Stephania Soil Mix - The Mix That Works for Me
Updated: Jan 18
My love for caudex starts with Stephania family (Erecta, Suberosa, Nova, Venosa) and it has recently taken the plant world by storm with its bulbous form and it’s cute, spindly, unusual leaves & 'cauliflower' flower. ☘️ Most often, these caudexes are sold from countries like Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia and each country has their own soil mix recipe that works for them.
Before getting yourself confused with the many recipes for soil mixes and before you end up buying all the ingredients (that we usually end up using for 1 soil mix only!), it's always good to know the type of condition & the natural habitat of Stephania family.
Stephania, native to South-east Asia & Australasia region (Indochinese countries esp), typically grows above ground among evergreen scrubs and bamboo forests in rocky limestone mountains. Due to the rocky medium and that unable to retain water, caudiciform or fat, swollen stem generally can go for a long period of time without water as its woody bulb usually serves as a storage point for water.
Hence, a gritty aerated soil mix with enough nutrients is preferred to make sure of a healthy bulb. Since fertiliser is not necessarily good for Stephanias as it might burn the inside layer (which in some of my cases, causes stunted/weird growth or stems without any leaves), I’ll add in some worm castings in my soil mix. Alternatively, organic potting soil instead of coco coir is good as well. Make sure your humidity game is good too!
MY STEPHANIA SOIL MIX
1 part coco coir (moisture retention)
1 part pumice (absorptions, reduces water runoffs & aeration)
1 part perlite (aeration)
1/2 part charcoal (fungus & rot guard)
1/2 part cactus soil (habitat medium)
1/2 part worm casting/ vermicompost (organic fertiliser)
1 cm layer of peat moss for rooting
With a bare bulb,
I’ll start with a layer of moist peat moss at the bottom of the pot which I find helps with the rooting process, and top it off with the rest of the soil mix. Bury about 60% of the bulb in the soil by simply wiggling the bulb into it. Tip: for easy bury, make sure not to water the soil yet. Also refer to “How to Determine the Top of Stephania Bulb” to find out which part to bury in. Next, water the soil until water drips out fully. To increase growth, the bulb will need extra humidity without wetting the soil too much. For this I’ll use a ziplock bag to cover the whole pot. A cloche would do the trick as well, plus it’ll look way nicer!
Lighting is the next important thing to encourage sprouting. I’ll place it next to a sunny window, where it’ll get roughly 4 hours of good sunlight. In a couple of days, the bag will fog up and you know your Stephania is in good hands here. Once it started to vine, best to keep the bulb slightly shaded than the vine.
With a sprouted bulb,
Skip the peat moss layer and the ziplock bag/ cloche altogether and just fit it in the rest of the soil mix - 40 - 50% deep.
Good rule of thumb - lesser light gives you a leggier stem, more light gives you bushier leaves. Depends on your aesthetics. 😊 Check out these beautiful growth for inspiration! Best of luck!