So, you’ve been bitten by the succulent bug, and now you have one or five of your own. It might have been the unique shape that attracted you or that these no-mess-no-fuss plants are great for those trying out their green thumbs. Either way, you are ready to watch your succulent growth take off. Fertilizer is your succulent’s confidence boost to ensure the plant will grow the perfect forms, fully bloom, and respond to environmental stresses even better. I have written a detailed article about succulent fertilizers but left the “natural fertilizer for succulents“ topic hanging. This one is my dedication to it!
Organic fertilizers come from plants, animals, or minerals. They’re better in many ways than man-made ones. Firstly, they’re nature-friendly because they can be replaced, break down naturally, and are less environmentally harmful. Secondly, they give plants food little by little, ensuring they get what they need over a longer time. Lastly, they make the soil healthier by holding it together better, encouraging helpful tiny organisms, and helping it keep water better. Besides all the benefits, you will have to get your hands dirty. Would you like that? We will find out!
Chemical Fertilizers For Succulents – Good or Bad?
Chemical fertilizers, or store-bought/ manufactured fertilizers, are made from chemical procedures. These fertilizers feed the plant directly with high concentrations of supplements and provide rapid nutrition. As these fertilizers are manufactured by high-tech factories and studied for years by chemists like Walter White, it can’t go wrong. The consistency in quality of this product is never my concern. And never forget to mention chemical fertilizer makes a good option in the urgency of a nutrient uplift for any succulent. Imagine your succulents are hungry, and the fish emulsion hasn’t decomposed. Should we come closer and tell the succulents to wait for a few days? Haha.
So, chemical fertilizers are flawless? No. The strength of chemical fertilizers can easily shock or overwhelm your succulents if not diluted perfectly. They may burn the roots of the plant and can cause misshapen or scarred leaves. The dilution ratio will differ depending on the plant’s size and the succulent type, making using chemical fertilizers a little tricky. Most growers agree that chemical fertilizers are often too harsh and fast-acting for succulents.
Believe me, the health of succulent plants is not the only concern. One aspect regarding the use of chemical fertilizer is its negative impact on natural elements by disrupting the soil’s natural microbial balance and contaminating the waterways. Therefore, the ratio of diluting fertilizer is important to get what we want for our plants but reduce the negative effect on natural surroundings to the least. Also, if you tend to give your plants too much water, be careful with these fertilizers, as they can make overwatering even worse for succulents. People who want to garden in a way that’s good for the planet might like using natural fertilizers better to lessen their impact on the environment.
Some Organic Fertilizers For Succulents (That You Can Easily Make At Home)
Organic fertilizers here, I mean, are made from natural and easy-found components around you. The easiest and most common homemade fertilizer for succulents is composting from yard waste and kitchen scraps. Other succulent fertilizers are made organically, but you can’t get everything in your front yard. Those I mentioned are:
- Compost Manure/ Manure Tea
- Worm Castings (Vermicompost)
- Fish Emulsion
- Seaweed Extract
- Bone Meal
- Guano (the least common but still organic)
Let’s get into the making of any homemade succulent food:
#1. Composting Yard Waste and Kitchen Scraps
Succulents only need low-nutrient, well-draining soils, and this type of compost is the easiest to make and the most suitable to give your succulent. The time for this compost to work is about 2-3 months. Pick yourself a dry, shaded area to combine the brown and green materials, maintaining a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of about 3:1. Brown materials (meaning carbon-rich) such as dried leaves, straw, shredded paper, or yard waste can be excellent sources. On the other hand, green materials (meaning nitrogen-rich) like kitchen scraps (fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells), grass clippings, or green leaves. Avoid oils, dairy, or meat scraps, which can attract pests and create odor problems.
Regular aeration and moisture are key to promoting the decomposition process. How? Shovel the mixture 2-3 times a week in the 3-month period of its decomposition.
It’s critical to ensure the soil doesn’t retain excessive moisture, which could harm their growth. After the successful decomposition, you can mix the compost with succulent soil and re-pot the succulent into it. There is always an easier option to get organic compost for succulents, which is shown below:
- OMRI listed
- American Vegetarian Association Approved &…
- + Calcium & Iron
Last update on 2023-12-08 / Amazon
This product is an all-around option that I really like, approved by the AVA with mostly natural ingredients.
#2. Vermicompost (From Worm castings)
The worm castings are technically worm manure – the waste products of earthworms. Worm castings are rich in humus, improving soil aeration and balancing high or low pH levels (like coffee grounds to succulents). Therefore, worm castings are suitable for succulents.
Worm castings are rich with over 60 micro-nutrients essential for healthy succulents. In addition to nitrogen (N), phosphate (P), and potash (K), worm castings are said to be abundant in magnesium, calcium, carbon, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper. They also remedy heavy metals in soils, preventing your succulent from absorbing toxic amounts of these compounds.
A significant advantage of using worm castings to fertilize your succulents is the enzyme chitinase. Chitinase breaks down chitin in an insect’s exoskeleton. When the chitinase absorption happens in the succulent’s roots, distribution follows to the leaves and other plant sections. Mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies can sense the chitinase in your succulents and will be less likely to feed on your plant. Pests will walk away from their death!
Here are steps on how I make worm castings for succulents:
- Preparation: Use a shallow container. Add moist bedding like shredded newspaper or coconut coir. Add red wigglers, the most common composting worm. Introduce organic food scraps (no meat or dairy).
- Composting: Keep the bin dark, in a space with a stable temperature (ideally 55°F-77°F or 13°C-25°C), and ensure bedding stays damp. Add food scraps as much as worms can consume before they rot.
- Harvesting: When the material looks like dark, crumbly soil, you know it’s time to harvest. The period usually lasts for about 3-6 months.
- Let’s fertilize your succulents: The 1:4 ratio is a good start for the ratio of vermicompost and a regular succulent soil mix. You know that succulents don’t like too much fertilizer.
Or simply a much easier way:
- PURE EARTHWORM CASTINGS – Wiggle Worm Soil…
- IMPROVES SOIL STRUCTURE–Wiggle Worm Pure Worm…
- INDOOR AND OUTDOOR USE – Wiggle Worm Pure Worm…
- EASY-TO-USE – A little goes a long way with…
Last update on 2023-12-08 / Amazon
They are organic castings, not vermicompost. You can directly feed by putting this mixture on the soil toppings, which gradually feeds your succulents.
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#3. Compost Manure or Manure ‘Tea’
Compost manure or manure ‘tea’ is a nutrient-rich option compared to the first option in this article – a simple yard waste compost. This is a go-to option for a stronger fertilizer for succulent growth or blooming. Besides the brown and green materials you prepare in the first compost, there must be manure like animal feces – a high-nitrogen source for your compost. To do a DIY compost manure, you just need to add manure to the mixture of green and brown materials. Twigs can help better aeration for the mixture, which I also recommend. The amount of manure to add depends on the thickness of the mixture. As I will go for an average thickness of the mixture, I recommend you add the manure gradually, not too much at a time, until you can see everything well blended but there is aeration.
On the other hand, making the manure tea for succulents can be quite different. The manure is better coming from organically raised cows pasture-fed with no antibiotics or hormones and packed in 100% biodegradable cotton bags. That is as perfect as it sounds. Or you can use any animal feces (horse, chicken, …). It’s better if the manure is a bit aged.
- Fill a cloth bag with manure, what I call a “tea bag,” but don’t drink it!
- A tea bag should be soaked in about 5 gallons of water for 24 – 36 hours until the liquid turns a golden-brown color.
Use this liquid instead of water when you water your succulents!
#4. Fish Emulsion
Fish emulsion is another choice I want to mention. It’s a liquid fertilizer made from processed fish remains, rich in nitrogen and other helpful nutrients but not too intense for the needs of succulents. However, producing fish emulsion at home will be inconvenient as it smells. It’s better to buy from a trusted vendor and use it accordingly. To use fish emulsion for your succulents, you’ll need to dilute it with water as directed on the product’s label, then apply it to the plants during their active growing season, typically in the warmer months.
If you still insist on making it yourself, here comes a short instruction on how to do it. I never do it by myself as I don’t like the smell. But I know a general way to do this. To get started, you must prepare fish scraps (bones, heads, …), molasses (as bacteria food during fermentation), a container with a lid, and water.
- Put the fish scraps into the container with water. For every part of fish scrap, you must put two parts of water (estimating by yourself is completely okay).
- Later, add molasses to the mixture by the ratio of 1 cup every 5 gallons of water. Molasses will feed the bacteria, encouraging faster fermentation and reducing the smell.
- Lastly, close the lid and don’t open it too often. Let it sit for 2 months, and you will have the fertilizer ready!
#5. Seaweed Extract
Are you living in a place with plenty of seaweed like I do? New Jersey shores, as are North California, Massachusetts, or Washington coasts, are abundant with this stuff. If you dislike working with manure, seaweed is a manure-free option, though it also smells haha. You will need hydrated seaweed nearby, a large container, a strainer, and water. If you don’t live near the shore, you can buy dried seaweed and rehydrate it.
- Soak your seaweed in the container thoroughly. Stir it once every few days.
- Strain the mixture in 2-3 weeks using a filter like the abovementioned strainer. You can store this liquid in a glass jar or bottle.
- Based on the needs of your plant, the mixture will be different. However, diluting about 1:10 (1 part seaweed extract to 10 parts water) is a good start.
#6. Bone Meal
This is one good way to use up your leftover bones. Collect leftover animal bones, clean off any meat, and boil them for half an hour. After boiling, spread the bones on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven on a low setting until they’re brittle, which might take several hours. Once dried, crush the bones into a powder using something sturdy like a hammer or a kitchen blender. For your succulents, sprinkle a bit of this powder on the soil once a year to give them a nutrient boost, but don’t overdo it because succulents aren’t big feeders.
How To Fertilize Succulents Naturally
Now, after the decomposing period, you have your fertilizers ready. How to fertilize succulents naturally here is how we apply the fertilizers. I’ve got a few ways to do that:
- A direct mix: This technique requires the removal of your succulent from its pot. So, not my advice, but you can do this along with an occasional repotting of your succulent. Composting usually takes 6 months for a batch so that you can pick the right timing. Remove your succulent, and when renewing the soil, mix the organic fertilizer according to the ratio of the fertilizer you are having. Then, re-pot your succulent into the new soil in a new pot.
- Creating a top dressing: Gently put fertilizer on the soil surface around the succulents. The soil will absorb the nutrients, and the roots will absorb them.
- A mixed liquid for watering: Diluting the fertilizer with water and using it in a regular watering schedule. I have already carefully noted the ratio with each fertilizer.
Thank you for staying until this part! I hope this post contains enough of what you need to know about organic succulent fertilizers, including which types, the making procedure, the length of each decomposing period, and how to feed your succulents properly. If you’d like this read, you’ll love our total in-depth ebooks! With so many succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share them! You’ll get more information from our 12 detailed ebooks, which are 100% free.
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Richard | Editor-in-chief at Succulent City
Hey everyone! I’m Richard. Welcome to my blog, which is all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, I began my journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, my fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and I gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!