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What Is Cinder and Why It’s Best Potting Soil for Succulents?

Having the best potting soil for succulents can make a big difference in their growth and stability. Once the soil and plant get acclimated, then half the battle is won. It’s just maintaining and fighting off harm from external sources to your succulents from then on.

But it’s easier said than done. If you are an avid succulent grower like me, you would have come across the hardship of watching your lovely succulents die and wither away in the first few weeks after purchasing your succulents. And maybe it left you wondering what you did wrong?

A few years ago, I was in the same shoes and tried all the combinations and techniques to save my succulents. And finally, after much trial and error, I found this miracle of a soil mix that changed my succulents and how I look at potting mix as not just a standard medium for planting but a carefully laid concoction that can make or break your succulents from growing healthy.

The soil that made all the difference in terms of growth and contributed in ultimately saving my succulents is called cinder. If you are a succulent enthusiast like me, you would have heard about this type of soil mix at least once in your gardening experience.

If not, let me tell you this soil mix will change the way you plant succulents from now on and give you the confidence to kick-starting your succulent gardening. 

Image: My Pot

What is cinder? 

This growth giving soil mix for succulents essential originates as spent earthen coal or wood. It is a wastage by-product after intense burning heat from industries like thermal power plants, iron factories, brick building industries, and sometimes from gold and silver melting factories.

This by-product wastage of coal makes the super-powerful potting soil for succulents. It contains various natural minerals and nutrients that help boost the growth of succulents compared to your regular potting soil mix.

Why should you use cinder in your potting soil mix?

In today’s gardening shops and outlets, you will find various types of potting soil mix, truth be told, can leave you more confused than ever in choosing the suitable potting soil for succulents.

 The below pointers can help you understand why I think cinder is the best option for soil mix for your succulents:

  • Serves as an artificial medium:

Cinder can act as an artificial medium for those who are looking for soilless potting soil for succulents. If you have pets like me at home, you would already know how difficult it can sometimes get when your pets use the potting soil as their newfound plaything.

Using cinder eliminates the use of fine soil; instead, the granules-like texture helps in easy maintenance and upkeep of your succulents.

This comes in handy when I want to shift my succulents to new locations around the garden and not worry about cleaning the trail of dirt and soil left behind. 

And if you’re looking for a change in your soil mix that contrasts your home décor, cinder can give you the unique soil medium with its color and texture that adds a new creative effect to your indoor space. 

  • Composition: 
Succulents love the porous texture when it comes to their soil composition. They need a free flow of air that reaches all parts of their root systems. By using cinder as the soil medium, you can help your succulents get good aeration.

This can be done because; cinder comes in porous and granulated form. Sometimes, the sizes may differ; you have the option of breaking them into smaller pieces as per your preference.

Keep in mind that if you procure big chunks of cinder, make sure that they are 3 – 5 mm in size for the succulents to take root within them firmly.

By using this, I found that my succulents have good aeration for their roots, but they started to grow healthier with sturdy leaves and stems and had vibrant color to them compared to when they were in regular potting soil.

  • Lightweight:

Due to the composition of the cinder being all porous and coarse, it effectively makes the potting soil lightweight than sand or regular soil. This light-medium can help in the easy-shifting of succulents around your indoor space or garden.

I found the experience in using cinder to my succulent pots quite refreshing, as it not only enabled me to maneuver my vast collection of succulents around my indoor space, but I could do it without any hardship or strain, as the pots were lightweight. And I could rearrange my succulent collections in no time.

If you’re having guests at your place or you’re thinking of rearranging and decorating your indoor space with succulents, this potting soil mix is so lightweight that you can easily accomplish it without breaking a sweat.

Gone are the days when you had to drag and carry your lovely succulents from one place to another; with cinder this can be done quickly and efficiently.

It also gives ample space for roots to grow freely within the pot, unlike sand and hard soil. 

  • Drainage:

The main trick to growing healthy succulents, no matter what potting material or soil is, is to have a good drainage system. Cinder is found to provide excellent drainage to succulents due to its material and texture.

The water flow does not have any blockage on the way to the roots through this potting mix, and excess water gets passed quickly to the drainage hole underneath the pots.

This easy water drainage makes it so easy for me to maintain the water content of all my succulents. There’s no need to constantly pick up my succulent pots and check underneath to see if excess water has passed through.

All you need to do when you have cinder as your go-to potting soil mix for your succulents is to water your plants sufficiently, and the cinder in your pots will do the job of draining your water accordingly.

Plant parents who are new to succulent gardening and afraid of overwatering your plants should try this potting soil.

  • Fungal infections and pests:

These infections are through fungal attacks on the succulents. They occur more often than we would like, disrupting the growth, making the succulents wilt and lose their vibrant color and shine.

In the first year of growing my succulents, I was ambushed, with a majority of my succulents getting what is known as white spot fungus. It’s a white mold that occurs due to mildew. This killed many of my prized succulents gradually over time.

Even after finding remedies for them, this white fungus kept attacking my plants, and with them, other fungi slowly crept in, like black spot fungus and Anthracnose – white spots occur on leaves and crowns with tan-colored rot.  

After I changed my potting soil to one consisting of cinder, which contains various natural minerals like alkaline, that helped fight these fungal infections through the soil.

Cinder also protects your succulents from pests like mealybugs and ants in soil during the summer months.

There are few drawbacks to using cinder in your potting soil for succulents:

  • A lot of watering:

As cinder is porous, it has low water retention. In hot climatic regions like northern India, where the temperatures rise significantly, your succulents may need constant watering.

At least two times a day, succulents need watering to keep their moisture during the summer months.

  • Fertilizers drain easily:

If you are used to fertilizing your succulents occasionally, cinder may prove to be a problematic soil medium to work on.

As it’s coarse and porous, any fertilizer you apply will drain quickly and not hold enough in the soil to take its required effect.

  • PH level:

It’s challenging to maintain the PH level through cinder because of its alkaline medium. Regular soil contains a PH level of 6.5 – 7.5 in the neutral category, whereas cinder, which is high in alkaline, includes a 7 – 8 or higher PH level. This imbalance is challenging to maintain in cinder. Therefore it can be used in only certain plants.

As the saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The care and proper environment that you provide to your succulents, the more they will adapt accordingly.

Everyone plants their succulents in different ways, according to their climatic conditions, interests, availability of time, and even budget.

Getting your succulents to grow healthy depends on trial and error, and after that, it’s a waiting game to see if the succulents respond to your way of gardening them.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to play around with the soil composition ratios and use whatever that’s available at your convenience. 


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