An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that either pumice or plant roots maintain air space (AS) and porosity over time, or renders substrates more resistant to shrinkage. Treatment design was a 3 × 2 factorial with three substrate types and either presence or absence of a plant. The three substrates were composed of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) bark alone or amended with 15% or 30% (by volume) pumice. Substrates were packed in aluminum cores to facilitate measurement of physical properties with porometers at the conclusion of the experiment. Half of the cores with each of the three substrate types were packed with a single plug of ‘Autumn Blush’ coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.) (Expt. 1) or ‘Blue Prince’ holly (Ilex ×meserveae) (Expt. 2). The remaining cores were maintained in the same production environment, but without a plant. Substrate physical properties were measured before the experiment and after 48 days for coreopsis plants and 382 days for holly. Both experiments had relatively similar responses despite using different crops and production times. Summarizing in general overall treatments, AS decreased, container capacity (CC) and total porosity (TP) increased, and bulk density remained constant over time. The presence of a plant in the core tended to exacerbate the decrease in AS and the increase in core capacity. Shrinkage was decreased by the presence of a plant, but only minimally.