Soil is not just the habitat of plants. Along with carbon dioxide, light and water, it is a vital element, without which most plants cannot survive. The characteristics of the soil, its mechanical composition, acidity, water and air permeability, nutrition play a key role. Errors in the selection of the substrate are a source of great problems and risks. The most reliable option for indoor plants are purchased, ready-made substrates. Their diverse choices today provide each plant with its ideal environment.
The roots of indoor plants, with the exception of crops grown on hydroponics and some epiphytes, part of the substances necessary for the development of pulled out of the soil. Roots can absorb these substances only in comfortable, optimal conditions: not only with a certain soil moisture, but also depending on its mechanical composition and even acidity. The substrate recreates the habitat for indoor plants, and its quality affects the plant along with lighting and temperature conditions.
The stock of nutrients in the soil sooner or later is depleted, its characteristics under the influence of frequent irrigation change, and the root system of plants is constantly developing, mastering the limited amount of substrate available to it. Under the influence of these factors, the soil needs to be replaced. Lack of nutrients is compensated by leaving - applying fertilizers, and the stability of the environment is maintained by regular or carried out on demand, as transplants grow.
The selection of soil in which the plant would feel good, corresponding to its needs and habits - is not an easy task. Indoor plants are not garden plants. They grow in a substrate of limited volume, accustomed to controlled and stable growing conditions, adapt less well and are much more finicky. And just ordinary soil collected in a garden or park will not work for them (with rare exceptions).
Why purchased substrates are always the best solution
Experienced florists, and those who are fond of not only floriculture, but also gardening, often prefer not to buy ready-made substrates, but to compose them yourself. But in fact, it’s possible to create the right soil mixture for plants only in exceptional cases, for this you need to have a sufficient supply of components - high-quality peat, leaf, sod land, compost, humus, sand, as well as knowledge and experience. Indeed, often even knowledge in what proportions to mix the components and how to process the soil mixture to achieve optimal friability is not enough. And, as a rule, any independently prepared substrate for plants is always inferior in terms of characteristics to a high-quality purchased soil mix.
The biggest mistake that can be made in choosing a soil is to consider that plants can take root in any “land”. The soil gathered in the park, garden, garden, no matter how fluffy and high-quality it may seem to you, is not what indoor crops need. For such a basis to become a full-fledged substrate, many more actions will be required. Not one of the most hardy indoor Spartans will feel good in such "wild" soil. Plants for which this type of substrate is permissible are usually bulbous, which are grown both in the garden and in the room.
Each “simple” earth mixture has its own shortcomings. The soil collected in the city (even in the best eco and arboretums) is contaminated with heavy metals and toxins. Field land is saline, forest soil is too acidic even for rhododendrons, from someone else’s garden and even their own land can be infected with diseases, fungi, pests, weeds, over-compact with time, etc. Even the peat that you collect at a reservoir does not always turn out to be the same peat that can be used for potted plants.
Sterility, inconvenience, laboriousness, unknown mineral composition and nutritional value are sufficient arguments to choose the option with ready-made soil. Of course, you will have to spend money on such a substrate. And sometimes highly specialized mixtures are quite expensive at all. But as a rule, the costs more than pay off.
The main advantages of finished soil mixtures:
they are specially designed for capricious, special, pampered houseplants, which in their endurance and requirements differ significantly from garden plants;
their chemical composition is strictly controlled, fully meets the requirements of the plants themselves;
plants are protected from harmful microflora and microorganisms;
water and air permeability, texture, density, flowability are controlled in substrates;
such substrates are sterile, protected from soil pests and disease spores;
nutritional composition, additional supply of minerals meets the requirement of indoor plants in macro and micronutrients;
substrates are convenient to use, they do not require additional processing and save time.
Problems happen with finished substrates.
Despite the fact that purchased substrates have undoubted advantages over self-made ones, problems in growing plants, lack of care or “miscalculations” are not excluded with them.
Firstly, the wrong choice of soil mixtures or the purchase of cheap substrates of an unknown manufacturer can unpleasantly surprise with the composition of the soil. That is why it is so important to choose companies familiar to you that specialize in soils and fertilizers that have proven the quality of their products. When buying a cheap substrate, even the composition on the package is not a guarantee. Indeed, sometimes, opening the pack, you may find that in fact, instead of a quality mixture, the soil consists entirely of peat, sheet soil or sand with unknown additives. Buying only in specialized stores, supermarkets, and not in the market, will help protect you from disappointment.
Secondly, not a single substrate can cope with improper care. If mistakes are made in irrigation, then even the highest quality earth mix can be salted, acidified, and stray into a dense crust.
Thirdly, untimely transplantation, or rather its absence, leads to such a depletion of the soil and the growth of roots that it will be impossible to judge about any quality of the substrate over time. Any soil mixture "works" the time allotted to it, immediately after planting it allows not to feed for several months at all, and for 1-2 years to be limited only to regular fertilizing in the stage of active growth.
Structure and acidity are two parameters that you need to pay attention to even in finished soil mixtures
Purchased substrates are very different in composition. But by eye, it is impossible to determine whether the contents of the soil packets correspond to the description of the composition from the manufacturer. Therefore, when assessing the quality of the acquired substrate, they always focus on visible and easily recognizable characteristics (on the absence or presence of a structure).
For indoor plants, regardless of their type, soil with pronounced structurality is preferred - with lumps, heterogeneity, and some rough texture. In this soil, plants will not suffer from dry “layers” on the surface and drying of the deep layers of the soil, moisture will be evenly retained and distributed, such soil is not so prone to compaction and corroding, it retains air permeability even several years after transplantation. Substrates that seem too homogeneous are generally more prone to acidification, coking, uneven retention and distribution of moisture.
Soil acidity is always indicated even on universal substrates on the packaging. After all, indoor crops do not lose their individual characteristics and are not at all homogeneous in terms of soil reaction requirements. Of course, the vast majority of indoor plants feel good in neutral soil, but there are plants that grow well and develop only in soil with a slightly alkaline or alkaline reaction, and those species that need an acidic environment.
The average value for indoor plants is considered to be a pH of 6.0. Soils with a pH reaction of 5.5 and lower are classified as slightly acidic and acidic, and about 7.0 and higher as calcareous or alkaline.
Indoor bells, calceolaria, ophiopogon, chlorophytum prefer to grow in alkaline soil.
Slightly acidic soil (pH about 5.5) is optimal for acalifa, alocasia, gerbera, camellia, calla lilies, cordilina, cypress, dieffenbachia, sour, ferns, pachyphytus, pittosporum, sansevier, cestrum, cyclamen. Indoor rhododendrons, ceropegia, oscularia, euphorbia, hydrangea, bergerantus and others prefer soil with a pH from 4.0 to 5.0.
In the description of each plant, in addition to the optimal frequency and transplant strategy, the type and the desired composition or structure of the soil are always indicated. When choosing a substrate for indoor plants, it’s worth stopping not at one “average” option, but to check which soil is suitable for each pet and to select a substrate individually. Usually, most plants in a room collection need a similar type of substrate - universal, loose, nutritious, with a neutral reaction. So, dozens of types of soil with optimal structural parameters will not have to be purchased, acquiring only one universal soil for the foundation of the collection and special mixtures for individual types of plants with special requirements.
Universal primer and special substrate types
Choosing the type of substrate is not such a difficult task. All manufacturers indicate the acidity and composition on the packaging, and in most cases also a list of plants or methods of use for which this soil mixture is suitable. Consultation about the soil can always be obtained from the seller, but even if you are not sure, you should carefully study the information provided by the manufacturer.
Universal, or a single, integrated soil mixture for sale is most common. Different manufacturers name it differently - from just “ground” to brand names. Such soil is suitable for different groups of plants, it is considered "average" in its characteristics. Unpretentious and not too demanding indoor cultures will happily settle in it.
Special substrates are soil mixtures that are designed and selected specifically for a particular type, species or family of plants. Narrow specialization is their distinguishing feature. Special substrates differ in structure, lightness, friability, additional additives like pine bark or sphagnum, in acidity, degree of nutrition. They are always better than universal, since they really satisfy all the individual needs of indoor crops. The type of substrate is selected according to individual instructions in the characteristics of the plants themselves.
The main special types of substrate are:
soil mixtures for decorative flowering or decorative deciduous crops;
substrates for cacti and succulents;
substrates for palm trees (sometimes separate soil mixtures for yucca, dracaena);
soil for citrus, jasmine, tubular;
soil for growing indoor roses;
soil for violets.
Moreover, usually any highly specialized soil is suitable for plants that are similar in requirements to the species declared in the name. So, the soil for violets is suitable for all Gesnerievs, for dracaena or yucca - also for hibiscus, arrowroot - for ferns and calathea, gardenia - for all Marens, gloxinia - for begonias and vice versa, azalea - for camellias, and roses - for chrysanthemums , carnations and gerberas. Special substrates for cyclamens - an ideal soil for growing any primroses. But orchid soil is a highly specialized soil only for orchids.
For each producer, the composition and individual characteristics of the soil for seemingly identical plants often differ.
In addition to the two main types of soil, peat-and-mortar mixtures for planting and propagation of plants are also on sale, which can also be used for cuttings, as well as various artificial substrates, including soil based on coconut fiber.