A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own Potting Mix

Creating your own potting mix allows you to manipulate how often your plant needs to be watered and how closely the potting mix resembles something that the plant would naturally grow in.

This can be hugely advantageous when you really want to watch plants thrive in your home.

BUT creating your own potting mix can be super intimidating if you’ve never done it before, which is why I created this week’s post to give you an easy way to start creating your own potting mix today!

Table of Contents

#1 Start with a pre-bagged mix that you like

A lot of people commonly start with a pre-bagged mix rather than creating a mix completely from scratch. Then they take the commercial houseplant mix and add different ingredients to allow it to better suit certain plants and their home environments.

This is what I still do 98% of the time.

What are the benefits of using a pre-bagged mix? Pre-bagged mixes are already PH adjusted, often have some nutrients added, and often have some component that adds a little aeration. This provides a solid start for our custom mix so we most likely do not need to worry about more advanced issues, like soil PH.

You can start with any brand of potting mix that you prefer.

I personally really like Espoma Organic products because of both the quality of their products and their company’s commitment to producing those products in the most environmentally friendly way they can.

The one I use for most of my custom mixes is Espoma Organic Potting Mix. I will insert a photo of the bag with a link to Amazon for purchase.

I am in no way affiliated with Espoma Organic. I just really like their stuff!

Espoma Organic Potting Mix, linked to Amazon via the affiliate program*

*A Natural Curiosity is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

#2 Decide which soil amendments you want to add

The most commonly-used soil amendment is perlite because it is inexpensive and easy to find while also effectively adding aeration and drainage to a potting mix.

However, there are lots of other options that you can consider as well, like: pumice, orchid bark, and sand, just to name a few.

If you want to learn more about these options, take a look at my post from last week which provides brief information about each of the products including what they are and how beneficial they are to use.

I personally use and recommend perlite, pumice, orchid bark, and horticultural or coarse sand.

Here’s a link to that post: 6 Soil Amendments You Should Add to Your Potting Mix (& 2 You Shouldn’t!)

If you want to try adding just perlite, for now, that is a fantastic place to start.

When choosing perlite, the larger the pieces of perlite are, the more aeration and drainage the perlite will add.

Here’s a great diagram showing how different various sizes of perlite are. The smaller or more fine the pieces are, the less aeration it adds and the more moisture retention it offers.

#3 Start with an easy recipe and test it out

The recipe I would recommend people start with is 2/3 pre-bagged potting mix to 1/3 amendments.

Why one-third amendments? Because most plants will thrive with this amount of added aeration in most indoor environments. Many plants may want even more aeration and very few will need less.

We will talk about ways to know whether your plant prefers more or less soil amendments in the next section!

Some people also recommend starting with a 50/50 mix of pre-bagged potting mix to amendments. Whatever you are most comfortable trying (whether it is one of these 2 suggestions or something totally different) is fine.

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#4 Adjust as you go

Any potting mix you create at home can be seen as a starting point that you can change in any way you decide as time goes on.

Think of it as your first attempt at creating a soup from scratch without a recipe. You aren’t totally sure what ingredients or how much of each ingredient you and your family will like. So, each time you make the soup, you modify it a little to see if you like it more or less.

Creating a potting mix is very similar!

If you are looking for some guidance to help you interpret what your plant might be telling you it would like in a potting mix, here are some clues to look for:

How do you know whether you are providing too much or too little aeration?

Your plant might want fewer soil amendments & less aeration if:

  1. The plant is drying out within a couple of days AND is not a cactus or desert succulent
  2. The plant is wilting between waterings

Your plant might want more soil amendments & more aeration if:

  1. Your plant’s potting mix is still wet after a week
  2. Your plant’s potting mix has a musty smell
  3. Your plant’s leaves are turning yellow and mushy

The suggestions I make above (to help you determine whether your plant wants more or less aeration) assume that:

  1. Your plant is receiving adequate amounts of light
  2. Your plant is in a pot that allows a little room for it to grow but isn’t too small or too large
  3. You are watering your plant when it’s nearly dry or completely dry (not when it has been dry for a long time or when the potting mix is still saturated)

If you aren’t sure whether your plant is receiving adequate light, in an appropriate size pot, or being watered at the right time, check out these blog posts to help troubleshoot:

#5 Know that you are never stuck using a certain recipe and that there are a billion different recipes out there for a reason!

No one can tell you a definitive recipe that will provide you with guaranteed success because every plant, pot, and home is slightly different.

So any recipes included on this blog or anywhere else can be used as a place to start, but not necessarily as the “correct answer” to how to make your own potting mix. The truth is that there are endless amounts of “correct answers” as it just has to work well for the person using it.

So! Feel free to mix it up, try something totally different, and see how it works.

I personally use a mix of orchid bark, pumice, and potting mix for most of my plants now. The majority of my plants are epiphytes (or plants that like to climb trees with roots primarily exposed) and like chunky, airy mixes.

However, I have some plants in sandy mixes, in mixes that are completely peat moss and coco coir free, and more.

But that isn’t how I started. I just started by adding some perlite to my plant’s potting mix and watching how much the extra aeration improved the health of the plant.

Good luck creating your own potting mix!

Do you already make your own potting mix? What are your favorite recipes? Share in the comments below!

Happy growing!

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