Complete guide to substrates: how to choose the most suitable for your plant

An interesting and complex topic at the same time is undoubtedly that of substrates . Depending on the cultivation needs of each plant, as well as the climatic conditions in each place, it will require one sustenance or another. This will have to help its roots so that they can develop correctly, and as a consequence, it will also make the growth of the plant optimal .

Today the gardener has many types of cultivation materials, and for this reason, it is very common for the neophyte gardener, even those who have spent years in this fascinating world of gardening, to have doubts about which one to provide. to your plants. For all of them, there is this substrate guide that we hope will be useful to you.

What is the substrate?

black peat

black peat

Before entering fully into the subject at hand, it is necessary to know what we mean when we talk about substrate. Well, the substrate is nothing more than a solid material, of organic, mineral, or residual origin, which serves as an anchor for the plant. It can be used pure, that is, using only one type of substrate, or mix several.

It is also important to note that this material, or set of materials, may or may not intervene in the nutrition process of plant beings.

Properties

volcanic clay

volcanic clay

A good substrate will be one that, as we said, will help the plant to grow vigorously and without any problem. But, what properties must it have to fulfill that function?

The truth is that it will depend a lot on the growing conditions, but in general we will have to choose one that is:

  • Porous : the one that is porous, will be the one that is not too occupied by solid particles. The plants are very sensitive to excess watering, except for the aquatic ones of course, and that is why they need a substrate that does not tend to compact, since otherwise their roots would drown.
  • Fertile : when we talk about a substrate being fertile, we mean that it has nutrients that can be absorbed by the roots. With this in mind, all but carnivorous plants will do great in fertile soil.
  • Natural : It may sound a bit strange, since all substrates are extracted from the planet, but a natural substrate is one that has not had anything artificial added to it. Although chemical fertilizers will be very useful for fertilizing our garden, plants in nature have everything they need, and it is for this reason that the use of natural and ecological products, including substrates, is recommended. In this way, we will ensure that the plant will not lack anything.

What types of substrates can we find?

In nurseries and garden stores we find various types of substrates: mixed, unmixed… Where do they come from and what are their main characteristics?

Akadama

Akadama

Akadama

Akadama is the quintessential substrate for bonsai, imported from Japan. Of volcanic origin, this granular clay is capable of conserving the ideal humidity for plants, something that ensures that the roots are always well aerated and can develop correctly. As it has a neutral pH, it can be used in pure form or mixed with other substrates.

You can buy it here .

Kanuma

Kanuma

Kanuma

Kanuma is a substrate imported from Japan that is widely used for growing acid -loving plants, such as azaleas or hydrangeas. It comes from the eroded volcanic remains of the Kanuma region. Its pH is low, between 4.5 and 5, and it has a really nice yellow color.

Get it here .

kiryuzuna

kiryuzuna

kiryuzuna

Kiryuzuna is of mineral origin, and is made up of decomposed volcanic gravel. It has a pH between 6.5 and 6.8, and a high iron content. In addition, it has the extraordinary quality that it does not decompose.

Buy it here .

Mulch

Mulch

Mulch

Mulch is a natural substrate that we can find in our gardens Yes, yes, indeed: it can be done at home, since it is made up of decomposed plant remains. Depending on the state of composition, as well as the climatic conditions, it will have a more brown or more black color. It maintains humidity for a long time, and plants will also find in it all the nutrients they need to grow.

Do not stay without him .

perlite

perlite

perlite

Perlite is a highly recommended material due to its porosity Although we find it somewhat curious, it is a volcanic glass that has a high water content. It is called thus, if observed under the microscope, they can be seen as pearls inside.

Get it by clicking here .

Peat

blond peat

blond peat

Peat is the most widely used substrate for plants. It is formed as the plant remains of the swampy places decompose. There are two types: black peat and blonde peat.

  • Black peat – forms at low altitudes. They have a dark brown color because the remains are in an advanced state of decomposition. They have a pH between 7.5 and 8.
  • Blonde peat – forms at high altitudes. They have a light brown color, and a pH between 3 and 4.

Both have a high water retention capacity, but in very dry and hot climates they can become excessively compacted.

Get the black mob here and the blonde one here .

vermiculite

vermiculite

vermiculite

Vermiculite is a mineral substance that, when heated, dehydrates and increases in volume. It has a high absorption capacity.

Get with her .

What substrate do I put on my plants?

As each type of plant requires one substrate or another, let ‘s see which are the most advisable depending on the plant being we want to grow:

trees and bushes

flamboyant

Delonix regia 1 month old

Trees and shrubs are plants that, depending on their origin, will grow better in some substrates or others. Thus, we have:

  • Acidophilus trees and shrubs : for them there is nothing better than using 70% akadama (buy it here ) and 30% blonde peat ( get it ). Other options are, for example, 50% peat moss, 30% perlite, and 20% mulch.
  • Mediterranean trees and shrubs : these types of plants are prepared to resist drought, so we will use substrates that have a high pH (between 6 and 7), such as 70% black peat mixed with 30% perlite. Or quality universal substrate, like this one .
  • Trees and shrubs that live in areas where rainfall is high : these types of plants require high humidity, so the substrate we put on them must be able to retain water. Thus, we will use black peat (60%), which we will mix with vermiculite (30%) and a little perlite (for sale here ).

bonsai

bonsai

Eurya Bonsai

Bonsai are trees (or shrubs) that are kept in trays with very little substrate. When we embark on the task of working a tree to turn it into a work of art, what interests us most is that its trunk expands. To do this, it will be essential to choose a substrate that allows the roots to be properly aerated, but that can also make the plant take shape.

Thus, the most recommended will be akadama mixed with kiryuzuna (70% and 30% respectively), or mixed with kanuma (for sale here ) if it is an acidophilic species. Also, if you prefer, you can use a specific substrate for bonsai, like the one sold here .

Cacti and succulents

Rebutia fiebrigii

Rebutia fiebrigii

Cacti and succulent plants live in sandy soil, so the most suitable substrate for them will be one that facilitates rapid and complete water drainage, since they also tend to have problems with excess moisture.

With this in mind, it is recommended to mix 50% vermiculite with 40% black peat moss and 10% perlite . This mixture will also serve us for the seedlings. An equally valid alternative is the ready-made cactus soil, but it is important that it is of high quality. For this reason, we recommend this one that they sell here .

acidophilic plants

Camellia

Camellia

Acidophilic plants , such as Japanese maples, camellias, hydrangeas, and others, require a very porous substrate, but at the same time maintain a certain degree of humidity. Especially if we have this type of plants in climatic zones that prevent them from having a normal vegetative development, that is, they are in places where temperatures are too extreme (both minimum and maximum) for them, it is essential to choose well the sustenance of these plants .

Although you will find ready-made substrates (like this one), these will only be good for us if our climate is suitable for them. Otherwise, we will have to use, for example, akadama and kiryuzuna (at 70 and 30% respectively), as this will guarantee the success of growing these plants in places that are theoretically difficult for them to survive.

Palms

coconut trees

Germinating cocos nucifera

Palm trees are exceptional plants, very decorative, capable of giving that exotic touch to any garden. However, in the juvenile phase it is highly recommended that they be grown in pots. But… on what substrate?

We can actually use black peat moss and perlite in equal parts, but since we try to give our plants the best of the best, an ideal mix will be made up of mulch (get it here ) and 50% perlite . It is also highly advisable to add a first layer of akadama inside the pot to ensure that excess water comes out easily.

Garden and flower plants

Tomato

Tomato

Our garden and flower plants are very grateful, so much so that they won’t ask us to get too complicated looking for the best substrate for them.

In fact, if we mix 80% black peat with 10% perlite and 10% mulch, we will obtain healthy seedlings with exceptional growth. If you are looking for an alternative, this ready-made mixture of substrate for urban gardens that you can buy here will serve you well .

Carnivorous plants

Drosera madagascariensis

Drosera madagascariensis

Carnivorous plants , as they have evolved, have adapted to amazing conditions. In the land where they grow, which is always wet, there are hardly any nutrients, so they have been forced to find their food by modifying their leaves until they become the most incredible traps that nature has created .

Bearing this in mind, we will use natural blond peat to ensure that they have all the moisture they need and, if we want, we will mix it with a little perlite to prevent the roots from having problems with excess watering. You can also buy ready-to-use carnivore substrate, like this one .

As we can see, the issue of substrates is really very important. Therefore, we hope that this guide will be practical for you to choose the most suitable for your plants, and that they can look splendid.

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