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When I walk into the garden shop, it feels like entering the great dirt debate. The range of choices of potting soil can be overwhelming, and I’ve heard using the wrong potting soil could be killing my sweet babies. Is that true? And how do I know what kind of potting soil to choose for my houseplants?
Talk Dirt to Me
Dear Talk Dirt to Me,
What a great question! Soils are designed to provide support for our roots, feed the plant and provide moisture to the roots for healthy growth. The good news is, if you keep in mind a few simple things, your plants will be happy as can be!
I’ll start with my only “rule” when it comes to houseplant soils: Avoid anything that says “moisture control.” In my opinion, this is a surefire way to kill your plants. As long as you do this, you can make any sort of soil work for you and your plants!
Most of our houseplants like well-draining soil. This means when you give your plants a drink, the water should slowly trickle out the bottom of your pot within a few seconds. My favorite houseplant soil mixes are loose, fluffy and kinda chunky. Most generic potting soils should have a healthy mix of organic material (food for the plants), perlite or vermiculite (these help with drainage), and an inert growing media like coco coir or peat (for water-retention).
If you buy a bag of soil you don’t love, you can always amend it! Say your soil is staying super-wet or isn’t draining freely—it may be filled with a lot of peat. Consider throwing in a few handfuls of perlite to help break it up. Maybe you’re watering your plants every other day because the soil is drying out super-quickly. This soil may have too much drainage in it. Add a little more coco coir or compost in. If that still doesn’t help, you may need to repot your plant in the next size up! (More on that in future columns!)
My go-to move when I need to repot a bunch of plants is buying a bag of potting soil and a bag of perlite, both of which I offer in my shop in Downtown Raleigh! I often mix the two together to create my own mix for my plants.
Have fun growing!
In this series, Copperline Plant Co. owner and founder Anna Grace FitzGerald offers tips on how to plant-parent like the pros. You can find Copperline Plant Co. in City Market downtown and online at
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