Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Make Cactus Potting Soil

By Frank Whittemore ; Updated September 21, 2017

While caring for a cactus is relatively easy, potting one can be a little more complicated. The makeup of the soil is key, since cacti have specific density and nutritional requirements. The perfect potting soil should wet easily, drain well and contain some organic material for proper nutrition and adequate air. The soil should not be so rich that it holds water for long periods, though, because this will inevitably rot the roots. It is easy to make your own cactus soil at home with ingredients you can get at your local garden center.

Obtain good-quality top soil, peat moss and crushed pumice or vermiculite from your local garden supply store or nursery.

Make a mixture of 20 percent top soil, 10 percent peat moss and 70 percent pumice or vermiculite in the mixing container. Combine thoroughly to form the foundation for the cactus soil. Moisten the soil so that it is damp.

Sterilize the soil. Place the mixture in a plastic bag, insert a cooking thermometer into the soil through the bag, place the bag on an oven tray, and heat the soil in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Add 1/2 cup of bone meal for every 12 quarts of soil mix to ensure a proper pH balance and a good-quality, general-use, timed-release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Mix these two ingredients into the soil thoroughly.


Things You Will Need

  • Top soil
  • Pumice or vermiculite
  • Peat moss
  • Large mixing container
  • Large plastic bag
  • Cooking thermometer
  • Oven tray
  • Bone meal
  • Timed-release fertilizer


  • Clay pots are preferable for planting cacti, as they allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Pots should also have good drain holes to help keep water from pooling.


  • Do not plant your cactus in pure sand. Sand has no organic material and will not nourish your cactus properly.

About the Author


In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.