The Best Soil For Houseplants | How to Make Your Own Houseplant Potting Soil


What is the best soil for indoor plants? How do you make your own soil for your houseplants?

It’s spring! The time of year for planting and enjoying all the little seedlings and flowers coming to life.

For some, this season means buying a bag of soil or potting mix from the store. But what if you want something more personalized and specific? What is the best soil for indoor plants? How do you make your own soil for your houseplants?

Mixing up your own soil at home is not only cheaper but also lets you have complete control over what goes into it. You can make it perfect for whatever plants you’re growing in your garden or house! And it’s pretty darn easy to mix up a batch of soil mix on a sunny day.

But first things first. Potting soil and potting mix are not necessarily the same thing.

Potting Soil or Potting Mix – What’s the difference?

It can be a bit confusing when you go to a garden center looking to buy soil for your new houseplants. You will often see bags labeled as “potting mix” or “potting soil.”

So, what’s the difference? Sometimes there’s not much of a difference, and sometimes the two terms can vary greatly.

Potting Soil: This can vary quite a bit depending on the brand. Some potting soils contain things like fertilizer and nutrients, while others can literally be dirt with no additives. You need to read the label carefully to determine what’s actually inside.

Potting Mix: As the name implies, the mix will have various elements that are good for growing plants in containers. Sometimes these mixes won’t even contain any dirt at all. The mixes would include organic materials such as peat moss, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, bark, and compost. The proper mix needed would depend on the type of plant you are growing.

Your houseplants may need slightly different soil mixes for best results, but they have the same requirements in general. The qualities you are looking for in a good mix are:

  • Good drainage: Your plants don’t want to sit in standing water or develop problems like root rot. A good container and well-draining soil are important.
  • Light and fluffy: You don’t want your soil to compact too quickly and prevent the roots of your plant from being unable to spread out.
  • Provides nutrients: Starting with a mix that has the nutrients your plant needs to grow is important. Using “dirt” may not actually have any of the nutrients your plant baby needs.
  • Holds some water: I know I just said you need the water to drain out of the pot easily, but the soil mix needs to retain some of the water to hydrate the plant. Adding a mineral such as vermiculite to the mix allows for water retention while also allowing drainage.

How to Mix the Ingredients for Soil for Different Plants

I like to use a big garden tub when mixing my houseplant soil, but you can use anything large enough to hold the ingredients. A wheelbarrow or bucket works great as well.

All you need to do is pour your ingredients into the tub and mix it up thoroughly. You can use your hands, a shovel, or shake it up if you are making a small batch in a bucket. It’s important to make sure your soil is mixed up really evenly. 

You can even add some slow-release fertilizer into the mix to add nutrients for the next couple of months. Here are some great tips for using fertilizers if this is something new to you.

Houseplant Soil Ingredients

There are quite a few different ingredients that can work well for indoor house plant soils. I like to keep it fairly simple and generally only use a few of the staples.

  • Coco Coir: A byproduct of coconut husks. It acts like sphagnum peat moss that’s often seen in potting soil mixes. However, coco coir has more nutrients and lasts longer. It’s great for adding volume, nutrients and retaining moisture. I use this Coco Coir.

You will generally buy it in dried blocks, and you will need to add water to the brick to hydrate it initially.

  • Perlite: A volcanic rock that expands when heated. Perlite looks like hard little white balls of Styrofoam. It holds up to four times its weight in water, increases the drainage in the soil, and works to prevent compaction. I use this Perlite.
  • Vermiculite: A natural mineral that helps prevent soil compacting, keeps the soil mix light and fluffy, and is very lightweight. It also does great at retaining moisture in the soil. I use this Vermiculite.
  • Potting Soil: Any soil can do here. Buying an organic mix works great as a base before adding the other ingredients for your specific plant needs.

My Recipes for Houseplant Soil

Here are some of the recipes specific to the most common houseplants. You can try out different ratios to find what works best for you, but these will be a great place to start.

Also, keep in mind you can make your own homemade fertilizer and have total control over what ingredients are going into your planter.

You can use either vermiculite or perlite for pretty much the same results. I’d use whichever one is more readily available to you.

– Cacti and Succulent Soil Mixture

  • 2 parts potting soil
  • 1 part coarse sand
  • 1 part perlite/vermiculite

– Tropical Plants Soil Mixture

  • 3 parts potting soil
  • 1 part vermiculite/perlite

 – Ferns Soil Mixture

  • 1 part coco coir
  • 1 part vermiculite/perlite
  • 1 part potting soil

– Foliage Plants Soil Mixture

  • 2 parts coco coir
  • 1 part perlite/vermiculite
  • 1 part potting soil

A “part” can be pretty much any unit of measurement. It can be a cup, a gallon, a scoop, etc. It doesn’t actually matter what you use as a “part”; the purpose is that your ratios are even.

How to Store Leftover Soil Mix

Depending on how big of a batch you want to mix up, you may have leftover soil after planting your new plants. Storing the extra is no problem and can be nice to have on hand for when you accidentally come home with new plants.

You want to be sure to store the leftover soil in an airtight container. You don’t want bugs and contaminants getting into the soil as it’s sitting in your garage or tool shed. The easiest way to store it is by putting it in a bucket or tote it with a tight-fitting lid. 

Enjoy getting your hands dirty, knowing you are taking great care of your new plant babies!

the best potting soil for houseplants

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