Matching a Plant With Its Compost


  1. Introduction
  2. 'Houseplant Compost'
  3. Desert Cacti & Succulents
  4. Carnivorous
  5. Orchids
  6. Bonsai
  7. Citrus
  8. Ericaceous
  9. Terrariums
  10. Making Your Own Potting Mix

1. Introduction

It's a well-known fact that a healthy plant grows in the appropriate potting mix. A soil-profile that's too water-retentive will strip the roots of oxygen, causing them to respire and slowly breakdown anaerobically. Buying (or making your own) compost that's tailored for the specific plant will benefit its overall health on many levels. The composts listed below can be found at any good garden centre, with prices starting around £3 for 4L. Even if you're not from the UK, still use this list to help you choose which is best suited for your plant. Most of these products have an alternative in different countries, for example, Brunnings for Australia & Miracle-Gro for the US.

If you're looking at placing different plants into one container to create an indoor garden or display, try to use specimens that belong in the same 'Compost Category' on our list. Have a look at the image below for inspiration of a successful 'Indoor Garden' that's now over two years old!

Making an arrangement with different specimens within the same 'Compost Category' (written below) is both fun and highly beneficial for the plants!

Another great example of using different plants within the same 'Compost 'Category'.

2. 'Houseplant Compost'

Brunnings (AUS),  Levington (UK)  &  Miracle-Gro  (US)

• Despite the name, this compost isn't acceptable for all houseplants, and instead is only for moisture-loving plants. Cacti and Succulents shouldn't be placed in this stuff unless extra doses of sand and perlite are added.

• Introduce some extra grit, sand or perlite if the plant is grown in a shady location. In essence, this will improve the drainage and aeration of the soil while reducing the chance of root rot from over-watering (familiar with dark areas).

• Bulbs (like Daffodils, Hyacinths, etc.) & Herbs (Capsicum, Tomatoes & Strawberries, etc.) can be placed in Houseplant Compost. For bulbs, introduce some extra grit and perlite to improve drainage and aeration.

• Fertilisation isn't needed for the first six weeks due to the stored nutrients in the soil.

Other Houseplant Potting Mixes (UK)

3. Desert Cactus & Succulent Compost

The Top 3 UK Cactus Composts

• Suitable for all desert / tropical cacti & succulents

• Slightly more difficult to find in garden centres, but still relatively cheap

• Can be substituted with Houseplant Compost when extra sand, grit and perlite is used (see the No. 10 on this list)

4. Carnivorous Compost

ukhouseplants' Recommended Carnivorous Potting Mixes
• Contains almost no nutrients which is mandatory for most insect-eating plants

• Carnivorous plants cannot be placed in any other soil

• Can be used in carnivorous terrariums, too

5. Orchid Compost or Bark

UK Orchid Barks

• Provides oxygen & nutrients to the roots

• Can be purchased at all garden centres & online stores

• Mandatory for all Orchids, whether its on its own or a mixture of this & Houseplant Compost

Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) require bark as they tend to rot if surrounded with too little light and oxygen.

Jewel Orchids (Ludisia) is the only Orchid that does better with no Bark. When it's time for a transplant, use Houseplant Compost and a splash of perlite to maintain a good level of drainage.

The specimens listed below require 1 part Bark for 4 parts Compost. It's essential to use a mixture of both ingredients as an absence of either could cause anaerobic root-respiration or dehydration.

6. Bonsai Compost

The Top 3 Bonsai Soils (UK)

• Houseplant Compost can be substituted if necessary

• Bonsai Compost is well equipped for the development of a healthier rootball

• Cheap and available at some garden centres

7. Citrus Compost

ukhouseplants' Recommended Citrus Soils

• Aids the flowering and fruiting process

• Provides a blend of nutrients and a loam-based texture for better overall health

• Can be substituted for Houseplant Compost when extra sand or grit is added

8. Ericaceous Compost

• Mandatory for lime-hating plants

• Houseplant Compost should not be used as it'll cause burning roots with Ericaceous specimens

• Can be bought at all garden centres - typically sold outdoors but can be used for indoor specimens

9. Terrariums

• Desert Terrariums - Cacti & Succulent Compost

• Tropical or Foliage Terrariums - Houseplant Compost (add sand & perlite, too)

• Carnivorous Terrariums - Carnivorous Soil

10. Making Your Own Potting-Mix

If you own lots of houseplants, making your own soil is much cheaper and easier due to the flexibility for each plant's requirements. The list below are the ingredients to create a potting mix for all indoor plants, including tropical plants, succulents, epiphytes, Bonsai and terrariums. *Mandatory

  • Multipurpose Compost*
  • Horticultural Sand and/or Grit*
  • Perlite*
  • Composted Wood Chips
  • Coir fibre (Coconut byproduct)
  • Sphagnum Moss Peat
  • Activated Charcoal or Sphagnum Moss (Optional for terrariums).

You may think that using a water-retentive soil-profile like Multipurpose Compost is a bad idea - but hold your horses. Mixing this with the correct amount of grit, sand or perlite will ensure that even succulents can thrive in it. For each subheading, have a look at the list above to see which 'Compost Category' your plant belongs in - and then have a look at how to make your own soil below.

'Houseplant Compost' Plants

Ratio of   3:1:1:1.5   Compost, Sand, Grit & Perlite.

Succulents and Desert Cacti

Ratio of   3:3:1:1  Compost, Sand, Grit & Perlite

Bonsai & Citrus

Ratio of   3:2:2:1   Compost, Sand, Grit & Perlite.


Ratio of   4:1:1   Compost, Perlite & Bark

*Acceptable for all Orchids except Moth & Jewel Orchids (Phalaenopsis & Ludisia)


→ Desert Terrarium  -  Ratio of   3:3:1:1 Compost, Sand, Grit & Perlite

→ Tropical Terrarium - Ratio of   3:1:2:2  Compost, Sand, Grit & Perlite*

*A layer of Activated Charcoal or Sphagnum Moss is strongly advised, although not mandatory, between the soil layer and pebble layer (Bottom Drainage Layer). Click here to learn more about terrarium 'Layering'.

If you need further advice with indoor gardening, never hesitate to send us an email or direct message via the Instagram Page. This could be about your own specific plant, transplantation into a bigger pot, pests or diseases, terrarium ideas, & more!

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