If you are a plant freak person, if you love indoor gardening, then you will definitely need good potting soil to support your indoor plants. Potting soil plays the most important role in container gardening. Whether it is indoor or outdoor.
The problem with the readymade potting mixes available either online or offline (any nursery or a garden store) is that the makers do not know which plants you want to grow using their potting soil. The potting soil they provide are might not suitable for the plants you want to grow. But the option of customization is there if you are making your own potting soil.
What is potting soil?
Potting soil and potting mix are the two terms often used interchangeably, but they are not really equal. Let’s discuss each of them.
Potting soil just contains pure soil, or in some cases soil mixed with fertilizers. It is not ideal for indoor plants to grow well.
Potting mix is a customized mixture of different ingredients that are suitable for plant growth. Different ingredients having different properties are mixed at a definite proportion to provide an ideal growing condition to the plant.
Potting mix is ideal for the indoor plants to grow well inside a container. Here is the list of ingredients that make an ideal potting mix.
1. Sphagnum peat moss
The sphagnum peat moss takes a long time to disintegrate and breakdown. It is fairly a stable material, and not very costly. The peat moss can hold a good amount of water within itself and therefore having a good water holding capacity. It also drains the excess water quickly, providing proper aeration to the roots.
The only problem with peat moss is that it is acidic in nature. It rapidly decreases the pH of the soil. Therefore, it is necessary to mix some limestone if you are adding peat moss.
Peat moss doesn’t provide any nutrients to the plant.
Coco peat or coir dust is also an important ingredient for your potting mix. It can be used instead of sphagnum peat moss, as it has a high moisture retention capacity. Coco peat adds bulk to the potting mix, without hampering the pH of the medium. It is neutral in nature. It also adds some amount of nutrients to the plants.
Coco peat also helps to drain the excess water out of the container, making the aeration easier beneath the soil.
Coco peat is available in the market as coco peat bricks and you have to mix them in water and make a fluffy solution before mixing in the potting soil.
You will love to read our article about how to make coco peat at home.
Perlite is a naturally occurring mineral generated from volcanic rock. It looks like the Styrofoam balls, and it is an essential ingredient for the potting mix due to some peculiar properties it possesses.
Perlite is incredibly porous and contains small pockets of spaces inside it for air to hold in. Therefore, it increases the porosity of the soil and improves drainage.
It is neutral in nature and devoid of any harmful chemical for the plants and soil. It is made from naturally occurring material in the soil.
Majorly perlite is used in the potting mix to make it more porous, to improve the drainage property of the potting mix, and to increase the ventilation near the root zone.
Pumice is a very light and porous volcanic rock available naturally. It has the same properties as that of perlite. So it can be also used instead of perlite in your potting mix, to increase the drainage.
Sand has excellent drainage property and it also adds bulk to the potting mix. If you are choosing such a plant that always prefers dry soil, as the succulents do, then you must add sand to your potting soil in large amounts.
Fertilizer is essential for your potting mix because it provides essential nutrients to the plants. The best fertilizers to use are natural fertilizers. You can use the worm castings, the fertilizers available from the animal sources like blood meal, bone meal, etc. Always try to go for organic natural fertilizers if available. If not, then you can also use the all-purpose general fertilizers available in the market.
Compost is rich in organic matter content as well as can provide sufficient nutrients to the plants sitting inside a container. It is rich in millions and millions of micronutrients making the microclimate of the soil more suitable for plant growth.
So compost is a worthy addition to your potting mix.
Vermiculite is a mineral that makes the soil lighter and fluffy. It also supplies some amount of calcium and magnesium to the soil. It increases the aeration property of the soil.
Here is the process to make potting soil for indoor plants
How to make potting soil for indoor plants
List of ingredient along with the quantity of each
- 3 gallons of coco peat or peat moss whichever is available. (Used to hold enough moisture inside the potting mix). If you are using peat moss, then you have to add lime @ 1 tablespoon of garden lime per gallon of peat moss to neutralize the potting mix.
- 2 gallons of perlite or pumice. (To increase aeration beneath the soil)
- 3 gallons of compost. (It will provide necessary nutrients to the soil)
These are the main ingredients for a basic potting mix. You can also add a few organic fertilizers or worm casting if available.
If you are planning to grow succulents, then you have to add ½ gallons of sand also to the above mix.
Procedure to make potting soil for indoor plants.
Here we are using coco peat for making the potting mix. Peat moss can be also used instead of it, along with the proper amount of lime.
Here is the complete making process
- Rehydrate the coco peat brick.
- Get equipped with a mask, hand gloves, and glasses to protect your nose, hands, and eyes respectively.
- Take 3 gallons of coco peat inside a container.
- Add 2 gallons of perlite to it.
- Further, add 3 gallons of compost, 1 tablespoon of rock phosphate, 1 tablespoon of bone meal, 1 tablespoon of groundnut cake and some all-purpose general fertilizer (according to the recommendation by the manufacturer)
- Mix them well. Ensure that all the ingredients are mixed uniformly.
- Your potting mix is ready to serve you.
You can also customize the mix according to your choice. You can increase or decrease the quantity of any ingredient you want, according to your plant type and requirement.
- Like if are growing succulents, then make sure to add half a gallon of sand to the above mixture.
- If you want your mix to drain more quickly, then add more perlite or pumice.
- If you want your mix to hold water for a longer period of time, then increase the amount of coco peat.
How to store the extra potting mix.
After making the potting mix you can use them in your pots either for new plants or you can use them by repotting the old ones. You should carefully store the extra mix that remained after all your work has been done. Keep the extra potting mix inside an airtight container, so that the mix could remain in good condition for a fairly long period of time.
Characteristics of an ideal potting mix
- It should have good drainage property.
- The mixture should be fluffy, porous, and lightweight.
- It should not compact quickly.
- It can provide a significant amount of plant nutrients.
- The potting mix should hold enough water so that it can supply water to the plants for a longer period of time.
Some misconceptions about a good potting mix
Here are some misconceptions that people think if they have prepared a good potting mix they do not have to
Apply water to their plants-
A good potting mix can retain water for a longer period of time, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to add water to your plants if you have used a good potting mix.
Your irrigation interval might increase but you have to apply water regularly.
Apply fertilizers to the plants-
A good potting mix can provide a good amount of nutrients to the plants, but after some time there are no nutrients available for the plants. You have to manually add fertilizer to the plants.
Change the potting mix
Some people think that if they have used a good potting soil, they do not have to change the same for life long. It is wrong. You have to repot the plants once in a year with fresh potting soil.
Making a customized homemade potting mix is an easy and cheaper method than buying readymade potting soil. The above said potting mix is suitable for almost all types of plants. You can also make changes according to your needs, your plant’s needs. It will surely help your plans to grow at a faster rate.
Along with a good potting mix you have to take care of other factors necessary for plant growth, like light, temperature, humidity, etc.