healthy soil

Common Plant Problems: Soil Compaction

LiveTrends • April 01, 2022 • 2 min read

It’s a normal process that happens to everyone, and there’s a super easy fix.

Maybe you’ve never thought about having to aerate (loosen up) your indoor plants’ soil before, but as you water them and their roots absorb the hydration, they naturally pull that dirt closer and closer over time. This makes it harder for their roots to absorb nutrients and dry out between watering, which prevents root rot.

Outdoors, earthworms and insects that tunnel underground loosen the soil around plants’ roots as they move. But, since most plant parents don’t want to bring earthworms indoors, it’s up to you to prevent soil compaction in your houseplants.

How to Identify Soil Compaction

If you spot any of the following on your favorite houseplant, take a closer look.

  • Signs of root rot, like dropped leaves or yellow/brown spots on foliage
  • Wilted leaves, even though the soil looks and feels wet
  • Soil that has shrunk away from the sides of the pot
  • Soil that looks cracked or dry on the surface

Treat Your Plant

Now that you know why soil compacts (and that it’s totally normal), try a few different methods to aerate it again to see which works best for your plants.

  • Use a chopstick or wooden skewer to gently poke through the soil until you reach the bottom of the pot. Do this slowly to avoid breaking any roots in the stick’s path.
  • Give the chopstick a spin or wiggle to allow air into the soil, and then remove it.
  • Repeat this process three to five times around the perimeter of the pot.

Practice Prevention

Soil compaction happens naturally as you water your plants, so add aerating to your usual plant care routine for healthy, happy houseplants.

  • Keep a chopstick near your watering can so you remember to loosen your plants’ soil every second or third time you water them.
  • When you pot a new plant, mix in some aerating additives to its soil. Try options like perlite, moss, or vermiculite, which can all help prevent compaction.
  • Opt for terracotta or clay pots, which help promote air flow through the sides of the planter much more efficiently than other materials.

While soil compaction is bound to happen to your plants from time to time, it’s nice to know the solutions are inexpensive (and probably already lying around in your kitchen, for that matter). Give that chopstick or wooden skewer a place of honor next to your watering can and your plants will definitely thank you.

Caring for Your Plant

Caring for your plant will keep it happy and strong. Find out how to avoid the most common issues.

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