How To Rehydrate Dried Out Potting Soil. (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Rehydration simply means to restore fluid; when the word “rehydrate” pops up, I’m certain only humans and animals come to your mind. However, soils can also be rehydrated.

Many potting soils become hydrophobic, causing them to dry out.

After years of supporting a rotating cast of crops, the soil’s nutrient supply is frequently depleted.

Tilling, turning and planting all degrade organic matter in the soil and reduce its ability to stay active.

Is this an indication that the potting soil needs to be rehydrated? Well then, let’s get right to it and find out!

Can You Rehydrate Dried Out Potting Soil

How To Rehydrate Dried Out Potting Soil

Yes, dried-out potting soil can be rehydrated. Normally, dried potting soil clumps together, making it difficult to use, but this can be remedied by rehydrating it with a small amount of water.

Dried out potting soil that has been used repeatedly does not have many nutrients left for growing plant.

That is why it should be rehydrated.

Dried out potting soil that has been used a lot may have lost a lot of nutrients, hence, it’s no longer suitable for growing plants.

That is why such soil must be rehydrated.  

Do you want to learn more about rehydrating potting soil? This article provides in-depth knowledge about rehydrating dried potting soil. Do keep reading!

Here is an article I wrote on is potting soil homogenous or heterogenous

How to Rehydrate Potting Soil

It’s important to rehydrate your potting soil, but how do you know when your soil needs rehydration? Here are some signs to look out for;

  • Slow growth
  • yellowing and curling of lower leaves
  • browning or brittleness of leaf edges

Rehydrating dried-out soil is more difficult than it appears because dry plants frequently pull away from the sides of the pot.

The leaves of plants in a potting soil may appear to be healthy but the plant may drop its leaves prematurely due to dehydration.

Repairing a dry container plant is never guaranteed, but if the roots are alive, you may be able to save the plant.

It is difficult to rehydrate potted plants, and regular watering will not rehydrate potting soil as well.

This is because the potting soil must have shrunk away from the container’s sides. As a result, instead of being absorbed by the soil, the water runs into the pot.

Having stated that, let’s have a look at several ways of rehydrating potting soils;

Submerge the Pot in Water

Although you can’t go straight to submerging the plant first, you have to start by separating hardened soil with a fork, before submerging.

Here is a quick guide to submerging your pot in water;

  • Submerge the entire container in a bucket of lukewarm water.
  • Leave the pot in the water until no air bubbles float to the top. 

Prune the plant

Before pruning the plant, you have to remove the pot from the bucket and allow the plant to drain thoroughly first. When your plant is completely dry, use clean scissors or pruning shears to prune the plant.

Shade the plant

Keep the plant somewhere cool and shady. It should start showing signs of life within a few hours, but rehydrating an overly dry container plant could take up to a month.

You can confirm if the plant has a chance of survival by gently removing it from its pot to inspect the roots.

If the roots are shriveled and show no green despite your rehydration efforts, it may be time to say goodbye to the plant and start over with a healthy new plant.

Also check out this article on is potting soil dangerous to dogs

How Do You Moisten Dry Potting Soil

There is practically no difference between rehydrating and moistening.

The process of moistening dry potting soil is practically the same as rehydrating it. Moistening and rehydrating are done when the soil is dried out and needs water to be effective again.

The problem with dry soil is that it might be resistant to water, causing the water to run off.

Regardless, there is always a solution, which is to place the soil in a watertight container like a bucket or tub.

This process allows water to sit until it has been absorbed. To make the process faster you can squish the soil through your fingers, working the water into the fibers of the soil.

How Do You Revive Old Potting Soil

Spread the Soil Out on a plain surface or tarp

First, take the batch of soil you want to revive, pour it onto a sheet of tarp, and start getting rid of debris.

You also need to loosen clumps of soil too, use a hand fork or garden rake to loosen the soil.

The whole spreading process is done to get rid of debris like rotted plant roots, weeds, and dead leaves from the soil. 

Get rid of excess salt

This is a form of cleaning process and it’s quite easy.

You simply need to add water to the soil to get rid of excess salts. This process can be done by simply using a plastic bucket with holes for drainage which is filled with soil and then saturate with water.

Once the water stops draining through the base, pour the soil back onto the tarp, let it dry in the sun then loosen it up with your rake or hand fork. 

Then, repeat the watering process, letting the soil drain then dry, and then repeat the process. 

Proper Mixing

Once the soil is cleaned and ready to be mixed, the next step is to mix the same amount of fresh soil potting mix with the old one and ensure it is a 50/50 mix.

This is just a means of topping up old soil with new soil. To mix the soil, use a soil sieve to sift in your fresh soil, getting rid of any clumps.

Test the pH 

After you’ve prepared your soil, test its pH to ensure it’s around 6.4. If the pH of the soil is less than 6.2, add a sprinkling of perlite or lime to raise it.

Include a Slow-Release Fertilizer

A teaspoon of fertilizer is all that is required per gallon of soil. Add this after you’ve added any perlite or other pH adjuster.

Is Dried Out Potting Soil Still Good

That’s a definite yes, dried potting soil is still good. However, it isn’t advisable to trust dried-out potting with your plants without rehydrating the soil.

Dried out potting soil is not entirely effective as a rehydrated one. They aren’t very effective in terms of nutrient and plant growth.

Most plants would even die or lose their leaves when their soil is dried out.

The good thing is this soil isn’t a waste, it can be rehydrated and even revived to serve the plants better.

Can You Reuse Old Potting Soil

Most definitely, old potting soils can be reused.

Though it may lack nutrients, old potting soil still contains threads of humus, nuggets of perlite, and very few weed seeds, which means it’s still useful.

Here are some ways to reuse old potting soil;

  • You can use old potting soil for patching holes. Old potting soil is useful when moles, dogs, or other critters leave holes in the lawn that must be filled and patched.
  • It’s perfect for covering newly planted carrots, beets, and other slow-growing seeds.
  • They can also be used to grow free plants. When you place divisions from asters, bee balm, daylilies, and other vigorous perennials in a cracked plastic pot and fill it with used potting soil, it costs nothing to share them.


Just like humans soils also need to be taken care of. Soils get exhausted and worn out after some years and they tend to lose moisture.

This is where rehydration comes in! Yes, dried potting soils need to be rehydrated to function at their best.

When potting soils are dried out they are less effective, however, by simply reviving or rehydrating your soil, it will come back to life.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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