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How to Make the Best Potting Mix for Indoor Plants According to the Nature of Your Plants Themselves

Today, in this article, we are going to talk about the best potting mix for indoor plants.

In this post, you will see a list of one of the best potting mixes for indoor houseplants that you can make according to the nature of your plants themselves.

Potting mix is the most essential aspect of a plant’s growth.

But what actually is the “potting mix?”

Best potting mix for indoor plants
Making the best potting mix for indoor plants – Image by Neslihan Gunaydin.

Best Potting Mix for Indoor Plants – According to the Nature of Your Plants

What is the Potting Mix?

You must be familiar with the term if you’ve been in the gardening industry for some time.

“Potting mix” or Potting mixture is: “A soilless mixture of certain components used for rooting plants. Most of the time, these components are bigger in size and lighter in weight than the normal soil particles.”

The typical components that people use for making potting mixes are Peat (peat moss), compost, pumice, perlite, vermiculite, coco coir, coconut husks, fine barks, etc.

These components can form the best potting mix for indoor plants if they are blended in a correct ratio.

The component ratio of the blend depends upon the nature of the plants themselves.

Why Should We Make One?

Potting mixes are pretty useful for planting indoor houseplants in containers and hanging baskets. That’s because they are well-draining, well-aerated, breathy, sterile, and very light in weight.

After making the best potting mix for indoor plants, you’ll achieve a well-aerated and well-draining blend that would be much better than the regular garden soil.

The potting mixes that I am going to list further in the article are not going to be very different from each other. That’s because the chief components that we are using to make these blends are pretty much the same.

Related Article: Here Are the 4 Best Soil Mixes for Raised Beds.

Let’s start with the basic information about each of the main components that we are going to use in making our mixes.

I am going to divide these components according to their use.

The Basic Components

Components for Water Retention

Two major components lie in this category — Peat moss and coco coir.

The most common and the most basic component used in making premium quality mixes for potting indoor houseplants is peat moss.

Although there is a strikingly parallel component that you can also use. In fact, I would personally recommend using it — the coco peat/coco coir.

Both are brown and fibrous materials with the characteristic feature of retaining a good amount of moisture.

Sphagnum moss is well-draining and slightly acidic in pH. It is usually used in high proportions while making the blends. It has a low amount of available nutrients for the plants. That’s why we also add nutrient-rich compounds to our potting mixes along with these components.

Pro Tip: You can add limestone in peat moss to balance out the acidic pH according to your plant needs.

Inorganic Components for Increasing Drainage

The most common mineral used for increasing soil drainage is perlite.

It is a white crystal compound usually found in the form of small stone-like structures. These crystals are very lightweight and drastically increase soil drainage.

The other components that increase soil drainage are Lecca, pumice, and silica (SO2 – commonly known as sand).

Both pumice and perlite are types of superheated volcanic glass. And are going to be one of the main components that we will use for increasing soil drainage.

This makes sure that the potting mix has an adequate number of pores to provide enough space for air, water, and healthy root growth.

These components prevent waterlogging — the major cause of root rot in plants.

Related Article: What Does Root Rot Look Like? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment.

Organic Components for Making a Nutrient-Rich Mix

For the final part of our ultimate best potting mix for indoor plants, we will add some nutrient-rich compounds.

The leading one among them is the compost. Compost is a nutrient-rich organic material formed by breaking down animal manure, grass, leaves, food scraps, coffee ground, etc.

Composting: “Composting is the breaking down of organic raw material to form a nutrient-rich compound having all the essential organic nutrients.”

Compost is not only rich in microorganisms and helps plant growth but also aids in retaining good moisture for the roots to sip.

Vermiculite and barks are rich in micro and macronutrients respectively. That’s why they are also regarded as nutritious compounds.

Vermiculite, on the one hand, helps to aerate the soil and retains micronutrients that are gradually released for the plants. On the other hand, orchid or pine barks are not only a good source of macronutrients for the plants but also help to make our potting mix well-aerated and well-draining.

Pine barks are most commonly used in making potting mixes, they prevent the mix from slipping or sinking down. And they also mix well with the other components.

Some gardeners also add organic materials like wilted leaves or leaf molds to their potting mixes to make them full of nutrients.

These are the basic components that we are going to use in making our ultimate blend.

But… there is a frequently asked question,

Can I Use Outdoor Garden Soil for Indoor Plants?

Can we use garden soil for indoor plants in the best soil mix for indoor plants
Making the best potting mix for indoor plants – Image by Gabriel Jimenez.

The answer to this question could be a straight NO! But this actually depends upon the quality of the soil that you are using.

Sometimes gardeners add a part of clean and healthy garden soil in their potting mixes to make it more nutritious for the plant. But rooting an indoor houseplant in outdoor soil isn’t going to be a great idea.

Here’s why…

First of all, the outdoor soil is compact and heavy. It adds an extra amount of weight to your containers and diminishes air circulation in the pot.

It also holds an excess amount of water, not letting it drain. This can cause detrimental effects to your plant’s health.

Outdoor soil also contains living creatures that love to eat your plants. Also, soil-borne fungi and bacteria can cause serious diseases to your plants in soggy and wet environments, leading to plant death.

How to Make the Best Potting Mix for Indoor Plants?

Before making the best potting mix for indoor plants, you need to know the type of rooting environment the plant would require according to its nature.

For instance, it is always better to root seedlings and cuttings in a lightweight and uniform potting mix.

On the one hand, a sandy and stony texture is better for cactus and succulents. On the other hand, climbing and vining plants — including shrubs and trees, love to be in a barky mixture.

I am also going to make a premium quality all-purpose potting mix for growing a wide range of annual and perennial plants.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Best Potting Mix for Succulents

As I mentioned earlier, most succulent plants prefer to be in a coarse mix with at least one-third of well-draining components like sand, perlite, and pumice.

That’s because cacti and succulent plants favor slightly dry conditions. They are highly susceptible to overwatering. Therefore, you better use a porous and stony mix to root your succulent plants.

I already mentioned all the valuable components required for making the best potting mix for indoor plants. You just have to mix the components in a perfect ratio.

I am giving you kind of a recipe to make the mix according to your own needs. You’ll get a clearer picture after reading the following steps.

How to Make

We are making the blend in four portions:

  • For the first one, we are adding 2 parts of the all-purpose potting mix. This is a regular potting mix that you use for potting regular indoor plants. If you want the mix to dry quickly you can exchange 1 part of the soil mix with 1 part of river sand.
  • For the second, add in 1 part of well-decomposed organic compost. You can also use old compost, there is no issue with that as well. That’s because most succulents don’t require much amount of nutrients.
  • As we know, almost all succulents love a sort of dry environment. Therefore, we are going to add a portion of well-draining components. Here you have a lot of options. You can add crushed granite, pumice, or perlite. I recommend adding 1 part of decomposed or crushed granite or 1 part of pumice. Adding these helps in proper aeration and drainage.
  • Now, after mixing all of the above components, you’ll achieve a mix that dries up pretty quickly. This is good for most succulents prone to overwatering and root rot. But adding 1 part of coco peat/coco coir will give the whole blend a well-balanced composition.

After mixing all of the above components, you achieve a well-balanced, well-aerated, well-draining, porous, lightweight, and best potting mix for indoor plants (succulents).

You can pot many succulent plants in this mix including Cactus, Crassula, Rosemary, Aloe vera, Snake plant, Jade plant, Ponytail palm, etc.

Best potting mix for Aroids

The other one of the most common indoor plants family is the aroid family Araceae. Plants from this family are widely grown all over the world.

These plants include Alocasias, Anthuriums, Aglaonemas, Monsteras, Philodendrons, Pothos, ZZ plant, etc.

All of these different indoor plant species love to grow in a peat-based potting mixture with a pH of 5 to 6. So, let’s start making the blend.

How to Make

We will make the whole mixture in four equal parts:

  • For the first part, we are using an all-purpose potting mix for indoor houseplants.
  • After that, we are going to add an equal amount of peat moss. Aroids love to grow their roots in peat moss. Sphagnum peat moss will do the best job here. Being slightly acidic in nature, it also helps to maintain the soil’s pH.
  • For the third part, add horticultural perlite or pumice. Make sure you have medium-sized perlite crystals so that they help in proper aeration and drainage.
  • And for the final part, we are going to add barks. You can use orchid barks or pine barks. It is totally up to you. Both will help the plant anchor the roots in a porous mixture. They also provide the plants with many macronutrients.

After mixing up all the above components, you’ll get the best potting mix for indoor plants (Aroids of the Araceae family). Happy potting!

Best Potting Mix for Ferns

If we look at the natural habitat, most ferns have a shallow root system in which the roots are present in a semi-dense and nutritious environment containing decayed plants and leaf litter. The shallow soil will also be well-draining and aerated.

Therefore, we must try to make a potting mix with parallel features.

How to Make

You can follow the following steps to make a general potting mix for ferns.

We are making the blend in four parts:

  • Take one part of the all-purpose potting mix.
  • Mix it with one part compost. You can also use peat moss or coco coir instead of compost. But if you do, make sure to add in some organic stuff such as rotten leaves, worm castings, vermiculite, etc. You can mix both in a one-to-one ratio. But if you are using fresh compost, there is no need to add any other organic stuff.
  • Now, add in half part of inorganic components like perlite or pumice. This will help in proper drainage and proper soil aeration.
  • For the final part, you can add a half part of orchid barks. You can also add in a teaspoon of horticultural charcoal.

With all that mixed, you’ll have the best potting mix for your indoor plants (ferns). Most ferns love the soil with high humus content. That can be completed by adding leaf molds and shredded barks to your potting mixture.

Best Potting Mix for Orchids

Most orchids are epiphytic climbers and love to be rooted in something similar to the trees they climb on.

Therefore, most orchids will do best in a combination of fir barks or commercial orchid barks and New Zealand sphagnum moss.

How to Make

The characteristic features of the mix would depend upon the type of orchids you are growing.

For example, the epiphytic orchids that enjoy a lot of ventilation around their root systems, and are drought-tolerant, do best in very airy mixes such as bark chips or coconut husks.

Note: If you live in dry areas with warm climates, combining sphagnum moss with the barks will do a fantastic job.

On the other hand, if your orchid loves to be in a slightly moist mix, then you can combine your barky mix with sphagnum moss in an equal ratio.

When you know that barks provide a well-aerated and dry environment, and the sphagnum moss provides the plant with a water-retentive environment, you can easily alter the component ratio according to your own needs.

The Best Potting Mix for Indoor Plants

Women mixing the best potting mix for indoor plants
A woman mixing the best potting mix for indoor plants – Image by Gary Barnes

Before making the ultimate potting mix for almost all types of annuals and perennials, certain things should be highlighted.

While making an all-purpose potting mix, you must keep three soil qualities in mind. The soil mixture should have all of these qualities to grow most plants.

  • The mix should be well-draining.
  • It should be able to retain water.
  • And it should have a nutritious value for the plant.

Let’s make the best potting mix for indoor plants.

How to Make

We are going to make the whole blend in three different portions, each encouraging the above qualities in the potting mix.

Fun fact: For that part, you can experiment using a one-to-one ratio mixture of peat moss and coco coir.

  • Now, for the next part, we will add a well-draining component like pumice or perlite. You can add this from 20% to 30% depending upon the plant’s desire for water or depending upon your own watering schedule — if you are a heavy waterer or a light waterer.
  • And for adding the nutrients to the mix, you can either use fresh compost or vermicompost or vermiculite mixed with shredded barks. The choice is quite flexible. This would make the rest 20% to 30% of the mix.

As far as the fertilizer is concerned, you can fertilize your plant every month during growing seasons. It is always best to use liquid fertilizers diluted to half strength.


Conclusion

With all that said, let me conclude this talk by adding a few words.

I hope you liked today’s post and also found it useful and entertaining. If so, please share this info with your friends and family.

Feel free to ask any questions related to the article in the comments.

Also, I would like to highlight that while rooting seedlings, always use a really lightweight soilless mixture. Some plants sprout in sole water. While some in just sphagnum moss.

On that note, see you in the next post.

Regards,

Mahad H.