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The type of Calathea soil mix you grow the plant has a direct effect on the overall health of the plant. Choose the wrong type of soil and you could be left with a sickly and unhappy houseplant. 

If you want to ensure your Calathea thrives for years to come, make sure to use only the best soil for Calathea. 

pots and tools near calathea soil mix

What’s the best soil for calathea?

Calathea needs soil that isn’t compact and drains well, with a neutral pH. The best soil for Calathea is one high in organic matter, while also being light and airy. This type of mixture is best for its overall health and will even help to prevent root rot.

There are several commercially available soil mixes that will work just fine for your plant. Or you could create your very own Calathea soil mix by mixing 50 percent potting soil, 20 percent charcoal, 20 percent orchid bark, and 10 percent perlite.

Furthermore, consider adding 10 percent worm casting to the Calathea soil mix. This helps to increase the organic content in the mixture and even acts as a natural fertilizer.

What’s the best calathea potting mix?

Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix is one of the most common soil mixes for houseplants like Calathea. It is designed for tropical plants, which means it has an airy, light soil that drains wells. Additionally, this potting soil contains added nutrients that help to feed the Calathea for up to six months.

You can check the latest price of the Miracle-Gro mix here.

Another benefit of the Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix is that it is available at most garden centers and nurseries, and is definitely a more affordable option.

For another option, rePotme Houseplant and Tropical Classic Potting Soil Mix works well for Calathea because it contains potting soil, vermiculite, coconut fiber, and peat. 

All of these ingredients are designed to help soil aeration and promote drainage, while retaining just enough moisture that the Calathea needs. Unfortunately, this Calathea soil mix can be more expensive than the Miracle-Gro one and not always as readily available at local garden stores.

calathea soil mix with tools and plants

How do you make potting mix for calathea?

To make your own homemade Calathea soil mix, simply combine 50 percent potting soil, 20 percent orchid bark, 20 percent charcoal, 10 percent perlite, and 10 percent worm castings. Fill your plant’s container, dampen it with distilled water and plant the Calathea in the soil.

Making your own homemade Calathea soil mix isn’t difficult and requires only a few ingredients. You will, however, need a container with a lid if you plan on making more of the mixture than what you can use at one time. 

The homemade potting mixture will allow the water to drain out more efficiently while also retaining the right amount of moisture that your Calathea needs. 

Keep any leftover soil mixture in a container with a lid and set the container in a cool, dark location until you are ready to use it again. 

Signs of problems with your calathea’s soil mix

While it may be tempting to simply toss the Calathea into any old soil, selecting the wrong one could be detrimental to the plant’s health. That is why it is important to pay attention to signs that there is a problem with the Calathea soil mix.

1. Soil isn’t drying out properly

In most cases, the Calathea’s soil should start to dry out within a few days after watering. Of course, this can vary depending on the time of year. 

If, however, the soil hasn’t dried out and it’s already been a week, you could have a problem with the soil mixture.

Soil that isn’t drying out is often caused by poor drainage. This could be due to the container itself or the soil just being too compact.

2. The soil is very compact and dense

Overwatering is often caused not by the gardener actually giving the plant too much water, but from the soil being too compact and dense. 

To determine if this is an issue with your Calathea soil mix, try inserting your finger into the top few inches of soil. If this is difficult to do, you may have soil that is too compact and dense for the Calathea.

calathea soil mix and shovel

3. The calathea leaves are discoloring and curling

Whether the plant is overwatered or underwatered, the leaves will probably show signs of a problem, and this can be a direct result of poor soil mixture. 

Waterlogged soil will cause the Calathea leaves to yellow and feel soft and mushy, while dry soil will cause brown leaves that feel dry and crispy.

Related: 6 Causes of Your Calathea Leaves Curling (+ How to Fix It)

4. There is an unpleasant aroma coming from the soil

When the Calathea soil mix doesn’t drain properly, anaerobic decomposition can occur. This will cause the soil to have an unpleasant and often rotten-like smell to it. 

It could also be a sign that the plant has rot, which is another issue that occurs due to poor soil quality.

5. The calathea plant isn’t growing

Soil that holds in too much moisture, as well as soil that dries out too quickly will both impact the Calathea’s ability to grow properly. This will result in a plant with little to no new growth.

6. Wilted leaves that fall off the calathea

A poor soil mixture will leave the Calathea’s foliage wilted, discolored, and barely hanging onto the stem. If the poor soil quality isn’t corrected, these affected leaves will begin to fall off the plant. 

Not only does this reduce the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients through its leaves, but it will also make the Calathea look bare and not as full.

a healthy calathea planted on calathea soil mix

7. The calathea has root rot

Root rot is the last thing you want your Calathea plant to have. This fungal disease is no joke and can quickly kill any plant it infects. 

The only good thing about root rot is that it is completely preventable. 

What pH do calatheas like?

Calatheas thrive in soils with a pH level of around 6.5. A soil pH level of between 6.5 and 7 is considered neutral, meaning it isn’t acidic or alkaline. The homemade Calathea soil mix recipe listed above is neutral, which makes it ideal for the Calathea.

If you’re unsure of the pH level of the soil you are using for your Calathea, consider purchasing a soil pH kit (this one is a great option and super popular – for good reason!). These kits are relatively inexpensive and, if you don’t want to buy it online, are readily available at garden centers and home improvement stores. 

They allow you to easily test the pH level of your soil so that you know the exact range the soil falls in.

Most experts recommend testing the pH level of your soil once every 3 months or so to help ensure the soil maintains the ideal pH level for Calatheas. 

If the soil becomes too acidic or too alkaline, a soil additive will need to be added to help get the pH level back to the neutral range.

Do calatheas like wet or dry soil?

Calatheas like soil that is evenly moist but not soggy. They cannot handle their roots being waterlogged, which is why their soil should be well-draining. Allowing the top two inches of soil to dry between waterings is a simple method to prevent both overwatering and underwatering.

Both overwatering and underwatering can cause issues with the Calathea. If you overwater the plant, you increase the chance of it developing root rot. Allowing the plant to get too dry, however, can cause stunted growth.

healthy calathea planted on calathea soil mix

Can I use cactus soil for calathea?

It is possible to use cactus soil for Calathea, but you shouldn’t use cactus soil alone. This type of growing medium doesn’t provide all the necessary elements that Calathea needs for healthy growth. Instead, add some regular potting soil to make a better soil mix for your plant. 

You could also add compost, sphagnum moss, or bark chips to the cactus soil to help create the best soil for Calathea.

Is coco peat good for calathea?

Calathea does grow well in soil mixes that include coco peat, but you should never use it as the sole ingredient to grow the plant in. Coco peat just doesn’t provide the ideal growing medium for a Calathea when used alone. 

Instead, mix the coco peat with traditional potting soil, peat moss, worm casting, and perlite.

Can I use bonsai soil for calathea?

Bonsai soil is often marketed as also being good for tropical houseplants, such as Calathea. However, because of the sheer amount of different bonsai soils on the market, it can be difficult to confirm whether they all will work for the Calathea plant.

The best option is to look at the Bonsai soil ingredient mix and see if the ingredients are similar to those in the Calathea soil mix. If so, then you should have no problem using that Bonsai soil mix for your Calathea.

a person with calathea soil mix on his hands

Do calatheas like charcoal?

Calatheas not only enjoys charcoal, but it is a common ingredient in the best soil for Calathea. Charcoal helps to retain moisture without causing the soil to become waterlogged. This is extremely important for plants like Calathea, who are susceptible to root rot.

Charcoal is a wonderful additive to Calathea soil mix, but it should never be used as a stand-alone growing medium for this plant.

Do calatheas like peat moss?

Peat moss is another common ingredient found in both homemade and commercially available Calathea soil mixes. It helps to keep the soil light and airy, while also preventing it from becoming too compact. Peat moss is also highly absorbent, meaning it can retain moisture.

As with the other ingredients on the list, peat moss is a soil additive only and not a growing medium that should be used by itself. 

This ingredient doesn’t provide the stability that the Calathea needs for its soil mixture. It does, however, work well when added to potting soil to help improve the overall soil mixture.

Do calatheas like sphagnum moss?

Sphagnum moss is another additive that can help improve the soil. This ingredient can retain moisture, helping to prevent the Calathea’s soil from drying out too quickly. What makes this moss even better is that it does all that without increasing the chance of root rot.

Just remember, however, that you should plant the Calathea in sphagnum moss alone, as this single ingredient doesn’t provide the plant with all the elements it needs for healthy growth.

calathea soil mix on a pot

How to know if you’re using the wrong soil for calathea?

When you use the wrong soil for the Calathea, the plant will quickly begin to decline and its overall health will suffer. You may see that the plant is developing yellow or brown leaves, and these leaves may wither, wilt, and fall off the plant.

Additionally, the Calathea will experience stunted or slowed growth, and the stems could begin to weaken. As time passes, the roots may become infected with root rot and if the problem isn’t addressed, the Calathea will die. 

Related: Calathea in LECA: Ensure Your Prayer Plant Thrives

Where can I buy the best soil for calathea?

The best soil for Calathea is available at a wide array of stores. In fact, you may even have some local stores near you that offer this soil. If not, you can purchase the Calathea soil mix online at one of many different merchants.

Keep in mind, however, that if you purchase the soil online, you may have to pay for shipping. Soil can be rather heavy, which will increase the shipping cost and potentially eat into your budget. 

Make sure to consider the cost of shipping when factoring in the total cost of the soil when purchasing online.