Posted: September 8, 2021
The trick to a healthy, happy, and long-living plant is all in the soil. Of course, we have to take into account lighting, the *perfect* pot, and watering (stop over-watering!! Okay, we’ll talk about that one later.) Everything in your soil mixture should hold the nutrients to make your plant thrive, it should hug it like the weird slanket your grandma got you for your birthday, and it should also have aeration to give the roots room for growth.
I don’t consider myself so conceited that I think I have the end-all-be-all, perfect answer to soil, because to be honest- that’s impossible. All plants are different, and therefore they require a different mixture. All gardeners are different and swear by their different mixtures, and I would love to hear about yours! This is my recipe for soil that does the trick for my ridiculous amount of house plants. Alocasias, Pothos, Calatheas, and especially Monsteras love this mix.
My Recipe for Soil
The nutrients found in potting soil that are essential for health are phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Most of your everyday potting soil will have levels of these minerals. Make sure that the potting soil you purchase is just that- for pots. Indoor plants require the nutrients and minerals that would be found in the ground soil. Most of us in Florida are well aware that our “soil” is just sand, and that it is not ideal for planting most of these botanical babes in-ground. So to keep it simple- make sure you’re buying soil particularly manufactured for pots and not in-ground gardening, the bag should have the mineral levels listed, but you don’t have to sweat yourself into panic, because that initial soil is just the first step to the perfect concoction of sweet dirt bliss. I usually grab a bag of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.
My next ingredient for success is an orchid bark mixture. Most of your bagged soil mixtures will already have some bark in them, but I always have a bag of bark on hand to mix in with my soil. The key to adding bark is for aeration in your mixture. It breaks up your dense soil, allows healthy root growth, and oxygen flow. Your roots can be a little claustrophobic, so give them some room!
Another great addition that I have been using recently is a little scoop of LECA. You know, those cute little clay balls you see filling up glass vases to showcase some sexy roots? (That is a totally new topic, and it is not as easy as it looks!) Thoroughly wash the LECA and throw some into your soil mixture for extra aeration. I mainly use these little cuties for proper drainage, which even in a pot with drainage holes is VERY important. Again, I’m going to stop while I’m ahead on all my, “I loved my plant to death” people. I still love you, and LECA will certainly help with that!
The final ingredient to my soil mixture is the one, the only- Perlite. Now y’all… don’t come at me with the Perlite and Vermiculite fight. I ain’t havin’ it! I love them both and we will be getting into the difference between the two. BUT! For my soil, I use Perlite.
A Bit More Information on Perlite
Perlite is the little white styrofoam rock-looking guys that are usually already lightly mixed into most everyday potting soil. Perlite is another great addition for proper drainage, and will help with the threat of root rot. The porous quality of Perlite helps with allowing your soil to dry a bit before the next watering. If you are on a weekly watering schedule, like I am, this is your buddy, this is your friend. Succulents love love love Perlite, because it helps with aeration and oxygen flow to the roots, as well as allowing the soil to dry quicker than using Vermiculite. I use Perlite in my mixture for a lot of my plants that are in pots without drainage holes, as well as having a healthy amount of rocks/pebbles at the bottom of the pot for proper water drainage.
Some Quick Notes on Vermiculite
Using Vermiculite is perfect for my tropical plants that love moisture, because it retains the water. It will keep the soil damp. In essence, it does the opposite of Perlite. My love/hate relationship with Vermiculite is that I operate on a once a week watering of all of my plants, and I mist them once or twice a week as well. When using Vermiculite there is a higher chance of root rot, and as every botanical enthusiast knows, that is the worst!
My Secret Tip with Soil
I do have one more trick for my soil mixture. As plant enthusiasts we all know the dreaded day when we find little bugs hanging around the soil or leaves of our green babies. I was given bags on bags of cedar chips, my boyfriend is a woodworker and kept the shavings for me. Bugs HATE cedar, it’s a natural bug repellent, and when it breaks down in your soil it is a perfect natural fertilizer that gives your soil a little extra nutrients. I recently started adding it in my mix, and I’ve been a very happy camper with no bugs to bitch about.
So there you have it! My not-so-secret recipe for potting soil! I would love to hear any opinions, thoughts, feelings, concerns, praise (please give me praise), and tips of your own! Gardeners should know and remember one thing, and one thing only- we are not so different from our plants, as we are always growing. We are always learning, and we are all different. What works for some, may not work for others, and we certainly do not know it all.
Also, don’t get on me about peat moss.