Common Additives To Aerate Soil In Potted Plants
Perlite. The lightweight, airy volcanic rock helps aerate the soil and improve drainage. Styrofoam is often substituted for perlite in potting mixes, but it does not act as an aerator.
Coarse sand. By breaking up denser soils, large particles of sand help improve drainage.
Vermiculite. A mineral that is produced by heating mica chips; it improves aeration of the soil while retaining water and minerals that release slowly as the plants require them. Ideal for plants with high water requirements.
Peat moss. A potting material from decomposing plants and moss. It contains moisture and releases it when needed, and still remains lightweight and aerates adequately.
Sphagnum moss. Most commonly used with hanging plants that dry out quickly, but cannot be overwatered. A bog moss that is dried and used in soil to improve moisture retention and aeration.
The composition of the soil you use matters. Choose a mixture that is loose enough to allow roots to breathe and include moisture-absorbing material. The right soil will deliver nutrients while supporting root growth.
The Best Soil Aeration Methods
I am going to walk you through a few ways you can aerate your houseplant’s soil today to make it more hospitable.
There are many ways to improve your plant’s soil, such as adding perlite, perlite mixes, and even vermicompost (which contain real live earthworms).
Here’s a step-by-step method for easily aerating your indoor plants’ potting soil.
How to Aerate Your Potted Plants Using Chopsticks
The chopstick method is arguably the easiest method to aerate your plant’s soil by simply using chopsticks or similar instruments. Here is the process to follow.
Step 1. Poke the chopstick from top to bottom into the soil. Please be cautious of the roots as you poke down into the soil from which their attached. It is possible to also sift through the soil if you’re concerned that you might hit a root, which can happen.
Step 2. Water your houseplant, focusing specifically on the chopsticks you used to make openings in the drainage holes. It should move right out of the pot.
Step 3. Repeat Step 1 until the water drains in the hole at the bottom of the container, if you need to. That’s the main thing we’re trying to accomplish here. Air and water need to be able to pass through the soil quickly and easily. That’s the chopstick method!
How to Aerate Your Plant by Adding More Aerating Materials
Aerating materials are there to be replenished if your soil has been depleted long since. I’d recommend adding peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a minimum. Plants that like more dry conditions, such as succulents, will benefit from the addition of sand as well.
Step 1. You will need one part potting soil, one part vermiculite or perlite, and one part sphagnum moss to make your soil mix.
Step 2. Add the soil mix to the pot.
Step 3. Make sure you water it enough so the new soil is moist but not soggy, otherwise it won’t drain as well as it should.
How to Aerate Your Plant by Making Vermicompost
Keeping your indoor garden light and airy starts with a healthy compost pile. If there are earthworms in the compost, they will eat the food and hold the soil in place.
I understand why some indoor gardeners would not be thrilled at the prospect of getting live worms in the pot of their plants.
I would ask you to think twice. Earthworms might appear disgusting to you, but they are necessary for the health of a wide variety of plants. I do not consider them pests, but rather helpful friends of plants.
You must use a specific type of compost called vermicompost or worm compost.
How to Make Vermicompost
Step 1. Collect ingredients for your compost pile. Vegetable and fruit scraps work great, but dairy, oils, and meats don’t. You need compost ingredients the worms can process quickly. Make sure you avoid citrus fruit when making your vermicompost pile. All you will get are fruit flies, not earthworms.
Step 2. The container you use for your materials should measure 24 inches by 18 inches by 8 inches and be between 5 and 10 gallons. It is recommended that you use a shallower container rather than a heavier one for your work.
Step 3. Take care of the earthworms! Yes, this is the grossest part, but it will pay off. You don’t have to dig your yard up looking for worms. The worms can be bought online or at your local fishing equipment store. Just make sure the worms are alive.
Step 4. Your composting container will be ready once your worms are ready. Let the worms do their thing and wait. The compost can take anywhere from three to five months before it is ready to use, so be patient.
Does Aerating Soil Damage the Plant’s Roots?
It could very well have been the roots of your plant that you struck when you poked chopsticks into the soil. Now you worry that the clump of compacted soil was not what you hit.
During aeration, your roots might come in contact with yours, but you might also break a few. In a healthy environment, roots can regrow, but in a compacted environment, they won’t, at least not easily.
It’s safe to say that there is some risk here, but the risk doesn’t outweigh the rewards.
Basically, it’s pretty similar to when you trim your plant’s roots. You’re doing the same thing by aerating your plant too, but perhaps a bit more vigorously. Your plant will be fine eventually.
In addition, keep in mind that you should be careful when aerating to avoid damage.
How Often Should You Aerate Your Plant’s Soil?
It’s important to aerate your plant’s soil regularly now that you understand its importance. How regularly you carry it out depends on your preferences.
You should have your fingers in the soil to tell when it is time to water your houseplants anyway. However, if you’re finding it hard to get your fingers in the soil , then compaction occurs.
Soil compaction should be prevented rather than dealt with once it’s already begun. Hard, compacted soil poses a serious threat to your plant’s existence!