If you have recently purchased a new philodendron or you are getting ready to repot some of your current collection, you are probably trying to figure out the best philodendron soil mix for your plant.
The most important aspects of plant care are water, soil, and sunlight. Without the right soil, it’s almost impossible to get your plant the correct amount of water. In this article, we will go over the best soil mixtures for your philodendron plants and signs your plant is suffering from improper soils.
What Is The Best Soil For Philodendrons?
When selecting soil for your philodendrons, it’s important that you find one that is slightly acidic and well-draining, but that can also retain some water. It should ideally be light and airy but nutrient-dense. To achieve this, you can either buy ready-made soil or ideally mix your own.
Ready made soil
The best soil on the market that is good for philodendrons straight out of the bag is FoxFarms Ocean Forest. I use this brand for most of my plants and really love the nutrient density and the fact that it is made of all-natural ingredients.
While I recognize the superiority of making a soil mix that is formulated for each of my plants, this can also get a bit time consuming, so unless I am repotting several plants, I usually just dip into my bag of Ocean Forest.
DIY Soil Mix
If you have the time and inclination to make your own soil, the ideal mixture would be 25% coco coir or peat moss, 25% orchid bark, 20% perlite, 10% activated charcoal, and 10% worm castings.
When making my soil mix, I usually substitute guinea pig poop for the worm castings, but that’s mostly because we have 16 pet guinea pigs and their poop is an amazing fertilizer. If you don’t have access to guinea pig or rabbit droppings, worm castings do work just as well.
Coco Coir or Peat Moss
Both coco coir and peat moss will make your soil slightly acidic and will do a good job at retaining moisture. Ideally, philodendron soil will be moist, but not wet at all times with only the top 1-2 inches drying out between waterings.
If you are trying to decide whether to use coco coir or peat moss, I’ve found them to be relatively interchangeable and I usually will just buy the one I can get a better deal on in bulk when I’m at the store.
If you keep orchids you likely already have some orchid bark on hand, but if you don’t, you should be able to find it at most plant stores. Orchid bark does a great job at keeping your soil aerated and your plant happy.
I like having both orchid bark and perlite as I find the difference in size helps my soil keep from getting compacted. If you don’t have access to orchid bark, you can replace this with pine bark mulch, or extra perlite. I’ve also seen some growers use rocks or gravel in place of orchid bark, but this is more of a temporary medium than an ideal one.
Like orchid bark, the main purpose of perlite is to keep the soil aerated. Plant roots need oxygen to stay happy and healthy and things like perlite and orchid bark allow them to get it. A plant that is grown in compacted soil that doesn’t allow airflow will often fail to thrive and could even develop root rot if not moved to more acceptable soil.
Personally, I love adding activated charcoal to the soil mixture of my houseplants. It not only helps keep the soil aerated but also prevents bacteria and mold from forming in your soil. Activated charcoal can be hard to find and is often pricey, so if you decide not to use it you can replace this 10% of your soil mixture with more perlite.
Worm Castings or Guinea Pig droppings
If you are like me and keep pet guinea pigs, you are in luck. Their droppings make an incredible fertilizer straight from the source, no need to compost. To save money on worm castings and to keep my compost pile from getting too high, I like to use my guinea pig waste as fertilizer. We use it for both our indoor houseplants and our outdoor landscaping plants and have noticed an amazing difference in their health and growth.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have little pigs running around, worm castings work really well too. Both do a great job of adding organic fertilizer to the soil and keeping your plant happy and thriving.
Mix it up
Once you have all your ingredients, you will want to measure them out into a bin or bucket and start mixing. I prefer to use my bare hands for this so I can feel the mixture and know exactly what I’m doing.
If you don’t like to get your hands dirty though you can wear gloves, just be sure to get the components really well mixed and be careful not to vigorously or you could get a piece of wood under your fingernail or in your finger.
Signs you are using the wrong soil
Plants are usually pretty good at letting us know when they aren’t happy. Their leaves may turn brown or yellow, and you may even see your entire plant wilting. We will go over all these symptoms and more below.
If your plant seems to be wilting, this is usually a sign of underwatering or a lack of fertilizer. Check your soil. Healthy philodendron soil should be light and airy and should allow you to stick your finger in it up to an inch or two. If your soil is compact and dry, it is likely hydrophobic and also too dense.
To fix dense soil, you will want to repot your plant into a more suitable substrate. If you know your substrate is fine, but you simply forgot to water for a few weeks, it’s likely your soil is hydrophobic or repelling water.
To fix this, you will want to place your pot into a bucket or bowl of water and fill it to a level about halfway up the pot. Don’t worry if the pot starts to float as this is normal with lighter weight pots. Leave the plant in the container until you notice the top of the soil has loosened and is wet. You should now be able to put your finger into the soil.
If you can’t, you will need to repot, but more often than not, this will fix your problem.
If you place your finger in the soil and it’s light, airy, and moist, your issue is likely fertilizer. Philodendrons need Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Nitrogen to thrive and larger plants tend to absorb quite a bit of nutrients from the soil.
If it’s spring, you can repot your plant in fresh soil, but if it is any other season, I would just start a regular fertilization routine.
I usually fertilize my philodendrons every other week, spring-summer, with a balanced fertilizer at half strength, but if you don’t want to fertilize that often, you can also do it once a month at full strength.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
If your plant’s leaves are turning yellow, brown, or falling off, it is likely due to over or under-watering. The ideal philodendron soil will quickly drain off excess moisture but hold in a good amount for your plant. You want the soil to be moist, but not soggy.
To achieve this, you will want to choose a pot with a drainage hole and maybe even use terra cotta as it is moisture-wicking.
To see if your issue is due to too much or too little moisture, you will want to test it with your finger. Soggy soil is an invitation for bacteria and root rot, while bone dry soil can cause your roots to have trouble absorbing nutrients.
If your soil is dry, try changing your watering schedule and water more often. If it is soggy, you will likely need to reevaluate your soil mix, reduce watering, and repot your plant so you can check for root rot.
To check for root rot, you will need to remove your plant from the soil. Healthy roots will be firm and white, while unhealthy roots will be dark brown or black and mushy.
If your plant is experiencing root rot, you will want to remove damaged roots with sanitized shears, rinse the healthy roots, and then place them in an ideal soil mixture. As long as there are some healthy roots left, your plant should bounce back.
Best Soil for Propagation
One of the joys of philodendrons, like the Splendid or Atom, is how easy they are to propagate. If you have a large mother plant and would like to make some cuttings to sell or to give to friends, there are a few options for your baby plants as they develop root growth.
While I’m not sure water qualifies as soil, it is definitely a great medium to use when propagating philodendrons.
I use fish tank water for my cuttings, but you can also use tap water. Change the water every few days and when you see root growth starting, move the plant to the same soil mix we made above for adult plants.
Many people prefer to simply plant their cuttings directly into the soil they will keep the plant in as it matures. This is a great way to go, but when using this method, I also like to use a rooting hormone on the bottom of the plant to encourage growth, as things tend to go a bit slower in standard soil mixes.
LECA or Clay Balls
So many people swear by LECA propagation and find it works great for them. To do this, you will fill a cup or container with LECA and water just below the top of the LECA. Then place your cuttings inside. For me, this is just water with an extra step, but so many people love it I felt I had to include it.