What type of soil is best for my plant?

by Sarah Gardiner

Sarah is a horticulturist with a passion for edibles and cottage gardens.

While my indoor jungle may be ever-expanding, how many of these plants that surround me are actually thriving? My algorithm is constantly flooded with the impressive collections of @craigmilran and @jamies_jungle; their plants are killing it in pots, yet mine are not. I find myself forever struggling to turn off the familiar haunting of Costa’s voice in my head, “all the answers lay in your potting mix…” he chants. I snap back to reality, with the sound of the depressed Fiddle Leaf Fig next to me dropping yet another leaf. 

The search for the perfect growing medium is real, and it’s incredibly important in order to achieve maximum results. How far must I go to find this answer? Is there a quick fix? 

Whilst a bag of premium potting mix might be a suitable medium to grow our outdoor pot plants, indoor plants are a different story. It’s vital to amend your potting mix to suit these different growing conditions and plant requirements.

Do I need a layer of pebbles? Do I need a humidity gauge? A thermometer? A fan? 69 different potting mediums? A whole new collection of plants, perhaps? Risk factors such as overwatering, limited light and decreased airflow can easily get us down and make our entire collection appear half dead. Let’s face it - they are half dead. But these factors can also be counteracted by simply increasing the drainage in the soil around your plant’s root system. Or, on the other hand, certain groups of plants might prefer a richer mix that retains more moisture. There’s a lot to take in… how could I possibly keep up with all of this?

It’s as easy as finding the right balance and determining what works for different plants. By simply pimping a bag of premium potting mix, you can achieve more success in the long run, along with knowledge and familiarity of creating your own specialty mixes. You can create mixes that are more aerated and free-draining, or mixes that hold more moisture and might require less frequent watering.

Let’s talk about perlite. Our favourite little, white balls. This magical ingredient is what some expert greenthumbs might argue to be the most important soil additive when growing indoor plants. By adding perlite to your potting mix, you are instantly increasing drainage and aeration around the plant root system. Fascinating! An aerated mix will make over-watering less prevalent, ensuring water drains freely from your pots. Perlite can also be beneficial in preventing fungus gnats that tend to proliferate in moist, compacted soil. And if you weren’t already confused… although perlite contributes to drainage, this sorcerous volcanic rock is also super porous, giving it the ability to store fertiliser and H2O to give back to your plant, right when it needs it the most.

Making your own potting mix is a cheap and easy way to take your indoor growing to the next level. It’s simple and far less intimidating than a short, pissed off Karen waiting to speak to the manager. These can all be hand mixed in advance and stored in a dry, dark spot until you need to repot your plants.

Happy Potting!