Houseplants often lack the right substrate to thrive optimally. Because a good substrate mixture is crucial for the growth and health of the plants. It's also important to note that not all plants have the same needs. It is therefore advisable to find out about the specific needs of the respective plants before using substrates. But which plant substrates are there and what are their advantages? Regardless of whether you just want to improve standard universal soil or want to optimally mix organic and mineral components for your urban jungle - in this article we will introduce you to the top 6 organic substrates for indoor plants. Because most plants, including the popular Monstera, benefit from special mixes!
Difference between organic and mineral substrate
The main difference between mineral and organic substrates for indoor plants lies in their composition and properties.
Pure mineral substrates consist mainly of inorganic materials, such as rock and minerals. They have good drainage and aeration, making them particularly suitable for plants that need good drainage and not a nutrient-rich environment. Most succulents and cacti prefer this.
Organic substrates are mainly composed of living materials. They have a higher water storage capacity and many nutrients. Therefore, they are ideal for plants that prefer wetter conditions or have higher nutrient requirements. Most plants, such as B. philodendrons or ficus, prefer this.
The most important difference to remember when using houseplant substrates is that organic substrates release nutrients while mineral ones provide little to no nutrients. Therefore, plants growing in these substrates need to be fertilized regularly to meet their nutritional needs.
Overall, there is no universally perfect substrate as it depends on the specific needs of the plants. It is important to consider the needs of each plant and adjust the substrate for your houseplants accordingly.
The best organic substrates for plants
Compost is an excellent material for houseplants as it is rich in nutrients and microorganisms that can promote plant growth and health. Essentially, it is a natural fertilizer made up of shredded plant and food waste that is broken down under certain conditions to create a nutrient-rich soil conditioner. Compost that you can buy often consists of industrially decomposed waste such as green waste. But also material from a home composting can be added to the houseplant substrate, for example vermicompost. When making home compost, it's important not to compost diseased or pest-infested plants - these can then multiply and affect the health of your plants. It can be used as the main ingredient or as an addition to potting soil.
Wood fibers as part of a substrate for indoor plants offer several advantages: good water retention and soil aeration, and slow release of nutrients. In addition, they promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms and prevent the soil from clumping. In addition, wood fibers are free of pathogens and weed seeds.
However, it is important to note that wood fiber should not be used alone as a ready-made soil mix, as it lacks adequate nutrient content. They should instead be used as an adjunct to other substrates such as compost.
Biochar, also known as biochar or activated charcoal, is produced by biomass pyrolysis. Wood and other plant residues such as green waste, straw, bark, fermentation residues, cores and the like can be charred. Biochar is suitable as a natural water and nutrient reservoir in the soil. First you have to load the charcoal with the spongy, porous surface with nutrients. Then incorporated into the soil, this additive releases water and nutrients to your plant as needed!
Coconut products come from the stone fruit of the coconut palm ( Cocos nucifera) . A coconut consists of the following layers from the outside to the inside:
- Exocarp: outermost pericarp
- Mesocarp: encases the coconut, aerated middle layer of the pericarp, which contains fiber and fruit tissue
- Endocarp: innermost, hard layer of the pericarp (nut shell) that contains the pulp and coconut milk
Only the fibers of the mesocarp may be called coir fibers. The remaining spongy tissue of the mesocarp is the coir pulp, also known as cocopeat. Coconut fibers and coconut pulp are ideal starting materials for a substrate. If coconut fibers and pulp are not separated and the mesocarp is cut into pieces as such, one speaks of coconut chips or coconut chaff. Coconut products are almost exclusively delivered in pressed block form. The pressed material must then be loosened with water before it is used.
Coconut fiber and coco pith can absorb and hold large amounts of water, ensuring good hydration of the plants. The fine fibers and loose material promote good aeration of the soil, which means that oxygen can reach the roots better. Coco coir and coir pulp are natural sources of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen that are slowly released to provide long-term nutritional support for plants. Coconut fibers and coir pith are durable and can be reused as needed.
Pine bark is extracted from the bark of pine or pine trees. The bark is usually removed from the trunks and branches of the trees and then shredded or chopped into pieces. The size of the pieces may vary depending on the intended use. It is used in particular for orchids. The water capacity is extremely low. On the other hand, the air capacity is very high due to the high proportion of coarse pores, which is very suitable for use in cultures with roots that need air. The pH values can vary depending on the type and origin of the bark. The pH ranges between 4.5 and 5.5. This value is in the acidic range and is suitable for plant species that prefer an acidic soil environment. Alternatively, another starting material with a higher pH value must be added.
Bark humus and bark mulch are both organic materials derived from the bark of trees. However, they have different properties and uses.
Bark humus is made from the inner layer of tree bark. The shredded bark is composted and contains more nutrients than pine bark. It has good water holding capacity and loosens and aerates the soil.
Bark mulch, on the other hand, is made from the outer layer of tree bark. It is often used as a ground cover for the garden to protect the soil from drying out and temperature changes. Bark mulch can also prevent weed growth and improve soil structure. However, it's important to note that bark mulch isn't always the best choice for houseplants, as its coarse texture and slow decomposition tends to acidify the soil and lower pH levels.
Mixture suitable for most indoor plants
When mixing your plant substrate, it is important that the ratio of coarse, medium-coarse and fine components is the same. You can mix mineral and organic ingredients to get a good base.
Before using your green plant soil, you should make sure it has the right consistency: squash a handful of the substrate. When the substrate falls apart, it's well-drained and your green favorites are ready to be transplanted!
Our FARBIO® organic fertilizer for green plants supports you in caring for your indoor plants! By supplying the most important nutrients, rapid growth is promoted and the development of lush green leaves and magnificent flowers is supported.