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Soil Recipes: Here's the Dirt on Them

Try these blends for growing annuals, perennials, succulents, and tropicals in containers.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner

All-Purpose Soil Mix

This basic blend is ideal for most flowers, vegetables, and small shrubs as a starting base for customization.


1 part garden soil (store-bought or from a well-amended bed)
1 part compost (for nutrients)
1 part perlite (for drainage)
1 part coir (for water retention)


For Annuals

The extra fertility this recipe offers keeps flowers blooming all season long. It’s ideal for annuals, which are heavy feeders.


1 part coarse sand or poultry grit
1 part composted bark
1 part compost
1 part organic fertilizer (or mix in 1/2 part bonemeal and 1/2 part kelp meal)


For Woody Plants and Perennials

Longevity is the goal when you’re making a mix for long-term plants in pots. This blend uses compost and composted bark to release nutrients slowly over the course of several seasons, allowing plants to thrive over time.


1 part coarse sand
1 part perlite
1 part ground coir
1 part composted bark
1 part compost


For Succulents

The mantra is “drainage, drainage, drainage” when you’re growing succulents. These desert and dry-climate natives never want to stay soggy, so a healthy amount of ingredients that help water flow through is a must.


4 parts All-Purpose Soil Mix
5 parts perlite
1 part coarse sand


For Tropicals

Continually moist and always fertile soil is best for tropical plants, so bark and compost are the primary ingredients in this recipe. They hold moisture and release nutrients as they biodegrade, creating the perfect environment for jungle species.


First, mix together:


2 parts composted bark
1 part compost
1/50 part charcoal


Then combine:


3 parts compost-bark-charcoal mixture
1 part perlite
1 part calcined clay
1 part shredded coir


Understanding the Ingredients of Soil
Photography by: Bryan Gardner