When it comes to choosing the correct soil for your container plants then there is a lot more to it than just purchasing a bag of compost and throwing it in while hoping for the best. Instead, you have a number of areas that have to be taken into consideration and ultimately it is going to have a major impact on the potential success of whatever type of plant it is that you are growing in your pots.
So, throw away those ideas of just using any kind of soil as your plants will complain and just refuse to grow and instead, take these different points into consideration as they are going to make your life so much easier.
Tip 1: Understand what your plant needs.
The first tip is huge, you need to understand what it is that your plant needs. Each plant is different. Some prefer light soil, some enjoy heavier soil. Others are going to want something that has unbelievable drainage while others are able to deal with a bit of moisture. Some are heavy feeders and so the soil has to be extremely fertile and for you to keep topping it up while others are light feeders and that kind of thing is not as important.
In other words, study the plant and find out exactly what it needs to thrive (even including adding the likes of perlite or vermiculite to the soil to help) and your plant is going to reward you at the end of the day.
Tip 2: Making a choice – Organic or conventional potting soil?
When it comes to soil then you have two choices either organic or conventional potting soil. In short, organic is eco-friendly and it even has organic micro-organisms that provide nutrients in the soil. Conventional potting soil is something that has been put together by man even though it uses natural ingredients. It is, to a certain extent, artificial so which one do you prefer?
Tip 3: How often does a plant need fresh soil?
Some plants require fresh soil every single year and in that case it is strongly recommended that you use conventional soil. This has a limited amount of nutrients and they are spent by the end of the growing season so you can easily discard it. This soil is also going to be less expensive which is another key advantage for some people.
Tip 4: Use a medium weight soil for plants that love a lot of sun.
Here is a wonderful tip, always look at using a medium weight soil for any plant in a container that loves a lot of sunshine. By doing this, you are striking this perfect balance between a soil that is able to hold onto moisture a bit longer to stop it from drying out constantly but also not too long that the roots become saturated. If you choose a light soil that has exceptional drainage, then be prepared to water the plants on a continual basis.
Tip 5: Use lighter soil for hanging baskets or plants in shade.
Another tip is to use lighter soil if you are putting together hanging baskets or dealing with plants that have to go into the shade. They are not going to be exposed to the same amount of heat or light so it takes longer for the soil to dry out naturally so heavy soil is going to become waterlogged and cause problems. Lighter soil will drain well and it can stop the plant from rotting.
Tip 6: Avoid heavy soil.
There are a lot of people that believe you should never use heavy soil as few plants can actually survive in it. The problem is that it is just too dense and will stick together reducing the oxygen that gets to the roots and holding onto too much moisture.
Tip 7: Use a potting mix with a slow-release fertilizer included.
Feeding plants is important for their growth, but at the same time you also have to be careful about how it is released as you do not want to hit them hard with nutrients from the get go. What we advise is to look at a potting mix that also has its own slow release fertilizer included as that means the plants are going to be receiving those nutrients over an extended period of time leading to constant growth but without it being too rapid that the strength of the plant suffers.
Tip 8: Keep an eye on the ratios in the fertilizer.
Most plants require nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in their fertilizer although there are various other minerals that are included. However, for optimum growth and growing improvement thanks to fertilizer you should keep an eye out for the ratios that exist in a product between those three chemicals. Also, you have to understand what the plant itself is looking for as some prefer high nitrogen while others might struggle with high nitrogen and prefer higher levels of potassium.
Tip 9: Use a liquid fertilizer to replenish nutrients.
Plants do need fed and the potting mix can only provide so much and for a certain period of time. As a result, you should look at using a liquid fertilizer in order to replenish the nutrients. The liquid can work its way through the soil so the roots are going to benefit a great deal more than they would do if the fertilizer just sat on the surface.
Tip 10: Understand the common ingredients.
A potting mix is going to have ingredients and you need to understand what they are as this is going to have an impact on the type of soil that you end up purchasing. For example, a potting mix for containers can include moss, compost, sand, perlite, vermiculite, peat, bark, and so many other ingredients and the mix can have an impact on the type of plants that you can then grow in the mix. Ignore the ingredients and you could be making it more difficult for your plants to grow in your containers.
Tip 11: Look out for specific soils for specific uses.
As different plants need different requirements it makes sense that you have to be aware of there being specific soils for specific uses. For example, a potting mix for germinating seeds is going to have a different consistency and have different ingredients for one that is aimed at seedlings which is then different to soil for hanging baskets and established plants. Look at what the soil is for and see if it matches up for what you are purchasing it for.
Tip 12: Keep an eye out for fungal growth.
Potting soil can be susceptible to fungal growth and clearly that is a problem for your plants. This is due to there being fungal microbes already existing in the soil and the only thing that you can do is to remove the soil, get as much off the roots as possible, and then put the plant in another container. Disinfect that container before you use it again.
Tip 13: Helping to keep moisture.
Making sure that you have the correct moisture levels in the soil is important for each and every plant but there are things that you can add to the soil in order to help the drainage or the way in which the soil holds onto water. Sand, perlite, and vermiculite are common ingredients that will make it easier for water to flow through, but you can also purchase water absorbing granules that can be added to the soil and they can even then release the moisture back into the soil in a controlled way.
Tip 14: Thinking about speciality potting soil.
We mentioned earlier about the existence of potting mixes for specific reasons but there are also a batch of speciality potting soils that you might want to consider checking out. For example, there are mixes that are aimed more at plants such as tomatoes or peppers whereas you will get a completely different mix if you are purchasing a soil for certain plants such as an azalea for example. Once again, this is because of changes in the nutrients that are within the soil due to the understanding that it is directly related to what the plants need.
Tip 15: Mixing potting soils.
The final tip is connected to your ability to mix potting soils and by this we mean making your very own concoction. This is not that easy to do thanks to you having to get the correct ratios but do not allow that to put you off. Instead, keep in mind the levels of perlite that can help with drainage and also remember that it can help to produce a lighter soil that has better drainage. Experiment and see the difference in results.
Now, 15 tips does sound like a lot, but the information that is contained within the tips is so easy to understand that you should not be concerned about taking the things on board and putting them into action. Remember, taking your time and making sure that you have indeed bought the correct soil is going to result in you having stronger and healthier plants and that in itself is the best reason for doing it.