One of the most important elements of the philodendron’s care is getting its soil right. I’ll recommend the best soil for philodendrons ahead, including which soil amendments to use.
What is the best soil for philodendrons? Philodendrons grow best in well-draining yet moisture-retentive soil that’s somewhat acidic (5.0 to 6.0 on the pH scale). Using soil amendments like perlite, orchid bark, and peat moss will achieve the right soil consistency.
You may have more questions about philodendron soil, and that’s fine, as I’ve got answers. Keep reading for information on selecting the ideal soil for philodendrons and tips on when to repot and whether you can use cactus soil for this houseplant.
This Is the Best Soil for Philodendrons
You’ve got choices when determining which potting soil you’ll use to fill the philodendron’s pot.
You can always go the commercial route and buy a potting mix from your local gardening supply store (or the Internet!), or you can get your hands dirty and make your own.
Either way, if the soil has the following properties, it should sustain the growth of your philodendron for a long time to come.
In news that I’m sure won’t surprise any indoor gardener, the philodendron needs well-draining conditions in its pot.
I say this won’t surprise anyone because even houseplants that appreciate consistently moist soil, like the philodendron, don’t like soggy conditions.
The soil becomes waterlogged at the bottom when water can’t drain freely from the philodendron’s pot. The roots stop receiving oxygen since they’re drowning in water, so they begin to die.
This is known as root rot, and it can kill any indoor plant species. Overwatering can cause root rot, but so can hard, compacted soil that traps water in pockets throughout the soil.
If your potting soil is hard and compacted I recommend reading this article I wrote to help you save the soil and the plant trying to grow in it. Easy Ways to Loosen Compacted Soil in Potted Plants
Give your philodendron a chance to thrive. Provide well-draining soil and manage its water levels, and its soil should never feel slushy.
I know, I know, well-draining yet moisture-retentive soil sounds like an oxymoron, right? Yet it isn’t.
While you should give the philodendron’s soil time to dry out between waterings, the soil should hold onto its moisture for at least a little while.
If it doesn’t, then you risk watering the plant too soon after the last time. Even if you didn’t overwater your philodendron before, you’re doing it now.
So how does soil maintain moisture, you ask? Well, it doesn’t, at least not on its own. You’ll need soil amendments for that, so make sure you keep reading to the next section to see which amendments I recommend.
Would I call the philodendron an acidity lover? No, not exactly.
The plant’s preferred soil pH range is between 5.0 and 6.0. If you look at a pH scale, you’ll see that while that range is acidic, it’s not overly so.
For instance, a cup of coffee ranks a 5.0 on the pH scale and milk a 6.0.
The philodendron doesn’t need neutral soil and doesn’t like anything alkaline, aka soil with a pH reading of 7.0 and up.
Lots of factors can change the pH of soil. Using certain soil amendments can make the soil more acidic or basic, as can fertilizing your plant.
I’d recommend testing the philodendron’s soil pH every few months to ensure it’s within the recommended range.
Optimal Air Circulation
Finally, the best soil for philodendrons should allow air to move.
This goes back to what I said before about preventing the soil from becoming too compacted.
Hard, packed soil traps in more than water pockets but air pockets as well. The air can’t reach the roots, so it’s as good as useless.
Remember, root rot prevents oxygen from getting to the roots, as they’re inundated with water instead. A healthy root system requires oxygen and water, but not an overabundance of either.
Once again, it’ll be soil amendments to the rescue, as amendments can aerate the soil and keep it loose.
What Soil Amendments Should You Use for Philodendrons?
Soil amendments lend beneficial characteristics to standard potting soil, which will otherwise become compacted over time through watering, fertilizing, and other everyday gardening activities.
I’ve recommended soil amendments in general for the philodendron, but which ones specifically should you use? Here’s an overview.
When obsidian hydrates, a glass-like volcanic byproduct called perlite results. Perlite might look heavy, but it’s very lightweight, and the pieces are small.
The primary trait of perlite is water retention since each piece can store a lot of water. Perlite does well in moisture-retentive soil, making it the perfect addition to your plant’s pot.
Perlite also acts as a good soil aerator. It doesn’t create large gaps in the soil but spaces out the soil grains enough that water and air can travel through the soil freely.
Since perlite leans more neutral on the pH scale, you only need about 25 percent perlite in a philodendron’s potting mix.
Although you’ll often see orchid bark recommended as a soil amendment for epiphytes and orchids, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the bark for philodendrons. It’s a suitable amendment for any indoor plant that likes moisture-retentive, well-draining soil.
Orchid bark chunks are quite sizable, so they’re adept at creating optimal drainage throughout a plant’s pot.
If you’ve had issues with your philodendron becoming waterlogged before, that shouldn’t happen when you use orchid bark as a soil amendment.
Although not the most absorbent soil amendment, orchid bark can retain some water before the bark inevitably dries out.
Orchid bark has a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. You’ll recall that’s a bit more acidic than the philodendron likes it, but the inclusion of orchid bark in the soil should balance out the more neutral pH of perlite.
Use about 25 percent orchid bark in your soil mix.
A standard soil amendment that also works for the philodendron is peat moss.
Sourced from peat bogs, peat moss includes decomposing organic matter since it’s already dead.
Peat moss serves a lot of purposes when used as a soil amendment. It’s excellent at maintaining moist conditions in the philodendron’s soil since the moss can store 20 times its weight in fluid.
The pieces of moss throughout the soil also keep it light and aerated.
Keep in mind that unlike some of the soil amendments discussed in this section, peat moss does not last forever. It can further decompose and expire in a year or two. You’ll then have to replace it to continue enjoying its benefits.
Peat moss has a pH of 3.0 to 4.0. You only need 1/3rd of peat moss in the philodendron’s soil. A little goes a long way!
Coconut coir or coco coir makes an excellent soil amendment for the philodendron.
As I discussed in great detail, in my previous article on coco coir, coir comes in a variety of forms. The coir we use in potting soil is found between the shell and the outer coat of a coconut.
Your options include coco fiber, coco pith (also known as coco peat despite being sold in compact bricks), and coco chips.
Of the three, I’d suggest using coco chips for philodendron soil.
Coco pith retains a lot of water, doing so for probably a little too long for the philodendron. Coco fiber retains just a bit of water, potentially creating dry conditions in the philodendron’s pot.
Coco chips are water-retentive. They dry out slower than orchid bark so you shouldn’t have to stress about overly dry soil for the philodendron.
Just make sure you don’t water the plant too frequently when using coco chips. There should be no need.
Of course, the size of the chips lends the soil great aeration.
Coco coir has a pH of 5.7 to 6.5, which is a great balance for philodendrons. Add about 25 percent of it to your soil mix.
The last soil amendment I’d suggest for the philodendron is activated charcoal or activated carbon.
Known for its contaminant-filtering properties, activated charcoal improves soil surface area, increases aeration, and can even prevent mold and bacteria from spreading in the soil.
Compared to the other soil amendments I’ve talked about, it’s harder to get your hands on activated charcoal and costly too.
You only need five to 10 percent of it in a philodendron’s soil, so what you spend should last you for a while. Its pH is between 6.5 and 7.3.
What Should a Philodendron Be Potted In?
Have you ever shopped around for houseplant pots? You’ll realize you have so many materials to choose from that it almost becomes overwhelming.
Different pot materials have various properties, so you shouldn’t choose one based on looks alone. You need to consider how porous or nonporous the material is.
I recommend a glazed terracotta, clay, or ceramic pot for a philodendron.
These materials will ferociously absorb moisture when unglazed, but the glazing layer truly makes all the difference.
It reduces the porosity to a degree where the water in the philodendron’s pot will stay long enough to retain moist conditions but not long enough to create waterlogging.
If you find that the soil dries out a little too often for your liking, you can always insert a plastic liner into the pot. Just make sure the entire pot isn’t plastic, as plastic won’t absorb water.
Oh, and as silly as it sounds, make sure you buy a pot with drainage holes. Some pots go for fashion over function and don’t even have drainage holes!
How Often Should You Repot a Philodendron?
A healthy, happy philodendron should grow and grow. Providing great soil is only one small part of that requirement, as you also have to get its lighting, water, temperature, humidity, and fertilizer right.
If you do all that, then about every two years, maybe every three, your philodendron should grow to the point where you have to replace its pot.
You’ll usually know when it’s time, as the plant’s roots will tell you. They’ll try to grow this way and that, rising into shallow soil and sometimes protruding from the drainage holes.
Don’t wait too long to repot, as your philodendron could end up rootbound. Then you have a much bigger headache to deal with!
Do you have a few more lingering questions about soil options for the philodendron? Don’t miss this ultra-handy FAQs section!
Can I Use Cactus Soil for Philodendrons?
If you’re out of standard potting soil, can you reach for the cactus soil instead?
Not for the philodendron, I wouldn’t!
Cactus soil is designed for succulents. If you haven’t grown a succulent before, these plants can store water in their thick, fleshy leaves and retain it for a while. They like drier conditions than most plants.
That includes the philodendron. Using cactus soil for this plant will dry out the soil too frequently. Your philodendron could become dehydrated.
If you overcompensate and water too frequently, your plant risks suffering from root rot.
What Is the Best Soil for Pink Princess Philodendron?
The variegated philodendron from Columbia known as the Pink Princess needs the same type of soil as most philodendrons: well-draining, moist, and acidic.
What Is the Best Soil for Philodendron Hope?
The Philodendron Hope (or Hope Philodendron) is a rarer variety from South America, including Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. This plant with ruffled leaf edges likes tropical conditions.
That extends to its soil too, which should stay moist but well-draining.
Do Philodendrons Like Coco Coir?
Sure, they do! As you’ll recall, coco coir retains some moisture in the soil while increasing aeration.
That said, not all forms of coco coir suit the philodendron. To reiterate, I wouldn’t use coco peat or coco pith. It absorbs a lot of water and could create waterlogged, soaking conditions for the philodendron.
Coco fibers dry out too fast, which puts your philodendron at risk of sitting in bone-dry soil.
Do Philodendrons Like Peat Moss?
Yes, indeed. Peat moss and philodendrons go together like peanut butter and jelly. That’s the case for most houseplants!
Just to remind you, peat moss will expire in a year or two. Once it does, it loses its potency, so remember when you added yours in and replace it expediently.