Use this guide for choosing the best potting mix for your indoor plants and remember to always use fresh potting mix for potting up or repotting.
Choosing the potting mix that’s best for your indoor plants can make a big difference to their health and survival.
What is Potting Mix?
Potting mix, also known as compost or “growing media” is the soil-like matter that container plants are grown in, whether they are kept indoors or out.
Potting mix is also referred to as potting soil or potting mix soil, which can be confusing as the best potting mix usually contains no top soil ( dirt).
What we normally refer to as “soil” often contains clay which make the growing medium too heavy to create the drainage needed for healthy root growth in containers or pots.
There are many different types of potting mix given the varying needs of individual indoor plants.
Different plant types will require a different balance between air, moisture and nutrition, and the right type of potting soil mix will deliver these elements in the correct ratio.
Potting mixes can vary in terms of their combination of, or inclusion of things such as soil or “loam”, decomposed organic material (similar to the compost you might make at home in a compost bin), aggregates such as sand and grit, as well as fertilizer.
Some potting mixes may also contain peat, which helps to retain both moisture and nutrients for longer periods.
5 Types of Potting Mix for Indoor Plants
Soil or Loam Based Potting Mix
This kind of potting mix consists of sterilized soil together with some of the materials you’ll find in all-purpose potting mixes plus a large range of essential plant nutrients.
Soil or loam based potting mix is commonly used for plants that will live in their pots for more than a year.
Best Suited To: Soil or loam based mix suits trees, shrubs and perennial climbers
All-Purpose Potting Mixes
Available with or without peat, this lightweight type of potting mix consists of natural ingredients such as coir, bark, and composted wood fiber.
Most contain sufficient fertilizer to feed plants for a few weeks.
Best Suited To: All purpose potting mixes suit annual flowering indoor plants
Indoor Plant Potting Mix
This type of potting mix is especially formulated to meets the needs of most indoor plants.
It’s the quick and easy go to solution if you’re not sure of the specific needs of your indoor plant.
Like the all-purpose potting mix, this version often contains peat as well as a range of essential plant nutrients.
Best Suited To: Indoor plant potting mix suits most indoor plants (except for those with special needs such as orchids and cacti.
Seed and Cutting Soil Mix
As the name indicates, this is the best potting mix for sowing seeds and establishing plant cuttings.
Being free draining to prevent root rot, this potting mix is very fine grained so that even the smallest seeds come in contact with the soil to assist in germination.
Best Suited To: Seed and Cutting mix is best for sowing seeds, taking cuttings and potting up young seedlings.
Specialty Potting Mixes
These potting mixes are especially formulated to meet the needs of specific plant types such as succulents and cacti, orchids and carnivorous plants.
The big advantage of specialty potting mixes is that they negate the need to formulate your own mix, saving you time, money and guesswork.
Best Suited To: Orchids, succulents, cacti and carnivorous plants like the Venus fly trap.
Succulent Potting Mix Orchid Potting Mix Carnivorous Potting Mix
Other Potting Mix Materials
If you normally have supplies of all-purpose potting mix on hand and find yourself with an indoor plant with special soil requirements, here are some materials you can add to keep your new plant happy.
These materials are added to more general potting mixes to help lighten or aerate it, or increase drainage.
Refer to the article on how to care for your specific plant under the Plants tab on the Indoor Plant Center website.
Vermiculite and Perlite
Are minerals that have been heated to produce spongy grains that increase drainage and retain moisture.
Both vermiculite and perlite slowly release their moisture into the soil mix and are often used to cover seeds to keep them moist.
Gravel and Grit
Both are used to prevent soggy soil mix that can harm the roots of moisture sensitive, drought lovers like succulents and cacti.
Gravel, when added to the base of pots, creates a reservoir of water below the plant’s root system.
The finer grained grit, is usually mixed into the soil to provide better drainage.
Sphagnum moss can be placed on the surface of potting mix to help create a more suitable environment for plants that thrive on moisture.
These are typically tropical plants such as ferns but can also be used as a growing medium for carnivorous plants.
Often used in conjunction with potting mix to improve drainage for drought loving succulents and cacti.
When using horticultural sand, always make sure that it’s been washed and sterilized.
Avoid builders sand which usually contains too much lime for indoor plants.
Selecting the right potting mix for your indoor plants can make a big difference to their health and well-being.
Drought loving succulents require a much different soil mix than for tropical ferns and flowering plants.
Check the Indoor Plant Center article for your plant to get advice on the best potting mix for your indoor plant.
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