Wednesday 17 March 2021

The secret to happy plants with Soil Ninja!

Something I have started to really appreciate since getting into house plants, is that you need a large stock of supplies to keep various plants happy and healthy. Before I really got into collecting tropical plants, I would have probably deemed it perfectly acceptable to pop down to my local Sainsbury’s or garden centre, pick up a generic potting mix and plant away. With the knowledge that I have now, I can say with much certainly that the vast majority of my current plants would quickly start to die.


Now I’m not knocking generic potting mix. There is clearly a use for it, and plants that it will work for, otherwise we probably wouldn’t see it being sold in shops. The main problem when it comes to regular potting mix, is the lack of aeration within the substrate. If you’ve ever watered a plant in regular potting mix, you’ll probably notice that you end up with a pot of stodgy mud, that allows very little air to get to the roots – which most plants need and like to at least some degree.


So what do I put in my own potting mix? Well, quite a lot actually! I have a shed full of all kinds of different components to mix together in various quantities depending on what plant I’m working with. However, there is rather a lot to store, and getting a mix together can be a bit of a faff when I just want to re-pot one plant. The core components I tend to stick with are;


Lecca / Clay Pebbles

These are probably my least used component and I tend to reserve the use of Lecca for propagation only. Lecca is used for what is known as a semi hydro set up. Simply plant your plant or cutting in the balls of clay, and add water to the bottom of the pot – I find the best method is to put water into a drip tray that the pot is sat in. The clay balls will then wick the moisture upwards, bringing hydration to the roots.


Coco Coir

This finely milled substrate is made out of coconut husk, and can be purchased either as a block, or an already broken down substrate. Coco coir is known to provide good drainage and won’t leave you with that pot of thick mud when you water it. This is used in every single one of my mixes and forms the base of my substrate.



Perlite is made out of volcanic glass that has been superheated, and it added to a Coco coir mix to help provide aeration. Due to this, these little white grains help get oxygen to the roots which helps them grow and also helps prevent root. The balls are lightweight so they can start to float towards the top of the pot overtime during watering. Perlite can also be used for propagation in the same way that Lecca can.  



This is typically found in shops as ‘orchid bark’ and is used to provide further aeration on top of what the perlite has to offer. Plants with thicker or chunkier roots will need a little more bark than those with fine, thin roots. It you’ve ever taken a look at the roots of a standard orchid, you’ll see why bark is good for them.


I tend to use bark as a top coating to my pots as decoration, but this also helps keep pests like fungus gnats away as it stops them from getting to the soil, which is where they lay their eggs.


Worm castings

This is the fertiliser for the substrate mix. Contrary to what some people think, this stuff isn’t made out of ground up worms… it’s worm poop! Worm castings look like a fine powder and can be either mixed into the substrate you are mixing, or, can be sprinkled on top of soil if you wanted to fertilise a plant but not re-pot it. On that basis there’s no reason this couldn’t be used on garden plants too, especially those that are in large pots or planters.


Activated charcoal

This helps stop the build-up of impurities within the soil and can also help absorb a little moisture if you’ve overwatered once or twice – although it can’t save you from regular overwatering! You’ll tend to see activated charcoal added to terrariums to help keep them balanced.



So, that’s all quite a lot to store and buy right? Well, I’m pleased to tell you, that with the likes of Soil Ninja, you really don’t need to! I stumbled across Soil Ninja while on the hunt for worm castings that didn’t come in a massive bag, and was pleased to see that they stocked bags as small as 1 litre, for the very reasonable price of £2.50.


At this point I started to look through the rest of their website and was pleased to see how much variety they have. Not only can you buy all of the items I’ve mentioned above (and more) in both large and very small quantities, you can also buy a substrate that has been pre-mixed, with ratios tweaked to suit different plants.


Be it that you are planning on sculpting a terrarium or need to re-pot your succulent, the mixes are put together with different ratios and ingredients to meet the different needs of different plants. For example, a cacti and succulent mix will contain things like sand and finely ground pumice to help the substrate drain faster and replicate the natural environment of these plants.


This one stop shop also offers substrate mixes in bags as small as 1 litre, which is perfect for if you only have one medium sized pot to deal with. If you have more to do, or just want to keep some mix on hand to use as and when you need it, they also have bags available at 5 litres. Having ordered a few bags of different mixes, I was pleased to see that they did indeed all have very different ratios of ‘ingredients’ depending on the plant type they were for. I myself needed to repot a single Syngonium on the weekend, and found it incredibly useful to be able to do so using a single bag or substrate that had been mixed up ready for me.


If you aren’t sure which mix is best for you, they are an incredibly friendly bunch to ask. I also needed a mix for my Caladium bulbs, so dropped them a message over on Instagram to see which mix was best. A lovely lady named Amy came back to me (really quickly I might add) and not only told me which mix would be best, but also told me why it was best. So if ever I need to put my own together, I am now armed with the information I need to do so correctly.


Whether you are a house plant enthusiast, or just have the odd succulent knocking around your home I would highly recommend checking Soil Ninja out!



  1. This is such an interesting post! I'd love to get more plants and having something to fall back on in terms of taking care of them is super useful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! They've got some great mixes, and a lot of them are suitable for most houseplants - unless you wanted to mix your own! I've moved a few of mine into their soil and they are looking so much happier!

      Em x


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