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alternatives to pumice?

Posted by BasicPoke 6 (NE Okla) (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 12:14

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


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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

No vermiculite.

Josh


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 13:34

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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).


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.

Inorganic soil photo Inorganicsoil_zpsb9a9ded5.jpg

-Chris


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

  • Posted by bob61 8a shreveport (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 18, 14 at 7:01

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

Bob


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

Growstone product:

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

Here is a link that might be useful: Growstone


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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!


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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

Josh


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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?


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

The scoria I get here is red.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

Was out at a local nursery and they had a product called PermaTill,STALITE PermaTill® 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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

  • Posted by Deva33 5... southeast Iowa (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 21:53

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.


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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

-Ming


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

Ah, OK, sorry....


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 11:51

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


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RE: alternatives to pumice?

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


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