Skip to content

Choosing soil cover for indoor plants

Need some help choosing indoor plant soil cover? I thought it would be helpful to talk about some options for top dressing – and why to do it.

You’ve probably seen houseplants with various materials scattered on the surface of their potting soil (like the amazing succulents above).

An attractive top dressing really makes an indoor plant look more ‘polished’ and adds a little extra decorative flourish. 

Soil cover isn’t just handy for decoration though. It’s useful for plant maintenance, helping to retain water in the soil and prevent pests from taking hold.

Why cover indoor plant soil?

Locks in moisture

Covering pot soil helps with moisture retention. Like a mulch in the garden, a layer of soil cover around the base of an indoor plant minimises evaporation.

Shading soil from direct sun helps keep the temperature down. For plants in draughty areas, it also limits the soil’s exposure to wind which can move moisture away from the surface. 

Soil cover is especially useful if your plant is in a terracotta pot. These are naturally porous, so lose water more readily than plastic and other pot materials.

Reduces pests – and mess

Soil cover is excellent for deterring pests like tiny silver springtail bugs or fungus gnats, who like burrowing into moist soil to lay their eggs.

Though adult gnats are harmless, if large numbers of larvae are present in soil they can feed on roots and damage plants. Covering soil keeps gnats at bay.

A protective blanket of soil toppers also acts as a shield to reduce splashback and mess when watering. Every little helps!

What’s the best soil cover to choose?

Soil cover can be organic or non-organic. Organic toppers are made from materials that will eventually biodegrade, becoming part of (and adding nutrients to) your plant’s soil. 

These will need replacing in time, unlike non-organic options which will stay permanently in place. Here are a few of my favourites to give you some ideas:

5 great indoor plant soil covers

1. Bark chippings

Great for adding an organic, ‘forest floor’ finishing touch to your plants. Naturally, these make a perfect choice for ferns and other woodland style houseplants. 

As they’re nice and lightweight, they won’t weigh too heavily on your potting soil. This makes them well suited to plants that like loose, open soil with plenty of oxygen and water reaching their roots. 

Because they’re made from wood, bark chips will break down over time. Eventually, they’ll become incorporated into your plant’s potting soil, adding extra nutrients and organic matter to improve soil fertility and structure.

2. Pebbles

A scattering of smooth tumbled pebbles makes for sophisticated soil cover. They’re heavier than most other pot toppers, however, and can compress soil, so they’re not suitable for all plant types. Best for cacti, succulents, and other shallow-rooted plants. 

Keep in mind that pebbles are a choking hazard. So if you have pets and/or children, it’s probably best to avoid using them unless your plants are well out of reach.

3. Moss

Whether springy and fresh or preserved and dried, a mat of moss laid on top of soil gives plants a wild, woodsy feel. 

Of all the soil cover options, natural moss holds the most water. Ideal for moisture-loving indoor plants, but on the flip side, not great for plants that prefer to dry out between waterings. Avoid using on any plants that don’t take well to overwatering. 

4. Crushed glass

Glass mulch is fantastic for adding a little wow factor. Shards of colourful glass scattered on an indoor plant’s soil will catch any light in the room, adding sparkle and shimmer. 

Perhaps not the most subtle, naturalistic option but for razzle dazzle you can’t beat it! A perfect choice for showier plants that command attention.

5. Crushed seashells

This is one of my absolute favourite soil toppers for indoor plants. I love anything with a nautical feel, and I think seashells give plants a really rustic natural look.

They’re stylish and contemporary, relatively lightweight, and if you choose wisely they’re a super sustainable option too. 

Shell On Earth, for example, is made in the UK from waste whelk shells generated by a small seafood processing business. If you’re not in the UK, there are bound to be similar products local to you.

These are just a few suggestions, but there are plenty more. I’d love to hear about your novel ideas for indoor plant soil cover. If you use something I haven’t mentioned here, please do let me know. Inspiration always appreciated!

Share Your Thoughts...