If you remember me talking about the crazy journey to make my own succulent growing media, then you remember the crazy places I had to go… the auto parts store, the pet store, a grain elevator, etc.
It looks like I may have to replace “auto parts store” with “golf cart dealership”. The high-fired, calcined clay product (Napa Floor Dry Part 8822) is apparently being replaced with a slightly different product; it’s no longer “calcined”, it’s now labelled “Amorphous” and appraently that’s bad. The new product (which is what I inadvertantly ended up with) breaks down much faster, turning into gross clay and leeching minerals into the soil that some of my soft-leaved haworthias then start excreting from the pores in their leaves. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing, and large deposits can wound the leaves.
At first I was afraid it was a pest infestation. Then, when I determined it was mineral deposits, I was theorizing this might be coming from hard water, or salts from the water softener… but the last few waterings I’ve been using strictly distilled water and having the same effect. Then I happened upon a post talking about white spots on a jade plant that were identified as calcium deposits, and that put me on the train to thinking the Floor Dry was to blame; the succulents subreddit community pretty much confirmed this.
This week I also inexplicably lost an echevaria (ramilette, which was still flowering!) to rot. The soil was bone dry when I tore it out, but most of the roots were gone, rot had gotten into the stem and was travelling up and throughout the leaves. I’m not sure there were many healthy leaves left to try to restart a new plant, but fortunately it’s a relatively common variety I mostly got for it’s bright orange flowers. At the bottom of the pot, however, was a mess of clumped up clay — combined with the fact that the terracotta pot it was in had a much smaller drainage hole than any of the other terracotta pots I have (it came from a different store) and I think that might have contributed to it’s demise.
With those things combined, I was determined to acquire some Turface. Instead of a product designed to clean up oil spills in auto shops, Turface is a high-fired clay product marketed to sports fields as a soil conditioner. For some reason, it’s sort of the “gold standard” for a succulent or cactus gritty mix, and I was getting determined to go the internet’s tried-and-true route and replace all the Floor Dry, even if I had to order Turface online – but ordering clay online is a bit expensive to ship, even in a flat-rate box. Not counting shipping, the cost of the clay alone on eBay, is about 8 lbs for $17.
Searching for “turface toledo” mostly found a local greenhouse that specializes in bonsai mentioning that they sold a custom potting mix that contained turface; so I tried calling there to see if sold just the turface. Turns out they do – but that the distributor that they got it from locally had gone out of business and now they had to “Drive out of town” for it. They were currently out of stock and probably wouldn’t be getting more for another month or so.
I figured I would try to manufacturer’s website to see where the next closest distributor would be… turns out, there was one more in Toledo where I could potentially buy a 50lb bag myself for $9. A 50 pound bag is kind of a lot, but for $9 what the heck. It’s still cheaper than buying 8 pounds online.
Apparently nine dollars is a good find, and not common – normally it seems as though it’s found for $35-$45 a bag at landscaping companies, so I’m fortunate to have a local distributor who’s not marking it up very much.
Now the first question is if I should call the greenhouse back and tell them. 🙂
The second question is… do I repot everything now that I know the clay is confirmed bad? A lot of my early acquisitions were repotted when they came home; and then most were repotted again shortly after when I moved away from amended commercial mix to the gritty mix. I’m really loathe to put them through repotting stress a third time, so the currently plan is to try to scrape off any pots where I used the clay as a top dressing, replace it with turface, and wait until the end of this growing season and repot in fall/winter when things go dormant again. Hopefully that’s not the wrong choice.
Oh, and I may or may not have stopped at the Home Depot right near the golf cart dealership and walked out with two more succulents. More on that later, though. I have fifty pounds of clay to sieve, rinse, and dry out before I can repot those up for glamour shots.