The soil your plants are in will make or break your plant care journey. Trust me, I've learnt this lesson the hard way... multiple times... but we are all beginners at some point in time right and it's the only way we learn!
It is SO important to do your research about each plant you bring into your home. Look at things like what country do they originate from, where do they grow in their habitat etc. This will give you a general idea of what conditions they need to thrive in your home and it will also give you an idea of what type of soil or substrate they might prefer to grow in.
A plants root structure can be so useful in giving you an idea of what soil mix they might prefer. Plants with a really delicate and fine root system, like chain of hearts and string of pearls, often prefer a soil mix with finer particles so their roots come into good contact with their substrate. Plants with a chunkier root system, like pothos and anthuriums give an indication that they might prefer a chunkier soil mix with a lot more aeration and drainage.
So how do we get the best soil mix for our plants? I highly recommend mixing your own or buying a custom mixed blend suitable for the plant you want to pot up.
The store bought, ready made potting mixes are a fantastic base for houseplants but I wouldn't recommend using it straight from the bag. They often lack the right amount of drainage and aeration properties that most houseplants need to thrive. They are often quite dense and retain far to much moisture, so if you are an over-waterer this can be a real issue.
Pic Left: The potting mix I use as my base, organic and contains slow release Fert.
There are SO many soil amendments you can incorporate with your regular potting mix to
add specific benefits. Below is a list of some of the more common and popular amendments
Kiwi-char / activated charcoal
Worm castings / slow release fertiliser
Peat moss / cococoir
Each amendment has a specific benefit and you can really customise a mix to suit you, your plants, your environment and your watering habits.
Things like perlite, pumice, bark, fern fibre and leca add beneficial drainage and aeration to a mix.
Coco-chip, peat moss and vermiculite retain moisture to sustain a robust root system.
Worm castings act as a natural, slow release fertiliser, feeding your plants over a period of time.
Lime chip neutralises acidic soil and adds chunk for drainage.
Kiwichar/activated charcoal keeps the soil "sweet" and healthy. Kiwichar also promotes deeper root growth in your plants.
Some amendments have similar benefits, therefore you don't need to add them all to a soil mix. You can select one or two that is available to you and use that. There is really no right or wrong combination!
The next question I get asked A-LOT is ratios! How much of what should you use.
This is why I have taken the guess work out of it for you and put together an amendment bundle on my website. After experimenting with different ratios and combinations over my years caring for plants I have found and created an ideal mix that suits most, if not all houseplants.
The bundle contains 1kg of worm castings, 2L of fernfiber, 2L of grade #2 bark, 2L coco-chip and 2L of perlite.
With this, you simply add a 15L bag of potting mix of your choice and you have a perfectly balanced soil mix for your plants.
But if you prefer to do your own experimenting then my honest advice is just to eyeball it. If you are heavy handed with the water you want to add more drainage amendments so your soil drains freely. If you are a few and far between waterer then you'd want to add more moisture holding amendments into your mix.
So just to recap, figure out where your plant originates from to get an idea of what they might like to grow in. Think about your home environment, is it hot and dry or warm and humid and lastly your watering tendencies. This will help you figure out what soil mix and amendments will be right for you and your plants.
But above all, get ya hands dirty and have fun experimenting creating!
As always, if you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments of this post or you can find me on Instagram @wildvine.theshop. My DMS are always open to planty questions :)