Potting mix used for houseplants, is not made out of actual dirt.
Potting mix has been designed with particular ingredients to optimise the growth of your plant. The most common potting mix for houseplant owners is a multi-purpose compost or multi-purpose potting mix. There are some variations available depending on the specific plant, environment and watering habits.
What’s in my potting mix?
While the ingredients will vary, there are some common similarities found in potting mixes. The base can be formed with loam, coconut coir or peat moss with added ingredients such as perlite, composted bark, vermiculite and sand.
Most houseplant owners opt for the environmentally friendly choice, which is a potting mix that is ‘peat free’ or organic. Peat free compost is said to be cheaper and more sustainable for your houseplants in the long run.
Peat or coconut coir is usually used as a water retention base. These materials can hold up almost 10 times their size in water. Whereas ingredients like perlite, bark and sand are used for drainage.
If you’re making your own potting soil, avoid too many drainage ingredients. Your plant will not have time to soak up the water before it drips out the drainage holes.
Types of soil for different plants:
There are a couple of variations depending on which houseplant you own. Some plants enjoy consistent, moist soil like the Dumb Cane or Parlour Palm. Others like the soil to completely dry out before their next watering just like cacti or Snake plants. It’s all about having a good balance.
If you’re a heavy waterer you may wish to look for a potting mix that has drainage ingredients like perlite or bark to prevent some overwatering.
Most houseplants will be happy with a multi-purpose potting soil. Look for a mix that has the words ‘potting mix’ or ‘potting compost’ which is specifically designed for indoor plants and container plants. A lot of people prefer a peat free or organic potting soil.
The roots of an orchid are different to the usual houseplant. There is a potting mix specifically for orchids. This potting mix contains materials that are perfect for drainage such as bark.
Cacti and succulents
Just like orchids, there is a potting mix available specifically for Cacti and Succulents. The mix has a high content of sand or perlite which helps with drainage. Cacti and succulents like their soil to dry out completely and will only need watering once a month or so.
Oh 'For mud sake!' - Mould on topsoil
If you notice mould on the topsoil of your plants, don’t panic! Mould is very common. In most cases it is completely harmless and will not affect the health of your plant.
The reason fungus or mould occurs is when the topsoil is overly damp for a long period of time. This is usually a sign of overwatering. Simply scrape the layer of mould off with a teaspoon (wearing gloves) and sprinkle some cinnamon to stop the mould from reappearing.
Mushrooms are also very common. Just like mould, mushrooms are harmless to the plant. Mushrooms are usually the cause of overwatering or improper drainage. It could mean the potting mix is lacking in drainage materials such as perlite or bark.
Warm temperatures and moist soil create the perfect environment for mushrooms to grow. You can remove the mushroom by removing the first two inches of the topsoil (wearing gloves). To prevent them from reappearing, add some cinnamon.
Cheer up buttercup, soil can make you happy!
Believe it or not, scientists have found a bacteria in soil that works similarly to an antidepressant. ‘Mycobacterium vaccae’ found in the soil can release serotonin in your brain. Making you happier and more relaxed. As if we didn’t need another reason to love our houseplants.
The more you know about soil, the happier your houseplants will be. Knowing which type of soil your plant prefers such as dry or moist will help them in the long run.
To keep things simple, be sure to use a potting mix and repot every year or so. Don’t forget to use fertiliser in the Summer months for extra nutrition.