Adenium desert rose itself is not picky when it comes to soil environment. Because its natural habitat is the desert where water may be scarce, and nutrients may be lacking. That’s why if we can provide the basic nutrients, give our adenium a good amount of sunlight and water, the plant will grow beautifully.
To find the best soil for desert rose, there are only some few key points you should keep in mind. You can try mixing your own soil by combining various organic (with Carbon & Hydrogen) & inorganic components. Many folks get bonsai or cactus soil mix for the desert rose as well—which work out well for them.
Let's come with us to explore three mixes that can be best for your adenium at different stages. Maybe it can be good for you, the gardeners, as well.
How about we try the first one, which is:
Mix #1 – Good for Seeds & Baby Adenium Desert Rose
|1 handful perlite||air flow, new root formation, drainage, water retention|
|1 handful pumice||moisture retention, fertilizer saving|
|1 handful vermicompost||additional nutrients|
|1.5 handful Akadama||supplement nutrients, enrich soil acidicity|
Why perlite & pumice?
In this first mix, we’re trying to create an environment that has a good amount of space for the plant to breath and ways for water to drip or evaporate through. For this purpose, we add perlite and pumice.
Perlite is a volcanic glass that has thousands of little holes on its surface. Pumice is a lightweight volcanic rock with hundreds of surface pores. This makes them great for air flow, water retention & drainage. Our baby desert roses will have a lower chance of root rot.
The downside to perlite and pumice which many people don’t like is that they are quite dusty. When you get a pack, the inside and outside of the bag may be covered with very fine dust.
This makes it unpleasant for some gardeners. You may need to wash it thoroughly first with water to reduce the dust & improve germination rates.
|Get Best Volume, Cheap Perlite|
|* Clean natural perlite for organic gardening|
|* Create room for new adenium roots to breathe|
|* Shipped in big bag at great value|
After rinsing, when you mix perlite into the soil with the other ingredients, you don’t need to water too much anymore. The water you use to wash the stones are partly kept inside them, giving our babies a nice amount of moisture for their very first days.
Vermicompost as the Protein for Our Babies
In a way, you can think of cow manure or vermicompost as the “protein” in our mix. It gives our baby desert rose the energy to start up new root and begin growing. Cow manure and vermicompost have nutrients like N, P, K that are essential to the plant’s growth and health.
The Practical Benefits of Akadama & Peat Moss
Japanese Akadama soil is a light, porous ingredient mined from volcanic soil. The soil itself doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients for the plants. It is used as a well-draining substrate to provide a firm place for tiny roots to grab on and grow.
Because it is light and porous, it helps with the air flow and protects young roots from being overly wet. This is a great substrate to add for young seedlings or for germinating seeds. That’s why here we use about 1.5 part or 30% of the total mix.
Akadama alternative: You can also replace Akadama with peat moss. This is also known as sphagnum and it consists mostly of mosses. Peat moss has an acidic pH level from 3.6 - 6, which is awesome for acid-loving plants like adenium.
Besides that, peat moss can also help retain vital nutrients in the soil, that is, not being washed away when we water our plants. It retains moisture well and is a great seed starting environment for the desert rose.
The drawback of sphagnum is that it is quite compact, which can make it hard for water or air to flow through easily. This is why we add some perlite and pumice in the beginning to open up the space, giving our baby enough room to breathe and thrive.
Summary of Mix #1:
As you can see, with this Mix #1 right here, we have created an environment that is well-nourished, well-drained, and well-ventilated for our seeds to wake up and say, “Hello world!”.
If this soil mix sounds like too much work for you, then how would you like a mix with only two main ingredients? Baby adenium will be happy living in this soil mix and so will the lazy (or efficient) side of some of us gardeners.
Mix #2 – Good for Baby Adenium & Lazy Gardeners
|40-50% garden soil||Essential nutrients for desert rose growth|
|50-60% coco coir||Moisture retention & aeration|
For this mix, you can simply use garden soil to feed the baby plants with all the good bits. Many folks use bonsai soil or cactus / succulent soil as well.
This is fine because adenium is a succulent plant. We just need to make sure the soil provides good nutrients to promote root formation and growth.
Here's a good one if you're looking for some succulent soil:
|Get Excellent Cactus Soil|
|* 100% organic, nutrient-enriched soil|
|* Light, fluffy & pH balanced for all succulents|
|* Optimal drainage to prevent root rot for young adenium|
For water retention and drainage, try mixing in coco coir. In some other places, gardeners also use peanut shells or rice husks.
Just like perlite or pumice, these mighty warriors have tiny little holes on their shells for air and water. Rice hulls, or the outer shields of the grains of rice in particular, have the silica (Si) component that is similar to that of perlite (SiO2).
Although these things might look very soft and breakable, they are actually pretty tough. The advantage of using these is that they are not as dusty as the rocks. Over time, these decay into the soil and become fertilizer for it.
If the garden soil is too acidic, you can try adding garden lime or phosphate fertilizer to balance out the pH level.
When the baby plants grow a bit bigger, mix in some fertilizer to give it more energy to grow. Speaking of growing up, have you checked out a mixture that might be good for adult adenium?
Mix #3 – Good for Adult Adenium
|1 part garden soil||Vital nutrients|
|1 part river sand||Moisture retention, air flow|
|1 part sand gravel||Aeration, drainage, oxygen|
|1 part surki||Retain moisture|
|1 teaspoon leaf mold||Diverse micro-organisms addition|
You can use this third mix when you are re-potting your growing baby plants. It is recommended by Dr. Surja Agarwal, one of the most passionate gardeners with practical experience.
Here is his video explaining the mixing process:
If at the young stage we focus on providing a medium that allows new root formation, here you can see we balance out the nutrients, water and air flow in our soil mix.
What is Surki in This Mix?
Surki is the powder made from red bricks that people use to build houses. Many gardeners use this ingredient to retain moisture for the plants. It is sort of like coco peat in a way.
Because the bricks are made from clay that are heated at a very high temperature, the chance of harmful bacteria surviving on it is relatively low.
Thus, adding it will help keep the growing root system moist but not too wet. Plus, this material can be had for very cheap.
If surki is not available in your local area, you can find other great alternatives that serve the same function like coco peat, charcoal, peanut shells or rice husks.
The Benefits of Using Sand & Gravel
With sand and sand gravel, we are trying to toughen our desert rose up by creating a desert-like environment. Sand gravel is slightly bigger than our perlite and pumice. Still, it allows good aeration and drainage for the lower part of the plant.
From our own experiment, I have found that sand produces incredibly good results for starting seeds. If you want to have a look, here's the results:
The Benefits of Leaf Mold
We just want to add a teaspoon of leaf mold or compost to introduce more varieties of micro-organisms into our soil. Some people say a teaspoon is too little, but it actually contains a good amount of micro-organisms for our desert rose to adapt to already.
We want to train the plant so it can grow stronger, but we don’t want to create too much of a shock during an environment change. This, in a way, is like a training for the adenium’s metabolism system.
Because now our plant is a little bit bigger, we can let it meet new “faces” and begin creating relationships with good ones and strengthening its resistance against the potentially harmful ones. Thus, growing it up tough inside and elegantly beautiful outside. Every gardener’s dream!
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