Good potting mixes are usually composed of lighter and fluffier ingredients than topsoil, which is why they work especially well for indoor plants growing in containers.
The high-quality soil not only provides support for plant roots, but it is where all the primary elements the plants need to grow healthy are stored.
Your soil functions as a storehouse of nutrients, air, water, and organic matter. And when properly prepared, it provides an ideal environment for your plants whether you want them to grow indoors or outdoors.
In this article, we’ll explain the most important thing to understand about potting soil and how to mix ideal organic potting soil whether you’re starting seeds, rooting cuttings, or potting up houseplants.
Best Potting Soil Recipes To Boost Your Garden
Organic potting soils, including DIY potting mixes, have a few things in common. Apart from being lighter and fluffier, they can be easily managed, have better aeration, and they easily drain excess water.
1) Seed-Starting Potting Mix
Although you can use regular potting soil to start seeds, there is a difference between potting soil and seed-starting mix.
Seed starting mixes are often soilless and come with a finer texture. This mixture uses ingredients such as milled peat moss, perlite, coconut coir fiber, and vermiculite.
If you’re a DIY enthusiast, making your seed-starting mix will save you money. You can do it by mixing the following organic ingredients.
⅓ Part of sphagnum peat moss or coir fiber
⅓ Part finely screened compost
⅓ Part vermiculite
1-2 Cups worm compost
5-Gallon bucket of soil mix
- Mix sphagnum peat moss or a coconut coir fiber with compost and vermiculite.
- Add 1-2 cups of worm compost to a 5-gallon bucket of your soil mix.
- You can add up to 50% compost to extend your potting media.
- Use the potting mixture to start seeds indoors.
2) Potting Soil for Succulents and Cactus
Cactus and succulents can make a great addition to your home. They come in unique varieties, and even beginners can grow them easily whether you want them on your windowsill or styled on a shelf.
However, like other plants, succulents and cactus need soil that drains well to thrive. A regular potting mix or the dirt from a field won’t do.
You can use a few unique ingredients to make cactus soil, and these ingredients all have different characteristics to help the succulent’s fragile roots establish.
Making your succulents and the cactus potting recipe is a lot cheaper than the regular commercial cacti mix sold in garden stores and the procedures are actually so easy. All you have to do is decide how grainy you want it to be.
2 Parts sand
2 Parts gardening soil
1 Part perlite or pumice
- Put on your gloves and start the recipe.
- Lightly moisten the garden soil to prevent dust from spilling all over the potting stand.
- Put in the sand and mix thoroughly.
- Add the pumice or perlite and stir until all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
- And voila! You can now use your recipe when potting succulents and cactus.
- You can use the mixture either for potting and repotting succulents you love.
- You can also store the freshly mixed potting soil.
These three ingredients can make the best potting mix ratio for your succulents and cactus when mixed thoroughly.
The perlite or pumice enhances aeration and increases water retention to sandy soil, while the sand prevents the mix from getting compacted. It also enhances draining.
The garden soil, on the other hand, provides nutrients to the growing cactus and succulents.
3) Potting Soil for Trees and Shrubs
The lack of space for traditional planting makes growing trees and shrubs in containers more popular.
Another reason is the flexibility of new varieties. Container grown trees are famous for framing entryways, adding aesthetics to small spaces.
You can make your tiny patios and decks appealing by creatively arranging container-grown trees like citrus along with other flowering shrubs, apart from enjoying high-quality yields.
When growing shrubs and trees in containers indoors, one of the essential factors you have to consider is to provide the correct potting medium. This is an essential contributing factor for successful container gardening.
Remember that taking soil directly from the field is not recommended. It may be contaminated, causing future problems such as deformation, stunted growth, and the plant’s untimely death.
The weeds that thrive is another reason why it is essential to use sterilized potting soil. Weeds will try to crowd seedlings and compete for the plant’s primary needs such as nutrients, water, air, and sunlight.
1-Gallon of garden loam soil
1-Gallon of coarse construction sand, perlite, or vermiculite
1-Gallon of sphagnum peat moss
- Start by pouring garden soil into a clean empty bucket. A sterilized loam soil works the best and is worth the cost to avoid potential disease, insects, and weed problems that you commonly have to resolve with unsterilized garden soil.
- Add the other ingredients of 1-gallon of moist, coarse sphagnum peat moss and slightly mix, and a gallon of coarse sand, perlite, or vermiculite.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly until the texture of the growing medium is significantly loose.
- If the mixture is too sandy, add more peat, and if it’s too sticky, add more of either sand, perlite, or vermiculite.
- Try to adjust the mixture by adding small portions of ingredients until you are satisfied with the texture you want to achieve.
4) Potting Media for Orchids
An ideal growing medium for orchids should be well aerated and drain well. But every orchid varies in requirements when it comes to potting media.
The orchid comes in two types – the terrestrial and the epiphytic, also known as the tree-dwelling orchid.
However, the common ingredients for orchid potting media include:
- Fir bark
- Lava rock
- Coconut husk
- Sphagnum moss
- Dried fern roots
- Cork nuggets
- A combination of 2-3 of these materials
- Terrestrial orchids such as paphiopedilums and cymbidiums can grow in the soil. Others do best in growing media using the ingredients above.
- Epiphytic orchids can be wired onto slabs of a tree as they prefer to grow in the air rather than soil.
- You can pot orchids either in plastic, clay, or decorative pots using the ingredients above. But the type of pots you’ll use may influence the plant’s watering frequency.
- The growing media at the center of larger containers may remain wet for a more extended period leading to an unhealthy environment for the roots.
5) Potting Mixes for Houseplants
Most houseplants love nutrient-rich, loose, and well-draining growing media. The potting soil should allow roots to run deep and establish themselves. However, make sure the soil is not so open as to prevent the roots from anchoring in the pot.
Ideal potting mix for houseplants should be light and fluffy. You can use soilless ingredients that provide adequate aeration, structure, and the capacity to hold moisture your plant requires. Adding some other amendments like those found in mulch or compost to make it a complete mix is also beneficial.
Here are the commonly used materials you can add to make an ideal potting mix for your houseplants. These include:
- Homemade compost
- Organic fertilizers
- Aged manure
- Sphagnum moss
- Gravel or grit
- Worm casting
- Kelp meal
- Fish emulsion
- Calcined clay
- Bark/wood chips
- And many others
Knowing the basics, most plant growers come up with recipes suitable for the needs of plants they want to grow.
You too can experiment and see for yourself what is the best potting mix based on the plants you are growing.
This idea is not only easy and fun, but it also allows you to provide the best elements for your houseplants while considering other elements like sunlight, air, and the climate you have.
However, here is an example of a good mixture you might want to consider. This recipe is suitable for almost all types of mature houseplants.
2 tbsp Organic Fertilizer
3 tbsp Limestone (optional)
2-Gallons Coir Fiber or Peat moss
2 Cups Sand
- Pre-moisten the peat moss lightly before you begin working with the potting mixture.
- Adding limestone to your mix is optional. But this is beneficial when you are using peat moss as one of your mix’s primary materials.
- Peat moss can turn the soil acidic so including limestone in the potting mixture neutralizes the soil acidity.
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. You should get a loose and fluffy soil texture to support the plants.
6) Vegetables and Herbs Potting Recipe
Never use regular garden soil for your vegetables. Apart from not having the nutrients your plants need, it carries weed seeds or potential disease-carrying larvae that may contaminate your growing plants.
Like others, vegetables, herbs, and flowering plants prefer potting soil that provides their primary needs. And in return, they’ll produce tons of delicious food for you. Here’s a recipe you can mix at home.
1 Part Pre-Soaked Coir Peat
2 Parts Sieved Compost or Well-Rotted Manure
1 Part Vermiculite or Perlite or Coarse Sand
1 Cup Worm Castings or Vermicast
- Pre-soak coir in a bucket of warm water to speed up hydration. It requires 4.5L of water for a 9L block of coir to work correctly.
- When fully hydrated, loosen and fluff the coir using an old towel.
- In a large separate container, mix pre-soaked coir peat and vermiculite or sand thoroughly in equal parts.
- Gradually add sieved compost or aged manure and worm castings, and make sure to combine all ingredients properly. Make sure to use aged manure free from pathogens.
- Your potting mix is now ready to use. You can also store freshly mixed potting soil in a container with a lid. This prevents the growing medium from drying out if you won’t be using it immediately.
7) All-Purpose Potting Soil
Commercial potting mixes in the market today are not equal. Some brands are good quality but too expensive, while others are cheap and low quality. Creating your potent homemade recipe using organic ingredients will surely give your garden a boost without spending much.
A high-quality potting soil for containers and baskets should be lightweight, but the medium should be able to retain moisture and be loose enough to drain away excess water. Besides, it is rich-nutrients that slowly release and feed potted plants such as vegetables and many others for the long haul.
Here is the perfect potting recipe you can use to boost all types of plants. The mixture comes with basic and 100% all-organic ingredients.
6 Cups compost
6 Cups sieved top-soil
2 Cups worm casting
2 Cups perlite or vermiculite
2 Cups spent coffee grounds
- Put on a safety mask and protective gloves before starting to work with the potting mix ingredients.
- Add all-organic ingredients to the bucket.
- Mix thoroughly.
- You can scale up or down the recipe to make enough for your garden needs as long as the ratios stay the same.
Making organic potting soil for your specific garden will not only save you money, but better yet, it is fun and effortless too. Using a few essential ingredients and the ratios above to follow, you can create an ideal growing medium for every plant’s needs.
Apart from the potting recipe, another thing to keep in mind is quality potting soil should help maintain soil pH and ideal moisture levels.
And if you have no idea about the pH level of your potting mix, learn how to DIY soil test at home. This soil test process is easy and fun.
Also, when repotting a houseplant that is not thriving, make sure to choose pots with drain holes. As you place the plants in a new container, add enough potting mix to support the plants. However, avoid packing the soil tightly so the roots can breathe.
Have you tried creating your homemade organic potting soil? Don’t shy away to make yours. It’s the perfect recipe for a successful garden!