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Potting Soil Recipe for Woody Plants and Perennials

This long-lasting mixture is the perfect medium for long-term plants

Fine Gardening - Issue 125

Just as creating a healthy soil environment is crucial for your in-ground plants, providing a suitable growing medium for your container plants is a key factor to success. Most gardeners do fine with bagged container mixes available at the nursery, but these one-size-fits-all options might not be the best options, especially if you are growing plants, like woodies, with specific soil needs.

Making your own container soil might sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but it can improve your plants’ performance. And because these mixes have the optimal amount of nutrients and proper drainage, they reduce the amount of time you spend feeding and caring for your containers. And in the end, your container designs are only as good as the soil you fill your pots with. Insufficient soil, with too little drainage or too little nutrients will cause your plants to suffer and decline, never reaching  their full potential. Ask any nursery owner what the key to raising gorgeous plants is and they will tell you it’s all about the quality of the soil.

The following recipe can be mixed in a wheelbarrow or garden cart and tweaked based on your needs or what is available to you. You can also save time and money by purchasing the items in bulk and making large batches to set aside for a later date or to share with your gardening friends.


1 part peat moss
1 part composted bark
1 part compost
1 part sand
1 part perlite

If the mix clumps together and the compost you use is heavy, add more perlite to ensure good drainage. Use extra compost or bark when growing more-mature plants, but don’t make it too rich for young plants—it could damage their delicate roots and stems.


—Rita Randolph owns and operates Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee.

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