Compost Questions - Which Soil is Best For Your Succulents?

Ugh, the soil question. The worst. Every time you meet another succulent grower you're inevitably asked "but what SOIL are you using?". And God forbid the urban garden beginner takes a peek online at what compost their cacti should be potted in. Sand, permilite, gravel, cacti special, basic potting, all rock, pure water. The possibilities are literally endless and each furious online gardener demands that their way is best, that their soil is supreme.

Coffee Arabica ( Not a succulent!) being potted up in just John Innes. This plant is a jungle dweller so doesn't need added drainage help.

I was bamboozled when I started and I'm still confused. My plants have been through three types of soil in the few years I've had them. Each time I've been less convinced and more worried about killing them. Is it holding too much water? Is it holding not enough? But now, I've had a revelation: it doesn't really matter that much. 

OK. It does matter, a bit. A haworthia planted into some peat isn't going to last long. But provided you've got some good drainage in your soil what the soil is isn't a huge problem.

Case in point? The British Cactus & Succulent Society (BCSS) suggests that for most varieties an equal mix of John Innes No.2 or No.3 and some grit is fine. John Innes! Normal compost! The mystery is solved! If you're too lazy to even bother mixing something up, cacti and succulent soil in a bag is also fine, according to the BCSS. Fine! It's that easy.

Crassula Ovata all potted up in the new mix

So today, I marched into a local garden centre, grabbed a bag of John Innes No. and some potting gravel and had an evening in the late sunshine repotting every plant I own in an equal mix of these two bags. So far, so good - they haven't died in the hour that I've done it.

Top tips for potting and repotting? Remember your drainage holes. There's no point potting a succulent or cacti (or really any plant) without them. Secondly, I recommend putting either a layer of the grit in the bottom of your pot, or find some bigger stones such as below and popping them in. This will improve drainage and prevent your soil from falling out the drainage holes when you water.



I think it's best to follow the experts when it comes to soil - if that's their advice, it's most likely the soundest you'll be able to find. Fingers crossed, anyway. Otherwise I'm facing throwing out a bin of succulents next week.

5 incredible houseplant Instagrams you should be following

(Other than mine, of course)

Struggling for houseplant inspiration? Turn to Instagram for some awe-inspiring examples of houseplant heaven. I could spend hours scrolling through my timeline of greenery, but here are a few of my favourite Instagram accounts where I get my houseplant hit.


Urban Jungle Bloggers (@urbanjungleblog)

For houses filled with greenery (and if you're struggling to find Instagram accounts to follow) take a look at the Urban Jungle bloggers posts. A self-described "green community" that is "growing and thriving on the internet and beyond", UJB is a network of bloggers and instagrammers who post themed content which is then reposted by the UJB account. This means you'll have exposure to a new account with every post they 'gram. Expect bathrooms filled with ferns and houseplant wrapped sitting rooms.



Prick London (@prickldn)

The Instagram account of this Dalston, London based cacti and succulent shop is sexy af. Not only do Prick do beautiful plants, but their terracotta and white glaze domed pots will have you salivating on your phone screen. Photo highlights included shelves of neatly lined cacti standing to attention and insider shots of succulent nurseries you don't often get to see. There's just one burning question: when is the online shop opening Prick?!


House Plant Journal (@houseplantjournal

The Instagram of Canadian blogger Darryl Cheng gives you hints and tips alongside photos of his gorgeous houseplants. Follow just for shots of his incredible plant collection, including some monster monstera.



Kaktus København (@kaktus_kbh)

Follow Kaktus København for dreamy pale-scale shots of giant cacti in terracotta pots. Most of their photos are very similar (but still gorgeous), but the occasional cat with a cacti on it's head is enough to keep me following (No, I have no idea either. I can't read Danish so I just enjoy without asking).


A post shared by Kaktus København (@kaktus_kbh) on

Mi Mercaito (@mimercadito.cl)

This Chilean-based succulent shop has a gorgeous Instagram filled with vibrant sedums, echeveria and crassulas. Strictly succulents, the red and green plants are planted in beautiful white pots that will become your top plant inspiration instantly. Simple, but effective.



Book Review: 'How to Grow Stuff' and 'The Little Book of Cacti and Other Succulents'

These are two gardening books I've been eyeing up for a while. 'How to Grow Stuff' by Alice Vincent and 'The Little Book of Cacti and Other Succulents' by Emma Sibley have been splashed across a tonne of gardening and urban planting instagrams for a couple of months. This week, I discovered Alice Vincent's instagram (@noughticulture) and twitter and, inspired by this HuffPost Sourced article, I was determined to grab a copy of 'How to Grow Stuff' before the week was out. Thank god for Waterstones, eh? 


How to Grow Stuff, Alice Vincent, Ebury Press (2016), £12.99

In the next few weeks, I'll be uprooting from Hampshire and moving to a flat in London. There's a small shared garden (concrete) and a possible window ledge for some pots. That's it. But I'm keen  to grow some flowers and veg alongside my succulents. Step in Vincent's 'How to Grow Stuff'. 

This book is for the novice gardener and is ideal for urban gardens. There's no fancy words or complex instructions. Vincent tells it like it is and recommends buying pots of herbs from supermarkets to cultivate, because why not? Also a big plus is the beautiful design of the book: it's both super gorgeous to look at and to read. 


The book takes you through easy-to-grow herbs, veg, flowers and houseplants with advice on growing them in containers or in the ground, how to harvest them and what they need to thrive. The advice is refreshingly humorous and relaxed in a horticulture section of the bookshop that's often full of pomposity. For once, having leggy tomato plants is acceptable, not frowned upon.

If you want an easy-to-follow guide to growing that doesn't strive for anything more than encouraging sheer pleasure in growing your own plants, this book is for you. 

The Little Book of Cacti and Other Succulents, Emma Sibley, Quadrille (2017), £8.99

Ugh, the design of this book is just yummy. Sibley's small encyclopaedia of succulent and cacti types has been on my wanted listed for a while, thanks to its easy to understand entries on common plants and how to look after them specifically. 


Each page of the book includes a large picture of a succulent, followed by advice on watering, sunlight, growth and care, pruning and other fields like flowers or 'Watch Out!' (for nasty spines). I've already read it through and through, chosen my next purchases and checked on what I'm doing wrong with my current plants. Turns out, quite a lot!