Is It Possible to Use Compost For Indoor House Plants and Containers?

Can Compost Be Used in Containers and Indoor House Plants

Compost is pretty crucial when it comes to gardening. It’s the perfect thing to use to help the plants to grow. Compost consists of a number of naturally occurring substances, like animal droppings or debris from plants.

The compost then helps to give the plants any additional nutrients in order for proper growth to occur. Some people wonder whether it’s actually possible to use compost indoors – after all, it’s made from organic matter that you find outdoors.

Well, you will be pleased to know that it is indeed possible to use compost for indoor house plants and containers. In fact, it’s actually recommended to do so since compost contains so many nutrients that are vital for the growth of your plants. It doesn’t matter whether it’s outdoors or indoors. 

Compost is usually a good choice for your houseplants and any containers that you are keeping indoors, with the stipulation that the plants still get the moisture and sunlight that they need in order to thrive. Compost is ultimately there in order to enrich the life of the plant – and that goes for any plant in any location. 

Using Compost for Indoor Plants 

You could use the best soil known to man – ultimately it will eventually be drained of nutrients when your plant starts to get bigger. Compost is great for this reason since it allows you to provide your indoor plants with the nutrients and moisture that they need.

If you are adding compost to your indoor plants though, you need to be careful with the amount that you add. If you aren’t adding enough then you will be limiting the nutrients that the plants can get, and if you do the opposite then the excessive nutrients can actually result in damage for the plant.

So how much compost do you actually need? The answer to this ultimately depends on how big both the plant and the pot are. In most cases it’s best to add a minimum of an inch of compost to the plotting soil of the plant.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from disturbing the soil, instead gently easing the compost into the soil by the plant’s roots. Just mix it in a little bit with the upper layers rather than disturbing all of the soil.

The plant is going to need more compost as it gets bigger. In most cases, it’s best to add fresh compost twice a year in order to get the perfect results. 

Indoor Compost Piles – How To Get Them Started  

You aren’t restricted to only having a compost pile outdoors. In most cases people do tend to prefer to keep compost piles outdoors since they can smell and can sometimes attract pests. If you don’t have the outdoor space for a compost pile though then it’s entirely possible to keep a compost heap in your house – you just need the right bin for it. 

One type of compost pile that a lot of people will use indoors is a worm composter. These also go by the name of vermicomposters, if you want to look them up! With these, the organic waste and decayed organic matter is created by the worms and the soil microbes. This is a very beneficial form of composting since it’s ideal for allowing the soil to keep in even more water than with most other types of compost. 

Of course, there are some gardeners that aren’t overly keen on the idea of keeping any kinds of worms inside of their houses. If this is the case for you then you can try aerobic composting instead. This will utilize microbes that are already present in the soil in order to turn waste into the compost. 

Creating Compost Piles

It doesn’t matter what method of composting you prefer to use, you are going to need the items listed below if you want to be able to create a compost pile.

Compost Bin

This is a container, usually made of plastic that will have a lid. Alternatively you could also use a garbage can for the compost pile. You can often visit gardening stores in order to find bins that are actually made for composting.

You are going to need to make sure that you choose the right sized bin though. It’s a good idea to look for a bin that will fit in your home properly and it should also be big enough to allow you to put a decent amount of food scraps in it that you can use for the composting purposes.

An 18 gallon container should work just fine if you have a household with between two and four people in it. If you have fewer people or don’t waste as much food then a five or ten gallon option will be sufficient too.

Compost Material

You are also going to need the right kinds of compost materials in order to create the compost. This will consist of around three parts of brown matter, such as grass, newspaper or other materials high in carbon.

It will also contain around one part of green matter like fruit and vegetables or tea bags.

Handy Hints for Creating Your Indoor Compost Pile

One thing to note is that it is really important that your compost pile has plenty of oxygen. As such, it’s a good idea to have a compost bin or container that includes plenty of air holes for the compost to get that oxygen. It should have holes on the sides, the top and on the bottom of the container.

In order to save any liquid seeping through onto your furniture, you should put the bin on top of something else – a rubber or plastic tray is usually a good idea. It’ll allow the liquid to drain correctly, and then you can empty out the tray every now and again.

If you are going to be using a worm composter then it’s a good idea to stay away from dew worms or any kinds of worms that are invasive and will cause problems for your plants. As such, you should be avoiding Georgia Jumper and the Alabama worm. Red worms are the ideal choice and they can usually be bought directly from local garden outlets.

It’s possible to use earthworms if you wish but they won’t be as effective since they aren’t as good at decomposing the matter that you will be putting into your compost bin.

Common Issues with Indoor Compost

It’s only natural that many gardeners may become concerned about composting indoors or otherwise putting compost on their indoor plants. In most cases the main thing that seems to be an issue is smells coming from the compost.

Many gardeners want to know how to keep smells, pests and bugs at bay when they are composting indoors. You will be pleased to learn though that if you manage the situation correctly, you are unlikely to have these particular issues. If you do things properly, you shouldn’t have to deal with any smells or bugs in your house. 

Getting Rid of Smells From Indoor Compost

There are a number of reasons why your indoor compost may end up smelling after a while. Most of the causes are simple to rectify – the compost isn’t getting enough moisture or oxygen, you have too many greens in there or perhaps the compost materials as a whole just aren’t a good choice for your compost heap.

Reduced Oxygen and Moisture 

Composting is important for bringing in the right molds and bacteria in order to help the materials to decompose. It’s vital that the organisms are able to get enough oxygen though otherwise the compost will not work as it should. Compost that has too much moisture will not properly allow the oxygen to get through.

This in turn will encourage unwanted bacteria to get into the compost and this will start a process known as anaerobic decomposition. Unfortunately, this is going to mean that you get an unpleasant smell, akin to eggs that are long past their use and methane. 

So how do you deal with this? Mostly adding more brown ingredients into the mix helps. This could be things like sawdust, peat moss and straw. It’s important that you aerate the compost pile often too in order to allow plenty of oxygen to get into the compost so it can thrive.

Excessive Greens

An excessive amount of green ingredients is not a good thing for your compost pile, since it can result in a smell similar to ammonia.

You can combat this issue by putting more brown ingredients into the pile and then turning it with your trowel to reduce the smell. Again, remember that you should be having a 1:3 ratio of brown and green materials. This will help to reduce the risks of smells. 

Wrong Compost Materials

If you’re composting the wrong kinds of materials like those that contain many oils and fats, then you may end up getting some unpleasant smells coming from the compost pile. 

Thanks to this, it’s important to ensure that you don’t add things like dairy, meat, eggs, oils or processed foods into your compost piles. Instead, you should only be using vegetables and fruits.

Pest and Bug Problems

Scraps from your kitchen contain a lot of nitrogen based nutrients that are great for compost, but unfortunately food waste can smell quite unpleasant when it decomposes. This can cause pests or other animals to become attracted to the compost pile. 

If you don’t want there to be a bad smell in your home then it’s a good idea to make sure that the scraps are buried very deep in your compost pile, then cover it with the brown ingredients.


Since compost does consist of a lot of plant and animal matter, it is very good for helping your plants to grow. Compost is especially good for your indoor plants.

You may be hesitant to use compost indoors because of the risks of pests and odors coming into your house, but it’s all a matter of maintaining everything property and it will all be okay. Don’t avoid using compost indoors – your plants will certainly thank you for it! 

About The Author

Gina Harper grew up dreaming about farms and growing her own food. She began an urban garden to feed herself and turned it into an incredible hobby. Gina is here to teach you everything from raised beds to container gardening, how to keep plants alive and well in a smoggy city, and the works. It’s time that we carve our own piece of green earth and reap what we sow—she’s here to help you with that.