Soil Cover For Indoor Plants: 8 Great Ideas To Try

Soil Cover For Indoor Plants: 8 Great Ideas To Try

Are you obsessed with your indoor plants? (I am too!) While we work hard to take great care of our houseplants, there is an important step that is commonly missed! An indoor plant soil cover plays an important role in the overall health of your plant. In this article, we’ll talk about why this soil covering is a great addition to your indoor plants and we’ll review some great soil cover ideas you can try at home.

(Featured Image: Favorite Houseplants by E. Kramer)

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Why Use Soil Cover On Indoor Plants?

There are several important reasons you should cover the soil on your indoor plants. Some cross over with the same reasons we mulch our plants outdoors, and some are unique to the conditions of growing a plant indoors.

Water Retention

Covering the soil with a layer of mulch or decorative stones helps retain moisture in the soil. It acts as a barrier that reduces evaporation, ensuring that the soil remains consistently moist. This can be especially beneficial for plants that require higher humidity levels, like tropical plants, or are sensitive to drying out.

Weed Prevention

Soil coverings can prevent weed growth in indoor plant pots. Weeds can compete with your indoor plants for nutrients and space, just as they do with outdoor plants. A layer of mulch or stones creates a physical barrier that makes it difficult for weeds to establish themselves.

Temperature Regulation

Soil coverings can help regulate soil temperature. They act as insulation, keeping the soil warmer in cooler temperatures and cooler in warmer temperatures. This can contribute to more stable and suitable growing conditions for your indoor plants.

Aesthetic Appeal

Covering the soil can enhance the visual appeal of your indoor plants. Mulch, decorative stones, or other coverings can create a polished and tidy appearance for your potted plants. They can also complement your interior decor with vibrant color, or add a touch of style to your living space.

Soil Protection

Covering the soil can protect it from erosion and compaction. Over time, watering and other maintenance activities can disturb the top layer of soil. A covering helps prevent soil particles from being washed away or compacted, which can improve soil quality over time.

Pest Control

Some soil coverings can deter or eliminate certain pests, like fungus gnats, that might otherwise inhabit the soil. This can help keep your indoor plants healthier by reducing the risk of infestations.

When selecting a soil covering for your indoor plants, consider the specific needs of the plant species and the aesthetics you prefer. Some common options include organic mulch, decorative stones or gravel, moss, or even top-dressing with live plants like succulents. It’s important to ensure that the chosen covering is appropriate for the plant’s requirements and that it’s applied in a way that doesn’t prevent water penetration or drainage.

Use Soil Coverings To Deter Cats From Indoor Plants

If you are both a plant mom AND a cat mom (or dad!), then you probably already know where I’m going with this. Our cats are THE WORST when it comes to digging up my beloved houseplants. Adding a soil covering is a great way to deter your lovely felines from digging up your favorite plants. These are some of our favorite materials to use as a cat deterrent:

Spiky Mulch

Some mulch products contain spiky or prickly materials, such as pine cones, bark chips, or nut shells. These textures can be uncomfortable for cats to walk on and may discourage them from digging in your garden or planters. Make sure you only use organic material to keep your kitties safe.

Pebbles or Decorative Stones

Covering the soil around your plants with decorative stones or pebbles can create an uncomfortable surface for cats to walk on. They may be less likely to disturb your plants if they can’t dig in the soil.

Aluminum Foil

Lay sheets of aluminum foil on the ground around your plants. Cats generally dislike the texture and noise of walking on foil, so they may avoid the area.

A cat knocks down an indoor plant that is not covered with soil covering.

Indoor Cat Plant

8 Great Ideas For Covering Indoor Plant Soil

You can cover the soil on indoor plants with a variety of materials, depending on your specific needs and preferences. Here are some of our favorite options:


Mulch is a protective layer of material that is spread on the soil surface around indoor plants. It can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulches, such as wood chips, sphagnum moss, and compost, are beneficial because they decompose over time, adding nutrients to the soil. They help retain moisture in the soil, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth.

Decorative Stones Or Gravel

Decorative stones or gravel are commonly used to cover the soil surface of indoor plant containers. Depending on the type of rocks, they can be used for both functional and aesthetic purposes. These materials help retain moisture in the soil and prevent weed growth. They also come in various colors and sizes, allowing you to match them to your interior decor.

Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss is a natural material that can be used to cover the soil of indoor plants. It has excellent moisture-retaining properties and is often used for plants that require consistently moist conditions, such as certain types of orchids. Sphagnum moss also adds a lush, decorative touch to the container.

Coconut Coir

Coco coir is a sustainable alternative to sphagnum moss. It is derived from coconut husks and is used as a soil cover to help maintain soil moisture. Coconut coir is particularly useful for plants that prefer well-draining but consistently moist soil. It can be applied as a top layer or mixed with the potting mix.

Decorative Pebbles or Glass Beads

A layer of pebbles or glass beads can be used to cover the soil surface, adding an aesthetic element to your indoor plant pots. They come in various colors and sizes, from small river rock to large glass globes, allowing you to create visually appealing arrangements. These materials also help retain moisture in the soil and deter weed growth.

Top-Dressing With Live Plants

Top-dressing with live plants involves adding small live plants like succulents, air plants, or succulent plants on the soil surface of your indoor plant containers. This not only covers the soil but also creates a dynamic, living display. Make sure the top-dressing plants have similar care requirements to your main indoor plant, this is the easiest way to care and maintain all plants in a single pot.

Coco Chips

Coco chips are small, coarse pieces of coconut husk. They are used as a soil covering to improve drainage and moisture retention in the potting mix. They are particularly useful for plants that require well-aerated and well-draining soil, such as many tropical plants.

Decorative Figurines or Ornaments

For a unique and artistic touch, you can use decorative figurines, ornaments, or miniatures to cover the soil surface. These can be chosen to match your personal style and interior decor. While they do not serve functional purposes like moisture retention or weed control, they can add a creative and personalized element to your indoor plant display.

When selecting a covering material, consider your specific plant’s needs, your preferred aesthetics, and the level of maintenance you’re comfortable with, as some coverings may require periodic replacement or adjustment. Additionally, ensure that the chosen material allows for proper watering and drainage to maintain your plant’s health.

Decorative rocks are used a soil covering for an indoor potted tree.

​Factors To Consider When Using Soil Covering

When covering the top of the soil on indoor plants, there are several important considerations to keep in mind to ensure the health and well-being of your plants. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Plant Species and Care Requirements: The type of plant you have and its specific care requirements should be your primary consideration. Different plants have different moisture and humidity preferences. Some may thrive with a moisture-retentive covering like sphagnum moss, while others may prefer well-draining materials like decorative stones or gravel. Always research your plant’s needs before choosing a soil covering.
  2. Watering Needs: Ensure that the chosen soil covering still enables your plant to get enough water. Some materials can prevent water from reaching the soil or impede drainage. Adjust your watering schedule and technique accordingly to accommodate the chosen covering.
  3. Aeration and Drainage: Adequate soil aeration and drainage are critical for plant health. Avoid using soil coverings that compact the soil or inhibit air circulation, as this can lead to rot at the plant roots and other moisture-related issues. Materials like decorative stones or gravel can help with drainage.
  4. Weed Control: If preventing weed growth is a concern, choose a covering that acts as an effective weed barrier. Materials like mulch or decorative stones can help prevent weed seeds from germinating and growing in your indoor plant pots.
  5. Aesthetics: The visual appeal of your indoor plant arrangement matters. Consider the aesthetics of your chosen soil covering and how it complements your interior decor and the overall look you want to achieve.
  6. Maintenance: Some soil coverings, such as live top-dressings or decorative moss, may require more maintenance than others. Consider the level of care you’re willing to provide, such as trimming, pruning, or replacing the covering periodically.
  7. Plant Health: Ensure that the chosen soil covering does not negatively affect your plant’s health. Some materials, like diatomaceous earth, may have pest-repelling properties, which can be beneficial, but others may contain chemicals or contaminants that harm your plant.
  8. Humidity and Microclimate: Certain materials, like sphagnum moss or decorative stones, can influence the humidity and microclimate around your plant. Be aware of how these changes might affect your plant’s growth and adapt your care routine as needed.
  9. Pot Size and Container: The size of your plant pot and the type of container you use can impact the choice of soil covering. Smaller pots may not have enough space for certain coverings, and the covering should be appropriate for the pot’s dimensions and shape.
  10. Pet Safety: If you have pets in your home, consider their safety when selecting a soil covering. Some materials, like cocoa mulch, can be toxic to animals. Ensure that the chosen covering is pet-friendly if you have cats, dogs, or other pets that may come into contact with your indoor garden.
  11. Sunlight and Light Requirements: Be mindful of your plant’s light requirements. Some soil coverings may affect light penetration to the soil, potentially impacting your plant’s growth. Adjust your placement and lighting accordingly.
  12. Replacement and Refreshment: Over time, soil coverings can become compacted or lose their effectiveness. Plan for periodic replacement or refreshment of the covering to ensure it continues to serve its intended purpose.

Have Fertilizer On Hand For Your Plants

An action as simple as top dressing the soil of your indoor plants is an excellent choice for maintaining their health. Indoor potted plants benefit immensely from any type of cover that benefits nutrient-rich soil while preventing excessive water evaporation. These are just a few of the many creative ways you can make your soil covering both beneficial and beautiful!

If you are interested in learning more about indoor plants and indoor gardening, check out these other cool guides:

Decorative indoor plants with stones used as a soil cover.