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Which soil is best for my plants?

Which potting media is best for my plants?

People often ask us about the most important things when it comes to looking after house plants. The answer is simple – right soil, light and watering. This is all you need to have happy, healthy plants.

Here we are going to talk about the first factor – SOIL.

There is a lot of advice on the internet about different kinds of soil. Even though there isn’t one, ideal solution, from our experience there is a soil mix that makes most of our plants happy.

We tried all sorts of garden centres, miracle grow mixes. But we find, that they are prone to causing root rot during the winter and cause a lot of bug infestations.

Our ‘almost perfect’ medium mix consists of compost/coco coir, tree bark and perlite in a ratio of 60:20:20 – We also add a touch of activated charcoal which is all discussed in detail below:

Our ‘almost perfect’ medium mix consists of coco coir, tree bark, perlite, worm castings and activated charcoal

Coco Coir

The main component of our soil mix is a coco coir which is a natural fibre made from the husks of coconuts. This is a sustainable source, as opposed to alternatives such as peat moss, and is actually used for many things other than just substrate for potting mix, such as floor mats, door mats, brushes etc. It is great for moisture retention, plant and root support, and also for providing aeration.

Tree bark 

Mixture of larger and smaller pieces or bark. We usually use orchid bark from Westland, but you can use any bark mix from your local garden centre. Bark is a lovely, organic ingredient that regulates water intake in your plants. Bark pieces retain moisture and prevent the roots sitting in water, thereby avoiding one of the most common cause of house plant death – root rot.

Perlite 

Organic volcanic glass which has been heated to 870 degrees Celsius popping it like popcorn and creating an extremely light and porous material. This loosens the soil to promote root development, provides additional ventilation and improves drainage.

Activated Charcoal

To help keep impurities, insects and other nasty things from building up around the roots in the pot , we include a little activated charcoal to our mix made from coconut shells – again another sustainable source. Activated charcoal soaks up toxins which is great for keeping everything healthy around the roots.

‘But surely different plants will have different requirements?’ you may be thinking. Of course they do – For example cacti and succulents need very little water and shouldn’t hold onto any additional moisture while tropical aroids or calathea family love moist soil.

You can of course adjust the above mix adding more perlite for extra drainage or more compost for moisture retention. This comes with experience.

Based on our experience the above mixture will almost certainly give a very good foundation to make most of your plants happy. There will always be some exceptions though so Please feel free to contact us if you would like to find more info about a specific plant.

Here you can see our rare tropical Philodendron Verrucosum, Gloriosum and Melanochrysum growing in the same soil – Verrucosum has popped 3 new leaves within 3 lower light winter months!

Other factors to consider when choosing soil: 

Lighting & temperature 

The more light and higher the temperature, the more moisture your plants will lose. Make sure you consider this before mixing your soil. Plants placed on warm and sunny window sills will dry out much faster than those living in a low light area.

The pot you are planning to use 

We use terracotta pots for 99% of our plants. There are different opinions all over the internet whether terracotta pots are good or not, but living in a medium humid climate (UK) we find that terracotta has prevented most of our plants from getting root rot, especially during the dark and colder winter months. These pots ave very porous therefore lose moisture not only through the top of the pot, but also through it’s structure. Plastic nursery pots will retain much more moisture therefore may require higher quantities of perlite/bark. Also the size of the pot matters – larger pots contain more soil therefore retain much more moisture than little ones. I will write another post about the pots, but for now please ensure that you consider this when choosing the right soil for your plant.  

Climate you live in 

Soil requirements will be very different for medium humidity areas like the UK as opposed to dryer areas such as parts of California. All the above advice is based on our UK climate.

All the above is based on our own experience and all the advice is our opinion. Please let us know in the comments below if you have had different experience.

2 thoughts on “Which soil is best for my plants?

  1. Hi, can I use bokashi with the soil mix you wrote about?

    1. Hi Corinne, we haven’t used it ourselves, so wouldn’t be able to recommend this.

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