What Type of Soil is Best for Indoor Plants? (Guide + Recipe)
Getting the right soil for your indoor plants can be the difference between life and death (for your plants).
Okay, so maybe we are being a touch dramatic. However, we are sincere when we say using the best soil for indoor plants, that is specifically crafted to meet their needs, can save you a lot of headaches and struggles.
We are going to tackle this topic from two angles. From our experience, there are two groups of indoor plant enthusiasts in the gardening world.
- The first group likes to bring the outdoors into their home through living plants. Their goal is purely for decorative purposes, and who can blame them? Plants bring a sophisticated element to any home. Ultimately, these individuals want all the benefits of a beautiful plant, with minimal fuss. If this sounds like you, we recommend using the first section of our guide – a list of the BEST SOIL BRANDS FOR INDOOR PLANTS. This is where we review the best pre-made mixes of the top brands for indoor soil.
- The second group are true green thumbs and love to get their hands dirty when it comes to anything to do with gardening and plants – including indoor plants. These individuals love a good DIY project and love knowing they have personally crafted and cultivated each plant, right down to the soil they grew up in. For this group, we recommend beginning with the second section where we look at the BEST WAYS TO MAKE POTTING MIX FOR INDOOR PLANTS. We go through the steps of formulating the ultimate indoor soil mix, including the soil mix recipe we personally use at the Garden Bench Top.
It doesn’t matter if you fall into the first or second group (or even somewhere in between). You will learn everything there is to know about the best soil for indoor plants right here.
So, go grab a cup of coffee and let’s get into it.
Do Indoor Plants need Special Soil?
If you take a step back and think about it, the three ingredients that an indoor plant relies on are: light, water and food. Two of these elements (water and food) are sourced directly from the soil a plant lives in.
With outdoor plants, there are many factors that make ground soil liveable, like natural rain fall, dew for a water source, and insects and invertebrates that help with aerating and decomposing the soil.
Unfortunately, these natural elements do not exist for indoor plants. The only way to provide these essential ingredients for indoor plants is to cultivate a soil specific for their requirements.
Let’s take a look at the properties you should look for in soil for your indoor plants.
MUST HAVE properties in indoor plant soil
If you are going to get one thing right in your journey as an indoor plant owner, it is the growing medium. No, that wasn’t a mistake. We did intend to say ‘growing medium‘. Because, as you will soon find out, the best kind of soil for indoor plants, is not technically soil (cue audible gasps!)
The best soil for your indoor plants is, in fact, a mixture of growing mediums that possess the necessary properties to ensure your plant will thrive within an indoor environment.
You may be asking what are these unique properties these ‘special growing mediums’ have? Here are a few of the important ones:
- water retention properties – Simply put, indoor plants rely on you for water. They do not have the natural rainfall and morning dew that outdoor plants enjoy. Now, we understand that life can get in the way. We all miss the odd watering every now and again (yes even us at the Garden Bench Top). But there are a few things you can do, so that your plants do not have to suffer when you slip up. Soil designed for indoor plants has incredible water retention properties. Mediums mixed in with the soil, like peat moss or sphagnum, soak up the water and release it slowly for the plants. So, by using indoor plant soil, you can ensure your plants have a ready source of water, to survive those days you miss a watering.
- Light and Airy – by mixing a combination of growing mediums, indoor plant soil is much less dense when compared to ground soil. This allows for the appropriate air exchange that roots require to remain healthy and functional. Usually, this role would be performed by plant friendly creatures like worms and smaller insects that help to decompose the ground soil. However, indoor plants do not have these important animals to help them. This can be achieved by including lighter porous materials like perlite and vermiculite.
- Binding and Supportive – A plants’ root system plays many vital roles in maintaining a plants’ survival. Not only does it provide the means for a plant to receive nutrients and water for growth. Plants rely on their roots for stability to allow it to grow vertically without external support. However, in order to do this, the growing medium in the pot needs to be made of materials that allow roots to bind and anchor. Moreover, it also needs to be solid enough to support the root structure, and therefore the plant.
1. What is the best soil brand for indoor plants?
On the face of it, many of the branded bags of soil available to the home gardener look the same, if not identical.
However, if you take a closer look at the ingredients of each indoor plant mix, you will soon notice some small (but important) differences.
In this section we will be looking at the most popular indoor plant soil mixes.
We’ll start off with one of the bigger brands for potting mix – Miracle-Gro. They have crafted a unique blend of soil for specifically for indoor plants that includes coconut coir (a sustainable resource) and some extremely helpful slow – releasing fertilizer.
Miracle-Gro have also ingeniously designed this soil mix to avoid using compost bark, which helps to reduce the chances of fungus gnats from breeding and annoying your household.
If you are buying soil online, we do recommend checking the size of the bags you are ordering and the quantity that you will need for your plants. Do not rely on the images as a guide. Don’t worry if you have made this mistake before – we all have. It is just a part of online ordering.
Burpee is another well – known brand that has used the sustainable resource coco coir in their premium potting mix for indoor plants. We love seeing gardeners upcycle waste products from other manufacturing processes, which is exactly what coco coir is.
Burpee also includes a slow release fertilizer to feed your plants for up to 3 months from the initial potting. This is perfect for beginners who are just getting their hands dirty with indoor plants and need some time to read up on caring for their plants.
If you are looking for a completely soilless option, you won’t be disappointed with Noot’s Organic Mix.
Made from a combination of coconut husk, coco coir, chips and perlite this mix is the perfect combination to allow for perfect water retention and aeration for the roots. In fact, Noot’s indoor plant mix is the closest soil (if you can call it that) to our recommended DIY recipe we discuss below.
Noot take it one step further by pre-soaking the growing mediums in a bio-organic plant food to supply your plants with the necessary nutrients they require.
2. What is the Best Way to Make Potting Mix for Indoor Plants?
At the Garden Bench Top, we tried using store-bought indoor plant soil mixes. And they worked, but for some reason, we regularly had issues with water retention and the occasional gnat outbreak.
On top of those issues, we were never happy with the consistency of the soil. Some bags would have too much sand, bits of unrecognizable plastics and even large rocks.
So we decided to custom make our own blend of growing mediums for your indoor plants.
What is the best soil blend for indoor plants? (with recipe)
If you are planning on mixing soil for succulents, refer below for an adjusted recipe specifically designed for succulents water requirements.
Growing Mediums You will Need:
- Peat or Sphagnum Moss or Coco Coir – All these wonderful materials are natural ingredients that have wonderful water retaining properties. Because of these unique traits, they will make up the majority of your indoor plant ‘soil’. Peat Moss or Sphagnum Moss are naturally growing plants that have been harvested for horticultural purposes. Whereas, Coco Coir is a repurposed material that consists of the fibers extracted from the coconut husks. All three materials will achieve the same result and are an essential element of indoor potting soil.
If we had to choose one out of the three materials, our vote would be for Coco Coir. Why? Well, those of you familiar with our philosophies at the Garden Bench Top will know we always encourage the repurposing of materials – and Coconut Coir fits nicely within this definition.
NOTE – if you are using Peat Moss, we recommend using a spoonful of garden lime powder into the mix to balance out the acidity. You are after a neutral to alkaline environment for your indoor plants, and peat moss (alone) tends to create an acidic environment.
- Perlite – Wherever you see potting mix, perlite won’t be far away. It is a wondrous material that looks like small white pebbles. If you have ever bought a bag of potting mix before, you will have most likely seen it mixed into the soil. Perlite is extremely porous, which means it absorbs and holds water for your plants. But, the main purpose of including it in your potting mix is that it helps to support the soil with drainage and prevents it from becoming too hard and compacted.
- Vermiculite – is the last ingredient you will be adding to your mix. It is a lightweight, naturally occurring mineral that helps to aerate your soil and provide it with structure. This helps to keep the soil light, fluffy and oxygenated.
You will need the following bits of equipment:
- measuring container,
- hand shovel,
- large mixing container, and
Steps to Making Your Own DIY Indoor Soil Mix
Before we get into the details of mixing your own indoor plant soil, we feel it is important to explain some of the terminology we are going to be using.
Part(s) – is in reference to the ratio (or amount) of material you use. This is where the measuring container comes in handy. It is your reference point for your ‘part’ measurement. In this recipe, ONE FULL measuring container is equal to 1 part.
Okay, that’s enough science talk, let’s get our hands dirty.
- The first step is to measure out the ratios of the materials you will be combining in your soil mix. For standard indoor plants, we like to use the following recipe: 1 part of your choice of highly absorptive material that has been presoaked with water (peat moss, sphagnum or coco coir), 1/2 part perlite and 1/4 part vermiculite.
- Pour all your growing mediums into the mixing container and begin combining using a folding technique with your hand shovel. Or if you’re like us at the Garden Bench Top, dig your hands in and get them dirty. Make sure you get right down to the bottom to ensure an even mix of the soil.
- It is as simple as that. You have just created the best soil for indoor plants with your own hands in under 10 minutes.
The great thing is, this soil mix is ready to be used straight away. Portion out what you need into your indoor plant containers and give it a healthy sprinkling of some slow release fertilizer. Alternatively, you can store the mix in an airtight container (to avoid gnats and bugs breeding), ready for your next project.
3. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
In this section we tackle all those questions that haven’t been addressed in the above guides for the best soil for indoor plants.
If you cannot find the answer to your question, please reach out to us via our contact page and we;’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can. We’ll even feature your question in this FAQ section so other fellow gardeners can benefit.
Best Soil for Indoor Plants without Bugs?
If you are looking for an easy option for an indoor plant soil that is guaranteed to have no bugs, you may be disappointed. Unfortunately, it would be hard to find a brand that could provide such a guarantee.
If you are determined to have soil without bugs, the best option would be to mix your own (and use the recipe we provide above). It is only this way, that you can know for certain that it will be bug free.
In addition, you should store all your unsued soil in an airtight container to provide protection from bugs breeding in your soil.
What are the benefits of making your own indoor potting mix?
Besides the fact that you know exactly what is going into your potting mix, it is often cheaper to make your own mix when you buy the ingredients in bulk. Generally speaking, the ingredients for making a DIY indoor plant soil store well, and don’t have expiration dates. So purchasing in bulk is not a problem.
You can also begin to experiment with your recipe compositions for your soil mix. Since you are controlling the quantities, if you feel that a particular plant requires a soil that retains more water, you can tweak the recipe to accommodate this.
Plus, it is just plain fun to sink your hands into a fresh pot of soil!
What is the best soil for philodendron?
If you are keen on keeping some philodendron plants indoors, using our recommended indoor plant soil mix recipe will do the trick nicely. Philodendrons love well-drained soil, that is aerated and not heavily compacted. They love homemade potting soils with organic material like peat or sphagnum moss mixed with perlite or vermiculite.
Can you use garden soil for indoor plants?
We understand it is tempting to use outdoor soil for your indoor plants. I mean…why wouldn’t you. It’s economical, it’s easy, and it is practically begging you to scoop it up into the pot.
But is it good for the long – term health of your indoor plants?
It will not damage or kill your plants (unless you manage to pick up a pest or disease), however it won’t have the necessary properties to ensure your plants longer term success.
Generally speaking, ground soil is a lot more dense and compacted, when compared to soil mixed for indoor plants. They also won’t have the necessary water draining qualities, and may in fact retain too much water, leading to problems like root rot and other diseases.
Finally, it is likely you will unknowingly transfer some gnats or pests along with the ground soil. Once established, these pests can easily spread to your other indoor plants, and can become a large hassle to eliminate.
Can you use regular potting soil for indoor plants?
You can use regular potting soil for indoor plants. However, do we recommend it? If you have read this far, you should know the answer to this question. Regular potting soil won’t have the necessary properties that will help your indoor plant thrive (such as the water retention and aeration). Generally speaking, using regular potting mix will lead to difficulties with your indoor plants further down the track.
At the Garden Bench Top, we are of the opinion that owning indoor plants should be a rewarding and joyful experience – not frustration and disappointment.
Getting the right soil for your indoor plants is crucial to maintaining a healthy, vibrant plant that will return the favor with strong growth and beautiful foliage and flowers.
If you have struggled in the past with maintaining indoor plants for the long term, we strongly recommend reviewing the soil you are using with your plants. Follow our recipe for our favorite indoor plant soil, and you will soon realize that your plants may have been struggling to breathe or receive enough water.
Depending on the plant(s) you have, there may be some special care requirements, so do remember to check out our plant specific guides.