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Can I Use Garden Soil For Indoor Plants?

When I first started with indoor plants, I decided to use the nutrient-rich soil from our yard, where we used to grow vegetables and fruits. However, soon I realized that all my indoor plants were struggling, and I knew it could be the soil I used.

And I was right; It was the soil that was not allowing these indoor plants to grow. But why? Why were my vegetables and fruits in my yard thriving in the same soil, whereas my indoor plants struggled to survive?

I did thorough research if I can use garden soil for indoor plants, and here is what I have found out!

Garden soil is made up of clay, sand, and silt that is heavy and prone to compacting as it gets dry. This type of soil doesn’t allow sufficient aeration, and it cannot hold water and nutrients long enough for potted plants to benefit from it. Thus, garden soil is not recommended for indoor plants.

With that said, we have understood that we shouldn’t use garden soil for indoor plants. But what should I use instead? And what makes garden soil a poor choice for indoor plants? Let’s dive right into it.



What kind of soil do indoor plants need?

If you want your indoor plants to thrive, we need the soil to have specific characteristics. These include:

Good drainage: Most of the indoor plants wilt due to overwatering. Thus, the essential characteristic of indoor plant potting mix is adequate drainage capacity.

The soil mix must allow the water to pass through fairly quickly. If the soil is holding a lot of water, your indoor plants are in trouble.

Light and aerated: When we add garden soil into a container, it tends to get hardened and compact as it dries out.

However, most indoor plants need aerated and light soil that lets the plant root breathe. Thus, your potting mix must be light and aerated for your plants to thrive.

Moisture retention: Most indoor plants need some moisture in the soil. If the soil is completely dried out, then these plants’ roots can get affected.

However, we don’t want soil soaked in water. We just need it to be moist. Think of it as a wrung-out sponge. You can feel some moisture in it, but it’s not wet, right. That’s how your soil should be.

The right balance of nutrients: Nutrients are like supplements for plants. Just think of it as vitamins for a human being.

It would be best to make sure the soil has a balanced amount of nutrients, which includes Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium(NPK).

These are the essential nutrients needed by your indoor plants. However, don’t overfeed them as too much of anything is bad for health, and the same applies to our plants as well.


Now that you know what your indoor plants need, you must be wondering what’s wrong with garden soil then? Doesn’t garden soil have all of these?

If not, how are my plants outdoors doing well in the same soil, whereas the plant inside my home struggles? Don’t worry. I have answers to all your question. Just keep reading, and I shall clear all your doubts.

Also read: Do indoor plant need fertilizer?



Why is garden soil bad for indoor plants?

I know you always wanted to use the free and readily available garden soil for your indoor plants. But let me tell you why you shouldn’t do so. So, let’s dive right into it.

Compact and heavy: Garden soil is made up of clay, sand, and silt that gets compacted and heavy, and thus it fails two crucial tests that we discussed earlier.

Most of the time, you will find the soil wet and soaked or dry and hard, neither of which is suitable for our indoor plants.

Critters and bugs: When you bring garden soil inside for your indoor plants, you are bringing in the soil and the critters and bugs along with it. Some of these critters may be good for your plants as it makes the soil rich.

However, there is a strong possibility that many unwanted pests and bugs will also come in, and they get an opportunity to thrive and harm your plants as the living environment gets balanced. 

Water holding: Most garden soil either holds too much water or doesn’t hold the water at all.

This can be detrimental for your plants’ health as indoor plants need well-balanced soil that holds the water long enough for them to absorb the required nutrients and hydration through their roots.

Poor moisture balance: Garden soil also doesn’t have a moisture balance as it cannot hold the moisture for the plants to thrive.

Most indoor plants need moisture in the soil to thrive, but most garden soil tends to get hard and dry when left unwatered for some time.

Unwanted Weeds: Garden soil will hold a lot of unwanted seeds of weeds. These weeds can germinate and create a nuisance for your indoor plants as the seeds get surfaced when we take them from the garden and use it in the pot.

Other diseases: Garden soil also contains a lot of fungus, spores, and bacteria that can be bad for the health of your indoor plants.

As we bring the soil inside our home, these bacteria and spores can also affect your family’s health as they thrive and spread well in a balanced environment inside our home. So, we must avoid using it primarily for indoor plants.


I hope it is not clear to you why garden soil is a bad choice for our indoor plants. But if we cannot use garden soil for indoor plants, what should we use instead? Let’s find out!

Also read: 13 Reasons why your indoor plants keeps dying?

What can I use for indoor plants instead of garden soil?

Most experts and experienced plant owners recommend using a soil-less medium known as a potting mix. Now, what is this potting mix?

Potting mix is nothing but a mixture of various natural elements like peat moss, sand, perlite, and other elements to create a base for plants to thrive.

This type of mix doesn’t contain any soil in it. It is basically a mix of light elements that holds water and nutrients for plants to thrive. With that said, let us dive into some common elements used in these mixes:

Peat: Peat moss is the most basic and essential soil mix component. It is an organic matter that holds the water and nutrients that are essential for the survival and growth of your indoor plants.

Sand: Sand is also a common addition to the potting mix. The high drainage and fine particle size of sand make it a fantastic addition for most soil mixes. Succulents and cactus love it into their mix.

Perlite/pumice: Perlite and pumice are volcanic rocks with small air pockets in them. These lightweight materials are super porous and aids in aeration and water control in the soil mix.

Compost: Compost or vermicompost are another crucial addition for any soil mix.

As the artificial potting mix, we create doesn’t have any nutrients in itself, adding a sufficient amount of compost is necessary for healthy growth. Compost provides our indoor plants with essential nutrients for healthy growth.

Vermiculite: Vermiculite is also an essential addition in some soil mixes. These are small nutrient-rich pellets or stones that promote the growth of microbes and bacteria needed to maintain the health of the soil mix.

It also helps absorb and store water, retain moisture and provide a slow release of macronutrients like calcium, potassium, and magnesium in the soil mix.

Wood chips: Wood chips are organic matter added to the potting mix to help with drainage and provide essential nutrients by slow decomposition.

If you live in a dry area, wood chips can also be used as mulch to keep the soil moist and humidity around the plant. However, the aesthetic might not be pleasing for everyone.

You can either create your own potting mix using a DIY method or grab one available in the market. I personally love Miracle-Gro potting mix for most of my indoor plants. 

However, if you want to go with a DIY mix, you can easily create one according to your plant’s need. Here is what you can do:

You can use this type of soil mix for most tropical plants. However, if you want a mix for succulent and cactus, you can either buy a readymade mix like Hoffman cactus mix

You can also create a DIY mix by reducing one part of peat moss and adding a part of sand into the mix.

Conclusion

Is garden soil good for indoor plants? Definitely not. You shouldn’t use garden soil for indoor potting plants as it doesn’t provide a favorable environment for these plants to survive.

Garden soil usually gets hard and compacted, which doesn’t provide enough air and space for the delicate roots of indoor plants.

Also, the growing environment of plants inside a home is quite different. Using an inefficient medium like garden soil can only make things difficult for our indoor plants.

It is recommended to go with soil-less potting mixes for the ideal growth of your indoor plants. You can either buy a readymade mix or prepare it DIY using the methods we discussed earlier.


Sources: The University of Georgia, Effectiveness of indoor plants.

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