Potting Soil: Ingredients and DIY recipes

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potting soil

For many people, potting soil is not a topic of interest, however, it greatly influences the health of your plants.

If you are growing plants in containers, then you might need to use them, as every plant has different needs than those in the ground.

Moreover, not all potting soil ingredients are the same.

Just like plants in natural habitat needs different types of soil, like succulents, need different soil than ferns, different potting mixes are used to respond to varying needs.

Knowing the needs of your plants and understanding the type of potting mix they need is vital for their growth and yield.

To understand it all, keep on reading to know more about potting soil, its ingredients, and DIY recipes for your different plants.

Potting Soil

Potting soil or potting mix contains different ingredients that provide a healthy environment for your potted plants to grow. They can be either an organic potting mix or an inorganic one.

These mixtures prevent the compaction of the soil, which can often suffocate the roots and hinder the flow of water and nutrients.

Thus, a high-quality potting mix is lightweight and fluffy has the ability to withhold moisture, etc.

potting soil 1

There are different types of all-purpose blends and more specialized ones.

However, there are several basic components that you can include in the potting soil.

It is important to note that potting soil is a soilless blend of ingredients that helps to grow plants.

Whether you can grow seeds, rooting cuttings, potting houseplants, etc. potting soil is an ideal medium for potted plants.

All of these have a few things in common. These are:

  • Consistent and easy to handle
  • better draining than average garden soil
  • lightweight than garden soil

Types of Potting Mixes

There are different blends of potting mixes and you can use them depending on the needs of your plants.

The following are the major types of potting soil mixes:

All-Purpose: This is useful for both indoor and outdoor plants.

Moreover, you can use this type of potting soil mix for houseplants, hanging baskets, window boxes herbs, and even edibles.

The ingredients may vary according to the brand.

Indoor Potting Mix: These contain ingredients for indoor plants and in general are great for house plants.

potting soil 2

While looking for indoor potting mix, look for ingredients like compost and bark, which can shelter fungus, gnats, which is a common indoor pest.

Garden Soil: This mix contains both organic and inorganic enhancements as well as fertilizers.

Cactus and Succulent Mix: As these plants prefer leaner soil, these mixes contain a high ratio of perlite, sand, or other inorganic material to provide maximum drainage and allow air to the roots.

Learn more about cactus plants and succulents.

Other Types of Potting Soil Mix

Other types of potting soil mix are:

Raised Beds: These are for outdoor raised bed plantings and contains fortified with natural-rich ingredients.

It is ideal for growing vegetables and other heavy feeders.

Seed Starting Mix: This is a soilless blend that is lightweight and drains quickly, thus allowing healthy root development.

This promotes higher germination by allowing better soil contact with seeds, while also preventing growing issues like the dumping of disease.

African Violet Mix: These are popular for flowering tropicals. This is because they prefer a warm moist environment that stimulates jungle habitat.

These are great for extra aeration, improving drainage, and helps to retain moisture.

Orchid Mix: Orchids prefer a soilless potting mix that contains bark chips.

To improve drainage, you can also add charcoal perlite. Moreover, these are also suitable for bromeliads and other epiphytes.

Potting Soil Ingredients

When choosing potting soil for your plants, you need to carefully select the ingredients and combine them in the correct ratios.

potting soil ingredients

For instance use:

  • light and fine-textured mix for starting seeds and rooting cuttings.
  • The mix contains a high percentage of coarse sand or pine bark is best for the tress that is potted and shrubs.
  • DIY potting soil for cactus and succulents
  • all-purpose potting mix for different kinds of plants

Most commercial and homemade soils contain a blend of the following ingredients:

Peat Moss

One of the most common ingredients is sphagnum peat moss. It is a stable material and takes a long time to break down.

Moreover, it is widely available and inexpensive.

It fills up potting mixes without adding a lot of weight and once you add water, it holds it fairly well.

peat moss

Sphagnum is a well-draining and well-aerating ingredient and is low in nutrients.

It is acidic in nature, typically ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 on the pH scale.

To balance the pH of peat moss, limestone is added. You can add grounded limestone at the rate of 1/4 cup lime for every 6 gallons of peat moss.

Coir Fiber

Coconut Coir is a by-product of the cotton industry and looks and acts like sphagnum peat moss.

It is available as cotton coir or coconut coir is available both commercially and in DIY potting soil blends.

coir fiber

However, it has more plant nutrients than peat moss and lasts even longer, and is more expensive to purchase.

The pH of coir fiber is also neutral.

Many people consider it to be more sustainable than peat moss and is often found in the form of compressed bricks.


Perlite is a volcanic rock that is found through the process of mining.

It expands, making it look like small, white balls of Styrofoam.

It is lightweight and holds 3 to 4 times its weight in water.


Moreover, increases pore space and improves drainage. Perlite has a neutral pH and is easy to find in nurseries and garden centers.

Thus, if you are making your own potting soil, then this one is an important ingredient.

Vermiculite and Sand

This one is a mined mineral that is conditioned by heating until it expands into light particles.

Moreover, it increases the porosity of commercial and DIY potting soil mixes.

Vermiculite and Sand

Vermiculite adds calcium and magnesium, thus increasing the capacity of with-holding water in the mix.

Coarse sand improves drainage and adds weight to your potting mix.

This is great for cacti and other succulents that have a high percentage of coarse sand in their composition that ensures maximum drainage.

Fertilizers and LimeStone

You will have to add fertilizers if you are using peat moss because they do not contain enough plant nutrients to support maximum growth.

You can add an organic fertilizer that has both animal and plant bases or manure rather than using synthetic fertilizers.


Many farmers recommend using a combination of natural sources of fertilizers for homemade potting mixes.

To neutralize the pH of peat moss soil mix, you can use limestone.

You can use about 1/4 cup of limestone for 6 gallons to peat moss to neutralize it.

Composted Wood Chips and Compost

If you want to make your potting mix light, then you can use composted wood chips.

This increases the pore size, thus allowing air and water to move freely in the mix.

compost and woodchips

They break down slowly but may deprive nitrogen of the soil, thus you will have to add bone meal or alfalfa meal in DIY recipes.

Wood chips are great for perennials and shrubs.

You can make them at home by making them compost for a year, turning the pile every week.

Compost contains hundreds of beneficial microbes, a water with-holding capacity, and great nutrient content which makes it an excellent DIY potting mix ingredient.

How to Make Homemade Soil

The process of making soil at home is easy and you can control all the crucial steps in the growing process.

For container gardens, high-quality soil is crucial.

Thus, making your own soil allows you to cater to the needs of your plants in a beneficial way.

This results in more stability, consistent, and is very cheap.

The following DIY soil mix recipes use a combination of ingredients.

potting soil 3

You can mix different volumes of soil in a mixer or spinning compost Tumblr.

However, to make them in small quantities, you can use a wheelbarrow, mortar mixing tub, or a large bucket.

The following are a few DIY soil mixes you can use:

For Flowers, Tropicals, and Vegetables

For potting soil to use for flowers, tropicals, and vegetables, mix 6 gallons of peat moss or coir fiber, 4.5 gallons of perlite, 6 gallons of compost, 1/4 cup of lime.

In this mix, add 1 and 1/2 of DIY container fertilizer and 1/2 cups of granular organic fertilizer.

For organic fertilizer, mix 2 cups of rock phosphate, 2 cups of greensand, 1/2 cups of bone meal, and 1/4 cup of kelp meal.

For Potted Trees and Shrubs

Potting mix for potted trees and shrubs contains 3 gallons of compost, 2.5 gallons of coarse sand, 3 gallons of peat moss or coir fiber.

Add 2.5 gallons of pine bark. 2 tbs of lime if you are using peat moss, 1 cup of granular organic fertilizer, and 1/4 cup of organic cottonseed meal if you are growing acid-loving trees and shrubs.

Potting Soil for Succulents and Cactus

Potting soil for succulents and cactus plants contains 3 gallons of peat moss or coir fiber, 1 gallon of perlite, 1 gallon of vermiculite.

It also contains 2 gallons of coarse sad as well as 2 tbs of lime if you are using peat moss to neutralize its pH.

Potting Soil for Seed Starting and Transplanting Seedlings

For seed starting, use 2 gallons of peat moss or coir fiber, 2 gallons of vermiculite, 1 gallon of coarse sand, and 3 tbs of lime if using peat moss.

Potting mix for transplanting seeds contains:

  • 2 gallons sphagnum peat moss or coir fiber
  • 2 gallons vermiculite
  • 1 gallon finely screened compost
  • 3 TBSP lime (if using peat moss)
  • 2 TBSP granular, organic fertilizer

Final Thoughts

A potting soil mix is a great option for your plants and you can make them according to the needs of your plants and their types.

However, you should take precautions and wear a mask as breathing in perlite or vermiculite can be harmful, as these particles can lodge in your lungs.

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