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Best Soil For Indoor Plants For 2024

Gretchen Rubin
  Feb 28, 2024 2:39 AM

When you're dealing with a finicky fiddle-leaf or an overly sensitive orchid, having a green thumb isn't always simple. In spite of having everything you need, from a reliable trowel to an extra-large mister, it might be tough to determine exactly what your plants want. Because of this, choosing the appropriate potting soil from the beginning can make all the difference in whether or not a plant survives and thrives.

In contrast to fertilizer, which functions more like a vitamin for your plants, potting soil provides nutrients to your plants. It's not always the same as a potting mix, either. According to Seeds and Spades blogger Erinn Witz, potting soil and mixes are "functionally pretty much the same," but potting soil, as the name suggests, contains dirt from the digging process. Despite this, the terms "soil mix" and "soil mix mix" are sometimes used interchangeably or as a brand name for the same thing.


The purpose of potting soil is unclear. According to estate gardener and horticultural Brooke Medlin, the best potting soils contain peat, shredded pine bark, and superheated minerals like perlite or vermiculite to help oxygenate the soil and supply nutrients to plants. As she explains, "Peat and perlite are really made for aeration," thus they can be found in just about every potting mix. There are also "improvement of drainage, encourage moisture retention, resist compaction" in the potting soil's constituents, Witz notes. Soil density increases, making it difficult for plants to take up water.


Succulents, which can be prickly, may need a specialized potting soil mix, but most houseplants can get by with a generic mix. For palms, citrus, and other tropical plants, Medlin suggests using a potting mix that's specifically designed for such plants. With over 40 years of experience in the area, Bloomscape's head horticulture, Joyce Mast, believes pH, porosity, and water-holding capacity are three critical considerations. Because nutrients can be unavailable if the pH is out of acceptable range, "pH, or acidity, is important," she explained to us, while porosity (the space between soil particles) can indicate the roots' ability to access oxygen and a plant's water-holding capacity suggests whether they prefer drier or wetter soil conditions.

This is why we reached out to some experts in gardening and plant care to determine the best soil for each type of indoor plant.

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Do you want peat moss?

When bogs are depleted, they can't replenish themselves quickly enough to keep up with the amount of peat moss being taken out of them. Because of this, several countries, like the United Kingdom, are considering prohibiting the use of peat moss in the production of potting soil.

Coconut coir, a sustainable alternative to peat moss, is becoming more common in potting soil combinations. Shredded coconut husks, otherwise known as "coco coir," are the raw material for coco coir.

Organic or not?

When it comes to soil, there are two categories of organic matter to consider:

Organic in the sense that it is derived from living organisms, such as plants and animals. Because coco coir is made from coconuts, it is an organic material, whereas perlite is made from rocks.


Because it does not include synthetic fertilizers, it is suitable for growing organic veggies.

You're not going to eat your Scindapsus, so the first type of organic is far more vital for house plants. Avoid Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix if synthetic fertilizers are a concern for you, or look for a product that is either labeled as OMRI-certified organic, or doesn't contain synthetic fertilizers in the ingredient list if you want complete control over the fertilizer your indoor plants receive.

What’s in it?

If the ingredients aren't listed on the bag, move on to a another brand. Styrofoam and other materials that aren't good for plants are used in some potting mixes. Before you add your own fertilizer, you'll want to be sure the mix doesn't already include any.


all-purpose potting mix

It's a must-see! In grocery stores, big-box stores, and garden supply shops everywhere, this is what you'll most likely discover. Potting mix is normally light and spongy, neutral in pH, pre-mixed with fertilizer, and occasionally vermiculite, an aeration agent. Despite its ability to absorb a significant amount of water, it will not become cumbersome.

succulent / cactus mix

Water is not an issue for succulents or cacti (cactus are a type of succulent). Succulents thrive in soils that drain well and are enriched with aerating substances like vermiculite, pumice, sand charcoal, and clay because they store water in their leaves and stems. Succulents and cacti are often referred to as "Succulent & Cactus Mix," yet there are some important characteristics between the two that indicate that they require different soils.

seed starting mix

Comparing seed starting mixes to all-purpose potting soil, they are fine-grained, light and airy. No fertilizers or organic materials should be added to the seed starting mix, as the seed's shell contains all of its nutrients for the first several weeks! Peat moss, coconut coir, and vermiculite are all common constituents in seed starting mixes.

specialized mixes

In addition to the previously listed varieties of potting soil, you'll find specific mixes for a wide variety of plants and purposes. During the vegetative and flowering phases, plants require a varied mix of nutrients, which is why potting mixes often include nutrients specifically for these times. If you're growing African violets or other plants that require specialized soil with specific pH and aeration requirements, don't use a general soil mix; do your study first.


In order for plants to get the energy they require from the sun, they need to be fed on a regular basis. Plants in the wild get their nutrients from the organic matter that is continually being recycled by organisms and their waste products. Even the most nutrient-dense potting soil must be supplemented with fertilizer if you want to give your green companion everything he or she needs to thrive in a container.

Even if you don't feed your plants, they will likely live, but they will likely not grow as large and healthy as they could with some good plant food (not that pizza is a superfood, but salad seems improper in this case, LOL). You can expect some fertilizer in good potting soil, but don't count on it to sustain your plant indefinitely.

The name "fertilizer" conjures images of nasty, store-bought potions, but it really refers to any material added to potting soil in order to boost its fertility. In addition to potting mixtures, you can purchase liquid and pellet fertilizers.


Can I use garden soil for indoor plants?

I'm sorry, Charlie. Even for potted indoor plants, most garden soil or topsoil is too heavy and dense for the roots to penetrate. The roots of the plants will be suffocated by the compacted soil over time. A potting mix is needed instead.

Should I Sterilize Soil Before Using It?

Your plants could be contaminated by diseases, seedlings, larvae, and more if you use certain items. Compost, reclaimed soil, and other home-grown materials should all be treated in this manner, even if they aren't intended for commercial use.

Instead of sterilizing your soil, you should pasteurize it. While sterilization utilizes a higher temperature, pasteurization employs a lower one, killing insects, plants, and bacteria while reducing disease-causing germs. Excessive heat may cause poisons to leak out of perlite, as well.

Using a baking pan and a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, soil can be pasteurized quickly and easily.

You can microwave up to two pounds of soil at a time, as an added bonus. 1-1/2 to 2/1/2 minutes in the microwave oven. Make sure the soil temperature is at least 180°F (82°C) by using a thermometer.

Prevent potential contamination by keeping the soil in an airtight container

Can I Use 100% Organic Material To Grow Super-Healthy Plants?

No. A soil's nutrient content is merely one component of its overall health. The roots will be smothered if a mix is exclusively composed of organic material. Water retention is compromised, and the root system is unable to establish a firm foundation.


The first step in growing healthy container plants inside is selecting the best potting soil. Ask your local nursery for advice on the best potting soil for your particular plant and environment. Indoor potted plants are more susceptible to poor drainage than their outdoor counterparts, so always choose your potting soil based on direct observation rather than broad advice for the best possible results.

Perlite, vermiculite, and LECA or other soil-draining additives should always be kept on hand in case you discover your potting soil is consistently damp, which can be fatal to potted and container plants (even thirsty ones like snake plants). Because even the best draining potting mixes compact over time, it's a good idea to add a handful of vermiculite to an old bag. Investing in the best potting soil for your plant will have a far greater influence on its long-term health than simply watering it. Our selection of the best potting soils for your indoor plant collection is a great place to start.


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