The Right Planting Media for House Plants

Silver bells and cockle shells? Well that’s not exactly how your garden grows. Here’s the dirt. You need the right planting media, which, arguably is just a fancy word for… dirt. But not just any dirt, specially blended dirt utilizing components sourced from all parts of the planet. Have you looked at the price of planting medias in the garden center lately? Stuff like that does not deserve to be called dirt.

 And, there’s about as many choices for bagged plant soil in the box store as there are screws in the “fastener” section. And all you wanted to do was make two pieces of wood stick together, right?

 Cheer up; we’re going to make planting easy, in this case house plants in a pot (containerized).

 House plants originated from tropical environments where the average temperature is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect, because that’s about the range of what we humans like.

Because tropical plants are so well adapted to conditions we like, taking them into our homes as pets works. Actually, it’s more complicated than that but you get it.

 Now picture a lush tropical jungle where birds are chirping, butterflies fluttering about and plants growing so fast you might be in the sun for a minute then shade the next.

 The soil must be so rich and chock full of nutrients. You may be surprised to learn this is not the case. Tropical soils are generally rather poor and depleted of nutrients.

Does that mean we should plant our house plants in a nutrient rich, deep black compost or topsoil? No again. When topsoil is packed into the confines of a pot, pore space is lost. Pore space is the area within a soil column that is occupied by air, a necessary requirement for house plants. It allows for gas exchange, a fancy term for the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the root zone. Heavy topsoils also hold too much water for most (but not all) tropical plants. Even soils marked as “potting soil” may be too heavy (again for most but not all) house plants. Pick a mix that is blended for containers, containing materials such as composted pine bark, peat moss and even core fiber, which is a byproduct of the coconut farming industry. These medias are often referred to as Soilless (could you pick a more contradictory term?) and because the organic matter is already composted to its lowest denomination, it will last longer in the container. Unless added, soilless medias will also be low in plant nutrients; so feeding your plant is a good idea. Plants can and like to become root bound before transplanting and can stay in the same pot for a surprisingly long period of time. Again, this depends on variety. Some plants are screaming for a new pot to stretch out their roots within a few months while others are happy for years. But remember, plants are not forever.

If you name your plants, read no further, you are not going to like what I say.

Plants are healthy because they clean the air, but more importantly, they fulfill a design function, especially when set up in a stylish decorative planter. Sooner or later that plant will age out and no longer contribute to the original design integrity of the space. Or, you may just want to change. Throw it out; buy a new one. It’s not a labradoodle. It’s time to move on.

There , I said it.

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