Succulents and Cacti are known for thriving in harsh environments and have a reputation for being able to tolerate neglect when kept as ornamental plants, so it may surprise you to know that they still do benefit from being fertilized. In fact, using a cactus and succulent fertilizer can really help to encourge blooming.
Choosing the best succulent and cactus fertilizer may seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be provided you have the right know-how to make your selection. That’s why I’ve put together a formidable list of the best succulent and cactus fertilizers that are currently available on the market.
Not only that, I’ll be sharing my tips on everything you need to know about fertilizing succulents and cactus from how fertilizing can benefit your plants to how often you should fertilize, and when.
Do I need To Buy Succulent Fertilizer
Succulents and cactus need energy, and lots of it to produce those spectacular blooms and the whole process of flower production begins way in advance of the first buds appearing. To achieve these glorious displays they need nutrients. The problem is, they also need a specific cactus and succulent soil mix to prevent soggy, waterlogged conditions. Unfortunately, the composition of these free-draining soil or potting medium mixes tend not to retain nutrients for long. If you factor in how easily nutrients can get washed away in this type of potting medium, it’s not difficult to see why succulents and cactus need a little helping hand.
It’s important, therefore, that succulents and cacti receive an added boost of nutrients to help them prepare for the growing season as well as to support healthy growth and produce fuller, more vibrant rosettes and blooms during their growing season.
Succulent and cactus fertilizer should be used sparingly though and it is certainly not necessary to feed them outside of the growing season. Indeed, doing so can lead to health issues such as soft growth, yellowing of leaves, and even root and leaf rot.
During their season of dormancy, they need little in the way of light and water either because they are simply resting and conserving energy to prepare for the following growing season. So in addition to not succulent and cactus food in their dormancy, it’s really important to water them less frequently too.
Succulent And Cactus Fertilizer N-P-K Ratio
All plants, including succulents and cacti, need the right balance of nutrients to thrive. There are three primary nutrients or macro-nutrients found in plant fertilizers. These are:
Nitrogen (N) – for robust foliage and stems.
Phosphorus (P) – for a healthy root system, and quality of blooms.
Potassium (K) – for durable resistance to disease and overall nutrient absorption.
All cactus and succulent fertilizer packaging will display the N-P-K ratio of the product to indicate how much of each macro-nutrient is contained within.
Whilst some plants need higher or lower ratios of each of these macro-nutrients, I find that using a succulent and cactus fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K ratio of 5-5-5 is sufficient for their needs throughout the growing season.
You may find succulent and cactus fertilizers with N-P-K ratios of 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 and these too can be used. They just need to be watered down to avoid the risk of over-fertilizing and burn to either the roots or the plant itself.
It’s a good idea to look out for a succulent and cactus fertilizer that contains added microorganisms. These help to improve the condition of the potting medium which typically has low levels of nutrients.
Remember, succulents and cacti are used to arid conditions where nutrients are scarce. Over-fertilizing can be as detrimental as over-watering.
Liquid Fertilizer vs Granular
Specialist succulent and cactus fertilizers can be sold either in liquid form, as a powder, or in granules.
Typically, liquid and powders need to be diluted in water before being watered into the potting medium of your plant.
These types of fertilizer tend to get to work straight away as the nutrients are absorbed by the roots. They also get easily washed away so repeat applications may be necessary to maintain the level of nutrients.
Granules are more often sprinkled directly onto the potting medium and then watered in. They offer more of a slow-release option and are heavily concentrated. They can provide nourishment for up to nine months, with the first results showing in just a couple of weeks.
Provided the N-P-K ratio is low slow-release granules are less likely to cause root or plant burn and in most cases are considered more eco-friendly.
Fertilizer Spikes for Succulents and Cacti
An alternative type of succulent and cactus fertilizer is fertilizer spikes. These offer an alternative slow-release option to granular fertilizers.
These offer a mess-free, ready-to-use option for fertilizing. You simply need to push the spikes into the potting medium at the start of the growing season and water as normal. They can last for up to 9 months so you only need one application per year.
They are also safe to use around people and pets as they are not visible.
Best Fertilizer For Succulents And Cactus
I’ve put together my recommendations for the best succulents and cacti fertilizers on the market, all based on personal insight and knowledge and a ton of research. I want to allow you to make the right choice for your succulents and cacti to give them the surge of nutrients they need to thrive.
The criteria I’ve used is based on what I believe to be the best succulents and cacti fertilizers based on overall performance and results, ease of use, as well as taking into account customer reviews from the major retail platforms and forums.
To start us off on our best succulent and cactus food list is this Miracle Grow fertilizer. It is no surprise that this one gets the vote because it is easy to use and has a low N-P-K ratio meaning there is less chance of damaging your precious plants. It also gets to work straight away so you’ll see results in 2-3 weeks.
This fertilizer comes in a handy pump-action formula that can be applied directly onto the potting medium of your succulents or cacti or, you can dilute the liquid in water. I’ve used this with great success on both indoor and outdoor-grown succulents and cacti. It is gentle enough to use on a regular basis and, can also be used on young plants.
How to use: Spray twice directly onto the potting medium of your succulents or cacti and then water in. Alternatively, dilute 8 pumps into a quart of water before watering in and around your plants.
There are clear directions for use on the bottle making it easy to prevent any over-feeding mishaps. There are also instructions on what to do should you get the fertilizer solution onto the leaves of your plants.
Customer reviews: Across the gardening retail spectrum, customers have been amazed by the ease of use and quick results of this product. This one boasts a global consumer rating of 4.6 / 5.
- Easy to use and safe to store packaging
- Starts working immediately
- Easy to follow instructions
- Expensive for the bottle size, but performance is outstanding
This organic succulent and cactus fertilizer from Dr. Earth is made from 100% natural ingredients and is a great way to instantly provide a boost of nutrients to your plants with its N-P-K ratio of 1-1-2.
This one stands out from the crowd because it boasts an OMRI listing which means it has been approved for organic gardening by the USDA. On the flip side, as you’d expect with a 100% natural product, this one is a bit on the smelly side so you might want to give consideration to whether you will be using it for inside or outside use.
How to use: Press the pump action bottle to deliver the fertilizer directly to the potting medium. One pump for every gallon of potting medium, more for bigger pots. To activate, water in well. This product can also be diluted in water for fertilizing larger quantities.
Customer reviews: this is a people and pet-safe product that doesn’t contain any chemical nasties. Some users found that the pump-action had a tendency to spill and leak.
- 100% natural ingredients
- Can be used directly on potting medium or diluted when feeding large quantities
- People and pet safe
- Strong odor that smells, well, natural
- Bottle has a tendency to leak
Another organic succulent and cactus fertilizer now, this time from eco-friendly company Earthworm Technologies. This US manufacturer is all about the careful balance of natural ingredients that work together to boost root growth and enhance the size and vibrancy of blooms.
These fertilizer spikes or ‘Earth Pods’ are 100% sustainable, made from all-natural ingredients, and are person and pet-friendly. And if that wasn’t enough, they come in handy pre-measured and no-mess capsule form.
How to use: Place the required amount of Earth Pods fertilizer capsules directly into the potting medium of your succulent or cactus or separate the capsule and sprinkle the contents onto the bark substrate. Repeat every 14-21 days and water in between feeds.
Customer reviews: this fertilizer is a gentle, chemical-free option that can even be used for young or tender plants. Reviewers were impressed that Earth Pods were odorless but felt that this was an expensive fertilizing option especially for mature plants that required more than one capsule per feed.
- Contains only natural ingredients
- Pre-measured and hassle-free fertilizing
- Easy to follow instructions
- May need more than one fertilizer spike for larger plants
A liquid concentrate next that is branded as cactus food but is also effective as a succulent fertilizer too. This product from Grow More gets to work straight away and has added calcium to replace what might get washed away during watering and general nutrient intake from your plant.
How to use: Dilute one teaspoon in a gallon of water and then soak the base of your plants. Allow water to run off before replacing in an ornamental pot or container. Can be used every 2 weeks during the growing season for outdoor plants but use less often for indoor and smaller plants.
Customer reviews: Users noticed how vibrant leaves and stems became and plants that were a little jaded became perkier in no time. Reviewers felt that this would be too harsh for young plants and worked better on those that were more established and mature.
- Gets to work straight away
- Results are noticeable in a short amount of time
- A little goes a long way
- Can be harsh so always read the manufacturer’s instructions
Last but by no means least in our best succulent and cactus fertilizer list is a liquid fertilizer from Schulz. I always find that liquid feeds offer such food value for money where a little product goes a long way.
This one gets to work straight away and the 2-7-7 N-P-K ratio means that blooms and foliage will be vibrant and robust and the overall health of your plant will be better protected.
How to use: Fill a watering can with I gallon of water. Add in 7 drops of the liquid fertilizer and go water your succulents and cactus! Can be used every time you water.
Customer reviews: This fertilizer received an impressive star rating of 4.7/5! Users loved how it perked up their succulents and cactus in no time. One batch goes a long way so for smaller collections of plants, consider making up half the quantity.
- Noticeably more vibrant blooms and stronger growth
- Good value for money
- Easy to use dropper for accurate measuring however, can be slow to dispense
How To Fertilize Succulents
Carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow guidance for accurately measuring quantities before watering.
Typically, instructions will require you to measure out a quantity of fertilizer – either liquid or powder – and add it to a watering can full of pre-measured water to dilute.
Some fertilizers may require a period of steeping just like tea. Others will be ready for use once thoroughly mixed.
If your succulent and cactus fertilizer has a high N-P-K ratio such as 20-20-20 then it’s best to use half measures or even quarter the required amount.
Remove your plant from its decorative succulent pot or planter and place on a draining board.
Use a long-spouted watering can to ensure the diluted fertilizer is poured onto the potting medium rather than onto the leaves or stem of your succulents and cacti. If you do happen to spill on your plant, gently wipe and blot up any excess liquid quickly to avoid leaf burn.
Just as you would do when you water your succulents and cacti, give them a generous soaking and then stop once the liquid freely runs through the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot.
Return to their decorative succulent pots or container once the liquid has stopped running through the drainage holes. This will prevent the roots of your plant from absorbing too much liquid or for the potting medium to get waterlogged.
How Often To Fertilize Succulents
In my experience feeding your succulents and cacti a heavily diluted fertilizer just once per year, particularly at the start of the growing season, will provide adequate nutrients for your plant to thrive.
Some manufacturers do advocate more regular feeding such as once per month however, these plants are very susceptible to overfeeding which can lead to burning foliage and roots, yellowing of leaves or foliage, or softened growth. All of this can lead to root or leaf rot.
When To Fertilize Succulents And Cacti
The growing season of succulents and cacti will vary from one species to another. So before you begin fertilizing, it’s a good idea to research your plant or speak to a specialist to understand the growing and dormancy cycle of that particular plant.
It’s usually only necessary to feed succulents and cacti once per year and always right at the start of the growing season before the first signs of growth kick in. Many succulent and cactus fertilizers currently available on the market are mild enough to use more regularly to allow nutrients to be added to the potting medium throughout the growing season.
Feeding Succulents In Winter
If your succulent or cacti is summer dormant then you should start feeding in Fall as this is the start of the winter growing season.
There is no need to provide fertilizer for succulents or cacti in winter if they do not grow in winter. In other words, if your plant is winter dormant. Indeed, overfeeding during this time will do more harm than good, much in the same way that over-watering during dormancy will harm your plant.
Succulent Fertilizer Final Thoughts
So, there we have it. As promised, a list of the best succulents and cactus fertilizers currently available on the market. All carefully selected using years of experience in horticulture, along with extensive market research into customer feedback from a spectrum of retail sources and gardening forums.