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While your pothos can grow in water for the rest of its life, this medium hampers how much it can grow.
That’s because the roots are pretty constricted, and without proper root development, shoot and leaf development also slow down.
Besides, changing the water weekly can become taxing as the plant grows older. That’s why many people, including me, choose to plant their pothos in soil once they have rooted.
Generally, it would help if you did this when the pothos is still young, and its roots have reached at least two inches. If you wait much longer, the roots develop a fine texture and don’t take too well to being in soil.
The plant can even suffer transplant shock to a much greater extent than if you had planted it in soil within the first few weeks of rooting. So, which soil should you use?
The pothos requires well-draining soil. And that means you must steer clear of using soils with too much drainage or water retention. The pothos prefers slightly acidic soil within the range of 6.1 to 6.8.
If you are making your soil mix or prefer to get one from the store, please read this guide on how to settle on the best option available for your plant.
What Soil Should You Use for A Pothos?
Soil plays a vital role in the growth of your pothos. It affects how much water it gets, if it has access to nutrients, and how much oxygen the plant gets.
When there is an imbalance in any of these factors, your pothos suffers the short end of the stick and does not grow as fast or healthily as it should.
That’s why you should concentrate on the factors below when buying or creating a soil mix for your pothos:
a) The Blend of Materials
Using garden soil might seem like a no-brainer. After all, the soil is readily available, and you can use as much of it as you want.
However, while garden soil may be okay for many vegetables we grow at home, it is not suitable for the pothos.
It is compact, which reduces the aeration in the soil, and often contains insects that can infest the plant.
Thus, using it as it is might not be the best idea. Instead, you must sterilize it and amend it with any of the following materials as you see fit:
- Bark – this organic material enhances drainage in the soil,
- Coco coir – this retains water by holding onto it and releasing it in small bits, which is beneficial to the pothos,
- Peat moss – this material has a high moisture retention rate and is a good base for your pothos potting mix,
- Perlite – this commonly used ingredient in soil mixes has a light texture that aerates the soil mix. It also has moderate water holding capacity, and
- Sand – this refers to horticultural sand as it is the best for encouraging a high drainage rate in the soil. It also improves the texture of the potting soil to keep it from being too compact.
These are some of the common materials used to amend sterile garden soil. You can also use the materials on their own, as shown in the example below:
- One part of bark,
- One part of horticultural sand,
- Two parts of perlite, and
- Four parts of peat moss.
With such a mixture, you will balance the potting soil’s drainage, water retention, and texture, thus setting your pothos up for success.
b) The Drainage of the Soil Mix
How much water holding capacity does the soil/ blend of materials have? This aspect matters a lot because:
- When the drainage is too high, the roots will not have access to adequate water to absorb. Thus, the pothos will be unable to keep up with water loss rates via transpiration and evaporation. Moreover, without enough water, turgor pressure slows down, and nutrient absorption reduces. The plant thus ends up dehydrated and starts looking limp. If you keep a pothos in this state for too long, its leaves start dying back, and the plant could die. To combat high drainage, you will need to use materials like coco coir and peat moss which are known to hold water for long,
- When the drainage is too low, the roots sit in water for too long. And the water takes up the spaces in the air packets, thus depriving the roots of oxygen. Unfortunately, these conditions are ideal for fungal growth, and pathogens soon start attacking the plant roots. Eventually, the damage to the roots catches up with the pothos, which suffers stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and black spots. Waterlogging is a much more serious issue than underwatering; a plant in this state can die. You can avoid this by using materials like sand and perlite, which have high drainage rates.
The best way to protect your pothos is to find a soil mix that balances the drainage rate. It should neither be too much nor too little.
Using the formula with both properties is an excellent way to avoid these terrible fates. For example, you can have a mix that contains peat moss and sand.
Their different water retention capacities will even each other to give the pothos the balance it craves.
You should note, though, that poor drainage does not only arise from the soil but also comes down to your watering technique and the pot you use. So, you should:
- Only water the pothos when its soil is dry. You can check by digging a finger two inches into the soil surface. Some people prefer using moisture meters to check how wet the soil is – I would advise you to get one if you have previously faced issues with watering your plants,
- Use a pot with enough drainage holes – the holes allow the excess water to drain out of the pot. You can also place the pot on a saucer which can collect and drain the excess water. Also, some people use sand or small rocks at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage. This trick can work wonders for people who overwater their plants,
- Amend your watering schedule based on seasons. Your pothos needs more water in the summer and less in the winter and other cold months. So, make sure you change your watering schedule on this basis and also check the soil before watering the plant, and
- Use a pot that has porosity aligned to your watering habits. If you often overwater your plants, look for a pot with high porosity so the extra water can wick away from the pot and soil. But if you often underwater your plants, choose a pot with low porosity. That will enable the plant to sit in water for longer.
Once you couple these measures with a good potting soil, the pothos will not face any issues with too much or too little water.
c) The Aeration of the Soil
Compact soil is bad for your pothos because it hinders the plant in the following ways:
- It deprives the plant of oxygen. I touched on how low oxygen is ideal for the growth of fungi and how this can encourage pathogens to attack the roots of your plant. This issue is more prevalent in compact soils.
- It reduces the drainage capacity of the soil. The more compact the soil is, the harder it is for water to drain. Thus, even when you provide the pothos with a pot with enough holes and water it based on its water needs, it still ends up sitting in the water.
Compact soil also restricts the growth of the plant’s roots and can thus get in the way of proper plant development. So, how can you avoid compacting the soil?
You need to rely on materials that have fine and large textures. For example, using sand increases the spaces in the soil, allowing the plant access to water and air.
Luckily, achieving this balance is easy. You find that materials with fine textures also have high water retention capacities.
And those with rough texture have low water retention. So, if you take a mix of the two, you end up with a well-aerated mixture with good drainage.
An example would be to use peat moss or coco coir combined with sand or perlite.
d) The Nutritional Profile of the Soil Mix
While the pothos is not a heavy feeder, you must amend its soil when growing it indoors.
It does not have access to key growing nutrients, and without adequate feeding, the plant will suffer slow growth and may show signs of chlorosis. So, what should you focus on?
- Macronutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, and
- Micronutrients like manganese and iron.
If you’re using a commercial soil mix or making one with compost and other nutrient-rich materials, you will not need to feed your plant much in the following months.
You can even go half a year before you must amend the soil. But if you use a low-quality mix, you will likely need to amend the soil the first month after planting the pothos.
So, it is best to hit the ground running by including a suitable feed in the soil. I recommend using a balanced slow-release fertilizer with ratios of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.
However, this only applies if you’re not using a nutrient-rich potting mix. Else, you can overfeed the plant, and it can suffer fertilizer burn even before it has had the chance to overcome transplant shock.
e) The pH of the Potting Soil
The pothos prefers slightly acidic soil within the range of 6.1 to 6.8. In such conditions, it can take advantage of the soil’s nutrients and grow into a healthy plant.
But when you fall below or above this range by a significant level, the plant starts yellowing, and its health suffers. While death may not occur, the pothos would not be as vigorous as it should be.
Luckily, many commercial potting mixes fall into this category, and it is thus easy to find one that works for it. If you are making a soil mix, you can achieve this range by:
- Measuring the pH of your soil mix – doing this is easy, thanks to the many gardening kits available in stores. All you do is follow the instructions and get a reading.
- Amending the soil – If it is too alkaline, add materials like peat moss or coffee grounds to lower the level. And if the soil is too acidic, you add alkaline materials to it.
Gauging the pH of your soil will be necessary any time you add or remove components. And keeping an eye on it is vital in how the plant grows.
If your potting soil has all the above elements, you have the right mix for your plant. All you need is to ensure the plant gets enough water and light and feed it once a month.
But if your mix does not have these elements, you must amend it. Keep reading for the best options available to you.
The Best 4 Soils for a Pothos
Commercial mixes have the benefit of specificity as they contain all the materials necessary to promote healthy growth. Plus, they also have high nutritional value. Some of the best options in the market include:
1) Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix
This synthetic blend features sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and coco coir.
Thus, it is excellent at retaining moisture, providing adequate aeration, and has a moderate drainage rate.
It also helps that it features fertilizer, so you will not need to feed your pothos for at least half a year.
2) Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
Many people face difficulty gauging how much moisture they should feed their plants. And sometimes, the watering is on the overwatering side.
How great would it be to have a potting mix that prevents underwatering and overwatering? This blend feature sphagnum peat moss as its main component.
Plus, it contains coconut coir and perlite in its well-draining combo. It also comes with fertilizer, so you can grow a healthy plant even without feeding it for half a year!
3) Mother Earth Coco Plus Perlite Mix
Compacting is one of the biggest challenges that comes with the use of gardening soil in a soil mix.
But that is not an issue you will face with this blend which features coconut coir, a material known for its unique aeration properties.
Besides that, it features perlite, which increases its water retention – thus resulting in a balanced soil mix.
Unlike the other two mixes, this one does not feature fertilizer. So, you will need to implement the mix when using it for your pothos.
4) FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil
A suitable pH is essential to the healthy growth of your pothos. And this mix has a range of 6.3 to 6.8, which is what your pothos needs to thrive.
Additionally, it features a range of organic ingredients, including forest humus, designed to give your plant the best chances of healthy development.
It does not contain fertilizer, and you will need to amend the soil within the first half of the year.
Your pothos will be okay if you use a potting soil with good aeration, drainage, and water retention.
Can I Use Succulent Soil or Cactus Soil for a Pothos?
Succulents have features that enable them to withstand long periods of drought. And because they can hold a lot of water in their stems, they rarely need a soil mix that can hold water for long.
As a result, cactus soil usually has a low water retention rate. You must water your pothos often to keep up with this drainage rate. Moreover, you would run the risk of dehydrating your pothos.
However, you can use cactus soil as a potting mix component. Given its high water drainage rate, you can use it to balance the components in the mix with a low water drainage rate. For example, the soil mix below can work for a pothos:
- One part of cactus soil,
- One part of compost, and
- One part of peat moss or coco peat.
The cactus soil would balance the effects of the compost to ensure that the pothos did not grow in waterlogged soil.
You should not grow your pothos in cactus or succulent soil alone, though – always complement it with something with high water retention.
How To Make Your Own Pothos Soil
Buying potting soil might be costly if you have many houseplants that need a soil mix. Plus, you may want to see how good your DIY skills are by creating a soil mix. If that’s the case, here is how you can make a soil mix in a few easy steps:
1) Sterilize the Soil
While garden soil is compact and often contains insects that can infest your pothos, you can get around this by sterilizing it.
And instead of using chemical means to do this, you use nature in your favor, as I will show you. You also need to add more materials to increase its aeration and drainage. So, this is how you do it.
- Find a patch in your garden where the soil looks healthy. Remove any decaying materials by raking through the soil and smoothing it with the rake. Then water the soil, ensuring that the water goes beyond 10 inches below the surface. Soaking it is integral to the next steps.
- Cover the soil with a tarp or a plastic sheet, ensuring that you hold it down with rocks or other heavy materials. The tarp should not have any holes or any lines of weakness. Leave it on top of the soil for at least 4 weeks and no more than 6 weeks. The heat from the sun will kill pathogens, plants, and other organisms under the tarp.
It is best to use this method when the weather is warm. Doing so in colder months creates an ideal home for pathogens and weeds.
2) Create Compost
I earlier mentioned that compost has high water retention. But other than this, it is a good source of nutrients and works to amend your soil so you will not feed the pothos much after your plant it. To create compost, you need to:
- Combine three parts of brown materials – these are materials that produce carbon, e.g., straw and dry leaves,
- Add one part of green materials – these produce nitrogen and include decaying materials like cut grass, peels, and coffee grounds
- Transfer the materials into a container and cover them with a lid,
- Turn the materials in the container every few days and let them ‘cook’ for the next 2 weeks. Then allow them to remain in the container for a few more weeks so they can cook completely, and
- Sieve the compost and use the finer materials for your soil mix.
You should not include meat, dairy, or their products in the compost. But you can add worms to speed up the process.
3) Add More Organic Materials
You can now amend the compost by adding any of the following materials:
- Two parts of compost,
- One part of peat moss,
- One part of vermiculite,
- One part of garden soil, and
- One part sand.
You can use substitutes for these materials as you see fit. Test the pH of the soil mix and amend it accordingly to ensure it lies between 6.1 and 6.8.
Then use it to plant your pothos. If this feels like a lot of work, you can always get a commercial soil mix and cut the waiting time in half.
Your pothos should show healthy growth once you have planted it in the right soil. It might take a few days to adapt to its new home, but it should start showing signs of recovery and growth in a few weeks.
If you notice browning and yellowing of the leaves, leggy growth, and other adverse effects, it could be time to reassess the soil you have used – it might not meet the criteria set out in this guide and could be hurting your plant.