Coconut Coir Pros And Cons – Benefits And Drawbacks Of Planting In Coir

By Bonnie Grant | March 3, 2020 Co Author: Becca Badgett
Image by eyepark
by Bonnie Grant
March 3, 2020
and Becca Badgett

Love coconut and love our planet? Coconut coir may be the right growing media for you, as it is just the cast off clothing from a harvested coconut. Using this rather than discarding it is a win-win for environmental responsibility, and is becoming popular due to its use as a natural planting medium. You can plant directly in coir or mix it with other beneficial amendments.

While this is a great growing medium for many plants with a number of benefits, it’s just as important to consider the possible cons of coconut coir as well. Bonnie and Becca will go over the most common coconut coir pros and cons here.

Reasons to Plant in Coconut Coir

(Bonnie’s viewpoint) Most of us have had the mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle” drilled into our brains over the last few decades. While it may seem a bit trite, the core message is one that could save our planet. Coconut coir is just the husk of the nut that has been soaked in water for up to 6 weeks and then spun into a fiber-like product. The fibers are extremely strong and can be stretched or compressed without damaging them. The coir is dried and pressed into pots, discs or just left loose and bagged up as a mulch. They’re also commonly made into hanging basket liners.

  • Sustainability – I feel there are a number of reasons to plant in coconut coir, and one of the main reasons is its sustainability. You can reuse coconut coir, unlike many other planting mediums, such as peat moss. And, unlike peat moss, which is harvested from gradually declining bogs, coir is the result of a repurposed waste – the coconut husk. The average mature coconut palm can produce up to 150 nuts per year. Harvested and cleaned coconuts end up in our supermarkets, but all that shaggy coir was traditionally discarded or burned, increasing our carbon problems. With modern methods, the stuff is produced with minimal energy, and is lightweight to ship.
  • Increases aeration and retains water – Coir is well known for its ability to provide good aeration, which is great for plants. Coconut coir pros also tout its ability to soak up 10x its weight in water. When coir is used in hydroponic systems with nutrient solution, the roots uptake those nutrients more quickly than in soil mixes. Used as a planting medium, your plants will require much less watering.
  • Ease of use and few issues – Among the benefits of coir is its pH neutrality. Coconut coir pros usually recommend mixing the product with other plant amendments, but you can use it straight too. It also has anti-fungal properties and many pests avoid living in the stuff, minimizing insect and disease problems.
  • It doesn’t cost much – Coir is also relatively inexpensive, especially if you get it in compressed forms. All you need to do is soak it and it will expand to nearly double the size. This makes for a lightweight, easy-to-transport plant substrate.
  • Different types to choose from – There are different forms of coconut coir. Coco pith (sometimes called coconut peat) is so absorbent that it could keep plant roots overly wet and should probably be mixed. Coco fibers allow for superior aeration and let oxygen into plant roots easily. Coco chips are excellent when mixed into soil, as they create air pockets while also retaining some water.

Disadvantages of Coconut Coir Planting

(Becca’s viewpoint) I certainly agree there are advantages to planting in this medium, but let me mention there are disadvantages of coconut coir too.

  • Hard to find – First, it can be hard to find, at least locally. I found one bag at a Walmart and that was two or three years ago. After an extensive search, I had to order it. And the coir I ordered was in a block, hard to break down and then difficult to get wet.
  • Problems from salt – Some gardeners have experienced cons of coconut coir because of too much salt in the product. The electrical conductivity of water in growing medium that is too salty can prevent or deter the uptake of water by plant roots. It can also cause issues with the absorption of nutrients. This often happens because those harvesting the coir rinse the product in saltwater as opposed to fresh water. Know the distributor of the material before you purchase and, if the price seems too good to be true, check the fine print and call the company, if needed. Salt in the product has the potential to cause major problems.
  • Doesn’t contain nutrients – Other drawbacks of planting in coir include nutrient addition, as this is an inert (no nutrients) medium. I prefer doing my own fertilization, but I know many of you expect nutrients to be in your potting medium. You can mix coir with another soil mixture at half and half to get some of the nutrients, but you likely still need to add fertilizer. Also, coir has the inclination to hold back calcium, magnesium and iron. While it stores and releases most added nutrients readily, because of a high cation exchange, you will possibly need to find a formula that has extras of those mentioned. I primarily use coir for growing succulents that need only limited nutrients, so it is not a problem, but may be for some other plants.

Using a product that would have otherwise been discarded or burned is an environmentally conscious decision. While it won’t fit every plant’s needs, it is a versatile and adaptable soil amendment that can take the place of endangered peat. Just make sure you consider all of its possible downsides too prior to use.

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  • Grow Rich
    Comment added September 16, 2022Reply

    Coco coir is a natural waste product of the coconut growing industry and is perhaps the most versatile of all organic growing mediums. As an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss, coco peat has a natural resistance to diseases and provides excellent water retention as well as aeration to plants. If you have any enquires or know more about coco coir product you can freely visit our site: https://www.growrichindia.in

  • Riococo
    Comment added July 26, 2022Reply

    Hi sir, Great post on coconut coir bricks. Thanks for sharing such a great post with us. I will be subscribing on your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

  • Dephyant
    Comment added June 8, 2022Reply

    I tried these and had terrible results. The Coir just soaks up all the water and the seedlings need constant spraying to alleviate this. They dried out and 85% died. I'm spraying them 8 times a day with no avail. I live in Perth WA - but its winter. 24 degrees.

  • john smithwick
    Comment added August 12, 2021Reply

    Nice post on Coconut coir planting. I have got a new valuable information from this post that is a great growing medium for many plants with a number of benefits, it’s just as important to consider the possible cons of coconut coir as well.

    Thanks for your great post.

  • Claude
    Comment added February 8, 2021Reply

    I’ve been using coir (that I soak and rinse before use anyway). In 9 yrs not a problem. When the plants get their first two leaves I transplant into pots w soil and fish emulsion is what I water it with. Great results. I grow organically. I hate those miracle grow mixes..just too much synthetic nitrogen...sure you get lots of greenery but I want blooms and fruits. JMO

  • Rose
    Comment added May 12, 2020Reply

    How safe or beneficial is using choir in herb hanging baskets? I'm concerned with its retention of nutrients mentioned in the cons. Would my herbs be lacking in these nutrients?

  • Mary Henebry
    Comment added April 16, 2020Reply

    how much Epsom salt is needed? ie per 1 liter brick? and soak it for how long? Thank you

  • Adrian Stubbings
    Comment added April 5, 2020Reply

    I buy Coir in 5 Kg blocks which I soak in a 70 litre dustbin after 24 hours I syphon off any surplus water and tip onto a pile of clean soil and mix. The soil is added to give weight to the mix as it tends to be a bit light weight and will blow over in winds.I add to the pile about 15 litre of Perlite and a quantity of Captan fungicide and 20:20:20 fertilizer. The whole pile is then turned and the product placed in woven Polypropylene sacks for storage until required. This also allows drainage of excess water which also remove any salt. Salt is highly soluble and is easy to remove.

  • Mike Halsey
    Comment added March 22, 2020Reply

    A fair and balanced blog which has convinced me to use it.Coir is available for me locally - North East England and I have seen it online. I want to start using it but concerned about salt content. Is there anything I could use to neutralise the salt?
    mike

  • Eugene H Wolbert
    Comment added March 15, 2020Reply

    45 Maple Street I used Burpee coir log last year and was not happy with it.I have used the pellets for years with great results and will go back to them this year.

  • Lee Rowan
    Comment added March 11, 2020Reply

    I've been gardening for 20+ years. Last year I tried starting seeds in peat pots, "poo pots" made from compressed manure, and coir pots--the latter 2 with soil added.

    Coir is great for keeping soil in hanging pots, but absolutely miserable for seed-starting. I tried a side-by-side experiment with peat and coir (and,yes, I added nutrients to the coir pots). After 3 weeks the peat seedlings were twice as big and much sturdier. Chemical nutrient solutions may improve coir performance but I figure if I'm going to garden, I'm going to use natural and organic supplements.

    Coir sounded great but turned out to be disappointing. The compressed manure pots were equivalent to peat, so that's what I'm switching to.

  • Patty Davenport
    Comment added March 11, 2020Reply

    If the coir retains water,why use it for succulents?

    • Claude
      Comment added February 8, 2021Reply

      It comes in dry bricks which you hydrate (and rinse at the same time). It provides air pockets in the soil just like vermiculite does. It drains well.

  • Joe Real
    Comment added March 4, 2020Reply

    To get rid of the Sodium salt in coconut products, soak them first in Epsom Salt. Then rinse off quickly. This will displace the Sodium with Magnesium. Magnesium is required by many plants.

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