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How to Choose the Best Potting Soil

The right potting soil can do miracles for plants. However, there are so many types and varieties available for different purposes that it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners.

To help you out, I’ll be showing you what to look for in good potting soil, the different types of potting soil, some products I like to use, and related questions that I get asked a lot.

Let’s get started!

What Makes Good Potting Soil?

Potting soil may not be all that interesting, but those of us who love growing plants know that it can make a world of difference to the health of our plants and how fast they grow.

As the name suggests, potting soil is primarily designed for plants that are grown in pots. While there are many types of potting soil, there are certain characteristics that you should look for no matter what kind of potting soil you need.

  • The mixture should be airy, fluffy, and soft.
  • The potting soil should be able to effortlessly retain moisture and nutrients around the plant’s roots.
  • It should also be able to provide sufficient air around the roots for your plant to thrive. This is why you shouldn’t clump potting soil together too densely.
  • The main ingredients of a good soil mixture should be peat moss, vermiculite, pine bark, and perlite.
  • The soil mixture should not shrink after drying.
  • The potting soil should not be too heavy nor too light.
  • The potting soil should be easy to store and readily available.

Now that we know the general characteristics to look for, let’s take a look at the different varieties available.

Types Of Potting Soil

Potting soil generally differs based on what you’re trying to grow and what you want to accomplish. In the section below, I talk about the different potting soils available for different purposes and plants.

All-Purpose Potting Soil

Think of this potting soil as “general use” potting soil. This is the most commonly used one for indoor and outdoor plants. You can use this mixture for ornamentals, herbs, edible plants, hanging plant baskets, and other plants that are grown in a container.

Orchid Potting Soil

This potting soil is formulated to meet the needs of orchids. Orchids require proper air circulation so the soil should drain well and prevent the roots from remaining wet. Orchid potting soil is mainly made up of charcoal, bark chips, and perlite.

Organic Potting Soil

This is a highly fertile mixture that is exclusively made up of organic plant and animal-based ingredients. Some of the primary elements include food compost, bones, manure, and remains of plants and animals.

Cactus and Succulent Potting Soil

Cactuses and succulents need minimal water so the best kind of potting soil for them is one that can dry quickly. This type of potting soil also provides ample air to the roots and has a high ratio of sand or perlite.

Seed-Starting Potting Soil

This is a soilless blend that is best for germination and healthy root development. It has a very fine texture and lacks nutrients or has controlled amounts of it to help the roots branch out and grow quickly.

Do I Need Different Potting Soil for Different Plants?

Yes, you need different potting soils for different plants.

Potting soils are a mixture of soils and ingredients designed to meet the requirements of different plants. Some help absorb water better, some improve drainage, and some provide the proper nutrients.

Therefore, different factors — like the needs of plants to flourish better, the kind of environment it grows in, the water-retention property of the plant, etc. — should influence the type of potting soil you choose.

8 Best Potting Soils

Some of these are popular potting soil choices while others are personal favorites that I like to use.

1. Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix

Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix is the perfect blend for container plants. This mix does not contain bark or compost and is, therefore, less prone to gnats. It’s an easy-to-water formula that can provide moisture to the soil and provides nutrients for up to six months.

Just choose the right-sized container and fill ⅓ inches of it with the mixture. Place the plant in the container and add an adequate amount of Miracle-Gro. Water the plant and let it drain completely.

2. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix

FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Mix is a great all-around mixture for all types of plants. From earthworm castings, crab meal to bat guano, and sandy loam, peat moss, and humus compost, this mix will provide your plant with every nutrient it requires for growth.

To provide high fertilizer absorption, the pH value of the soil is between 6.3 to 6.8. This mix offers excellent value for money and comes in a secure packaging that helps maintain the soil for a long time.

3. Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix

Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix is perfect for all your gardening needs.

This mix works for all types of container plants and raised-bed gardening. It features an organic blend that feeds plants for up to three months. It’s also formulated with coconut coir, an essential component that maintains the moisture content in plants.

4. House Plant and Tropical Plant Potting Soil

House Plant and Tropical Plant Potting Soil is an all-natural soil that has no added fertilizers. Lime, perlite, and peat are some of the all-natural ingredients found in this potting soil. Many consider it one of the best soils for repotting your plant.

This soil has an abundance of worm castings, which are a natural plant food supplement that can do wonders for your gardening.

5. Espoma AP8 8-Quart Organic Potting Mix

Espoma Organic Potting Mix is intended for all kinds of outdoor and indoor plants. It is formulated with the manufacturer’s proprietary myco-tone blend, a water-saving formula that reduces the risk of drought stress and maintains ample moisture in the plant.

Earthworm castings are another significant component in this mix. It is loaded with microbes that help provide essential nutrients to plants.

6. Black Gold 1302040 8-Quart All Organic Potting Soil

Black Gold Organic Potting Soil is an all-purpose soil that has necessary natural and organic ingredients. It is tested to provide the best nutrients for your indoor plants.

The mixture is rich and loamy. The addition of perlite and pumice ensures maximum air space and plant growth. From hanging baskets to vegetable plantations to herb gardens, and anywhere your plant requires organic enrichment, Black Gold Potting Soil comes to the rescue.

7. Organic Potting Mix by Perfect Plants

Love feeding your kids homegrown fruits and vegetables? The Organic Potting Mix is your perfect companion. It optimizes root growth, enhances plants with essential nutrients, and takes care of any harmful bacteria that may stunt your plant’s growth.

The bag it comes packed in is re-sealable so the shelf-life is long if you store it correctly. You can use this potting mix for indoor and outdoor plants.

8. Compressed Organic Potting-Soil

The Compressed Organic Potting Soil is an all-purpose, organic potting soil enriched with beneficial microorganisms. You can use this soil for indoor and outdoor plants, raised beds, and plant containers. Compared to other soil mixtures, this potting mix can hold water up to three times longer.

The soil helps transport the water and nutrients to the plant roots in the right proportion. You can use it for sandy soils as well as poor-draining clays. The soil is 100% non-toxic, all-natural, and chemical-free.

FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Potting Soil and Potting Mix?

There isn’t much difference between the two, and people often use the terms interchangeably. Potting mix doesn’t contain soil and is a sterile mix of ingredients that has no fungus or pesticides that can affect a plant’s longevity. Potting soil often contains soil.

How Often Do I Need To Replace Potting Soil?

For indoor plants, change the potting soil every 12 to 18 months. If you are repotting and moving the plant to a bigger pot, you can change the soil at any time. However, it’s advisable not to replace the potting soil more than once a year.

Does Potting Soil Go Bad?

Potting soil does not go bad, but its quality will decrease over time. If a pack of opened potting soil remains unused, it can lose its effectiveness and freshness and not perform as well as expected.

In cases where an opened bag of soil is not stored correctly, there is a high chance that it will not be suitable for gardening. For best results, store opened bags according to the instructions and use within 6 months of opening.

What Do I Do With Old Potting Soil?

You can easily reuse your old potting soil. If the plant you were growing with the soil is healthy, disease-free, and pest-free, you can sterilize the soil by employing methods like solarizing, baking the soil in your oven, or microwaving it. Then you can use it in your compost or garden beds.

Now that you know the ins and outs of potting soil, you can easily germinate, repot, or change the potting soil of some of your favorite plants.

Happy potting!

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  • Jen

    Jen got her first plant in college from her mom and the rest, as they say, is history! She's owned hundreds of plants over the years and loves learning how to grow each one. She believes everyone needs to own at least one plant in their home and loves sharing her knowledge with others.

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