Why Your Houseplants Need Soil Aeration

3 potted plants sitting on a bench

Bogdan Sonjachnyj / Shutterstock

This quick trick will make your houseplants think they are thriving in the wild.

Darryl Cheng is the mastermind plant whisperer behind the popular Instagram feed, houseplantjournal. Applying "an engineer's approach to houseplant care," I always learn things from him – and often in a wonderfully entertaining way. I am currently awaiting my copy of his new book, The New Plant Parent, and can't wait to get it. But in the meantime, a recent Instagram post caught my eye and reminded me of something that I had forgotten. Houseplant soil needs air! Maybe that's why my baby in the bathroom is looking a bit grumpy.

In text accompanying a video, Cheng writes:

"If I could have put a video into my book, I would have included this one about soil aeration: you water your plants because it doesn't rain inside your house. You should therefore aerate the soil occasionally because there are no worms inside your house. Soil structure matters and it becomes compacted as roots repeatedly absorb water from the soil. In the wild, worms and insects are constantly shifting and breaking apart soil particles. Without them, soil becomes stale. By manually aerating soil, you'll break up dry pockets of soil, ensure even moisture distribution, and get airflow to the roots. This keeps the soil structure healthy until the next time your repot the plant."

The House Plant Journal website, explains that soil aeration is the act of gently loosening the soil with a chopstick usually just before watering. "This creates channels through which water can flow, ensuring evenly moistened soil (i.e. properly watered). As water trickles down, air is also pulled in, getting oxygen down to the roots. In nature, insects and worms aerate the soil but indoors, we must do their job."

And the method couldn't be easier, as you can see in Cheng's sweet time lapse video below.

For more, head to the houseplantjournal Instagram feed; as for me, I have a peevish plant and some dirt to poke with chopsticks.