You can never have enough plants, but what if you don't have any soil to put your plants in and you live near the beach. Can you use pure beach sand for your potted plants or gardens?
Sand is a very important component of a good soil mix, however, using pure beach sand for your potted plants or garden is not recommended as beach sand contains high levels of salt and has difficulties retaining water and nutrients for the plants to grow healthy.
After reading this article you will know exactly why it's not good to use pure beach sand for your plants and how you can still use beach sand for your plants.
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Why Most Plants Won't Grow on Pure beach Sand
Soil needs to have good drainage qualities, the right pH value, water-holding capacity, and the ability to hold and provide nutrients to the plant.
Unfortunately pure beach sand is not good as soil for plants because it has the following characteristics:
- It has difficulties retaining water and nutrients.
- Too much salt content (can be washed off).
Don't get encouraged yet, you can still use beach sand for your potted plants and garden, but you will have to mix it with clay and silt or a general potting mix.
Luckily for nature, oftentimes the soil is mixed with clay and silt which makes the medium more potent for plants.
There are however a couple of plants that grow well on pure sand, these are Blanket Flower, Adam's needle, Wormwood, and Butterfly weed.
Despite that using pure sand for your plants or garden will not be a good option in most cases, sand is an important component for good soil. General potting soil that you can buy at any garden center also contains a portion of sand. The sand in the potting mix will provide better drainage which is needed for plants.
Air, water, organic matter, and minerals are the four main components of soil. In most soil mineral can make up to 40% of the total volume, while air and water end make up a quarter and organic matter about 2-5 percent. Silt, sand, and clay are the three different sizes of particle the mineral portion consists of.
Now the question arises - if pure sand is not the best option for most plants to grow in, than which soil should you use for your plants and garden? More of that in a minute.
How to Use Beach Sand For Your Plants
There are a couple of scenarios in which it's good to use beach sand. For example, if you want to increase the pH level and drainage of your plants' soil.
So before you even take sand from the beach, double-check and make sure that you are allowed to take the sand. In some places, it's prohibited to take sand from the beach.
After you have made sure that you are allowed to take the sand you need to get rid of the excess salt that is on the sand. This can be done by putting the sand in an old pillowcase and repeatedly rinsing it with a garden hose. Always make sure that you rinse the sand well enough, too much salt can damage your plants.
If you want to use beach sand for your potted plants you should always mix the sand with loam or a general potting soil mix. What has worked best for me in the past is to mix about ⅕ part of sand in the soil I used for my plants. This increased drainage and pH just enough to make my slow growers grow faster.
You can also experiment with your plant because your plant might have different needs.
Which Soil is Best for Potted Plants?
Depending upon the plants the soil can be selected according to its favorable condition. Loamy soil is fertile but it doesn't give the drain to the plants as compared to the sand. Characteristics of garden soil differ by characteristics of sandy soil. So the type of soil for the particular plant should be chosen wisely with proper knowledge.
Loamy soils have more humous which is the organic component of the soil. this soil mix can hold more moisture and essential nutrients. It also has perfect drainage capacity and a good infiltration of water as well as air. To top it all off, loam soil contains the right amount of microorganisms that can help the plant make food and grow healthy.
Most plants like loam soil mixtures and if you want a medium that has better drainage, you can use a sandy loam.
However, not all plants thrive good on this soil - here are some exceptions:
- Nepenthes pitcher plants: Pure spagnum moss
- Succulents: porous sandy potting soil
- hydroponics: no soil required
Now you can see that different plant types require different soil mixtures. And that makes sense because not all plants grow naturally on exactly the same soil. Different places, different plants, and different soil mixtures.
Why is (Sandy) Loam Good For Most Plants?
The best potting soil for most plants is a loam soil or sandy loam soil. In the picture below, you can see that loam contains all three main components of a good soil mix - clay, silt, and sand.
Below are the 5 characteristics of loam that are essential for a good soil.
Picture by: Mikenorton
- pH level - The good pH level helps the plant to grow well. Most plants grow best when pH ranges from 5.5 to 7.5. However, many plants have adapted to grow at slightly higher or lower pH levels. Also, slightly acidic pH provides good thriving nutrients as well as allows organisms like an earthworm that increases the fertility of the soil.
- Good drainage - Not only the size of the soil particles but also the sizes of the pores inside the soil are important for the quality of the soil. The pores provide a passage for the water to move through. If you look at the picture below you can see that loam or sandy loam both contain all three components of soil (sand, silt, and clay).
When these three components are mixed into one soil (loam) they provide the right size and amount of spaces between the soil particles which promotes water to drain through the soil easier. In good loam, around 50% of the volume of the soil is made out of space between the particles.
- Proper root aeration - the spaces between the particles make sure that there is enough aeration to the roots of the plant. Plant roots also need oxygen. To keep the roots healthy, the roots need oxygen. The function of the spaces between the soil is to pass oxygen to the roots. Plant roots actually breathe oxygen like humans and animals. The roots are not only for the absorption of nutrients and water but also for respiration.
- Nutrient-holding capacity - according to the internet, plants need at least 17 essential minerals. These nutrients are partly present in the soil and some are present in water. The clay particles in the loam help hold on to the nutrients in the soil and water. Without the clay, the nutrients would flush out of the soil. But a soil made out of clay alone is not good, as the clay has poor drainage and aeration, which are both needed to grow a healthy plant.
- The texture of the soil and bacteria growth- when soil is too compact, the roots have trouble growing through the soil. The soil, therefore, needs to have the right texture in order for the plant to grow its roots properly. Loam has the perfect texture for plant roots to grow through. Also, plants need bacteria and other microorganisms that help them with making food. These microorganisms need to be present in the soil. In beach sand, there aren't enough of these organisms present. Loam, on the other hand, has just the right amount of these microscopical "beasts" in it.
The key to successful planting and growing plants is the soil requirements which are dependent on the type of plant and its needs. For most plants, general potting soil (loam) does a great job of helping the plant grow big and healthy.
Only add (washed) beach sand to your potting mix if you want to increase the pH or drainage. If you only want to increase drainage, you can also mix perlite in your soil instead of sand.
Have you ever used beach sand in your soil mix?