When you purchase a plant, already rooted in a potting media, it can be difficult to hear that you should think about spending more money on a different potting media to help really let that new plant purchase thrive.
The importance of Soil and Potting Mix
In nature, soil is one of the most important parts to a thriving plant (with exceptions to epiphytes and water-plants). Soil supports the plant, holds and protects the roots, as well as holding the nutrients and water the plants need to grow. And not all soil is the same - a cacti in Arizona is going to be relying on a very different soil type to a Monstera in Central America.
When purchasing a plant from a nursery, it has usually been grown in a very specific (and cheap) growers mix. This can often be simply sphagnum moss or a basic seed raising mix. These mixes are not designed to support your new plant for life outside of the nursery.
Replacing that media with a good potting mix is just as important as maintaining a strong fertilising routine. You want to give your new plant everything it needs to reward you with strong roots, lush foliage and plenty of growth. Depending on the plant, you need to make sure you also provide it with the most suitable potting media.
The difference between Soil and Potting Mix
At the most basic level - Soil is what you find outside and is primarily dirt. Potting Mix is a soil-less media made up of anything from composted bark, perlite, sand, scoria, sphagnum moss - but without any soil.
Outdoors, we can change and improve the quality of our soils to help support our plants. Adding compost and encouraging soil life (bacteria, microbes, worms), fertilising, mulching - it all helps change and improve the soil composition.
Indoors, simply taking soil to pot our plants up in would be a disaster. Apart from the fact there is a good chance the soil in your garden is not the same as the soil where your plant comes from, the soil from outside often comes with a host of bacteria, weeds and pests that might not get on so well with your indoor plant.
For indoor and potted plants, we use a potting mix. Potting mix is a lightweight, free-draining alternative to soil. Many potting mixes will also contain slow release fertilisers and trace elements to help your newly potted plant establish itself. Occasionally, you might purchase a plant that has been grown in something that looks more like thick strands of hair - this is most likely peat moss or sphagnum moss. Growers love this for its ability to retain water and that’s why it’s often used for growing up cuttings or younger plants. As the plant matures though, it will need to be potted up into a potting mix as the peat most won’t be able to substitute for a good quality potting mix in the long run.
When to repot or pot up your plants
Ideally, you should provide your plants with a fresh potting mix once a year. This can be done by re-potting (freshening the mix in and literally re-potting a plant in the same container) or potting up (placing a plant in a new container when it outgrows its current one).
This is important as it adds nutrients to the soil, loosens the roots a little to allow for better watering, it creates space for new root growth, as well as allowing you to check for any damaged/diseased roots that might need to be pruned off.
If you’re not simply repotting or replacing the mix, you mix be potting up. That means removing the plant from one pot and repotting into a larger pot. This will help encourage the plant to increase its size.
Roots coming out the drainage holes or running along the inside edges of the pot
If you have roots pushing through the drainage hole or starting to wrap their way around the inside of the pot, this is a sign the plant has outgrown the pot. If you don’t repot up soon, the roots can actually get so tight they won’t be able to draw up any more water and the plant will effectively strangle itself.
Your Plant has stopped growing
If you’re doing everything right but not seeing any new growth, it might be the plant’s way of telling you it needs to upsize. Only ever repot into a pot one or two sizes larger than the pot it came out of.
The Potting Media is drying out much faster than previously
This is a sign that the plant's roots are occupying so much space in the pot that the water is not able to cling to as much potting media as it used to. Instead, its running down the roots and out of the pot
The Plant/Pot Ratio is heavily skewed in favour of the plant
If your plant is looking massive and your pot is looking ridiculously small, that’s a pretty good sign it’s time to repot.
There are numerous types of potting mix on the market today. We offer three types for the most common and popular varieties of indoor plants.
Aroids and Tropical houseplants need a blend of large chunk orchid bark, perlite, coco peat and compost to really thrive. This allows for their larger roots to move easily through the mix and provides them with extra moisture retention.
Aroid mix is best for: Monsteras, Philodendrons,Syngoniums, Rhaphidophoras, Epipremnums, Scindapsus, Anthuriums and any other plant in the Araceae family.
This mix is an all purpose mix designed with potted (ie indoor) plants in mind. Suitable for nearly all indoor plants, it contains ocmposted bark, scoria, perlite, coco coir, slow release fertiliser.
Our Indoor Mix is great for: Ficus, African Violets, Caladiums, Palms, Peperomias, Pileas, Fittonias
Cacti and succulents are most commonly found in arid sandy places and the cacti’s shallow roots are used to loose, well draining soils. Our mix is a blended combination of sand, scoria, and composted bark to allow for faster drainage and minimal water retention.
Our Cacti Mix is ideal for: Cacti and Succulents.
Before you start:
Have a tarp or sheet laid out to work on: This will keep the mess concentrated and make the clean up nice and easy.
Have everything you need within reach: You don’t want to be looking for things and opening doors or drawers with your dirt-covered hands.
Choose the right size pot for your plant: Make sure the plant has plenty of space to grow but keep the pot size in proportion from a design perspective. Keep in mind that you should only ever repot up 1-2 sizes. Too much potting media for the root ball can cause root rot.
Think about where you’re placing the pot when you are finished: This is especially important for large/heavy pots. If possible, it is always a good idea to pot up close to the intended final spot to save on unnecessary heavy lifting
Always use a quality potting mix: You're putting in the effort to repot, you might as well give it a quality potting mix. If you’re looking for some, we’ve got you covered here.
You will need:
Small tarp or sheet
Step One: Loosen the plant in its existing pot. With plastic pots you can often squeeze the sides but ceramic or terracotta pots will require a bit more finesse. Take an old knife or a ruler and run it around the edges to free the plant up.
Step Two:Remove the plant by placing your hand over the top of the soil. Slide your fingers or hand on either side of the plant. Turn the pot upside down and pull the pot away from the plant in your hand.If you have loosened it correctly, gravity should do most of the work.
Step Three: Once out, loosen the outermost roots gently. This is often referred to as ‘teasing’
Step Four: Place a piece of landscaper’s fabric or permeable cloth over the drainage holes. This helps prevent any potting mix clogging the drainage holes later on.
Step Five: Add potting mix to the base of the pot so that when the plant sits on it, it will be around a centimetre below the top edge. Doing this will prevent water and potting mix spilling over the edge when you water the plant. Once the plant is sitting at the correct height, add potting mix around the plant, firming it in as you go. Remember the potting mix will sag over time so pack it in reasonably hard until you’ve just covered the top of the plant. Keep rotating the pot as you do this to ensure the plant sits in the centre of the pot.
Step Six: Once the plant is planted firmly in the pot, water it in well to avoid transplant shock.