15 essential tools for every plant parent

Potting soil and substrates

Do you consciously think about the substrate your plant is standing on? Very well! This does not happen very often. It is of course true that when you buy a plant it often just sits in a pot with potting soil and looks great in it. Most people change as little as possible to the circumstances of their new green friend. This is a good thing, because it is nice for a plant to get used to the conditions of your home for a week or two. However, after those two weeks there are a lot of different options to choose from when it comes to substrates. This is a really important choice for the ultimate growth of your plant. Therefore we would like to go through the different options with you!

The different substrates for your houseplant

Potting soil

For many houseplants, an organic potting soil is a good base to grow in. Potting soil works well as a basic substrate for a wide variety of houseplants. The standard potting soil that you can find in all garden centers is often a ready-made mix. This mix already consists of a number of substrates and substances to ensure that the soil has a good structure, but also contains enough nutrients. Usually you will find peat, peat bark, coconut, natural organic fertilizers and other similar ingredients in such a mix. Our favourite potting soil is composed with care and contains the following ingredients and substances:

  • Peat moss
  • Irish fraction (peat chunks)
  • Peat fibre
  • Right amount of lime (this ensures the right PH value and is a source of calcium)
  • Important nutrients (NPK - nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium)
  • Trace elements mix (substances that are absorbed by the plant in very small quantities)

This potting soil is a special PLNTS.com mix and so the perfect additions have been carefully considered to ensure that your plants can grow perfectly.

Perlite granules

Perlite grains are actually small glass particles, very light and full of air. It originates from volcanic areas and expands tremendously when heated to about 1300°C. This happens because the bubbles of air in the rock then escape. Perlite ensures that the roots of your plant develop better and that the plant grows more beautiful and better. Perlite in your potting soil ensures that the oxygen supply to the roots is stimulated. Besides the fact that perlite looks nice in your pot, the grains also add a drainage layer which means that moisture stays in the soil for less time. This prevents your beauty's feet from getting too wet and thus prevents root rot. Do you want to take cuttings from your green friends? Perlite is an ideal basis for this! Please note: when using Perlite, dust is released that is essentially very small glass particles. So make sure you keep something in front of your mouth or mix outside to prevent damage to your lungs.


Vermiculite is a high-quality clay that expands like a harmonica when heated and therefore produces very light grains. Vermiculite is non-toxic, sterile and does not deteriorate over time. It can absorb three or four times its weight in water and also attracts various plant nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium. Vermiculite can be used alone when taking cuttings or can be mixed with potting soil. Vermiculite is very similar to perlite, but is less porous.

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Pumice is very similar to perlite in their ability to absorb excess moisture and provide ideal airflow for the roots. Because pumice has many holes, it can store fertilizer quite well, making it great for feeding your plant. Where perlite is a volcanic glass, pumice is a volcanic rock. Pumice is a great growing substrate for your cuttings.

(French) Tree Bark

French tree bark is a multifunctional material that not only does well in the garden. Your houseplants will be very happy with it too. The material helps to maintain the humidity of the potting soil, but especially for an airy structure. Tree bark is used especially frequently in soil intended for Anthuriums and Orchids (Epiphytes). These are plants that like to grow up against another plant and are therefore used to a lot of air near the roots. By adding tree bark to your potting soil, the plant has something to 'grab onto', thus bringing a lot of air into the soil and over time being digested by soil organisms which in turn provides useful nutrients.


Cocopeat is a waste product from coconut products, where only the milk, the meat and the hard bark are used. After a desalination treatment, among other things, this grit turned out to have very good properties to be processed in potting soil. Cocopeat is very finely ground and therefore perfect as a substrate in potting soil to improve soil texture, soil aeration and moisture retention capacity. These are 3 very important improvements and therefore certainly a very good substrate.

This cocopeat is also super for germinating seeds and as a cutting soil. This is because it can hold moisture well and thus maintain an ideal condition for your young plant or for germinating seeds. When you put the cutting, seeds or maybe even your plant only in cocopeat, make sure you add enough nutrients. Cocopeat has no nutrient buffer in it.

Coconut Fiber

These resilient coconut fibers provide optimal soil ventilation. It therefore provides an airy structure and transports water through the root system. Because coconut fibers are completely organic, they also increase the organic content of the soil. A good potting soil for your plants must be able to drain off excess water quickly, store enough water for dry periods and it is important that the soil is well aerated. Coconut fiber ensures that all of this happens! Your plants will therefore be very happy with this addition to their potting soil.

The name says it all - coconut fiber is a product of the coconut, namely the outer bark of the coconut. Coconut fiber is considered one of the best substrates, but it cannot be used directly from nature because of its very high salt content (so don't go picking a coconut bare yourself ;)). Coconut fiber has the advantages that it absorbs water better than potting soil and is more environmentally friendly. We recommend that you use a maximum of one third coconut fiber in a potting soil mixture. Unfortunately, you cannot let a plant grow in coconut fiber alone, because coconut fiber does not contain any fertilizers which your plant needs to grow well.

Peat chunks

Peat is a wet, oxygen-deficient soil type with a sponge-like structure composed of plant material. All peat types are naturally acidic. Lime must therefore be added to achieve the right PH value for plants. Peat is a super important component of potting soil. Especially these peat chunks are good to add to potting soil. This creates an airy potting soil that can absorb water well and retain moisture. It also buffers nutrients more easily. It therefore ensures good root development and a beautiful growing plant. Actually all plants will be happy with this addition!

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Active charcoal

Charcoal is a super addition. It actively absorbs excess moisture and gives it back on dry days, acting as a kind of moisture regulator in the soil. In addition, water-soluble nutrients are collected on unburned particles, consisting of humus and fertilizer, which are also very useful for plants. Charcoal helps hold the loose soil, improves porosity and permeability of the soil. Activated carbon is perfect for when you want to plant your new addition in a pot without a drainage hole. Applying a layer of activated charcoal to the soil, under the soil, protects the plant from overwatering. In addition, it even absorbs toxins to protect the soil and roots from bacteria and fungi. Repelling some insects is its other superpower, making it a real life saver! This also makes activated carbon perfect if you want to make your own terrarium.

Hydro grains

Hydro grains makes taking care of your plants much easier. Hydro grains are small, lightweight clay pebbles that absorb moisture not only from the soil, but also from the roots! Place them on the bottom or top of the soil so that excess water is evenly distributed throughout the soil. The solution for pots without drainage holes. In addition, the small grains loosen the soil. This provides the roots with more oxygen, so your beauty will look its best! Hydro grains may look fragile, but they can be used over and over again. They are actually indestructible, so definitely worth buying! Hydro grains are also widely used in hydroponics and are ideal for that as well.

Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss improves the structure of potting soil. This macho plant can hold up to 20 times its own weight in water! This keeps the potting soil always moist, which is especially appreciated by many tropical plants. Mix, for example, 1/5 sphagnum moss into the potting soil of your tropical plant and the soil will be less likely to dry out. The more sphagnum moss in your mix the better and longer it will retain moisture. We also find sphagnum moss perfect for cuttings, put your cuttings in the moss and they will root super. When the cutting is rooted (root of 8cm or longer) it is advisable to move it to soil. If you have some moss left over, let's get creative! Because of its flexible shape you can easily make your own (hanging) basket or moss stick with it!

Living Moss

Living moss is an ideal substrate to use for terrariums, orchids and cuttings. It is moist and airy so the roots grow extra fast. Roots develop very well in moist moss and living moss is therefore ideal for plants with fewer roots or your cuttings. Of course you can also use living moss for other creative purposes, it is ideal for your terrarium or to make your own kokedama ball. To maintain that beautiful green color, it is best to use filtered water. Otherwise there is a chance it will turn brown.

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Cuttings soil

We understand only too well that you want to expand your PLNTS family and grow your own babies! Cuttings soil is perfect for rooting cuttings and eventually growing them into true doubles of your mother plant. It has a fine, compact and regular structure, which ensures an even water and nutrient supply and therefore prevents dehydration. When your cutting has developed good roots, you can repot it in normal potting soil or, of course, compose a nice mix. Our cutting soil is specially mixed so that, in our opinion, it is perfect for every cutting! These are the ingredients of our cutting soil:

  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Coco peat
  • Important nutrients


Vulcastrat is a substrate that is often used professionally. It is a mixture of minerals such as lava and pumice. It absorbs moisture, lots of moisture! It can absorb water up to 30cm upwards, so there is little chance of water staying at the bottom of the pot. This prevents roots from rotting, which is great. The water is gradually released to the plant by the Vulcatrat. The rough structure also allows enough oxygen to reach the roots, making it easier for roots to grow through. Vulcastrat is a mix of various volcanic rocks and is used as a substrate in hydroponics. It contains no fertilizers, so you should think about giving extra nutrition.

Pon (Vulcaponic / Lechuza pon)

Pon is basically a smaller form of Vulcastrat, but with added fertilizer. It is a brand name and better known than Vulcastrat due to Lechuza's good marketing. The only difference between Vulcaponic and Vulcastrat is that Vulcaponic contains more zeolites, this ensures that this substrate can absorb even more water and has better air pores. Lechuza pon does contain coated fertilizers and is therefore provided with nutrients, so you can go ahead the first few months!

Which substrate to use for what?

We understand that after all the explanations per substrate you still have questions. What exactly is really good for what? We would like to help you! Below you will find, in our opinion, what is the best substrate to use for what. For example, the best for an airy structure, the ideal moisture regulator, what filters impurities from your soil and what is very good for cuttings. Note: this is based on our opinion. You may have a different preference and experience it differently in the end.

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What is the best potting soil mix for your plant?

The special needs of the plant determine which potting soil is best to choose. The soil structure and nutrients are super important. To get healthy, strong plants, the potting soil must meet the special needs of the plant. For example, in addition to a good soil structure, certain nutrients and lime are also needed, in order for the plant to grow and develop. We hope the following information will help you find the perfect mix for your green friend.

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Ciao, sono Emma, la tua guida PLNTS.com!

Ciao, sono Emma, la tua guida PLNTS.com!