Man is a curious creature. We always look for ways of doing things better, and succulent growing is no exception to this rule. One of the key ingredients of success in this endeavor is having a right growing medium for your succulents. Peat Moss has entered the discussion lately, for couple of reasons. The first one is its general reputation in gardening, and the second one that is actually forms a part of some of the most popular succulent potting mixes you can buy on Amazon, and on websites of other well-known retail stores.
But is Peat Moss actually good for succulents? And if it is, in what proportion should we mix it into our succulent soil? We will try to find the answers on the following lines. Before diving into details, let me just give you a quick verdict: Peat moss is not a good growing medium for succulents, since it retains too much moisture. Too much moisture in the soil leads to root rot and premature death of your succulents. That’s likely the last thing you want to experience… As always though, things aren’t black and white only, and we should look at the issue more in depth to truly understand all the nuances of the problem.
Peat Moss comes from bogs and fens, that means places that are always wet
In order to understand whether or not to use peat moss for succulents, we have to learn a bit more about the substance. So what exactly is a sphagnum moss? Peat moss is dead fibrous material which forms in peat bogs and fens when moss and other organic material decomposes. I hope you’ve never wandered through bogs and fens, but maybe you saw them from some distance. One thing I am sure about though: You will not find a single succulent living in bogs and fens, since the environment (wet, humid, dark) is a complete opposite of what succulents need.
This alone should be a good indication whether or not you should plant your succulents in peat moss. Peat moss is high in nutrients, and retains moisture, which works great with plants that love to bathe in water, or for gardening purposes in drier areas. That’s where you should apply it (if you can afford buying it since it is expensive), but planting succulents in peat moss is a sure way of seeing them succumbing to root rot soon.
Why some popular potting mixes for succulents include peat moss?
To be honest, why many producers of succulent soil include peat moss in their products remains a mystery to me. Maybe they do it because peat (or sphagnum) moss is a buzzword, and most people associate it with good yield. Seeing it on the label of the product may help with sales. You should also remember though that these producers try to make their soil mixes appropriate for a variety of plants, or at least a couple of plant families. Peat moss may not help succulents, but including a bit of it in the mix may be beneficial for other plants the soil mix is branded for.
It is also important to check the quantity of peat moss in the soil mix. Some soil mixes branded as succulent soil mixes include as much as 50% of peat moss, which is really too much and you are asking for troubles should you buy it for your zebra plant, snake plant, jade plant or other popular succulent. But some will include only 10% of peat moss, and 90% of other materials, primary inorganic. That’s a completely different math, and such a quantity of peat moss should not be detrimental to your succulents.
Think about natural habitat of succulents when deciding whether or not you should use peat moss
When making any decisions with your succulents, it always helps imagining them in their native land. Vast majority of succulents come from semi-desert and desert areas of Africa, Latin America and Arabic Peninsula. Try to think whether you can find a bogs or fens in such regions. You cannot, and hence peat moss is also not present. Why would you want to give your succulents something that’s completely unnatural for them? Think about it for a while.
Having said that, we know more than 10,000 different succulent species. While vast majority of them (including all succulents people commonly grow in their houses and gardens in Europe and North America) comes from dry arid areas, there are some exceptions to the rule. For this reason it always makes sense trying to learn something about each particular succulent you buy. Maybe you got a rare succulent that actually likes a bit of moisture, and sphagnum moss (in certain limited quantity) may work well with it. This is really more an exception than the rule though.
Final verdict on Peat Moss for succulents
Considering everything, I see no reason why you should even consider using peat moss for your succulents. Succulents like fast draining soil that provides good aeration to the roots of the plant. Peat moss does the exact opposite. The reason why many producers of soil mixes for plants use it (in various quantities) in the mixes they brand as suitable for succulent remains a mystery to me. At the end of the day tough, we should not forget that big companies care mostly for their profits, and make decisions accordingly. You should not fall for their marketing traps…. Hope this helps, and good luck with your succulents!
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