Should potted plants have the soil changed?


picture of blonde lady replanting a house plant

None of us plan to purchase a luxurious and beloved potted plant only to find that the plant is looking poorly within a year or two, is overgrown, or is starting to show signs of distress.

One of the easiest methods to cure these problems is simply changing, adding, or replacing our potted plants’ soil when it makes sense to do so.

Potted plants benefit from having their soil changed periodically to renew the nutrients and remove impaction and provide air to the root system. It also allows you to pot into a larger pot as the plant grows. The most significant benefit is that it helps remove high phosphorus levels, which can cause nutrient locking in the plant.

If you’re a gardener, a houseplant lover, someone who loves a particular plant variety, or want to spruce up an area of your home or outdoor room, potted plants will bring us all a lot of joy.

Our potted plants’ soil should be changed, topped up, or replaced for them to continue to thrive, look attractive, be healthy, and provide us with pleasure.

To have healthy and lush potted plants, they should have their soil contents changed regularly. Plants that are restricted to pots rely heavily on that soil for nutrients.

Since they do not have access to the earth where water, beneficial nutrients, fungi, bacteria, and insects exist, the only access to life-giving substances comes directly from both the water and the soil you provide.

Over time, these nutrients get depleted as the plant uses them to put down roots, grow foliage and produce flowers and fruits. 

Changing their soil will mean they continue to flourish, look attractive, be healthy, and bring us the pleasure and delight that comes from having them in our homes, on patios, balconies, and yards.

When should I change potted plant soil?

As a rule of thumb, potted plants should have their soil contents changed every year if they are very prolific, and approximately every eighteen months for slower growing plants.

They should also have the soil mix changed at any time when the plant is visibly showing signs of distress from lack of nutrients such as yellowing leaves, leaf drop, drooping foliage, or discoloration.

It’s important to follow the instructions given to you on the plant card or your plant’s retailer’s adviser. The mix of soil you choose should be one specifically designed to benefit the variety and plant type.

Can I top up soil for potted plants?

Picture of lady top dressing her flower pots with soil

Some slower plants may benefit from just a topping up of the soil by removing the plant, mixing in additional soil, and re-potting the plant. Other plants that are hungrier for nutrients (often the faster-growing plants) can benefit greatly from having the entire pot of soil replaced instead.

Why should I replace potted plant soil?

If your plant looks like it’s in distress, yellowing leaves, drooping foliage, leaves dropping, or an overall poorly look, it could just mean the plant is suffering a deficiency in nutrients and may need new soil to help bring it back to health.

An ideal time in determining if your plants would benefit from a replacement of their soil will often.
If you find your roots are root bound, or the roots have reached out of the bottom of the pot in search of more nutrients.

If your plants are beginning to become top-heavy and have outgrown their pot, it’s a perfect time to increase the pot’s size and start with a fresh mix of soil for your plant type.

picture of root bound house plant

Can I replace potted plant soil with used soil?

Typically it would help if you chose to re-pot into potting soil, and it should not be into the soil used by another plant. Potting mixes are made specifically to the type of plant you have and are made to provide the proper nutrients for that kind of plant to thrive. Not all soils work the same for all house plants.

Some like different PH balances, others prefer one nutrient over another, and all plants have specific needs for drainage and water retention specific to their kind. The best choice is to use a commercial mix intended for your plant variety.

Which soil mix is right for my potted plant?

picture of hands in compost mix
  • Carnivorous plant mixes – A mix specifically designed to allow for good drainage and air to get to the roots
  • Orchid Potting mixes – A well-draining mix that mimics the natural environment to orchids and is more are accustomed to.
  • Organic Potting mixes – A mix containing all-natural ingredients like worm castings and composted materials intended most often for vegetables and fruits
  • Seed Starting mixes – A mix that is loose and airy to allow young seedlings to emerge without a struggle
  • Ericaceous Mixes – A mix intended specifically for plants that enjoy a more acidic soil
  • Moisture control mixes – Intended to help prevent overwatering of plants
  • Succulent, Cactus, and Palm mixes – A mix with good drainage and often contains grit to add weight and improve drainage
  • Outdoor use mixes – A mix that mimics the earth, giving both moisture control and fertilizer as well as bits of organic material
  • Bonsai tree mix – A mix that contains organic material and mineral additives specific to bonsai tree needs
  • All-purpose potting mixes – A mix that has good drainage and moisture retention combined and can often be used both indoors and outside

Where can I buy soil for potted plants?

You can find commercially produced soil mixes at many big box stores with either a seasonal department or an attached garden center. They can help you choose the right soil for your type of potted plant and provide advice on the plants they sell.

You can also find specialty soil mixes in nurseries, garden centers, and through numerous online retailers of gardening supplies, plants, trees, seeds, and bulbs.

What is potting soil made from?

Potting soil is a mixture of loam, peat, sand, and nutrients, used as a growing medium for plants in containers.

Often you will find the ingredients of most mixes hold many similar components.
Some commonly found ingredients in mixes are:

Perlite – a form of obsidian characterized by spherulites formed by cracking of the volcanic glass during cooling, used as insulation or in plant growth mediaPine bark – the tough protective outer sheath of the trunk, branches, and twigs of a pine tree  
Peat moss – a large absorbent moss that grows in dense masses on boggy ground, where the lower parts decay slowly to form peat deposits. Peat moss is widely used in horticulture, especially for packing plants and (as peat) for compost.Coconut coir – fiber from the outer husk of the coconut, used for making ropes and matting
Vermiculite – a yellow or brown mineral found as an alteration product of mica and other minerals, used for insulation or as a moisture-retentive medium for growing plants.Mycorrhizae  -a fungus which grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship.
Grit – small loose particles of stone or sand.Worm castings -a convoluted mass of soil, mud, or sand thrown up by an earthworm or lugworm on the surface after passing through the worm’s body.
Commercial fertilizer – a chemical or natural substance added to soil or land to increase its fertility.Minerals – a solid inorganic substance of natural occurrence
Bonemeal – crushed or ground bones used as a fertilizer.Bloodmeal – dried blood used for feeding animals and as a fertilizer
Pumice – a piece of porous volcanic rock or a similar substance used as an abrasive, especially for removing hard or callused skinLimestone-a hard sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate or dolomite, used as a building material and cement making.
Bat Guano – the excrement of bats, used as fertilizerSeaweed – large algae growing in the sea or on rocks below the high-water mark

Understanding what goes into potting soil mixes can help you determine the right blend for your potted plants. This is especially important if you are interested in making your own blend of potting soil mix. It helps to know the different components that are often used in the blends.

There are many recipes that you can make that are geared to your specific potted plant varieties. You can readily find these recipes online, and often you can save money by making your own mixes for all of your potted plants.

In conclusion, should potted plants have their soil changed?

picture of succulents in decorative pots

Potted plants will have longer better life and development when they get the conditions and sustenance they need. If you are a houseplant lover, somebody who adores a specific plant assortment, or essentially the kind of person that likes to spruce up a home with natural beauty, indoors or outside, potted plants offer a great deal of joy.

Potted plants will always flourish in conditions that have the right nutrition, and You can find that from the soil mixes they are set in. Changing the soil mix every twelve to eighteen months, or when plants show signs of distress, will have a significant effect on your plant’s life and your enjoyment too.

The simple step of replacing the soil where warranted can mean a lush, vibrant, healthy plant for many years to come!

If you got value from the article, then consider subscribing to the blog for more great information just like this. You can do that below. Happy Gardening

Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter and long term gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 45. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

Recent Posts