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Best Well-Draining Potting Soil [Commercial + DIY Guide]

The stunted growth, burnt foliage, bacterial growth, and root rot are all linked to the wrong potting soil.

Well-draining potting soil allows water drainage at a medium rate and promotes air pockets for oxygen circulation. You can choose a mix of organic/inorganic matters like peat moss, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, chips, barks, and sand for your house plants.

Read on to find out how to make perfect well-draining potting soil at home or where to buy one.

What is a Well-Draining Potting Soil?

Also known as well-draining soil, the potting mix drains water quickly, moistening the soil.

The compact soil will choke the plant roots, depriving them of water and oxygen, while continuously moist soil will drown them.

Well-draining potting soil
A well-draining potting mix is appropriate for most houseplants.

Both cases may negatively affect plant growth unless growing succulents and Bee Balm. These plants thrive in compact or wet soil, requiring a perfect soil mix that drains steadily.

If you are wondering, most plants like Monstera, Anthurium, Pothos, Fiddle-leaf, and Bromeliad will naturally thrive in well-draining soil.

You can tell how well-draining potting soil is if you have grown these plants. Otherwise, you could tell it by simply doing a small test.

Water your pot containing regular potting mix thoroughly, then water it again. If the water puddles up, it is slow draining; if all the water drains out, it is fast draining.

You would want the potting soil that drains 2.5 cm per hour to ensure well-draining soil. Here is a small table for soil drainage capacity.

CapacityDrainage per hour
Slow-drainingLess than 2 inch
Well-draining2 to 3 inch
Fast-draining4 inches or more
Note: One of the best well-draining soils is the orchid mix which provides the correct soil drainage, structural support, and moisture retention.

How to Make Well-Draining Potting Soil?

Organic matter like peat, coco, and compost provide healthy microorganisms, while inorganic materials like perlite and vermiculite promote aeration by making the soil porous.

You can also introduce different household components to your potting soil, such as sawdust, straw, shredded newspaper, bark, dry leaves, plant clippings, grass, eggshells, coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps to make the soil well-draining.

Potting Soil Recipes

Here is how to prepare well-draining potting soil using different materials. Remember, a 5-inch pot will require 1 liter or 2.2 lb. of potting soil.

Recipe 1

Here is a popular recipe for preparing potting soil.

  • 40% coco coir
  • 25% orchid bark
  • 25% perlite
  • 10% vermicompost
  • Top it off with some organic compost (Depending on the plant’s requirement)
A bowl in man's hand
You can add components like perlite and vermiculite to make the potting mix well-draining.

Recipe 2

Here is an alternative recipe.

  • 50% peat moss
  • 30% perlite
  • 20% orchid bark
  • Top it off with some organic compost (Depending on the plant’s requirement)

Recipe 3

Here is a rather unpopular yet effective well-draining formula.

  • 60% potting sand
  • 20% organic compost (worm casting or compost)
  • 20% perlite, orchid bark, and coco peat

How to Make Potting Soil Well-Draining?

Consider amending the potting soil with a different matter if you have already prepared a substrate but it is not so well-draining.

  • In the case of potting soil rich in sand and clay, add 1/3 parts perlite or orchid bark to make the substrate lighter.
  • Mix it with organic compost, pine bark, composted leaves, and vermiculite for compact potting soil.
  • Add sand, peat moss, organic compost, and orchid bark for loose soil to provide more support and a denser structure.
  • Adding peat moss or clay to an existing low-draining soil will worsen it.
  • When amending the last year’s soil, you can remove half of it or push it to the bottom of the pot and fill the upper part by adding organic compost, perlite, or vermiculite.
  • Do not forget to check the soil pH level before planting to ensure the soil condition is correct for the particular plant.

Best Well-Draining Potting Soil for Indoor Plants

Buying commercial potting soil may work for gardeners not up for preparing soil mix at home.

Using commercial well-draining potting soil would work great for novice gardeners who are least experienced with mixing soil.

Most indoor plants, like Arrowhead plants, are low-maintenance but can’t tolerate bad soil conditions.

Here are the five best commercial potting mixes for houseplants requiring well-draining substrate.

1. Miracle-Gro Houseplant Potting Mix

The Scott’s Miracle-Gro® Houseplant Potting Mix is a perfect well-draining potting soil for most houseplants.

It is packed with essential nutrients and elements that feed your plant for up to 6 months.

Miracle-Gro potting mix
Scott’s Miracle-Gro Houseplant Potting Mix is perfect for indoor plants.

Moreover, the rich perlite, peat moss, and sphagnum content make it less prone to gnats.

Pros

  • It is certified by the Mulch & Soil Council.
  • It is less prone to soil-borne pests.
  • A 4-quart soil mix bag is enough to fill two 5-inch pots.
  • Prevents introducing fertilizer for up to 6 months.

Cons

  • The rich organic matter may not be appropriate for all houseplants.
  • Water infiltration is slightly low and requires further amending with perlite.

2. Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix

Espoma organic potting mix is perfect for all indoor and outdoor containers.

It contains a rich blend of sphagnum peat moss, humus, and perlite enhanced with Myco-tone.

Moreover, it is fortified with earthworm casting, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and feather meal for rapid plant growth.

Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix
Espoma Organic Potting contains Sphagnum moss, humus, perlite and limestone.

Pros

  • It contains rich organic composts such as earthworm casting and alfalfa meal.
  • Provides perfect Myco-tone, a proprietary blend of endo and ectomycorrhizae.

Cons

  • The sphagnum peat moss content is slightly more than other organic mixes.
  • It is prone to fungus gnats and other bacterial growth.

3. Mother Earth Coco Plus Perlite Mix

Mother Earth potting mix perfectly blends texture, porosity, and high-cation exchange capacity required for most houseplants.

The rich coco and perlite provide a perfect growing environment, a great alternative to potting soil. It incorporates 70% of the finest coco pith and fiber blend and 30% perlite for good aeration.

Mother Earth Coco+ Perlite
Mother Earth Soil Mix comprises 70% coco coir and 30% perlite.

Pros

  • It provides perfect soil structure and aeration.
  • The rich coco coir content provides lightness and reduces the risk of waterlogging.

Cons

  • The substrate lacks essential nutrients.
  • Care to amend the soil with organic compost.

4. Miracle-Gro Expand’ n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix

Another potting soil from Miracle-Gro provides an excellent substitute for potting mix.

The perfect soil mix holds up to 50% more water than basic potting soil, appropriate for flowering perennials.

Miracle-gro soil potting mix
You should use light and shaggy potting soil for containers.

Pros

  • Ensures 3x more prominent and better plant.
  • Expand soil density by 3x when water is added.
  • Creates up to 90% more air space.

Cons

  • It may not be appropriate for low-water requiring houseplants.

5. Fertilome Ultimate Potting Mix

The all-purpose potting mix is excellent for potted plants as it includes the formulation of mycorrhizae, worm castings, and humic acids.

Fertilome potting mix contains two types of limestone to balance out soil acidity. It is perfect for indoor plants, seedlings, and outdoor planters.

Fertilome soil potting mix
Fertilome Ultimate potting soil is best for potted plants and hanging baskets.

Pros

  • It contains a rich blend of organic and inorganic matter.
  • It is OMRI listed for organic use.

Best Well-Draining Potting Soil for Outdoor Plants

Finding a well-draining potting soil for outdoor plants may be tricky because garden-grown plants usually require a mix of different soil.

Finding soil mix for plants potted in outdoor planters may be easy as you grow it in a pot or raised garden bed; hence, you can use the same potting mix for outdoor plants.

Here are a few well-draining potting soils for indoor and outdoor planters.

MaterialsPropertiesImage
Good Dirt All Purpose Potting Mix1. The 2 CF bag contains a chemical-free potting mix with organic-based nutrients and plant biotic.

2. The premium quality sustainable peat moss is ideal for water retention.
Proven Winners® Premium Potting Soil1. It is perfect for flowering plants that require the best soil combination for boosted growth.

2. It comes with 15-7-15 + minors premium continuous-release plant food.
FoxFarm Ocean Forest FX14000 Organic Potting Soil1. It is an ideal soil for hungry indoor and outdoor plants.

2. The blend of earthworm casting, bat guano, sea-going fish meal, forest humus, and moss provides a rich organic blend.
rePotme Phalaenopsis Imperial Orchid Mix1. The custom-blended orchid mix contains rich sphagnum moss content.

2. Remember to amend it with perlite and organic compost before applying.

From Editorial Team

Conclusion!

Choosing a well-draining potting soil can be difficult, especially when houseplants require a slightly different soil mix.

Follow this guide to find the perfect blend of potting soil mix for most houseplants that thrive in well-draining soil.

Preparing homemade potting soil can be fun, but you can always rely on commercial soil mix to save time!

Remember to collect the correct materials, prepare and check the soil mix, and change as necessary.

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