Ever found yourself contemplating the best growing medium for your beloved houseplants? Maybe you’ve heard of Coco Coir but aren’t quite sure what it is or how to utilize it correctly?
In this guide we will go through what Coco Coir is, the benefits of using as well as best practices to ensure your houseplants thrive.
- What is Coco Coir?
- Understanding the Different Types of Coco Coir
- Benefits of Using Coco Coir for Houseplants
- How to Choose the Right Coco Coir for Your Houseplants
- Mixing Coco Coir with Other Growing Mediums
- Managing pH and Nutrient Levels in Coco Coir
- Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Coco Coir’s Potential
What is Coco Coir?
Coco Coir, also known as coco peat, is a resourceful byproduct of the coconut industry, which previously saw little value.
The coarse, fibrous material obtained from the husks of coconuts has become a big hit among gardeners, especially those growing houseplants.
Why is there so much fuss about coco coir? The reasons are clear, it’s eco-friendly, sustainable, and biodegradable.
Coco Coir not only has high water retention capacity but also favors aeration, making it perfect for houseplants that dislike being too waterlogged or too dry.
Understanding the Different Types of Coco Coir
Coco coir comes in several forms, and each type serves a different purpose.
1. Coco Coir Pith or Coco Peat
Coco peat, also known as coco pith, is the fine dust or ‘peat’ that is produced during the extraction process of coco fiber. It has a unique structure that acts like a sponge, making it capable of holding up to 10 times its weight in water.
Therefore, it’s perfect for thirsty houseplants, or for gardeners who might forget to water now and then.
2. Coco Coir Fiber
Moving on to coco fiber, this type includes long strands of fiber that are extracted from the outer shell of a coconut.
This form of coco coir is useful in potting mixes due to its ability to provide structure, improve aeration, and resist compaction.
For those of you with houseplants that need lots of space, coco fiber can be the perfect component to integrate into your plant’s growing medium.
3. Coco Coir Chips
Finally, let’s talk about coco chips. These are small chunks of coconut husk that facilitate greater air flow within the soil mix while also helping retain water effectively.
They can be used to improve the texture and structure of homemade potting mixes, providing a balance between moisture retention and air spaces.
Benefits of Using Coco Coir for Houseplants
Absorbent Yet Drainage-Friendly
Coco Coir can retain up to ten times its weight in water. This makes it excellent at keeping your plants hydrated.
But it’s not just about water retention. Coco Coir also brilliantly balances this by providing excellent drainage, preventing waterlogged roots—a common concern when growing houseplants.
Eco-Friendly and Sustainable
It’s a byproduct of the coconut industry—an industry that was, for a long time, wasting this valuable resource.
Warding Off Pests
It’s naturally resistant to bacterial and fungal growth, warding off those pesky pests.
Easy to Handle and Store
Coco Coir is fairly lightweight, easy to work with, and takes up minimal storage space, especially when bought in compressed form.
How to Choose the Right Coco Coir for Your Houseplants
Different plants have varying needs regarding moisture retention, air, and texture. Thus, the choice of coco coir depends on the plant species you’re looking after.
Understanding Your Plants’ Needs
Are your plants drought-tolerant types like succulents, which prefer a quick-draining and aerated medium? Or, do they belong to tropical species that appreciate moisture retention like Spider plants?
Or, perhaps, are they larger types that necessitate substantial support like Monsteras?
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what your plants need, you can then move on to select the suitable type of coco coir.
Moisture-loving Plants: Coco Pith
If you have moisture-loving houseplants, like Fittonia or Peace Lily, Coco Coir Pith or Coco Peat would be a good choice.
This type of coco coir is excellent in retaining moisture and nutrients but still offers sufficient drainage so the roots don’t become water-logged.
It’s important to note that it’s not the best for plants that need high aeration like Cacti or Succulents.
Drought-Tolerant Plants: Coco Chips
Wanting something for drought-loving species like Cacti or Succulents? Then Coco Coir Chips would be your best bet.
These chips create spaces within the soil, allowing for great aeration and rapid drainage, so roots don’t soak and rot. Plus, they also add some weight to your pots, which is perfect if your plants are top-heavy.
Larger, Robust Plants: Coco Fiber
For larger and stronger houseplants like Philodendron or Monstera, Coco Coir Fiber should do the trick. It offers incredible aeration and good moisture retention and its sturdy structure can provide the necessary support these big plants need.
Mixing Coco Coir with Other Growing Mediums
Perlite is a fantastic choice to add to your coco coir mix. It’s a volcanic glass that has been heated to extreme temperatures, causing it to expand and produce a lightweight and porous material.
Adding perlite to coco coir can enhance drainage while also improving aeration, promoting healthier root development and preventing root rot.
Just like perlite, vermiculite is a natural mineral expanded under high heat to produce a lightweight material. However, while perlite increases drainage, vermiculite helps to retain moisture.
This makes it an excellent addition for those using coco coir for moisture-loving houseplants.
If you’re growing plants that appreciate a well-draining soil, consider adding sand to your coco coir mix.
Coarse, sharp sand can improve drainage and air circulation, making it a good choice for succulents and other drought-tolerant plants.
Compost is another valued addition to a coco coir mix. It not only enriches the medium with essential nutrients, but it also introduces beneficial soil organisms that promote plant health.
As coco coir is naturally nutrient-free, incorporating compost will definitely benefit your houseplants.
Managing pH and Nutrient Levels in Coco Coir
Coco coir, while amazing in providing the needed aeration and water retention for your plants, lacks the necessary nutrients. On top of this, Coco coir has a naturally low pH that needs to be adjusted to specific levels that best cater to your plants’ needs.
Adjusting pH Levels
The pH level in coco coir typically ranges from 5.5 to 6.5, slightly acidic in nature. However, most indoor plants thrive in a slightly more neutral pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Although it may not seem like a significant difference, this small adjustment can be the difference between thriving and wilting.
To adjust the pH levels, use a pH meter to test your coco coir. If it’s too acidic, you can gradually increase the pH by adding lime. If it’s too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH level.
Note: do this gradually to avoid shocking your plants.
Although Coco Coir is a fantastic growing medium due to its excellent water retention, drainage, and aeration, it doesn’t come packed with nutrients. Hence, in order to provide your plants with the right nutrition, you will need to supplement them.
This is where a balanced plant fertilizer enters the picture. An ideal fertilizer for coco coir should include Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), and trace elements such as Calcium and Magnesium.
Be cautious not to overdo it; follow the instructions on your chosen fertilizer and adjust based on your plant’s responses.
Recalibrating During Reuse
Can you reuse coco coir? Absolutely yes! However, used coco coir would need to be recalibrated in terms of pH and nutrient levels.
It may have residual nutrients from its prior use, or the pH level may have been altered. Therefore, before reusing coco coir, it’s wise to recalibrate by adjusting pH and nutrient levels again.
Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Coco Coir’s Potential
Coco coir offers a plethora of advantages as a growing medium for your houseplants, but how can you ensure you’re harnessing its full potential? This section will walk you through some savvy tips and tricks to get the most out of your coco coir.
Regularly Rinse Coco Coir
You should thoroughly rinse your coco coir before using it because it can sometimes contain high salt levels, which may affect your plants’ growth. Rinsing it helps remove excess salts.
Once you rinse the coir, ensure to drain it properly before use, maintaining its moisture-retaining property without oversaturating your plants.
Pre-soak Before Use
Coco coir is known for its superb water-retaining ability, but remember, it can take a while to absorb water at first.
So, how can you maximize its water retention and thereby ensure your plants stay hydrated? It’s simple—always pre-soak your coco coir.
Submerge it in water and allow it to absorb as much as it can before using it. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours.
Check Its pH Regularly
Coco Coir is usually neutral or slightly acidic, but like any growing medium, pH levels can fluctuate over time. So it’s important to regularly check the pH level of your coco coir.
You might want to invest in a pH test kit to monitor the pH changes and make necessary adjustments when required.
Store the Unused Coir Properly
Coco coir has a fantastic shelf life —it doesn’t decompose quickly, which means you can store it for extended periods. However, it’s crucial to store it properly to ensure its longevity.
Keep unused coco coir in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. And of course, store it in a place inaccessible to pests to keep it pest-free.
Can Coco Coir be used straight from the bag?
Yes and no. While some coco coir is ready-to-use out of the bag, it’s often beneficial to first rinse and soak the coco coir to remove excess salts and to ensure proper hydration.
Do Ineed to add fertilizers to my coco coir?
While Coco Coir itself doesn’t have much in the way of nutrients, it’s an excellent medium for absorbing and retaining them.
That means you’ll want to supplement regularly with a high-quality, complete fertilizer that includes all the macro and micronutrients your plants need.
How often should Iwater my plants when using coco coir?
This all depends on the type of coco coir you’re using and the watering requirements of your plants. Keep an eye on your plants, and when you see the coco coir starting to dry out, water your plants again.
Always remember, over-watering can be just as harmful to your plants as under-watering.
Can I reuse Coco Coir?
Yes, one of the great benefits of coco coir is its potential for reuse. Before reusing, however, make sure you flush the coir thoroughly to remove any salt build-up and replenish nutrients that may have been lost during previous use.
How should Istore unused coco coir?
For Coco Coir not in use, ensure it remains dry and clean in a cool and dark environment. Well stored, it should last indefinitely. But do remember to give it a good soak before using it again.