mixes for potted plumeria....what do you use?

Andrew ScottJune 27, 2011

I have been potting up rooted cuttings more frequently now. IT seems like almost every day for the past week and a half I have another cutting(or cuttings) that needs repotting.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned since getting into plumerias last year, is the need to make a fast draining/drying mix.

Because I also grow potted citrus, I learned of Al's gritty mix, which when it comes to potted citrus is NECESSARY. Without it, I have lost every potted citrus I have potted up.

Trying to find some of the ingriedients can be challenging and also not cheap, but it works great for plumerias.

At my last count, I have 54 plumeria. Considering I didn't even own 20 last spring, my collection has more than doubled.

Bill has warned me a few times about how these are trees and there going to do nothing but grow larger. Right now my concern is the soil. For pots, it is easier for me to use black plastic nursery pots. I have found that most nurseries just throw there used pots away, and there still in great shape.

What I am asking is...What do you all use for soil mixes? For me, I like a mix that dries in 2 maybe 3 days.

I am hoping to find a mix that dries fast but wont cost a bundle to make.



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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

I have not been able to locate good potting soil components economically around here. I would think though that the 'gritty mix' should be fine.

I have personally been using regular potting soil with lots of perlite (if you can find the larger perlite, that would be ideal) and PermaTill VoleBloc (which i believe is kiln fired expanded slate). I probably need to watch my watering more with this mix. Although in late summer I can't seem to water them enough. I have to water almost every day in August.

If you can find it, Pumice or lava rock would be good to add, as well as pine fines. I can only find large sized Lava rock (at Lowes) and don't have time to reduce the particle size by hand with a hammer!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 1:26PM
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I use a 2cf bag garden soil, a 20# bag of sand, 1/2 bag of red lava rock, 2 bags of perlite, 2 TBSP of bone meal and blood meal or slow release Osmacote (whichever is handy). Mix it all up and go with that. use the rest of the lava rock to bottom/top dress the pot. You can leave the lava rock in the bag and crush it with a concrete block or brick and that works too.

$7 for 2cf soil, $8 perlite, $2 sand, $4 Lava rock. creates around 3 or 4 CF for around $20. It will dry out in 2 days in SA TX. Maybe someone in a cooler climate will get 3 or 4.

I'm sure there are better mixes or organics but the ability to gather all materials from the Home Depot at my freeway exit helps me keep this hobby with limited time invested. It seems to work...all (except 1 and 2 year olds) have active inflo's.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 3:18PM
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Andrew Scott

Hi guys, thanks for your soil mix "recipies". I really aprreciate it. I want to see if more people respond to see what they suggest, before I decide on what I am going to use.

What I like about your suggestion is that YOU can buy everything at one store. I don't know if my local Home Depot will have everything yours has but it is definetly worth looking into. What I dislike is that once summer ends, there garden section reduces to almost nothing. Trying to find pots in December is almost impossible.

Thanks again to you both!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 4:22PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA


Large decorative lava rock is available at my local Lowes. I will try crushing lava rack in the bag like you suggest. Does the bag ever break on you?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:28PM
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labland(Inland Valley CA9)

I myself use Cactus Mix, I have bought the standard stuff at Lowes and Home Depot, but I prefer what I buy at Armatrong nursery, which is labeled E.b. Stone, I notice it has what looks like pot shards in it. I mix it with pumice stone and or perlite. It don't even use half and half. The cactus mix is fairly fast draining in itself. But I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination! I just works well for me. In fact until this year, I used strictly Cactus potting soil by itself and it has worked fine! Jennifer

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:42PM
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Another option might be your local "orchid supply store," if one exists where you live. Not surprisingly, a lot of avid orchid growers make their own growing mix--and all of those materials are quite chunky. Last week I bought a bag of small-ish bark chips from some pine native to Australia (it breaks down more slowly in our intense Florida humidity than any pine/fir native to our continent) for $10. For $6 I bought a bag of something labeled "sponge rock," which is like perlite except chunkier--it's white, porous, and practically weightless. (They had surprising variety of other materials, reasonably priced, that seemed suitable--might experiment w/ some of them too.) Then from Lowe's, I get a 1.5 cubic ft bag of Jungle Growth Tree and Shrub, which itself is 55-65?% composted bark, for about $7. (Jungle Growth's various offerings IMHO are by far the highest-quality commercial potting/growing mixes out there--I believe they're available only at Lowe's, not HD.) Finally, one bag plain ol' Miracle Gro perlite, $4.

I recently got about a dozen or so new rooted plants from Hawaii. With these ingredients I got a good 9 of them potted up in 3-gallon pots. I mixed as I went along, totally eyeballing it. I'm pretty pleased--we had a downpour yesterday afternoon, and by sundown today I noticed that the top inch of soil in the pots was already basically dry--and it's been really humid.

It ain't gritty mix--but there's no way I could obtain most of those materials that Al's mix calls for without canceling my life for about two solid weeks. Like Dave Matthews says, "you make the best of what's around."


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:10AM
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its easier to crush a half empty bag. I usually pour a about half into a an empty pot for holding then lay the bag out on a concrete slab for some gravitational adjustments. The lava rock will perforate the bag pretty good but it will maintain enough integrity if you pick up with both hands to dump it into you mix.

Andrew i think the best part is the ease getting supplies. I'm sure all the high end organics and things like that can be found here in San Antonio or even online for relatively decent prices but if you have that unexpected extra hour between dinner and dusk its great to just get it done.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 7:25AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Great tips kms! I too don't have a lot of time and don't want to order products online because of high shipping charges.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 8:25AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone.

Wanted to pipe in and let u all know what i use...

I cant find all of the great ingredients like Turf snd Tee and all of the great products that Jack Reccommends...people in Ca have it more available..

However, i do and can find the materials available for "Al's" gritty mix for the 1-1-1 and the 5-1-1

Dave, Turface is avail at most feed stores as well as Gran-i-grit....the local Feed and seed store here in VB sells it...Newtown rd.

I have had a time finding the Pine Bark i wait until the Reptibark goes on sale at Petsmart and screen that...( Fir Bark) tks to some great people who have really helped me locate what i need... Thank you... : )

I use the "Gritty Mix " on some of my Plumies and all of my C & S as well as my DR's....they love it.. also the new rooted cutting all go into the gritty mix...

But in keeping with the other mix...ill use FoxFarm Ocean Mix with Bat Guano and Worm castings...throw in some turface..Pumice..firbark, grit, perlite and make my own mix..just tweeking it with Al's recipe...

The ones in the "gritty Mix" are all doing great...they do need water more so than others with a general soil additive..but i like the idea that they drain fast...

So, i use the Gritty Mix on some...plumies...on all of my C & S and i use the 5-1-1 on some containers as well..

Hope this helps...

I Love the "Gritty Mix" but you have to put in some time to locate the ingredients, but once u find all of the wonderful'll be so happy that you invested the time... it is worth it... : )

hope this helps...

Laura in VB

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 9:50AM
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Sounds like "sponge rock" is probably just pumice, which lasts longer than perlite and has some trace minerals.

I mostly use what I have on hand, which is always compost made of finely shredded "forest products" as the label says. I use about a 3:1 ratio of that to perlite because it is HOT here, the wind blows almost constantly and my plants dry out fast and get little rain. Probably not a good blend for those further north and more rain-blessed than us.

I also throw in a handful of crushed/decomposed granite and horticultural basalt when I think of it, for long-term trace minerals, plus a little 14-14-14 Osmocote. If it's a rare plumeria, I also put a whole egg in the bottom of the pot, of course.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 3:24PM
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I also mix up what's on hand. That usually consists of potting soil, turface, perlite, a little peat moss, sometimes some cedar animal bedding, or even mulch.

Small fine bark is hard to come by and pricey so I use it mostly for my fine rooted orchids.

Laura, good idea. I will be looking for bark in the petshop, too. My husband looked online and found some in Petco. Can't wait to check it out.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 12:57AM
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Hey Jen,

Just to clarify, "sponge rock" is man-made (as were a number of other potting materials the orchid folks had, made of things like clay, like Turface, or recycled glass). I don't know what it's made of, but it's like a completely hard version of those cushion-y things that florists stick flowers into in lieu of a vase/water, broken into gravel-sized pieces. I like it because it's bright white and almost weightless and won't retain as much heat as anything natural. My trees sit on a ceramic-tiled patio with western exposure--it is so hot out there, I figure any material that reflects some heat and light is good for my particular micro-climate.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:26AM
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dpolson37(7a VA)


I was able to locate Turface AllSport for $20.99 a bag at the John Deere Landscaping store 6310 Gravel Ave Alexandria VA 22310 USA Phone 703-971-1805. I have yet to go there, but talked with Samantha who confirmed they have it.

I'm also thinking that Southern States in Purcellville, VA has Gran-I-Grit, but have not confirmed that yet.

Someone also told me that they used to get Poultry Grit at Tractor Supply Stores.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:18AM
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Andrew Scott

Hi Dave,
I have heard of people using the poultry grit before. Me, I cannot find any of these products such as Gran-i-grit, turface, or Poultry Grit.

I have subsituted all that with the oil dry product at Auto Zone.

I would like to find the larger grade of perlite but now I am wondering if it was the sponge rock?

Today I am hoping to find some of the inriedients at Homne Depot. I did check there website yesterday for the local store and they do have the lava rock. For the bark, I have found that orchid bark works good as long as I can find the smaller sized mix.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 12:45PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

'Sponge rock' is the same thing as perlite -- just a large size. Google and you'll see. I can find it at our local 'Betty's Azalea Ranch'. It is my number one prefered potting soil additive, when I have time to get it.

The VoleBloc I've been adding is really just expanded slate. It is available at HD. Fairly inexpensive.

A large landscape supply store (like our local Remington Mulch) carries pine fines in bags.

Also, Garden Pro 'Clay Breaker' can be found at Home Depot. It contains gypsum and aged bark fines. Comes in large bags. Very inexpensive.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:47PM
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plumatherapy(so cal 10a)

I have been using a mix for several years I learned from the south coast plumeria society. It drains very well.
1 part turf and tee
2 parts pumice
1 part big red (redwood soil conditioner)
I like to keep a large trash can (33 gallon) full and ready to go
I buy everything at orange county farm supply in Chapman

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:37PM
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tdogdad(Zone 9)

plumatherapy- that is a great mix which is a modification of Jack Morgans (Kimi's Plumerias) mix taking out the #4 perlite and adding another scoop of pumice. I think Chris Roy felt the perlite compressed quicker than the pumice. Problem for the east coasters is almost none of this is available out east. It is sad because this is such an excellent mix. I also have two big trash cans filled and ready to go. I wish I had a small cement mixer for mixing the ingredients. It is so time consuming going one scoop of this, two of this and one scoop of that then mix and repeat. Bill

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 11:11PM
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I use a round rubbermaid trashcan and a blade shovel with a short handle to mix. I use the shovel to get everything broken up and then use a few bungees to hold the lid in place then roll it around for a few minutes.

Not as easy as a cement mixer but fun to do with a three year old helping.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 9:51AM
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I use 2/3 perlite, 1/3 or less peat moss. I dampen it and use plastic water bottles, drill or punch big round holes in the bottom and a few on the sides 1-2" from the bottom. I don't cut much off of the top of the water bottles because I don't want too much water to get in if it rains. Then I wedge styrofoam in the top to secure them and to further block water from entering.

I sit them in the hottest place I can find, usually the driveway or on top of Pinebark in a bed by the driveway, in full sun most of the day. I think the clear containers help them root faster. I've tried using eggs in them, honestly didn't notice any difference. I did 2 Singapores, one with the egg, one without, they rooted at the same time and roots were the same size. Both cuttings from the same tree.

If we get lots of rain and I think they are too wet, I bring them inside in the air conditioning and let them go bone dry before I put them back in the sun and heat. If you don't want to worry about them getting too wet, just use perlite alone. That works fine too. Also course builders sand but if you use the sand be careful when you cut the bottle and take them out, the sand is heavy and can break the roots. Rinse the sand away, then lift them out.

That's what has worked best for me here in zone 11.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:08PM
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