Choosing Houseplants by Soil Type and Growing Medium

There are different types of growing mediums you can use for your houseplants. You can grow houseplants in soil, in water, or in soilless environments. Compared to in-ground plants, houseplants already need aerated potting soil to give the roots access to air and oxygen. Some houseplants may also benefit from specialized soil amendments to help create ideal conditions for growth. Learn about how to choose houseplants by growing medium and what the plant care looks like for these different types of houseplants.

Types of Houseplants that Grow in Soil

Most houseplants prefer soil and have counterparts in the wild that live in the ground. Nevertheless, growing plants in a pot takes a different kind of soil. Even in a container with good drainage, the water tends to hang around, reduce air flow, and eventually encourage root rot. To prevent this, potting soil adds aerators and moisture control elements. The potting mix isn’t as dense with nutrients as it is with in-ground soil, but the nutrients are more easily accessible.

Striking this balance requires choosing different potting soil mixes for different types of houseplants. Houseplants that like regular watering want soil with vermiculite or other additives that can retain and then slowly release the moisture from watering. Houseplants that like very infrequent water need potting soil that drains even more quickly and have an even lighter potting mix. Look for potting soil that’s specially formulated for cactuses and succulents. Another thing to keep an eye out for is the pH of the potting soil. Some houseplants prefer soil with higher acidity levels, while others prefer a more neutral blend. There is an endless list of houseplant types we can help you sort through, but here are some of our favorites for pots with potting soil.

  • Kalanchoe
  • Flaming Sword Plant
  • Sago Palm
  • African Violet
  • Croton Plant

Types of Houseplants that Grow in Water

You don’t have to worry about pests or monitoring soil moisture. So long as you replenish the water periodically and add some plant food, that’s all the care you need to provide. In some settings, it’s a bonus to be able to see the roots plunging through the water. Beware, however, that in sunny spots, glass jars can let algae grow and overtake your houseplant.

Growing houseplants in water is also a popular method of propagation. You can take cuttings from many types of water-loving houseplants, put them in water and stimulate new root growth for a couple weeks before transplanting the new plant into potting soil. Left in the water for too long, and the roots grow brittle and become permanently adapted to their water environment. Some types of houseplants do better than others growing in water as mature plants. Some houseplants grow naturally in aquatic environments. If you have an indoor water garden or a home with higher humidity levels, one of these hydrophytes or hygrophytes could be a great type of houseplant for you.

  • Philodendrons
  • Pothos
  • Spider Plant
  • Jade Plant
  • Lucky Bamboo

Air Plants and Other Growing Mediums for Houseplants

Some houseplants don’t need soil to grow. Epiphyte plants grow on trees, rocks, or other objects for physical support, while getting all the nutrients they need directly from the sun, water, and air. These plants are also a favorite among those who are looking for easy-care houseplants.

The most popular type is the air plant. Some people don’t get excited about houseplants simply because they introduce the potential for dirt into the home. All it takes is one pet, child, or house guest to knock it over and make a big mess of things. Air plants are a great example that there’s a houseplant out there for everybody. These plants absorb nutrients from the air and water through their specialized leaves. Give them a period soak in water, but otherwise these plants are virtually care-free. And certainly: no muss, no fuss.

Epiphyte plants are usually potted with a specialized, soilless potting mix that mimics their natural environment where they most commonly grow on moss or trees. So long as they have physical support and a moist environment, they have a good chance of thriving.

  • Air Plants
  • Orchids
  • Anthuriums
  • Bromeliads
  • Staghorn Fern