This could be the most important plant article you ever read ...

Posted by Oly & Jo Team

This could be the most important plant article you ever read ...

Your potting mix is one of the most important parts of your plants success

 

tangled plant roots exposed

You've probably heard that your plant's roots are important - but what does that have to do with the soil?

For the poor plant, its roots are one of the most important parts—and they can tell you a lot about how your plant is doing.

Let's start with the basics: Water and nutrients are taken in by a plant through the roots. A lack of either can cause a plant to become wilted or yellowed and can even lead to death.

But it's not just about water and nutrients; roots also anchor plants to their soil, allowing them to stand upright. The root system is made up of many thin roots that grow out from the main root, like branches growing out from a tree trunk.

When people talk about root rot—a common problem with indoor plants—they're referring to when too much water causes these fine roots to decay, rendering them unable to absorb nutrients or water for the rest of the plant above ground. If left untreated, root rot can quickly kill your beloved succulent or fern friend!

Potting mix is critical to your plant's health

Regardless of what kind of plant you're looking to bring into your home, it's important to consider the potting mix. This is the very soil that'll provide nutrients, oxygen, and water for your green friend, so you don't want to skimp here.

If you use the wrong mix—or a mix with too much clay or sand—your plant could end up being stunted and/or dead. While other aspects of care are important (hello, watering), choosing the right potting mix that suits your plant is an absolutely critical part of keeping it happy and healthy.

It's not as simple as buying any potting mix at the store

Just as a plant's roots need a solid anchor to thrive, the right potting mix is essential to keep your plants healthy and happy. But there's more to it than just grabbing any old product off the shelf at the local gardening store.

Here are some things to look out for when choosing potting mix:

  • Some mixes may contain harmful chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides that can damage your plant. Look at ingredients carefully or ask staff at your local gardening store if you're unsure about what you're buying.

  • Commercial mixes vary in quality, so take time before your purchase to compare options and get the best bang for your buck.potting mix in cupped hands

  • If you're looking for something simple and easy that requires little effort from you, then good news! Some mixes include a slow-release fertilizer which will gradually release nutrients into soil over time—this means you don't have to apply fertilizer separately (although this does depend on how much fertilizer is already included in your mix).

  • Some mixes may not have enough drainage. All pots should have drainage holes in the bottom, but this isn't always enough by itself; there needs to be something underneath those holes to catch water so it doesn't run out of the pot and make a mess on the floor of wherever it's sitting. Some broken terracotta pot fragments or some larger pebbles can often do the trick unless you have really water-sensitive plants.

Buying good potting mix can be difficult

I know this might not sound exciting, but it’s vitally important to the success of your container garden. Most people don’t realize that potting mixes are not soils, and that if you want a healthy garden and happy plants, you need to start with a good quality potting mix. That begins by learning how to read the ingredients list.

Unfortunately, buying a good mix can be difficult because not all manufacturers clearly label their mixes or use the words potting soil and potting mix interchangeably on their packaging. On top of that, commercial mixes are often misleading—some are just peat moss with fertilizer added; others even contain soil!

This isn’t always something you can tell by looking at it either. The only way to know for sure is to read the package label carefully—and understand what those ingredients mean!

There are many different kinds of commercial mixes

There are many different kinds of commercial mixes. Some potting mixes are formulated for succulents while others are suited to outdoor plants.

Commercial mixes are convenient, easy to buy, and often a good value. They make it easy to maintain your plants. In addition, many commercial potting mixes are made from recycled materials. Whatever you decide to use, remember that the container is just as important as the mix.

The ideal potting mix has three main ingredients: peat moss (or coir or coconut husk chips), perlite or vermiculite, and compost (optional)

The ideal potting mix has three main ingredients: peat moss (or coir or coconut husk chips), perlite or vermiculite, and compost (optional). Just as you wouldn’t attempt to cook a dish without knowing which ingredients will create the best flavor, you shouldn’t begin mixing your own soil without knowing the proportions of each ingredient. These are the basic ratios for a good all-purpose mix:

  • 1 part peat moss/coir/coconut husk chips - great for holding water while leaving room for the necessary air

  • 1 part perlite (the white stuff in some potting mixes)/vermiculite (looks like fine gold flakes) - improved soil aeration and maintaining moisture levels

  • 1 part compost (optional) - provides organic matter to the soil and supplies nutrients to the plant

There are other ingredients you can consider - horticultural sand and pine bark are two popular additions

The ratios can vary depending on the preferences of your plant - some prefer chunky mixes (particularly aroids) with wood or bark chips, while others have different water needs, and prefer a free draining coarse sand.

Don't take potting mix for granted

The point is, don't take potting mix for granted when you buy it. You might think it's the boring, most non-essential part of caring for a plant. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

The type of potting mix you choose will have a significant effect on your plant and its growth. With that in mind, do some research before buying a new bag.