Will Orchid Potting Mix Work for Succulents? (Explained)

Orchid potting mix for succulents

Do you grow orchids and succulents together?

Have you ever bought too much orchid potting mix and not known what to do with it?

Have you thought to yourself, ‘will orchid potting mix work for succulents?’?

Unfortunately, it isn’t a straight yes or no answer. 

Fortunately, we have answered the question in this article.

So without further ado let’s get started.

Will Orchid Potting Mix Work for Succulents?

Orchid potting mix will work well for tropical succulents as they love the moisture it retains. However all other types of succulents like dry and quick-draining soil, so it will not be suitable for them. If you aren’t sure if your succulent is tropical or not, don’t risk using orchid potting mix.

What is the Difference Between Orchid Soil and Succulent Soil?

Before we dive fully into the question of whether orchid potting mix will work for succulents, it is important to have an understanding of the difference in soil between the two families of plants.

The main difference between the soil orchids need and the soil succulents need all comes down to aeration and moisture.

On the whole, succulents prefer soil that is drier and drains quickly, whilst orchids want soil that is more mulchy, holds onto moisture and is well aerated.

Cactus soil mix is usually made up of elements like crushed stone, pumice, sand, and a small amount of potting soil. 

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Orchid soil mix often contains charcoal, pumice and perlite, and also coarse pieces of wood bark.

Cactus soil is denser, so will feel noticeably heavier as well as much drier, whilst orchid mix is lighter, fluffier and damper.

But now let’s focus on the main question…

Can You Use Orchid Potting Mix For Succulents?

Tropical succulent

It is Good for Tropical Succulents

Tropical succulents are slightly different from other succulents.

In fact, they have something in common with orchids.

They love moisture!

For that reason, the ability of orchid potting mix to retain more moisture works well for them.

Popular varieties of tropical succulents include Crassula Capitella ‘Campfire’, Aloe Ciliaris, Cotyledon Orbiculata and Limelight Japanese Stonecrop.

They will thrive with the extra moisture.

You can use just orchid potting mix, or try mixing it with your normal succulent soil mix.

It Isn’t Good for Other Succulents

Ok, that is the good news over and done with!

Aside from tropical succulents, orchid potting mix won’t be good for most other types of succulents and cactus.

That is because they grow in the desert rather than the tropics and they love dry conditions, not the moisture orchid potting mix provides.

They will want soil that drains quickly and too much moisture in their soil is harmful to them.

Why is that important?

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You have to remember that orchid soil has large particles of organic matter that break down quickly.

This results in large, moist, pockets of soil that are home to plenty of fungus and nutrients. 

This is exactly what orchids thrive on, but for succulents (with the exception of tropical succulents) it will increase the chance of root rot.

Also succulents and cactus prefer rocks and sand in their soil for stability and support, something that the bark in orchid soil can’t provide as it is light and unstable.

They won’t be able to wrap their fine roots around the bark like they do the small particles of stone and stand in their potting mix. In fact, the large air pockets in orchid soil are likely to dry their roots out.

If you do have an abundance of orchid potting soil, there are ways to make it more suited to succulents.

A good way is to mix grit in with it, or buy a bag of perlite or sand and mix it in even measures with the orchid potting mix.

So that leads to another question…

What is the Best Potting Mix for Succulents?

Succulent arrangement

Think of it this way, succulents are native to desert areas. They are very hardy and tolerant of droughts.

If you are growing them outside, they will naturally want soil similar to that they are used to in their natural environment.

That means they want soil that dries quickly and retains just enough moisture for your succulent to thrive.

Soil in their natural habitat is a mix of organic and inorganic ingredients, and is generally slightly acidic.

Try and replicate that as best you can. This is usually done with a mix of garden soil, peat moss, coarse sand, perlite and potting soil.

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I’ve not grown succulents for years, but whilst I was researching this article this is what some of our fellow gardeners advised:

“I use super soil palm and cactus mix I get from Home Depot. Then I add some pumice or perlite to the soil as most of my succulents are outdoors and we have rainy winters. Lately I have been top dressing with chicken grit (insoluble crushed granite).”

“Many succulent mixes do contain some bark, but I would be hesitant about making it any more than a third of the volume of your soil. Then the other two-thirds should be gritty, like perlite, granite gravel, clay pellets and potting soil.”

“My go-to choice is Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus soil (available at Lowes and Home Depot). Then I add perlite, around a quarter to a third by volume.”

“I would recommend an all-purpose potting mix, mixed 50/50 with sand. Adding grit like perlite can be good too, although I wouldn’t say it is necessary. Making your own succulent soil is cheaper and better for the plants. Store-bought succulent mixes have a reputation for getting super compacted and hydrophobic, which harms the plants long term.”

Can Orchid Potting Mix Be Used for Other Plants?

So to round up, we have found out that orchid potting mix is good for some succulents, but can it be used for other plants?

Yes it can, it is very versatile.

It will work well for any plant that is epiphytic or semi-epiphytic. So this includes most bromeliads, anthuriums, pothos, philodendrons, hoyas and any plant that likes a more coarse medium.

In fact, bark nuggets can effectively be mixed into any regular potting soil in low quantities (around 10 to 15 percent) for almost any plant.

For potted houseplants it makes a nice top dressing, draining well and discouraging insects from nesting there.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see orchid potting mix works well for tropical succulents as they like the moisture it provides them with.

However, when it comes to other types of succulents, which all like dry soil that doesn’t retain moisture, it isn’t so good.

So the first thing you should do is check to see if your succulent is tropical.

If it isn’t or you don’t know the answer you shouldn’t risk using orchid potting mix and instead use a potting mix that is specifically designed for succulents.

On the plus side orchid potting mix can be used for a wide range of other plants aside from succulents.

So if you have too much then it needn’t necessarily go to waste.

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