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Houseplant Soil Recipes & Tips

Hello plant lovers! Today’s blog is a continuation of my last blog about potting mediums and what I’ve learned during my own incredible houseplant journey.

When I first started I searched for any helpful material discussing the soil mixes for the plants I was bringing home.

Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn’t able to find much useful info. To help all of you budding plant lovers, today I want to discuss the soil mixes and lifelong care needs of some of the common nursery plant genus' and groups you are likely to encounter in your own houseplant journey. Note, a “genus” is the first name in plant identification followed by the “species” which signifies the exact type of plant within the genus.

When I refer to a “potting medium” I am talking about any material used to propagate or grow plants. There is also some information at the bottom of this blog about dealing with root rot and humidity as it relates to potting mediums.

For rare or endangered plants please do further research into the needs of the plant as the information below may not be perfectly suited for special varieties.

Philodendron, Thaumatophyllum

Potting Medium: mix 1 or semi-hydro

Philodendron are tropical plants originating in South America. They were brought to Asia and are now commonly grown there. There are 450+ species of Philodendron and recently many were reclassified as Thaumatophyllum. This is due to a large majority of them being found to grow in a different pattern. They may attach themselves to the tree, but will never be entirely epiphytic (meaning growing solely from the tree trunk). Many growers are still continuing to call them Philodendron as this is what people know.

The important distinction here is that there are two main growth patterns; climbing and shrub like. Thaumatophyllum seem to grow in a bunch from a single point and do not vine. Each leaf is is growing so closely to the next that it will grow this way for a long time before forming a "trunk" or base. Philodendron on the other hand are well known to grow up trees 30+ ft into the air. Their leaves grow bigger as they reach higher into the sky, and many will change shape altogether. These plants will eventually leave their ground root system behind and live amongst the trees.

Factoring in this natural environment when you bring them into your home is crucial. You can provide a bit of extra humidity for them as well as something to climb. Many people buy or build moss poles for them, but planks of wood and bamboo poles with plant velcro do the trick as well. I have found many instances of Philodendron climbing the plank directly with their roots attached to the wood. The important part is that they feel secure as if they were climbing a tree. As they grow many people will chop the top off of their plant and root it to continue with a larger plant. Philodendron propagate very well in both water and long strand sphagnum moss. They will grow in substate or in semi-hydro.


Potting Medium: mix 1 or semi-hydro

There are a vast number of different-looking types of Monstera. Similar to Philodendron, Monstera plants originated in South America and have been spread all over the world to grow in other tropical climates. Many countries have created their own Monstera varieties through breeding which is something I highly suggest researching. Monstera are epiphytic in nature, climbing trees up to 40 meters. But they do so underneath the canopy where direct light does not touch. Be sure to be careful of direct light exposure burning the leaves. You can encourage climbing in your home by giving your Monstera support as it grows.

Unlike Philodendrons, Monsteras will form fenestrations (holes in the leaves). The holes allow for a larger leaf with less internal mass to which to provide nutrients. When Monstera are left to hang or without support their leaves will quickly decrease in size and amount of fenestrations. As they grow many people will chop the top off of their plant and root it to continue with a larger plant. The soil mix I suggested is a great option or they will grow in semi-hydro like Leca or pon. Monstera tend to propagate fairly well in water but I have run into more rotting issues than with other propagation styles. For me, damn long fiber sphagnum moss or perlite inside of a humid plastic bin is what has worked best for Monstera.

Pothos - Epipremnum & Scindapsis

I have grouped these plants together to talk about something I was initially confused about when buying plants. I have seen both Epipremnum and Scindapsis called “Pothos” in nurseries so I wanted to explain the difference in growth patterns between these plants.


Potting Medium: mix 1 or semi-hydro

Epipremnums are what you most commonly see labeled as Pothos. Golden Pothos is the most common variety and the scientific name is actually Epipremnum aureum. Epipremnum are native to South Eastern Asia where they grow up trees very high into the canopy. These plants have been brought all over the world to grow in other climates such as Hawaii. One of the most common plants found climbing in Hawaii is now Golden Pothos. In the wild their leaves will grow very large and produce splits in the largest of them. These plants are often sold with very large leaves but once the plant is brought home they start to decrease in size. This is due to their nature to climb and need for bright light. Provide your Pothos with indirect bright light. When left to hang they will put out lovely mid-sized leaves and will not become super tiny like Philodendrons or Monsteras. If these plants are put on a pole you will quickly see them increase in size. This works with all Pothos at different speeds. One of my favorites to see mature is the Cebu Blue Pathos. Epipremnum propagate excellently in water or moss.


Potting Medium: mix 1 or semi-hydro

Scindapsis grow with a different growth pattern than Epipremnums although often sporting similar shaped leaves. Their leaves tend to have no shine to them and the edges are thin and crisp. These plants will often "shingle on trunks". This means that the leaves will be pressed up against the tree alternating leaf by leaf very close to one another. It creates a very unique look in comparison to other plants. You can make this happen in your home by growing your Scindapsis on a wide moss pole or up a plank! Scindapsis are very slow growers in low humidity so if yours is taking a long time to grow that's okay! Be sure to be careful of direct light exposure burning the leaves. They also tend to require a bit more water than other houseplants in my experience possibly due to how much water is directed to growing new leaves. Scindapsis propagates best in damn moss inside of a humid environment.


Potting Medium: mix 1 or long string sphagnum moss

Anthurium is a very unique genus. They were first discovered in the rainforests of Columbia and throughout South America and have since been brought to grow in the wild all across the world. There are 1000+ species of Anthurium and many are still being made through breeding. There is a serious collectors market for rare and new Anthurium. Since they require high humidity and a regulated growing environment. Anthurium do not require support to grow but some may benefit from it to help the leaves stay upright. These plants grow on the ground in the wild but some do form a trunk of sorts as the bottom leaves fall off of the plant.

Many varieties of Anthurium like the Clarinervium, Flamingo and Forgetii do very well in household humidity. The important thing to remember is that they do not like to go completely dry. You will quickly see leaf damage if the root system dries out too much.


Potting Medium: mix 3 or long fiber sphagnum moss

Begonia are a lovely Genus made up of thousands of different species originally that have since been hybridized to create a plethora of unique looking plants. I think they are my favorite Genus all around due to how alien both the leaves and flowers of these plants can look. Begonias can be found all across the world and are one of the oldest documented plants to be traded between countries.

There are many differing care needs between all of the types of Begonia. The mix I suggested should work for most Begonia types, but keep in mind some Begonia enjoy the soil staying a bit moist while others like to dry out. An alternative to a mix is to use moss. I have found that they grow well in moss regardless of care requirements. The only thing you would need to change between varieties in this case would be Humidity level. There are some very sensitive Begonia, depending on where in the world they come from, which require very consistent high humidity. But most will do well around 30-70%. If you find that your Begonia it getting brown leaf tips the solution is not to water it more but to give a bit more humidity. Something else to keep in mind is that without proper air flow surrounding the plant, water left sitting on most Begonia leaves will create rot.


Potting Medium: mix 1 or 3

Ficus are native to rainforests in the Amazon region of South America but now grow outside in tropical places around the world such as Florida. These plants mature quickly when given lots of sunlight but will be slow growers and produce small foliage in low light conditions. In the wild, they grow to be as big as trees and, given the right conditions, you can do the same with yours! There are many varying growth patterns between the species; from Ficus Pumila which grows up trees and surfaces to Ficus Lyrata known to grow up to 15m tall. You can strengthen your ficus by shaking the stem lightly multiple times per day. This mimics the movement that would naturally happen in the wild and causes the plant to put more effort into staying upright. They do not need support as they grow, but many do well with a pruning to encourage growth in the direction you want. Ficus appreciate a chunky and porous substrate with lots of perlite or Leca. The mixes I suggested will both work for Ficus but I would start with mix 3. If you find that you are needing more moisture retention add more bark.

Alocacia, Colocacia

Potting Medium: mix 4 with the addition of 1/2 part peat moss or small chunk bark for moisture retention, or semi-hydro

Alocasia and Colocacia are native to Southeast Asia and often confused with one another. They can be found all across the world as decorative outdoor plants for planter and gardens. In warm climates of the United States nurseries will frequently sell these bulbs as perennials. They will grow well outside until it reaches temperatures below 45 degrees at night. Some species have been found to grow up to 4m, while others sit only a foot off of the ground. There are varying water requirements for Alocasia and plants in the same family depending on wether the species grows in marshy or drier areas. The Elephant ear Alocasia, for example, does well drying out then being watered as there are periods between rain in its natural environment. Alocasia Polly prefers more damp conditions. The soil mix I suggested works very well for Alocasia as they like a sandy and chunky mix but with enough moss to keep consistent moisture throughout the root system. They will grow well in substate or in semi-hydro like Leca or Pon. Your plant will develop a trunk as it grows and loses bottom leaves. Alocasia in low humidity have a tendency to only have about two to three leaves at a time so don't let this discourage you!

Dracaena, Snake plant, ZZ plant - the easiest houseplants to own!

Potting Medium: mix 4

I have grouped these plants together because their lack of need for water is so similar making them some of the easiest plants to own.

In the plant world Snake plants have been reclassified as Dracaena. They have been found to be in the same family of plant and have very similar environment and care needs. Snake plants are native to tropical Western Africa while Dracaena can be found in the same areas with the additions of Southern Asia and Australia. In the wild Dracaena grow to be trees with large woody trunks. This is where the leaves used to be but have shed off. This is very different from Snake plants which grow directly from the ground up to 12 feet in height. Most Dracaena (including Snake plants) will do well in very high indirect light conditions with some even thriving in direct sun. But the cool part is they also can be very happy in low lighting. This makes them great as an office or bedroom plant. The mix I suggested will provide the roots with an oxygenated well draining environment. In the wild these plants would go through long periods of drought so they do well with two to three weeks between waterings.

ZZ plants are also easy houseplants to own. ZZ plants have a rhizome at the base of the leaves from which the roots grow. This rhyzome stores water for months, helping these plants survive during droughts, and will grow larger as the plant matures. When repotting, look at the size of the rhizome to determine how long your plant can go without water. ZZ's are one of the few plants that will do okay in low lighting. For example, it is perfect for a corner in which you really want a plant. Although they will produce foliage faster and flower more often when in the path of some sunlight.

Soil Mix Recipes

Each of these mixes will retain different levels of moisture depending on the humidity levels. Further down there is more information about humidity levels and the impact that it has on potting mediums.

mix 1:

Ideal for aroids like aglaonemas, monsteras, philodendrons, and pothos. Click HERE to learn more about Aroids from one of my favorite companies!

  • 1 part peat moss or coco coir
  • 1 part orchid bark
  • 1 part perlite (or alternate oxygen rich material).
  • 1 part organic compost or worm castings (this can be omitted and substituted with 1 part of a mixture of bark and moss)

mix 2:

Ideal for moisture loving plants such as calathea and ferns.

  • 1 part peat moss or coco coir
  • 1/2 part orchid bark
  • 1/2 part perlite (or alternate oxygen rich material).
  • 1/2 part organic compost or worm castings

mix 3:

Ideal for begonias and ficus.

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1/2 part small chunk bark
  • 1 part organic compost or worm castings

mix 4:

Ideal for succulents and Cacti.

  • 1 part organic compost or worm castings
  • 1/2 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite or pumice
  • 1/2 part sand

mix 5:

Ideal for carnivorous plants.

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1/2 part sand
  • 1/2 part perlite

Pon mix, semi-hydro:

  • 4 parts pumice
  • 2 parts lava rock
  • 1 part zeolite

Additions you can make for root health:

  • Charcoal
  • leca
  • Lava rock
  • Bonide pellets (keeps pests away from the roots and kills larvae)

Root Rot

Root rot is a common occurrence in the beginning of plant ownership or at least it was for me. It can happen for two reasons. Either the soil was too compact and it needs more perlite and bark to create oxygen, or you have overwatered your plant. Overwatering leaves the soil wet for a longer period of time than it should be. This causes the root system to begin to break down which, if the right bacteria is present, leads directly to root rot. As a rule of thumb, your soil should not be staying wet on top longer than 2-3 days.

Humidity Levels and Their Impact on Potting Mediums

If you find you are needing to water more than once per week, and your humidity indoors is below 30%, I would suggest using a 1/2 inch soil topper such as Leca, perlite, a bit of extra moss, or small decorative stones. This may help with your moisture evaporating too quickly. An alternative route would be to add a bit more peat moss to your mix but be sure to avoid using too much as this can lead to root rot.

If your humidity levels are high you should know that the potting medium is likely to retain moisture for a longer period of time. If this becomes a problem (e.g. root rot) I would suggest repotting in terracotta or orchid pots to allow for more oxygen. Another solution would be adding an additional 1/2 part of perlite or an alternate material.

Espoma. (2021, December 14). What's an aroid? Espoma Organic. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from

Begonias. BloomIQ. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2023, from