A homemade potting mix can be made from just a few ingredients and is significantly cheaper than buying a prepackaged container soil. It can be made using peat moss, perlite, compost, sand, coco coir, or composted wood bark.
Here you’ll find instructions for making homemade potting soil as well as eight recipes for growing succulents, house plants, orchids, shrubs, and cuttings.
Potting Mix vs. Potting Soil
Both potting soil and potting mix are a form of growing medium for potted plants; the terms are often used interchangeably, but there are differences between the two.
Growing medium for potted plants that does not contain soil (dirt) is called potting mix. Growing medium for potted plants without soil is called potting mix. Potting mix is usually a mixture of organic matter and inorganic matter, but it can also be completely soil.
Potting soil or potting mix commonly contains organic ingredients such as peat moss, compost, and humus, while inorganic ingredients such as perlite, vermiculite, and pumice are commonly used.
A soil is improved by adding organic substances in order to add nutrients, better retain water, and introduce beneficial microbes; while inorganic substances are added to increase drainage, and aerate the soil.
We will use the terms potting soil and potting mix interchangeably in this article.
What is Potting Soil?
Peat moss, compost, and coarse sand are usually combined in potting soil to create air pockets, promote root growth, and oxygenate the soil. Organic ingredients help keep plants healthy and nourish them. Inorganic ingredients produce drainage, encourage root growth, and oxygenate the soil.
Potting soil is essential for houseplants to thrive indoors because the ideal potting mix is adapted to each plant’s needs. The best potting soil mix ensures optimal soil hydration. It retains just enough moisture and allows excess water to drain, preventing root rot.
It is not recommended to use soil from your garden in the potting mix since it may contain harmful bacteria or microorganisms as well as plant pests and weed seeds.
If you repot plants, you shouldn’t use old potting soil because it may have no nutrients or may contain harmful bugs. Fresh potting soil encourages healthy plant growth as it contains nutrients and microorganisms that are essential for healthy plant growth.
Different Types of Potting Soil
A homemade potting soil mix can be customized to meet the needs of your plants. Inorganic ingredients such as perlite, grit, or gravel increase drainage. Organic substances like peat moss or composted bark add nutrients and help with water retention.
Potting mixes can come in many different types. Here are a few:
All-purpose potting soil. Mixing peat and perlite in potting soil improves the consistency, while adding composted bark can make it more stable.
Potting soil for cuttings. Perlite, vermiculite, or sand are the main ingredients in this soilless mix.
A mixture of coco coir or peat with perlite or coarse sand makes the ideal potting soil for potted trees and shrubs.
Succulent potting soil. Perlite, pumice, or coarse sand should be included in succulent planting soil because they contain high levels of inorganic matter.
Peat moss is mixed with the gravel or grit in cactus potting soil.
Potting mix for orchids. Sphagnum moss, bark chips, and perlite, along with other items commonly used for soilless orchid cultivation, are ideal growing mediums.
Potting Mix Ingredients
The best way to make DIY potting soil is to familiarize yourself with the functions of each ingredient. By doing so, you can create a potting mix that suits your houseplants, succulents, shrubs, or orchids.
The following ingredients are used in potting soil recipes:
A common ingredient in potting soil mixes is peat moss. Peat moss is composed of organic material that has become dissolved over time. Peat moss has many benefits in potting soil, including moisture retention, mineral content, and cost.
If your potting soil is acidic as a result of peat moss, you will have to include limestone to reduce acidity and maintain the pH levels.
Some people refer to peat moss as ‘sphagnum peat moss’ because it is made mostly of sphagnum moss. This plant grows on top of bogs.
This brown, crumbly substance is made from coconut fiber; it is a soil substitute that is similar to peat. While it contains many nutrients, coir is relatively neutral in pH. Coco coir is used for potting soil and soilless mixes.
Compost is used in DIY potting soil so that nutrients can be added. Compost contains beneficial microbes that encourage healthy soil and plant growth. Compost can be made from worm castings, grass clippings, leaves, or any organic substance.
Organic compost should not contain any toxic substances, so ensure that it is purchased.
Composted wood bark
Wood chips can be used to amend potting soil to increase aeration and provide nutrients. Loose potting soil gives plants plenty of space to grow and absorb soil goodness. At the same time, wood chips help retain moisture.
In organic potting soil, perlite improves drainage. Perlite is made by putting granules through extreme temperatures, creating small, light chips that resemble Styrofoam balls. It has a neutral pH, is light, and is cheap to buy.
It is made from molten lava just like perlite. Both substances are porous and boost drainage in soil. Many gardeners recommend using pumice for tall plants rather than perlite because it weighs more. Perlite’s price is cheaper than pumice’s.
If you plan to grow plants without soil, germinate seeds, or take root cuttings of plants, then vermiculite is a good addition to potting soil mixes. Avoid using vermiculite in potting soil for succulents and cacti.
Coarse horticultural sand
Coarse sand is ideal for adding to succulent potting soil and some types of cactus potting mix. Its large grains allow water to flow freely without retaining any moisture.
Using fine sand can cause desert plants and succulents to suffer from root rot because it decreases drainage. The use of crushed granite, aquarium gravel, or poultry grit can be substitutes for coarse sand.
Peat is acidic and many houseplants require neutral or slightly alkaline soil. Limestone is required in DIY potting soil recipes to add alkalinity. Potting soil will be more alkaline with limestone added.
It is crucial to feed your houseplants with organic-based home-made potting soil to ensure health. Organic-based houseplant fertilizers are the best because they contain all the nutrients the plants need to flourish and thrive. For example, you can use worm tea, compost tea, fish emulsion, or kelp as organic fertilizers.
How to Make DIY Potting Mix
The basic DIY potting mix recipe includes equal parts of peat moss and perlite. Combine the ingredients in a bucket, add water, and stir to combine thoroughly. Adjust the quantities if necessary, and add additional ingredients if necessary.
To make your own potting soil, all you need is potting soil ingredients, a large jar for measuring, a bucket, and a safety mask.
When preparing DIY gardening soil, the ingredient measurements are given as “parts.” Each “part” is specific to how much soil you’ll make. The most important thing is that the proportions be consistent.
Wearing a safety mask, adding the ingredients to the bucket, and mixing well is all you have to do.
Homemade Potting Soil Recipes
Creating potting soil at home is easy. All you need is a few key ingredients and you can mix them to create the perfect growing medium for potted plants. Here are eight DIY potting soil recipes you can make yourself.
All-Purpose Potting Soil Recipe
A potting mix that is all-purpose provides houseplants with nutrients, retains some moisture, and keeps the soil from getting too wet.
Here is the recipe for all-purpose potting soil:
- 2 parts peat moss or coco coir
- 1 part compost
- 1 part perlite or pumice
- A tablespoon of ground limestone if you use peat moss
Potting Mix Recipe for Cuttings
The roots of cuttings require oxygen and some room to grow, which is best achieved using a soilless potting mix.
The potting mix recipe for cuttings is:
- 1 part peat moss or coco coir
- 1 part perlite or coarse sand
Vermiculite also helps keep cuttings moist, so you could either moisten it or mix it with water before you place the cuttings into it.
Potting Mix for Starting Seeds
Seedling soil should be lightweight, efficient at retenting water, and fast draining so that it is appropriate for growing plants from seeds.
The recipe for homemade soil for seeds is:
- 4 parts peat moss
- 1/2 part perlite or coarse sand
- 1/2 part vermiculite
- 1/4 teaspoon of limestone
Succulent Potting Soil Recipe
Unlike other plants that require a lot of water, succulents don’t mind a dry potting soil while retaining a small amount of moisture.
The DIY potting mix for succulents is:
- 1 part compost or coco coir
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part horticultural sand
Cactus Potting Soil
Potted cactus plants require potting soil similar to succulents, with a few food supplements. Cactus plants need dry soil most of the time.
Here is the homemade recipe for cactus soil:
- 1 part compost or coco coir
- 1 part grit or coarse gravel
- 1 part perlite
Many people use sand in their cactus potting mix, but this isn’t recommended. Fine sand can hamper drainage and may not allow for good water absorption. We recommend grit, gravel, or crushed stones for cactus soil.
Potting Mix for Orchids
If the epiphyte roots get plenty of air, they will acquire moisture and nutrients from the environment. At the same time, orchids do best in a soilless environment.
The DIY potting soil for orchids is:
- 3 parts fir bark
- 1 part chopped coarse sphagnum moss
- 1 part perlite
Potting Soil for Vegetables and Herbs
It’s necessary to use potting soil that contains plenty of nutrients and microorganisms in order to grow healthy foods.
The recipe for homemade potting soil to grow edible plants is:
- 2 parts peat moss
- 3 parts compost
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part perlite
- 1 tablespoon of limestone
Potting Soil for Potted Trees and Shrubs
Unlike houseplants, potted trees and shrubs require the same soil mix as houseplants. However, you can use this soil recipe for indoor potted trees and shrubs.
The DIY potting soil mix recipe for trees and shrubs is:
- 3 parts compost
- 3 parts peat most or coir fiber
- 2 parts composted pine bark
- 3 parts perlite
- 2 parts coarse horticultural sand
Safety Precautions When Making Homemade Potting Soil
The safety of your health when making homemade potting soil mix is key. Although there are no toxic chemicals in homemade potting soil, decomposed organic matter, such as peat moss, can contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria.
The following steps can help you prevent contamination in potting mix:
- Avoid breathing in dust by wearing a face mask designed to filter out small particles.
- Handle potting soil ingredients with protective gloves.
- Whenever you make potting soil, wash your hands afterwards.
- Keep your hands clean when touching your face.
- Protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses.
- A spray bottle is handy for dampening dusty ingredients.