What is peat and what is it used for?

Grow your basil in a pot with peat

Peat is the most widely used substrate in the cultivation of all types of plants. It is inexpensive, maintains humidity and is the most recommended soil for most of our pots. But did you know that there are two types? Each one has its utility, as I am going to tell you below.

Let's learn more about the substrate most appreciated by gardeners 🙂.

What is peat?

Black peat, a perfect substrate to grow all kinds of plants

Image - Gramoflor.com

Peat is actually the generic name for applies to various materials from the decomposition of plants, depending on the environmental conditions of the place where they decompose.

Peat bogs are lake basins of glacial origin that today contain more or less decomposed plant material or freshwater peat. They are anaerobic environments, that is, with excess humidity and poor oxygenation, so the organic matter partially decomposes. In Spain we have one of the most important in the Sierra de Gistral, in Galicia.

How is it formed?

Plants, as we know, have a limited life expectancy. As its leaves, flowers and stems dry, they fall to the ground, where a series of microorganisms such as fungi will decompose them. When this happens in swamps, marshes or wetlands, the microbial activity in those places is very low, so that the peat takes years to form and reach several meters in thickness.. The process is so slow that it is estimated to accumulate at a rate of about four inches every hundred years.

Depending on in which area they are formed, we distinguish between two types:

Types of peat

Two types are distinguished, which are:

  • Black peat: it is formed in low areas, rich in bases. They are very decomposed, so their color is dark brown almost black. The pH is high, between 7,5 and 8. It has almost no nutrients. However, it is the most suitable for growing practically all types of plants: horticultural, flowers, trees… Because? Because it allows them to have a good development.
  • Blond peat: it is formed in places where temperatures remain mild, and where rainfall is very abundant. These conditions give rise to a very poor soil in nutrients. The pH is low, between 3 and 4. It is used to carnivorous plants, since in addition to not containing almost any nutrients, it allows them to grow without problems, and also to acidify the soil or even the substrate, something that will go wonderfully to the acidophilic plants as japanese maples or azaleas. The percentage in the latter case will depend on the pH of the soil in the garden or in the pot, but generally 40% of white peat must be added.

What is it used for?

White peat, ideal for carnivorous plants

Image - Nordtorf.eu

In gardening

Nowadays is used for cultivate practically all types of plants: cactus, Ferns, flowers, trees, etc. The only thing that must be taken into account is that they hardly have any nutrients - in fact, nitrogen, an essential nutrient for the growth of plant beings, does not reach 1% - so the plants that we have must be fertilized regularly. , except if with carnivores, since otherwise they will spoil after a while.


Peat is the most suitable for growing plants, because keeps humidity a lot, which will allow us to save on irrigation water. In addition, favors the good development of the roots being a porous material. But unfortunately we also have to talk about the inconvenience they have: in areas with a strong insolation, or where the summer is especially hot, once it loses all the humidity we have to place the pot in a bucket or tray with water to rehydrate it. For this reason, it is often chosen to mix it with perlite or coconut fiber.

Skin care

Natural peat has chemical compounds that are used to treat the skin, as it is acidic and contains a lot of water.

Black peat is used for seedlings

If you want to know more information about peat or other substrates, Click here.

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  1.   patricia said

    I am getting started in the cultivation of dwarf fruit trees in pots and I am preparing my own substrate. I have found the presence of black peat. My question is black peat is the same as black earth.

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Patricia.
      No, it's not the same. Black soil is the topmost layer of a soil, below mulch, peat, and so on. In rocky areas it is practically non-existent.
      A greeting.

  2.   Carolina said

    In my country Chile they extract peat by tons creating a terrible ecological impact, please take care of our planet and do not buy peat, let's use another alternative ...

  3.   Stella Maris said

    I would like to know what the whitewashed peat is. Thank you

  4.   jarol said

    Excellent information, it helped me

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      We are glad to know that, Jarol 🙂