When we talk about types of substrates for plants, we usually think automatically of land. Some, whether black or brown, is the first idea that arises in our mind when talking about them — a completely logical thought. We associate substrate with what we see in the pots or the planting places of the garden. With that firm in which plants grow as they do in nature itself.

Added to this, we usually think that the different types of substrate only have two functions. On the one hand, support the plants helping them to grow upright and protect their roots. On the other, allow retaining the irrigation, moisture, or nutrients that plants need to grow properly. Or, even, to act as warehouses of the fertilizers that we apply to enrich them either in a diluted or solid form.

What if. It is clear that there are types of substrates that meet these fundamental issues. However, what is less known is that there are other types of substrates with very different purposes. Something that, make no mistake, does not detract from it. In fact, it is thanks to them that many of our plants can grow properly.


If we recently saw some of the most common types of substrates for plants, today, we want to discover those that are not. Those other substrates and amendments that also play a fundamental role in the development of plants and that often go unnoticed. Something logical if we take into account that they are usually part of the inside of the pot or, even, is mixed with the substrate of the same.

Many of these types of substrates have vital functions for our plants. Either to help drain or aerate, or to nourish with intensity at a particular plant moment. Because of its importance in gardening, it does not hurt to know a little more in-depth about how they can help us grow both our indoor plants and outdoor plants.

Let’s see in detail these types of substrates as interesting as unique.

1. Perlite

One of the most common types of substrates in gardening. Perlite is a crystal of natural origin with a great virtue: it contains 5% water inside. Added to this, it has an incredible ability to retain water without losing its characteristic porosity. In addition, it facilitates the aeration of the land. A trick that we can play in favor of our plants, mixing it with the substrate they need. And if it is useful in gardening, it is not less in the garden.

Fragile in appearance, small white balls, it is really super consistent. That is why it is resistant to erosion, something that makes it one of the ideal types of substrates to cover seedbeds. On the one hand, they will protect the crop from both cold and high temperatures. And, on the other and thanks to its high capacity to retain water, it will help us reduce the number of risks.

2. Clay balls

Although we usually see them as a decorative element, the truth is that this aggregate is the perfect ally to improve the drainage of a plant. Something fundamental when we have species that do not tolerate excess water. Its uses in gardening are very wide and playing with its properties, one of the best ways to carry out our plants.

Not only can we place them at the bottom of the pot to improve the evacuation of irrigation water. We can also use them to place a thin layer that separates the roots of the irrigation dish — a simple way to avoid being in contact with water, but using environmental humidity to hydrate. In addition, and if what we want is to improve the aeration of the roots, the idea is to mix the clay balls with the substrate.

It is also common to see them on the pots for decorative purposes. However, its usefulness goes far beyond this. Placing them like this allows creating padding for the plants. One way to avoid dehydration of the substrate and allow us to space the risks.

3. Coconut fiber

One of the types of substrates that have gained weight in recent years for its many properties. Coming from the coconut palm or coconut lucifer, it is able to retain nutrients and administer them progressively. Something great, especially if we go hand in hand with fertilizers. The same goes for irrigation water. Being natural fiber, it soaks and slowly releases water. Something that allows us to space the irrigation.

But if coconut fiber is essential in something, it is to facilitate the development of roots. It not only facilitates its aeration but also helps its growth. And it is able to give or absorb heat in a short time. Of course: to be effective, it is essential to mix it with other types of substrates. Coconut fiber, by itself, does not contain nutrients.

4. Volcanic Greda

As the name implies, the volcanic clay is volcanic rocks. Although it usually has mainly decorative purposes, it has many less known virtues for gardening. On the one hand, it is excellent drainage if we use it in the base of the pots or the planters. If we mix it with the substrate, we will be improving root aeration.

Being extremely resistant, it helps to avoid sudden temperature changes. Something that makes it a great help if we seek to make padding for our plants with the arrival of the cold months. As if that were not enough, this gesture will help us to another vital task of the garden: eliminate weeds. Thanks to these types of substrates, they cannot grow.

5. Vermiculite

Also of mineral origin and similar to perlite, vermiculite has a greater capacity for water absorption and retention. And not only that: because of its morphology, it is perfect for retaining air. A detail that makes it one of the ideal types of substrates to protect plants from the cold. Added, its pH is neutral, so it can be used with almost any type of plant.

For its benefits, it is mixed with any substrate we can use it. And, if it is interesting for planting because it helps retain nutrients, it is not less for growing cacti, succulents, and succulents. Another attraction is that it is extremely light.

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