Vermicompost is a potent fertilizer that has many benefits for plants of all kinds. It is easy to make at home and is a great way to repurpose waste to help the environment. But is it a good option for taking care of your succulents?
Vermicompost is good for succulents only when used sparingly. Vermicompost is a good source of nutrients, but too many can be detrimental to succulents because these plants need soil with good drainage. Too much vermicompost can prevent that by its water-retaining capacity.
Succulents are a gardener’s dream, with very low maintenance for a gorgeous water-wise appeal. However basic the succulent’s needs are, there are certain ways that you may harm these garden soldiers! Please read on to discover the pros and cons of using vermicompost for succulents and what type to use.
Benefits of Vermicompost for Succulents
Vermicompost contains a mass of nutrients and microbes that are beneficial for succulents. It provides more than 60 micro-nutrients, including:
- Nitrogen: This essential nutrient helps create amino acids and proteins that help strengthen succulents.
- Chitinase: is an enzyme that helps to keep many different bugs away, including whiteflies and aphids.
- Potassium: Potassium prevents wilting and retains water, particularly important for succulents, which can be up to 90% water.
- Phosphorus: This chemical element contributes to root strength and helps plants to fight off diseases.
- Magnesium: Magnesium allows succulents to absorb phosphorus and produces chlorophyll to keep the leaves colorful.
- Iron: Iron contributes to the production of chlorophyll to maintain healthy color.
- Copper: This chemical element allows succulents to absorb iron and helps plants maintain healthy enzyme levels.
- Calcium: Just like in humans, calcium helps to sustain the succulents’ structure and works to ensure that they maintain healthy pH levels.
- Boron: This chemical element is essential to calcium absorption in succulents.
- Carbon: Carbon allows succulents to use energy from the sun to produce the carbohydrates necessary to grow. Vermicompost also helps prevent water contamination to keep the plant healthier.
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for succulents because it helps increase water retention and supports healthy growth.
- Sulfur: This non-metallic chemical element from the oxygen group is necessary to absorb many different nutrients and is used by succulents to create protein.
So, what do all these nutrients combined look like in action? Succulents supplemented with a bit of vermicompost receive several benefits.
- Vermicompost helps kill dangerous bacteria to reduce the rates of death among your succulents.
- Worm castings raise the level of growth hormones in succulents to speed up growth.
- Water absorption is crucial for any plant, but desert plants like succulents rely heavily on their ability to retain water. Small amounts of vermicompost give succulents more access to water.
Disadvantages of Using Too Much Vermicompost for Succulents
The two primary arguments against using vermicompost for succulents are the worm castings’ water retention and nutrient content. While the water absorption of vermicompost is an excellent benefit to most plants, it can harm succulents and lead to root rot. Additionally, the nutrient density of vermicompost can be too much in large amounts, leading to toxicity.
Too Much Water Retention
Succulents are desert plants, which means that they store water in their leaves. It also means that they are used to growing in sandy soil. Because they are used to being in soil that does not hold water, they are vulnerable to root rot, which occurs when too much water sits around the roots of the plant.
Therefore, succulents require soil with good drainage. Vermicompost retains water, so having too much around the roots can kill succulents by holding too much water around the plant.
Too Many Nutrients
Like most good things, nutrients are beneficial in moderation but can be toxic for plants in large amounts. This issue is also the case for succulents and other desert plants.
At home in the desert, succulents grow in very sandy soil that does not provide many nutrients. Because of their natural conditions, desert plants do not require as many nutrients as plants that grow in different climates. This sensitivity means they are more vulnerable to nutrient overload, which contributes to plant rot.
Vermicompost is very nutrient-dense, so using it very sparingly is crucial.
How To Use Vermicompost for Succulents
Since succulents do not produce food, it is okay to use vermicompost made from both kitchen waste and animal waste like cow dung.
If you are using vermicompost made from animal waste, keep your succulents away from plants you intend to use for eating, such as fruit trees.
You must use vermicompost with other soil to be safe for succulents. Adding sand to your potting mix is essential for succulents because it gives the plants the drainage crucial to preventing root rot.
Succulents are very sensitive to wet soil, so if your soil is retaining too much water, you must correct the problem quickly. A soil meter will allow you to keep an eye on the moisture levels near the roots to ensure that the vermicompost does not retain too much water.
It is essential to have good water drainage near the roots to keep water from concentrating there. Vermicompost can be used as a top later, mixed in with soil, or as a worm tea.
Using vermicompost as a layer on top of your soil is the best way to do it. Having the vermicompost on top allows the nutrients to travel down to the roots while avoiding the dangers of holding water near the roots.
To make a top layer of vermicompost for your succulents, you should follow these tips::
- To add vermicompost as a top layer, add a coat of worm castings on top of the soil between ¼ and ½ inch (¾ and 1 ¼ cm).
- If you plant your succulents outside, you can add another thin layer every 15 days or more.
- Indoors, you can add a tablespoon (15mL) to each 6-inch (15 ¼ cm) pot every 15 days. If your pot is 12” (30 ½ cm) in diameter, you would add 2 tablespoons (30mL).
You can also use vermicompost mixed with other soil, dirt, and sand. When added to the soil, vermicompost should not make up more than 10% of the potting mix. In addition to the vermicompost, you should add soil and river sand in a 1:1 ratio.
If the soil you are using is already high in nutrients, you should use even less vermicompost to prevent having too many nutrients, which may be harmful to succulents. You may also choose to forgo the vermicompost entirely in some cases.
If you choose to add cocopeat to your mixture, the cocopeat and vermicompost should not exceed 10% combined since they both hold water very well.
You can also fertilize your succulents with worm tea, a liquid fertilizer that you can make from vermicompost.
You should water succulents every other week in the spring, summer, and fall. In winter, that can decrease to once a month. Worm tea should be diluted in water and be applied with the waterings, using either a spray bottle or a watering can.
Worm tea should comprise no more than 50% of the mixture. It is better to start with less worm tea and slowly increase the ratio as the succulents learn to tolerate the new addition. The tea can have more nutrients and microbes than solid vermicompost, so you must use it sparingly.
Other Desert Plants That Benefit From Vermicompost
Other desert plants that can benefit from small amounts of vermicompost include, but are not limited to:
- Joshua tree
- Ghost plant
- Desert lily
Good soil drainage is essential for all of these plants. Like with succulents, vermicompost should only make up a small portion of potting mix for desert plants to avoid root rot and nutrient toxicity.
It is best to use vermicompost very sparingly for succulents. The high levels of nutrients and great water retention that make it an excellent fit for other plants are not advantageous for these desert plants.
To use vermicompost, you can use it sparingly as a top layer, mixed in with the soil, or as worm tea. Using a soil meter can be a good trick to ensure you are not using too much vermicompost.