Adenium desert rose itself is not picky when it comes to soil environment. The key thing we should keep in mind is water drainage for our baby's roots.
Many folks get well-draining 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.
But first let's quickly see:
What kind of soil do adenium like?
Adenium desert roses overall prefer a free-draining growing medium that holds just enough moisture for the roots and doesn't create standing water–which could lead to root rot. Materials like these are great as potting substrate for adenium:
- Pine tree bark
- Lava rock
Depending on how big or how fast you want to grow your adenium, some people put in garden/cactus soil & fertilizer while others don't use much of it.
If you want to shape the roots of your adenium, choose something compact like sand (when watered) to get fatter roots. If you go with something more airy like coco fiber, you'll get in return slimmer, but longer adenium roots.
Here you can see a drawing of the root formation in different growing substrates:
As you can see, adenium like it moist but not too wet. Observe the weather conditions in your local area & water more in the summer. With some well-draining materials like rocks or tree barks mixed in, you'll be safeguarded even when you accidentally water your babies just a bit too much. Those spacers will create exit ways for the water to drain out easily.
If you want to get some pre-mixed medium, check out these:
Best Adenium Soil Mix: Top 3
Many folks use succulent/cactus soil for adenium. Hoffman cactus mix is good for cactus & also works great for succulents like adenium. In it there's sand, perlite and lime stone–which works like a charm for drainage. Additionally, there's some peat moss in it that adds a bit of acidity in the soil. As an acid-loving succulent, adenium love and will grow well in such environment.
|Best Overall Succulent Mix|
|* Light, fluffy & pH balanced|
|* Optimal drainage|
If you'd like a bonsai mix for adenium, check out this one:
|No-Soil Bonsai Mix for Adenium|
|* 70+ trace vitamins|
|* Slow release nutrients|
|* Balanced airflow & moisture|
The white & pink pumice in this mix has over 70 or so vitamins. There's stuff like iron, zinc, fulvic acid to build a strong adenium root system. Even without soil, the pine bark mixed in will do a great job at absorbing nutrients & releasing them gradually over time like an organic matter normally would. Your adenium then get a nice balance of airflow & moisture.
If you have some more cash to spend, check out this premium mix:
|Premium Mix for Adenium|
|* Contains coco coir, worm castings, mycorrhizae, kelp & pumice|
|* Expands to 4x the size when mixed with water|
|* Peat free, all natural, family and pet safe|
This one has all the good bits from coconut coir, worm castings to beneficial fungi. It is a bit more expensive than the other ones, but with this stuff a little goes a long way. Just add water and the soil expands.
If you'd like to mix your own DIY adenium mix, then how about we try the first one, which is:
Mix #1 – Good for Seeds & Baby Adenium Desert Rose
|1 handful perlite||air flow, drainage|
|1 handful pumice||drainage, root grabbing|
|1 handful vermicompost||good nutrients|
|1.5 handful Akadama||supplement nutrients, soil acidicity|
Why perlite & pumice
Perlite & pumice are lightweight volcanic rocks with thousands of tiny holes on their surface. This makes them great for air flow, water retention & drainage. They also contain lots of other minerals like iron, calcium, etc.
With these mixed in, your baby desert roses will have a lower chance of root rot. These rocks can be quite dusty so you might want to rinse them first before mixing to increase germination rates.
Vermicompost as the protein
In a way, you can think of cow manure or vermicompost as the “protein” in your mix. It gives your 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. But it's not limited to vermicompost. Other compost also works fine.
Akadama & peat moss
Japanese Akadama soil, a light porous volcanic soil, doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients for the plants per se. It is used as a well-draining substrate to provide a firm place for tiny roots to grab on and grow.
You can also replace Akadama with peat moss or sphagnum. Peat moss has an acidic pH level from 3.6 - 6, which is awesome for acid-loving plants like adenium. Add it moderately as peat can retain quite a bit of moisture.
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 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 – Two-Component Mix
|40-50% garden soil||Essential nutrients|
|50-60% bio-char||Anti-microbial properties, drainage|
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 type of soil 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.
Let's check out Bio-Char
For better results, try mixing in some bio-char or horticultural charcoal. It helps purify the soil from some microbes/mold or other kinds of bad bacteria.
The little pieces help space out the medium for maximum air & drainage. This stuff also provides potassium to significantly strengthen adenium's natural defense against diseases.
|* Anti-microbial properties|
|* Aeration & drainage|
|* Extra potassium|
From some growers' experience, charcoal may create a warmer environment for adenium in pots (due to the carbon content). This means the plants may need some more water & air flow.
If you get used coal from some places, make sure it's clean. So fungi eating adenium won't happen to your plants.
Aeration & drainage
If you live in a hot climate, spread leaf mulch around your plants for cooling in hot summer days. Use terracotta pots to allow good air flow in & out.
For drainage & moisture retention, gardeners also use peanut shells or rice husks. These stuff have thousands of pores on the surface area & are less dusty than the rocks. Over time, these decay into the soil and become fertilizer for it.
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 brick surki||Retain moisture|
|1 teaspoon leaf mold||Diverse micro-organisms addition|
This third mix is great 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.
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.
You may be wondering:
What is surki?
Surki is the powder made from red bricks that people use to build houses. This cheap material is great for moisture retention.
If surki is not available in your local area, you can find other great alternatives that serve the same function like perlite, pumice, peanut shells or rice husks.
Vermiculite may also work, but be careful because this material tends to hold more moisture than perlite.
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, we have found that sand produces incredibly good results for starting seeds. If you want to have a look, here are the results:
Sand can also help adenium that have been fed with too much chemical fertilizer.
|Mold-free desert sand|
|* Clean sand|
|* Drains well|
|* Black, white or cream colors|
Some 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!
Have you heard about:
The secret power of root fungi
Mycorrhizal fungi (or root fungi) are the good guys living around the root system. Almost 90% of vascular plants on planet Earth form symbiotic relationship with these fungi.
The plants feed them the sugar they make from photosynthesis, and in return, the fungi feed the plants hard-to-find nutrients in easy-to-digest bits like phosphorous. A win win for everybody.
Adding a scoop of this can significantly increase the varieties of effective micro-organisms for explosive root growth & biomass increase.
|Easy-to-use root fungi|
|* 10+ species of beneficial fungi|
|* Water soluble for efficient use|
|* Fight the bad guys|
Time to mix your own food
So in summary, we understand now the different components & what they do for your desert roses and how they interact with each other.
Inorganic elements are stuff like volcanic rocks, sand, surki. Organic stuff are things like cow manure, vermicompost or other fertilizer.
Just a note for some of our beginner gardeners.
|Organic vs chemical fertilizer|
|Chemical fertilizers are those that react immediately when released into the soil, which could burn the roots. Organic fertilizers are those that release slowly–just like an organic material decomposing over time. This is closer to the natural way of soil enrichment & is a better way to feed your plants.|
Creatively mix your own plant food for desert roses:
|Perlite, pumice, sand||drainage, water retention|
|Bio-activated charcoal||potassium, germ killer, aeration|
|Composted manure||N, P, K nutrients + trace elements|
Trace elements are those little nutrients like iron, zinc, copper. Although tiny, they contribute to the overall strength & health of the trees.
It seems that many growers have had great success with using coco coir as a substrate. Our experience with coco coir has not been very good after several trials though.
The babies didn't seem to like it very much. We guess it may depend on the weather or what you're mixing in with it. But you could try it if you like. We'd love to hear how it turns out for you.
Ingredient in search & experimenting:
- Chamchuri leaves: some Thai adenium growers use this stuff
- Masanobu mix (to feed beneficial microbes)
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