How to Use Potting Mix to Keep your Indoor Jungle Thriving
Posted on February 14 2021
Congratulations on the acquisition of your exotic dream plant! Once you've settled it into its new home, you may be faced with the realization that your pricey plant is nestled in a container filled with a mere five dollars worth of basic potting mix. Does this unassuming mix do your rare plant justice? And if so, how can you ensure that your plant thrives in this type of soil?
Potting mix was introduced in the 1960s as a sterile, artificial solution for container gardening. Unlike outdoor soil, which is comprised of silt, sand, and clay, potting mix doesn't compact over time and suffocate delicate roots. In addition, outdoor soil often harbors pests, mold, and disease, all of which can be detrimental to plant health. Potting mix is typically composed of four main ingredients: peat, perlite, bark fines, and commercial compost, each with their own unique benefits.
To ensure the highest quality of potting mix, select one that offers ingredient transparency. Although it was designed to be fluffier than natural soil, potting mix still has its own set of challenges. The composition of the soil is critical to plant health, as different plants require varying levels of moisture retention and drainage. Adequate oxygen in the soil is also crucial, with the soil needing to remain aerated and provide the root zone with 10-20% air.
You can create your own potting mix or make improvements to pre-made mixes to better suit the needs of your plant collection. Raising the level of peat in the soil can help maintain uniform moisture levels, while increasing the amount of perlite can boost drainage and decrease water retention. Even small adjustments to your mix can make a significant difference in your plant's overall health.
However, it's important to understand how not to use potting mix as well. Peat, the primary ingredient in most potting mixes, decomposes quickly and can break down into smaller and smaller particles, which can suffocate roots and impede water drainage. Additionally, indoor plants don't receive the same aeration as outdoor plants, so it's essential to refresh the soil annually to maintain plant health.
To refresh the soil using potting mix, water your plant thoroughly the day before, and gently remove it from its container. If the root system has outgrown the current pot, upgrade to a slightly larger one, and remove about a third of the old soil from the roots. Replace the removed soil with fresh potting mix, pat it gently into place, and voila! Your plant is set for another healthy year of growth.