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Patch House Plant Parenting Course - Level 2

Why are there different types of soil for plants?

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Why are there different types of soil?

In their natural environment, plants get the nutrients they need from the soil around them which is constantly replenished by the changing environment and flushed with water when it rains. Houseplants, however, are limited to whatever is in their pot and the water you give them.  

Each of your plants would thrive in a different ideal mix of materials in their pot, which we call their ‘potting soil’. However, having said this, all indoor plants from Patch except the succulents and cacti will be OK in a general purpose potting soil like the one you can get here, combined with a fertiliser routine if recommended on their product page.

Make sure not to add any old soil from your garden to your potted plants, as it could contain bugs or diseases and note that your outdoor plants will require different soils depending on their species and whether they are in the ground or in a pot.

To clear up some confusing jargon, potting soil is also referred to as ‘potting mix’, ‘potting medium’ or ‘compost’. Technically speaking compost is composed only of decomposed organic matter, whereas soil also contains inorganic materials such as sand or rocks.

Some potting soils contain hydration crystals which slowly release moisture to cut down how often you need to water your plants. 

All potting soil needs to be replaced after a year or two for most plants, but a good quality mix will have to be replaced less frequently. 

The potting soil needs to be replaced because it eventually breaks down and compacts around the plants roots, blocking air and preventing drainage. 

Sometimes your plant will be need to be repotted before the soil is spent because it’s out grown the pot, but if its a slow growing plant you may need to repot it just to replace the soil.

If you’re happy with the essentials you can stop reading here, but if you want to give your plant 5 star treatment, then you can optimise your potting soil for your houseplant collection.

A good potting soil will: 

Most houseplant soil is formed of a base of loam, which is a natural soil containing sand, clay and decomposed matter known as humus, but not to be confused with hummus!  

Loam retains moisture well without preventing decent drainage, so is great to keep your plants thriving. However it won’t be right for cacti or succulents, for example, who need soil that contains more sand to mimic their natural conditions. 

Many houseplant potting soils contain peat, but as it is a finite resource that takes hundreds of years to develop, while offering nothing essential to your plants we don’t recommend it - there are plenty of good alternatives out there.