What's wrong with the soil?

What's wrong with the soil?

Want to learn more about What's wrong with the soil?

Get individual care schedule and reminders for your plant with our app Planta. Never kill a plant again!

Planta on the app storePlanta on google play

Does your plant take forever to dry out or do you water and water your plant but all the water just runs on the sides of the pot? If you feel like you do everything right but your plant is still not doing well then it might be time to take a look at the soil.

What is a perfect soil?

To keep the roots of your plant healthy you need to provide it with soil that has a good texture and is fresh and fertile. You'll want it to retain a sufficient amount of water and but also drain well according to your plant's needs.

Cacti, for example, can easily get root rot or get overwatered if you keep them in ordinary potting soil or garden compost. The perfect soil for your cactus will allow water to flush easily through the substrate while also hydrating the roots. Meanwhile, a thirsty plant such as your Peace lily will not be very happy and thriving in a soil that dries out too quickly. A soil that retains moisture for a longer period of time but also provides air for its roots is much better.

- All plants have their own preferences. You can find all suitable soil types in the Plant Info section in your Planta app.

Soil palm root clump

Troubleshooting your soil

There are several different soil issues that can cause trouble for your plant:

Hydrophobic soil

Some types of soils can become water repellant if they dry out too much. If you notice that the soil pulls away from the pot or if when you water your plant the water just stays at the surface of the soil or runs down along the sides of the pot, then it has probably become hydrophobic. This is very common for compact and peat-based soil types or soil that contains a lot of clay. This condition can cause both excessive drought and overwatering because the soil will have a hard time to wick up the water. So you'll end up with dry spots and wet areas.

To solve this you have three solutions:

  • Saturate the soil in a bucket or bowl of water

  • Poke small holes in the soil with a stick

  • Repot your plant and provide it with new and better soil

Too much soil

Can a plant get too much of the good stuff? Yes, they sure can. Too much soil will hold water for too long, creating issues such as root rot and stem rot. This can happen if the plant is barely rooted and planted in a big pot or if you have repotted your plant into a pot that's just too big. Some plants are actually sold too soon where they haven't produced a large enough root system. You might find this with pothos plants, tradescantia, and some dracaena sold in stores.

If you notice that the soil of your plant takes forever to dry out even though it gets plenty of light and the temperature is warm and cosy you should have a look at the proportions of the pot and the plants root system.

There's only one solution to this problem and that is to remove the plant from the pot and provide it with a more proportionate pot according to the root system it currently has. If the plant has suffered a great loss of roots due to rot you might need to re-propagate the plant before you put it in soil again.

Old soil

When soil ages the organic matter decomposes and minerals slowly wither. This can cause the pH to change in the soil but it will also slowly loose structure and all the other good features it used to have during its young and fertile days. So if you find that the soil is looking old, grey, infertile or decomposed and you haven't repotted your plant in while then this is a friendly reminder to give your plant some attention and provide it with some new fresh soil.

dry soil citrus tree

Soil that's too compact

Standard potting soil and garden soil contains a lot of nutrients and a good amount of organic matter but these are not the best soil types when it comes to drainage. Some plants love this but it can cause problems for other, more sensitive plants, which need a bit more air to be able to breathe properly. Palms, Hoyas, Philodendrons, Carnivorous plants and Succulents are just a few examples of plants that need a bit more drainage than standard soil often provides. You can use a smaller pot, make sure it dries out more before your plant is watered or try to manage it in other ways but the best solution is to check what soil you plant prefers and repot it.

Mold and fungi in the soil

Mold on top of the soil or a mushroom popping up now and then is actually pretty common, especially when you have new, fresh soil. They aren't harmful to the plant at all and can be rather beneficial to the plant. Fungi in the soil break down organic matters, making its raw materials available again for use in the ecosystem. (On top of this, 92% of plant families interact with fungi).

You don’t necessarily need to do anything since the fungus itself is harmless to the plant. However, this could be an indication that your soil is too moist or retaining water for too long. So it's best that you check the so your plant isn't getting over watered.

Mold fungus soil

Soil that dries out too quickly

A thirsty plant that doesn't tolerate drought can get seriously damaged in a soil type that has too much drainage. It's important to bear in mind that a well draining soil is easier has a lower risk of harming your plant than soil that's lacking drainage. You just need to water your plant more often. But this can become inconvenient if you end up needing to water your plant several times a day. The plant might be planted in the wrong soil type or the soil may have been amended with too much perlite or pumice. It can also happen if the plant has become pot bound and there are more roots than soil in the pot.

The only solution to this is to repot your plant. If the plant is pot bound you just need to repot it into a slightly bigger pot. If it's the soil that's draining to quickly you need to remove the soil and either change it entirely or mix it with more organic materials such as potting soil, compost or orchid bark.