Potting Soil for Indoor Plants: What to Look For and How to Make Your Own

Key Takeaways

  • Indoor plants are popular for home decor and connection with nature, providing benefits such as improving air quality and brightening living spaces.
  • Key factors in choosing the ideal soil for indoor plants are drainage, water retention, and nutrient content.
  • Different soil components, such as organic matter, perlite, vermiculite, and orchid bark, have unique roles in promoting healthy growth for indoor plants.
  • Common ingredients in a good potting soil mix include peat moss or coco coir, perlite, and organic matter like compost or worm castings that add nutrients.
  • Tips for creating your own potting mix for indoor plants involve using 1 part peat moss or coco coir, 1 part perlite or vermiculite, and 1 part compost or worm castings.
Due to time constraints, we typically don't make our own DIY plant soil. Click here to skip down to see what indoor plant soil we use for more information.

Indoor plants have become a popular way to decorate because they show a connection to nature and have many benefits, like making the air cleaner and making the room feel better.

It is very important to choose the right potting soil for each type of plant species based on what they need.

But because there are so many different kinds of soil, it can be hard to choose the best one. Generally, choosing the right potting mix is based on things like how well it holds water, how many nutrients it has, and how well it drains.

Because of this, it is important to choose, customize, or experiment with different combinations of commercial potting mixes to meet the needs of different plants.

In this blog post, we will talk about:

  • Choosing the appropriate soil plays a crucial role in the growth and health of indoor plants.
  • Important factors to consider for indoor plant soils include drainage, nutrient content, and aeration.
  • Customizing or creating homemade potting mixes may be necessary for some indoor plant species.

What Makes Good Indoor Potting Soil?

Choosing the right soil for your houseplants is very important for them to grow big and strong. Soil helps the plants get food, water, and air, and lets water drain away so the plant roots don’t rot.

A good plant soil mix makes sure your plant has everything it needs to grow well for a very long time. So, what does good plant soil have?

Aeration and Drainage

A well-formulated potting mix is essential to ensuring good aeration and drainage for indoor plants. Proper aeration allows oxygen to reach plant roots, enabling them to function efficiently and promoting root growth.

Drainage, on the other hand, is vital in preventing excess water from pooling around the roots, which can lead to issues such as root rot. Lightweight materials like perlite and orchid bark can be added to the potting mix to improve aeration and drainage.

Water and Moisture Retention

Another key factor to consider is water and moisture retention. Indoor plants require a soil mix that can hold sufficient water and maintain consistent moisture levels.

Ingredients such as peat moss, coco coir, and vermiculite can help with moisture retention and should be present in the potting mix in appropriate quantities to balance retaining moisture and facilitating drainage.

Nutrients and Fertilizer

Fertilizing indoor plants periodically is also crucial to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Indoor plants need essential nutrients for growth and overall health. A quality potting mix should contain a balanced mix of macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and micronutrients (such as calcium, magnesium, and iron).

Soil pH Level

The soil pH level plays a significant role in the availability of nutrients to plants. Different plants have specific pH requirements, so it’s crucial to select a potting mix with a pH level that matches the needs of the indoor plant species you are growing.

Most indoor plants prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8. However, it is essential to research the specific pH requirements for the plants you intend to grow.

Organic Materials and Sustainability

Incorporating organic material such as compost, aged manure, or worm castings in the potting mix can provide essential nutrients and beneficial microorganisms for the plants.

Organic materials can also improve water and nutrient retention, as well as promote the development of a healthy root system. Utilizing sustainable potting mixes that integrate environmentally friendly ingredients and practices is essential to ensuring the long-term health and success of indoor plants.

Buying Pre-Made Indoor Plant Soil

A good commercial potting mix usually contains a balanced blend of ingredients to provide essential nutrients and proper aeration for your indoor plants. Some of the common ingredients found in quality potting mixes include:

  • Peat moss or coconut coir: Both are excellent water-retaining materials that help maintain moisture levels in the soil. Peat moss tends to be less environmentally friendly due to the harvesting aspect of it.
  • Perlite or vermiculite: They improve aeration and drainage, which are crucial for healthy root growth.
  • Worm castings: An organic and natural fertilizer that improves soil structure and boosts microbial activity.
  • Compost: Compost is a great choice to enrich soil with nutrients, but the downside is that it does attract flies and insects.
We typically use this potting soil mix for all of our indoor houseplants. It has everything contained, including worm castings for nutrients, so there's no need add anything else to it. 

Making Your Own DIY Indoor Plant Soil

Depending on your specific plants’ needs, you might need to amend and adjust the potting mix accordingly. However, here are the things you need to keep in mind.

  1. Add drainage materials: If you have plants that prefer well-drained soil, consider adding more perlite or vermiculite to the mix to increase aeration and drainage.
  2. Increase water retention: For plants that thrive in moist soil, incorporate additional peat moss or coconut coir to help retain more water.
  3. Enhance nutrition content: To boost nutrients in the soil, add compost or worm castings to the mix. You can also include a slow-release fertilizer to ensure a continuous supply of nutrients for your plants.

One basic recipe for a DIY soilless potting mix consists of 2 parts peat moss or coco coir, 1 part worm casting, and 1 part perlite.

When mixing your potting soil, make sure to thoroughly blend all components in a large container, such as a wheelbarrow or big bucket. This will ensure an even mixture, helping your indoor plants achieve optimal growth and health.

Remember that the needs of each plant species may vary, so it’s essential to research specific plant requirements and adjust the potting mix accordingly.

Trouble Shooting Soil Problems for Indoor Plants

Overwatering and Root Rot

Indoor plants often get too much water, which can cause root rot. Root rot happens when too much water makes the roots suffocate because they can’t get sufficient oxygen.

To keep your plants’ root systems healthy, it’s important to keep the soil, water, and air in balance. To prevent and treat root rot, use a potting mix that drains well and avoid watering too much.

Disease, Fungus, and Gnats

Fungus gnats and diseases can also be a problem if you don’t take care of the soil properly. Fungus gnats are small flying insects that like moist dirt.

They feed on the roots of plants, leading to root rot. An excessive amount of water in the soil also makes it a good place for fungi and bugs that cause plant diseases to grow.

Follow a good watering strategy and use the right potting mix to avoid this problem.

If insects are getting out of control, try using some neem oil spray, a natural insecticide.

Lack of Space and Airflow

Indoor plants also have a hard time growing and staying healthy when the soil is packed down and there isn’t enough airflow.

Compacted soil can stop roots from growing, make it hard for plants to take in water and nutrients, and make plants sick. Indoor plants need a lot of airflow to keep the right mix between the soil, the water, and the air.

Use a potting mix made for indoor plants that drain well and soil amendments that create air pockets, such as perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir, to prevent the soil from getting too compacted and to help it get more air.


What factors make up the ideal indoor plant soil?

The ideal indoor plant soil consists of a well-draining mix that retains moisture, provides aeration, and delivers essential nutrients to your plants. Key ingredients include peat moss or coco coir, perlite or vermiculite, and compost. Some plants may require additional amendments, like sand or bark, depending on their specific needs.

Is organic potting soil a good option for indoor plants?

Organic potting soil can be a great option for indoor plants, as it provides a natural, chemical-free environment for plant growth. Organic potting mixes usually contain ingredients like earthworm castings and compost. These components support both the plant’s and the soil’s microbial life, promoting healthy growth and a stronger root system.

Which soil is best for tropical plants indoors?

Tropical plants indoors thrive in a well-draining potting mix that retains moisture and provides aeration to the roots. Choose a mix that contains a combination of peat moss or coco coir, perlite or vermiculite, and compost. You may also add bark or charcoal to the mix for added nutrients and aeration.

How do I improve drainage in the soil for indoor plants?

To improve drainage in soil for indoor plants, incorporate lightweight materials, such as perlite or vermiculite, into the potting mix. These materials increase aeration and promote proper water movement through the soil, preventing root rot while ensuring the roots receive sufficient oxygen. Adjusting the ratios of these ingredients can tailor the drainage properties to suit the plant’s specific requirements. Additionally, selecting a container with drainage holes and using a saucer to catch excess water can help prevent overwatering and waterlogged soil.

How do I prevent gnats in indoor plant soil?

Preventing gnats in indoor plant soil involves maintaining proper moisture levels and employing effective pest control methods. Avoid overwatering your plants, as gnats are attracted to damp soil conditions. Additionally, cover the soil surface with a layer of sand, diatomaceous earth, or neem oil to deter gnats from laying eggs.


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