Choosing a potting mix for your houseplants can seem daunting with the number of options available on the market. Most commercial potting mixes are made up of multiple ingredients, but peat moss and coconut coir are two of the most popular amendments due to their ability to retain moisture and provide aeration to plant roots. However, there are some pros and cons to consider when using each of them.
Peat moss is a type of partially decomposed plant material that is found in wetlands. It is often used in gardening and horticulture as a soil substrate to improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability.
Peat moss is formed when plants, such as sphagnum moss, die and fall into wetlands. The wet, acidic conditions slow down the process of decomposition, allowing the plant material to accumulate and form peat over time. Peat moss is typically found in bogs, fens, and other wetland environments.
To produce peat moss commercially, machines are used to extract the peat from the wetland environment. The peat is then processed and dried before being packaged and sold as a soil amendment.
Pros of Peat Moss:
- Peat moss is an excellent water retainer, which means it can help keep plant roots hydrated for longer periods of time.
- It is an organic material, so it is free of chemicals and naturally occurring.
- It has a slightly acidic pH, which is ideal for acid-loving plants like philodendrons, monsteras, and other common houseplant species.
Cons of Peat Moss:
- Peat moss is a non-renewable resource that is harvested from bogs and wetlands, which can damage the ecosystem.
- Peat moss releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it is removed from peat bogs.
- It has a high carbon footprint due to the energy required to harvest, transport, and package it.
- Peat moss becomes hydrophobic when it dries out, making it difficult to rehydrate once completely dry.
Coconut coir, also known as coco coir, is a natural fiber that comes from the husk of a coconut. It is a byproduct of the coconut industry and is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable alternative to peat moss in gardening and horticulture.
To produce coconut coir, the outer layer of the coconut, known as the husk, is removed from the coconut, and the long fibers are extracted. These fibers are then cleaned, washed, and processed to create a variety of products, including coconut coir.
Coconut coir is available in various forms, including coco peat, chunks, and loose fibers. It is a renewable resource that is biodegradable making it an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.
Pros of Coco Coir:
- It is available in a wide variety of products, such as coconut peat, fiber, and chunks.
- Coconut coir is a renewable resource made from coconut byproducts that would otherwise be discarded.
- It has excellent water retention properties, so it can help prevent plants from drying out.
- Coconut coir has a neutral pH, which means it won’t affect the soil’s acidity.
- Does not become compacted or hydrophobic like peat moss, making it excellent for drainage and root aeration.
Cons of Coco Coir:
- Coconut coir does not contain naturally occurring nutrients, so regular fertilizing is necessary for healthy growth
- Can cause calcium and magnesium imbalances if not properly supplemented.
- It has a high salt content, which can be harmful to plants if not thoroughly washed before use.
- The production process of coconut coir requires a lot of water, which can be an issue in regions with water scarcity.
In summary, both peat moss and coco coir have their own set of advantages and disadvantages when used as a potting substrate. While peat moss is a great water retainer, it is not a sustainable resource and can have a negative impact on the environment. On the other hand, coco coir is a renewable resource, but it may require more effort to use due to its high salt content.