Asked on May 10, 2015

My potting mix doesn't absorb water very well.

by Louise
So, I went to Lowe's to find out why and buy something else but the woman who knows all about plants wasn't there. My only "helper" was a young guy who clearly knew nothing. He said I should get garden soil. Upon reading just a bit online, I think I was mislead. I want this to put into house plant pots that will live on the deck until cold weather comes. The problem is that I put the potting mix in a pot and when I water it, the water sits on the top. I sometimes use something to punch holes into the product to make the water go down, but that shouldn't be necessary. In the past, I've bought something -- and now I don't know what it was -- that, when water was added, it slurped it up. Also, I'm going to plant tomatoes today in the yard so can I put this garden soil into that area? I assume so?
  9 answers
  • Vickie Vickie on May 10, 2015
    I would suggest you pour the soil into something that doesn't have a drain hole and then pour water into it. Let it sit until the soil absorbs the water or return the soil. Hope that helps.
  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on May 10, 2015
    Sorry your "helper" wasn't so helpful. You can use your soil in your garden. Shouldn't be a problem but I would mix it pretty well with the soil already in the garden. The only reason I say this is that the purchased bag of planting medium more than likely has added nutrients that you might not find naturally in your soil and mixing the two together will allow whatever you plant to "share the wealth," as it were.. As for creating a "mix" for your indoor plants, you can use the same basic potting soil but add some perlite or vermiculite to your mix. About 2 parts soil to 1 part perlite or vermiculite. These additives are inorganic materials mined from natural sources and, when added to your potting mixes, help aerate it and create spaces. These spaces will let water flow down and into your pot/planter. In short, these two products make your potting mixture "light and fluffy." Of the two, I prefer perlite and use it whenever I'm doing any container gardening of any sort, large or small. Don't be discouraged.
    • Louise Louise on May 10, 2015
      @Swan Road Designs Thanks so much. I have perlite and will do that today. And I'll mix my new garden soil with the soil where I'm going to plant tomatoes. Heading outside shortly to do that.
  • Linda Kelly Linda Kelly on May 10, 2015
    I hope no one finds this answer awkward but... we bought cheap women's sanitary pads, pulled the plastic covering off and put the absorbent material in the bottom of all our hanging baskets and pots. It holds water so well and we don't have to worry about watering as often. You could also use diapers if you had really large pots or wanted to cut them down to size.
    • See 2 previous
    • Terryrose S Terryrose S on May 10, 2015
      @Linda Kelly Great idea using sanitary pads. I use sponges I bought at dollar store to do the same thing.
  • Dotty Parker Dotty Parker on May 10, 2015
    I have used the disposable absorbent bed pads also. I found them at a thrift store opened but not used. We were going on vacation, so I put them in the bottom of my plants. Worked great for the short term. They are not as thick as diapers or pads.
  • Vickie Macfarlane Vickie Macfarlane on May 11, 2015
    If you are using Miracle Grow Potting Soil and a pot with drain holes, you should not have this problem. You can add some Perilite to the soil, which is usually mixed into it already. The Perilite absorbs moisture to help keep the soil moist for longer periods of time. You may be watering too much or too often. You should not have to use absorbent pads or anything like that.
    • See 1 previous
    • Cheryl Cheryl on Jul 22, 2015
      @Vickie Macfarlane Probably meant to say vermiculite - that's the one that holds water.
  • Marla Marla on May 11, 2015
    I always buy the big bags of potting mix and smaller bags of garden soil. I mix the two in my wheelbarrow before filling planters and pots. I feel the mix accepts water and plant food quicker and retains it longer. For hanging plants, that dry out so quickly, I mix in water absorbing granules before planting summer annuals.
  • Louise Louise on May 11, 2015
    I mixed some Perlite into the potting mix and now the water is absorbed. Thanks.
  • ColoradoUtah ColoradoUtah on May 11, 2015
    Your experience is why I suggest to my students that they work with a smaller, independent nursery. The Big Box Stores usually do not have staff with training in gardening who will be able to fully answer your questions. Secondly, there are potting soil mixes available that work just as well as the Brand mixes like Miracle Grow but they are cheaper. In the case of your Gardening Soil, it does not have enough organic matter in it to aid in absorption. As a result, the water just sits. Marla is right. Mix in Composite or Potting Soil, then it would work for Containers. Just remember that in hot weather, containers need to be watered almost daily and also need a good time released fertilizer. Good Luck!
    • Cheryl Cheryl on Jul 22, 2015
      @ColoradoUtah I believe that particular potting soil she's using is peat moss with a tiny bit of pearlite - which is organic matter. But peat has been dried out (on purpose) and needs to be re-wet before using or water will just run straight through. The water doesn't "sit" or run off like in our Florida sand that has virtually no organic matter - totally different. Also no fertilizer initially with the Miracle Grow brand she bought - it already has it. Best to wait at least a few weeks to add a time release. Also she is north of Atlanta and their weather is nothing like ours. She might overwater if she does it every day. Better to learn how to check the soil moisture before just habitually watering it. Even here I've overwatered some kinds of plants in containers - and in sun. Best way to buy potting soil is to lift the bag - if it's heavy for it's size, don't buy it for potting in a container. It's only good for dumping into the garden. If it's on the light side, it's probably peat and, aside from environmental issues, is the best potting mix you can buy. No matter the brand. And, in Florida, lighten it further with perlite. Add vermiculite if you want it to hold a little reserve moisture.
  • Sylvie Sylvie on Mar 14, 2020

    I was told by a horticulturist to put the amount of soil that I need in a container with no holes and wet it all. Let it soak overnight and drain.

    If you have many plants to put in containers you can just open the big bag and pour the water straight in the bag with your hose. Next day poke holes around the bag at the bottom so the excess water drains.

    Then use this wet soil to plant your plant in a container with holes. Never let it dry completely. Many components in commercial soil need to be rehydrated before using it. This has made a lot of difference for me.

    Do not leave the water in the bag for days because fungus will start growing.