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Does anyone have any experience growing in coconut fibre soil?

9 years ago

And if so did all your plants do well or did they suffer?

A little background: I grow mostly succulents, about half of my plants are in al's gritty mix, but I didn't store that properly and It grew mouldy (beginners mistakes). I live in a flat with no garden, so making more soil is a messy and difficult task. After that I ended up putting the other half in coconut coir, just the stuff that comes in a huge brick that you add water to (I buy it from Ikea).

The coconut fibre was originally only meant to be a temporary home, until I could make more gritty mix, but everything planted in the coconut seems to be doing well and has been rooting like crazy. It's been about 3 months now and everything seems to be doing great.

The reason I'm posting is because the soil doesn't seem to conform to anything I've read about what makes a good cacti soil. It's a really fine soil with terrible drainage, so I'm concerned it might start to damage the plants in the long run. If needs must I can make new gritty mix, but If the plants can do well in the coconut, it would save me a large amount of money and time to continue using it.

Basically I'm just hoping someone else has used this to and could share their experiences.

And any help or advice would also be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Comments (51)

  • 9 years ago

    I used a 50/50 mix of coir and pumice in SouCal for tuberously-rooted Haworthias, but never grew anything else with it. I've got some here I'll used with decomposed granite/poultry grit.

    These plants of ours can, as you're finding out in a small way, grow in about anything. If they're beginning to put on growth again in September or so (I'm guessing the English summer isn't a prime time for growth, but you know best) I'd say you're spot on with your mix, and have figured out the watering regimen. I wouldn't have thought pure coir would be a decent medium, but I'd be wrong.

  • 9 years ago

    I have a rhytidocaulon that has been quite happy in coconut husk mix for awhile. There is a local place that swears by it and does a spiel on their website differentiating between coconut husk products.

    -Ming

    Here is a link that might be useful: coconut husk spiel

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  • 9 years ago

    Thank you all! Very much what I was hoping to hear, just wanted to make sure before I bought more but now I definitely will.

  • 9 years ago

    i discovered last year that all my newly bought succulents were planted in it. i did not know what it was so i posted a question and some good info that i later found

    Here is a link that might be useful: old post about coir peat

  • 9 years ago

    this is from the very interesting article in the link below.
    Succulents that have performed superbly in media consisting of from 30% to 100% coir include: Adenium, Pachypodium, Plumeria, Aloe, Agave, Sansevieria, Trichocereus, Mammillaria, Stapeliads, Caralluma, Bursera, Boswellia, Fouquieria, Haworthia, terrestrial and epiphytic bromeliads, terrestrial orchids, and some Euphorbia (I have only a few). Nonsucculents have done excellently too, such as citrus, figs, peaches, blackberries, melons, tomatoes, corn, Asclepias, Hibiscus, and many bulbs including Gladiolus, Lachanalia, Scadoxus, Hippeastrum, and Boophone. I have been using 2/3 to pure coir for tropicals, including tropical succulents such as adeniums. For more xerophytic species I use 25-30% coir, with the rest being perlite and/ or pumice. The only plants that have not done well are some extreme xerophytes such as Mohave Desert cacti, Ariocarpus, many mesembs, and Caralluma socotrana. But I have never had much success with these plants in any medium.

    Here is a link that might be useful: tucson cactus org growers

  • 9 years ago

    To be honest I think I just thought it was too good to be true.

    I have my anthurium in it too and its flourishing. 5 new leaves growing in at the moment and 2 spathes.

    I don't know why this isn't more talked about, I'm having far better results than I ever did in potting soil and perlite. Yet everyone seems to suggest that over this to the newbies.

  • 9 years ago

    To be honest, I have never heard any good about it until this post and based on what I've heard in the past would never use it. Many of us here feel in order for a plant to thrive we need to come as close to it's natural environment as we can.

  • 9 years ago

    peat has been bashed for a while around these forums and since it is coco-peat i think it carries over by association, even though it's a diff product.
    look at the table in the link for differences, coir does not compact!
    i came across article saying that in holland they have been using it for the past 2 decades too.
    and a mention about 10 years ago kew gardens was xplanting it's collection into coir. that was good enough for me to start paying attention ;).
    however, what pro-nurseries do is mat-wicking, auto-drip etc which is very good for them. but home growers do not want or cannot do what pros do (and/or bash their practices to boot).
    the part that i loved best was that you can grow larger plants in smaller pots, it retains it's structure for 4 years (so don't need to repot as much) and fungus gnats do not lay eggs in it, and water molds do not grow in it.
    i've been adding it into my mixes for the past year and a half, unknowingly first: thought it was just reg peat, did not read the label!
    yah, i am going to use it more and more. it says you can't over-water it, since it maintains aeration even when wet.

    sorry for repeating - but these are very NICE points to know, for those who do not have the time to read the whole thing...
    problem is, i'll have to mail-order, though i asked if local nursery might get some compressed bricks.. but who knows when and if?

  • 9 years ago

    It is something everyone will have to search and figure I guess . I actually heard about the products on the citrus and container forums before I did here. I don't use peat either. My plants are grown in very gritty mixes. I don't know enough to put it down.. Just saying based on what I've heard I'm not willing to try it, since I am happy with what I use.

  • 9 years ago

    I heard from some growers that they were hesitant because when it breaks down it does a chemical breakdown that is not good. I am not up on the specifics of the breakdown, just repeating partial incomplete hearsay. I was using it a lot at the time. for my vegetable garden too. And I stopped. Coir does come in two forms. One is fine and the other is very chunky. I like the chunky better. Better drainage.

  • 9 years ago

    I grew Tomatoes and peppers in coir mix, 50 coir 50 sterile composted manure last year Fantastic results,This was in raised beds, Best soil in the world I my opinion. Use a low # complete fertilizer with micro nutrients, Like Tomato-toneî 3-4-6. One thing to remember is flush coir well after hydrating as it does have salts in it, Hydrate with lots of water-dump off water, and do it again this will remove the salt content and stabilize the PH, Then mix in what ever you want. Jay

  • 9 years ago

    In my succulent pots I stride for more efficient growing, while growing with the fewest soil ingredients.
    Basically all my potted plants need are food, soil and drainage.
    From several readings out of published books, this forum, face to face conversations with horticultural specialist and other un-named succulent plant growing enthusiastic the emphasis is little to no peat.

    I've the abilaty to bring peat based (mixed) soils to an inside pot steam sauna. Peat is to retentive and has no place for the long life of succulents here

  • 9 years ago

    I am growing tomatoes/peppers in a coir mix and they are doing very well. I had an underwhelming response when I spoke of coir/personal experience on one of the 5-1-1 threads, I simply don't go over there any more.

  • 9 years ago

    I wouldn't use coir as a primary mix ingredient for any plant that appreciates a drying down between waterings. A small inclusion of coir (less than 15%) in a mix like the 5-1-1 for jungle cacti would be absolutely fine.

    Josh

  • 9 years ago

    josh, did you check that link i posted of tuscon cactus society? i posted a quote from it too - with list of succulents that he grew well in coir. though he prefers larger chips, not coir-peat. and obviously he grows in much hotter and arid conditions then you do.

  • 9 years ago

    I'm not sure about "arid" but Josh's summer temps are neck and neck with Tucson.

  • 9 years ago

    Several things in his article that leave me wondering...
    .
    Is he did not mention how he handles winter growing/watering. Not all plants go totally dormant and need a little bit here and there.

    He states they cannot be over watered in their growing season, and that the center stays moist until the roots absorb it.
    To me that can lead to disaster.

    The plant he shows that has a huge root ball is a plant that grows like a weed anyway.
    My Desert rose needs roots trimmed from time to time because they grow out the bottom of the pot! She is in a gritty mix.

    Small pots need more frequent watering.

  • 9 years ago

    That coconut fiber and coir you buy is typically very salty. I'm surprised you all have much luck in them. I often buy small succulents planted in it and while they dont look had they look a whole lot better as soon as I give it a week In my mix. If you can get palm or coconut fiber then go for it... Otherwise I wouldn't use it.

  • 9 years ago

    Yesterday and today, 105F here. Humidity right now is at 16%, so this isn't the most arid place.

    Josh

  • 9 years ago

    About the same here Josh. 105 and 2 days ago 9 percent humidity so were just a tad dryer ;-)

  • 9 years ago

    5 percent at the moment . Lol

  • 9 years ago

    I've never had a problem with the soil drying out in between waterings. Takes about a week for the soil to completely dry out, top to bottom. But that's in a UK seaside town where humidity is 63%, and light is far from ideal. I had no problems watering over winter here, just did it once every 3 ish weeks.

    And as for the roots I have to say this material seems to be a miracle worker. I had a hawthornia nigra that had no roots when I bought it at a society cactus show. At first I thought it had just got knocked over and lost them so I placed it back in the gritty mix it came in for a few months but nothing changed and there was no new growth, so I figured I'd try it in the coir. Within a week I had 3 new roots poking out. Everything I've planted in it is showing similar vigorous and speedy root growth.

    I think I might try testing this for real in a month once I move. I have a jade that's in serious need of a trim, so I could use the cuttings to do a comparison of the different soils and see how they actually rate.

  • 9 years ago

    just remember that they recommend extra calcium application initially for coir. since cacti/succulents need calcium that could be an important factor in success.

  • 9 years ago

    No offense Hampshire but that last example is pretty meaningless. Haworthias without roots sitting around for months and then getting some roots is pretty typical behavior regardless of medium. I would put money on those roots oopping at the samebtime if you had left them in the originalnmix.

  • 9 years ago

    Thankyou petrushka, I'll look into that.

    and nil13, that was only one example that happened most recently (I was maybe a little over excited).

    But it occurs with fresh cuttings too, they all seem to produce numerous healthy roots in an impressively short period if time.

    I'm not saying that it's better than gritty mix as I'm sure it's not. But it's certainly easier, and has similar results. For me at least.

  • 6 years ago

    how is your succulent doing now? wanting to try coir for the first time.

  • 6 years ago

    I don't think they've posted since 2014.


    The better half has a bunch of garden center plants on the front porch that are in a prepared mix called Coco Loco and so far it is impressive. They aren't succulents though. One interesting thing is the squirrels are only minimally interested. We use the repellent sprays but they wear out quickly and there are so many plants, its a challenge. Sometimes they'd rip the plant out of the pot.


    I'm going to try it on a sad Crown of Thorns and a Xanadu.

  • 6 years ago

    interesting. i just tried half coir and half of potting soil (compost, peat moss, vermiculite) on some of my house plants (Monstera and Pilea) fingers crossed!

    Vermiculite

    Read more at Gardening Know How: What Is Vermiculite: Tips On Using Vermiculite Growing Medium https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/vermiculite-growing-medium.htm

  • 6 years ago

    Why would you want more water retention?

  • 6 years ago

    I grow my indoor tropicals in coir as a replacement for peat. It is very absorbant and water retaining.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Water retaining medium may be ok for moisture-loving plants (rather plants that prefer bog-like conditions), but constant moisture isn't really that great for roots of most plants. And definitely not succulents. On top of it, constant moisture will attract certain bugs - like fungus gnats that seems to be discussed here quite often.

    I too grow tropical plants, and they are outdoors during warm enough weather and overwinter indoors. Even plants that are known as 'water hogs' - for example brugmansia, are better off in well draining mix. I have few, and as experiment, some are in gritty mix, rest in mix similar to 5.1.1 - no peat or coir, just bark, lots of large-grained perlite, I even add some grit - the reason for 'only some' is that pots are big and quite heavy to carry indoors. I used to grow them in typical potting soil, with peat in it so I do have that kind of experience too. But all my plants have been repotted into well draining mixes, and I find them growing much better. And I do not have problems with FG, even with lots of plants indoors.

    All succulents are in very gritty mix (no peat, no coir, no soil...). I understand that some ppl, especially in hot and dry climates, prefer bit more water retention since they do not want to (or can't) water plants more often, but if plants roots sit in wet muck, it can't be good in the long run.

    From my experience, adding even more water retaining material (like vermiculite) isn't such great idea. Vermiculite is good for lots of things, but since it retains so much water, I can't see it as benefit to grow healthy, potted plants (unless they are water-loving/boggy plants).

  • 6 years ago

    The link above from the Tucson Cactus society is pretty interesting regarding using coconut coir with succulents, it seems to work very well for him and a massive nursery in India.

    Though it looks like he is using a much coarser, chunkier grade than the fine stuff you normally find at garden centers. I might give it a try on a more common Echeveria and see how it goes.

  • 6 years ago

    The chunky stuff in that Tuscon Cactus Society link looks like Coconut Husk Chunks (CHC). The horticultural coir I get is like the powdery first pic and it's a replacement for peat. It's nice because it doesn't go hydrophobic like peat.

  • 6 years ago
    I use CHC to grow orchids and only CHC. My orchids love it. I made the switch after seeing my dad in Taiwan just wrap orchids on trees after bloom (picture attached). Weather is humid there so it works so well
  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I use coir for a good number of plants and succulents. But, as Rina points out, I am in an exceptionally dry and hot climate, so it works for me.

    one thing about the wetness factor: coir does not actually sit on the roots like peat does, so it has to be downright saturated to drown roots. There's a good amount of aeration. Also, even when it's super wet, it does not attract bugs. I don't know why, perhaps the explanation is somewhere out there on the internet.

    One of the main reasons I use it in houseplants is that it doesn't attract flying bugs when it's wet. Also, it's pretty hard to overwater coir.

    That said, I would be very cautious using it with succulents. At the least, it should pretty heavily amended with lots of perlite, gravel, or pumice. I've never killed a succulent in coir (yet), but if you aren't familiar with it, you could, I suppose.

    i still find watering coir a bit challenging, especially with plants in clay pots. It's hard to explain, but sometimes I don't know when to stop watering or when to water more because it rewets IMMEDIATELY after water touches it, yet even when wet, it often needs to be watered further. it will look and seem saturated, but it really isn't.

    The only saving grace is that you actually can saturate it, and the plant will probably be just fine. The next day, it will be barely moist. So weird.

    i have learned that it is best to wet it thoroughly before potting the plant. Then, after you are done, give it a few sprays from a bottle to settle it. If you pot dry, it will rise like bread after you water and you'll have an overpotted plant possibly.

    and with all of that said, the truth is, you could totally get away with sticking a small plant in some moist coir and walking away. It would probably be fine. The moisture is available to the plant for a long time. It doesn't go rock hard hydrophobic like peat. And the roots will find their way.

    I personally would experiment with it a lot before using it. It's a strange medium, and I can see why some people just prefer not to use it. But if you get to know it, it is quite useful and always produces healthy roots.

    nil13: I use the peat substitute too. It's very, very fine and powdery like you said. That's much easier to handle than the coconut husks to me, and it is pretreated.

  • 6 years ago

    I used to use the big chunky coir and I would wet it down and expand it before mixing up a batch of soil. It expands A LOT. Also the block came really compressed so watering it down was a good way of breaking it up. I am in a hot dry climate (texas) but sometimes wet climate. When it rains it can flood big time. But I had good luck with it and my succulents. It was mixed with grits of all kinds. My source stopped carrying the chunky variety so I stopped buying it and went back to bark.

    I did hear hanging out a Xeric World that when it breaks down , it does make does some chemical process that some plants are not keen on , so one will need to change the soil out after awhile. This is also true with peat. Sorry , I can not be more specific. I am not keen on memory or the technical details . I just take away gist (or what I need to know) from long ago conversations.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi Lauren. I am in zone 10b and curious to know your coir mix ratios. Thank you.

  • 6 years ago

    Cocinamel and Lauren,

    I am in the SF Bay Area, so long warm to cool summers, and zero rain from April to Dec. ish. I am growing indoors in winter because it is too wet for 3-4 months, especially for my more precious, rare echeveria. I use pumice and/or perlite with a well draining veggie soil that has a little chicken, (because I can't get a cactus mix in bulk here) and add azomite. I also want some soil in my mix because I often move plants in/out of outdoor beds, so want live soil. This soil mix works great for small or medium size pots.

    Sometimes in larger pots or beds I have trouble with this mix refusing to re-wet after I let it get "too dry", presumably the peat in the veggie mix caused this. Do you think adding some coconut fibre to my larger plantings might help? Do you know how it affects Ph, or is it relevant? I experimented a few years ago with adding some rock wool and it was disastrous, it did completely fix the rewetting issue, but I couldn't correct the PH effectively/permanently and many plants got ugly or died. I really liked that the rockwool made the soil a little more moldable, like for cervice plantings and mounding, might coco fibre work this way? Any thoughts about this or other input about why you choose to use coco fibre for succulents would be appreciated:-)

  • 6 years ago

    I only use coir for tropical plants and citrus trees and even then only with a healthy dose of perlite of vermaculite. My grapefruit and aloe love it. It also depends on the coir. As a previous poster mentioned, sometimes you can get a salty block which ends poorly for many plants. I'm also guilty of using it as a filler when I'm running low on other soils.

    Part of the reason I started using coir at all was in part to raise the humidity in my place. I live in a high rise where they blast the heat from October to May resulting in ZERO humidity. I'm lucky to have an abundance of windows, so the water retentive properties of coir plus decent sun are a godsend for staving off epiphyte killing dryness during winter as well as making sure my plants aren't bone dry by the time I get home from work.

    The only time I've had coir do something weird was when I added fertilizer and mold took over the top inch of the soil within days, but it only happened once and then never again.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi spyarchive,

    i just put two aloes in coir and peat, and they seemed to take to it well. Also, I grew some jade stalks in the same mixture, and they grew lovely roots.

    Still I struggle with the watering, but I am finally getting it worked out. It seems that it is best to pot with it wet and pack it down fairly firmly. OR, for succulents that need to grow some roots, I pack it very, very loosely, spray it with a bottle sprayer, and leave it be for a long time, periodically spraying it.

    do you have any tips ? I would welcome any....

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    YIKES, That is totally against what I would use in a mixture. The coir and peat are water absorbent and both need added grit to drain properly. I would never use them together. I would use one or the other with added grit . AND I would never pack it firm. Each to there own. This way of working guarantees watering problems. Especially if you are in a humid warm area.

  • 6 years ago

    Oops!!!! I mean to say "perlite"!!!

    funny though, because all the websites say to use them together, and I have never once made a mix of the two, even with a little bit of peat, that I could actually use. Not once. I don't know how people are combining them. Even with lots of coarse perlite, the mix is too heavy and generally not usable to me.

    i put one huge batch of such a mix outside and dropped some pothos cuttings in it. They took off immediately!

    Also, no I don't pack firm-- learned that lesson the hard way, but I do tamp down a bit. Do you not??


  • 6 years ago

    I tap the pot on the ground to get the particles to settle.

  • 6 years ago

    Yes, I do that as well. But moist coir does not easily settle, so I tamp a bit too. Maybe I'll try again with just tapping the sides. But when I did that before, I ended up with a lot more coir in the pot than I intended. I dunno....

  • 6 years ago

    The coir is never more than 1/4 of my mix.

  • 6 years ago

    I had the same experience with my kalanchoe luciae when I first got it. I placed it on a windowsill in my office with the baseboard heater immediately below the window running continuously. His was last winter. I had to put the plant in a moisture retentive soil. It is in the same soil outdoors and seems to be doing well.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Wantonomara,

    what is the rest of your mix made up of? Could you be a bit more detailed or just explanatory?

    I sometimes use coir as just a small bit of a pumice mix, but I'd love to hear how others use it.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I do not always have access to pumice so I mix it up with whatever grit I have hanging around. Expanded shale. , washed 1/4 Decomposed granite , course red lava sand, perlite. I am not anal retentive. I am more of the "what's in the frig" kind of gardener. I do not know if you are in Florida, California or Texas. The quantities will be important to your location and how humid you are. I know Floridians who grow in 100% grit, and inland Californians who use more humous in the mix. Its a mixed bag here in Texas as U sit under the remnant of Hurricane Harvey who might be leaving 20" on me. I have also gone all summer often without summer moisture. Not this year.

  • 6 years ago

    Thanks a bunch:). I am in Arizona, hot and dry. I hope you get through this flood with minimal damage.

  • 6 years ago

    I'm just surprised that Al's gritty mix would grow moldy

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