We all want our indoor plants to thrive but sometimes there are some unexpected issues that can lead to unhappy plants. The good news is that indoor plants have a lot fewer issues that are out of our control to care for. These are some simple ways to fix common soil problems in potted plants.
Compacted soil is dense and heavy, which restricts root growth and limits the availability of water, air, and nutrients. This issue is particularly common in container-grown plants, as the confined space can lead to rapid soil compaction.
Loosen compacted soil by gently tilling the top few inches with a small garden fork or your fingers. Be careful not to damage the plant’s roots. You can mix in organic matter like compost or peat moss can help improve soil structure, making it less prone to compaction. When choosing a potting soil for your indoor plants go for a high-quality potting mix containing materials like perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir, which promote aeration and prevent compaction. For bad cases repotting and gently massaging the root ball and soil is a great way to save a struggling plant.
Overwatering or poor drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, causing root rot and other health issues for your plants. Signs that your plants may be waterlogged include yellowing leaves, wilting, and a foul smell emanating from the pot.
Waterlogged pants are best saved through repotting. Ensure your pot has drainage holes at the bottom, allowing excess water to escape. You can add a thick layer of gravel, pebbles, or broken pottery shards at the bottom of the pot to help improve drainage. When you choose a potting mix look for one with materials like perlite or vermiculite, which increase drainage and prevent waterlogging. Water your plants only when the top inch of soil is dry, and avoid letting the pot sit in a saucer filled with water. If you tend to struggle with this, watering globes are a great tool you can use to help keep your potted plants’ water at the perfect level.
Plants need plenty of nutrients to grow and thrive. Over time, nutrients in potting soil can become depleted, leading to slow growth, yellowing leaves, or weak stems.
One common soil problem that’s easy to fix is to feed potted plants to help them thrive with organic fertilizers, such as compost, worm castings, or fish emulsion, to replenish essential nutrients. For more ideas check out this post on ways to feed your soil. There are many great ways to feed your potted plants without commercial fertilizers. Test the soil’s nutrient levels with a home soil test kit, available at garden centers or online, to determine any specific nutrient deficiencies if your plants seem to be struggling. Switch the plants in your pots every few years, as different plants use different nutrients and can help maintain a balance in the soil.
Salt In Your Soil
Excessive salts in the soil can cause root damage, stunted growth, and leaf burn. Saline soil can result from over-fertilization, using water with high salt content, or potting mixes containing water-absorbent polymers.
Flush the soil with water to remove excess salts. Place your plant pot in a sink or bathtub and run water through it until it flows out of the drainage holes. Repeat this process several times to flush out extra salt. You will need to fertilize your soil afterward.
If you suspect that your water quality is your issue you should water your plants with rainwater or distilled water to avoid introducing additional salts. Over-fertilizing can lead to a buildup of salts. Use fertilizers sparingly and follow the recommended application rates or avoid these fertilizers entirely.
Acidic or Alkaline Soil
The pH of your potting soil plays an important role in how your plants can use nutrients in the soil. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH (6.0-7.0). However, some plants may require more acidic or alkaline conditions. Symptoms of improper pH levels include stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and poor flowering.
Use a home soil test kit or pH meter to check the current pH of your potting soil. To raise the pH of acidic soil, add small amounts of garden lime or crushed eggshells. To lower the pH of alkaline soil, incorporate materials like peat moss or sulfur.
Soil-dwelling pests, such as fungus gnats, root aphids, and grubs, can harm your potted plants by feeding on their roots or spreading diseases. These pests can be introduced through contaminated potting mix or hitchhiking on plants brought indoors.
If you suspect your potting mix is infested with pests, sterilize it by baking it in the oven at 180°F for 30 minutes or microwaving it for 5-10 minutes. This will kill any pests, eggs, or pathogens. Introduce beneficial insects like mites or nematodes to your potted plants to control soil-dwelling pests.
Keep your pots and gardening tools clean and sanitized to reduce the risk of introducing pests to your indoor garden. When bringing home a new plant be sure to quarantine it away from your other indoor plants to prevent the spread of any infestation.
Watch your plants carefully so you can act fast at the first sign of a soil problems that you can fix for thriving indoor plants.