Are you having a hard time figuring out what type of potting soil you should use in containers for your indoor plants to inhibiting root growth?
There are two ways that you could go about this dilemma. It’s either you mix your own soil or buy an premixed potting soil.
Personally, I do both and I can agree that the struggle is real because of so many choices on the shelves in my favorite supplies store.
However, when choosing the best potting mix, What you need to know is that different plants may require different types of potting soil. When we say types or kinds of plants, we are talking about herbs, ornamental plants like cacti, succulents, and bromeliads, and also crops like vegetables such as tomatoes or lettuce.
In this article, I will try to explain how to choose the best “soil” mix that grows healthy roots, and some of the best brands you can buy for different types of Potted plants.
The Best Potting Soil brands in the Market
Since you already know or at least have an idea of what would work well with your plants, here, we will tell you the best potting soil you can get in the market.
Basically, all potting soil mixes aim to nourish your plants well, just like our top pick which is Black Gold’s Natural and Organic Potting Mix. We see this potting soil mix as the most versatile because it can be used on most plant types, whether it will be in indoor or outdoor containers.Now, if you still would like to get to know more potting mix that made it on our list, we took the time to arrange them by category.
Here you’ll see which one would work best for growing vegetables, herbs, cacti and succulents, and other indoor plants.
How to Choose the Best Potting Soil mix
The kind of plant you have will help determine the best potting soil for you to get. While there are already a lot of ready to use potting mixes that you can get, the ingredients used in the mixes are crucial to ensure that your plants will grow healthy.
When choosing the right potting mix (also called potting soil) that will suit your plants need, here are the things that you should consider:
The Drainage of Potting Soil
It’s important that the soil mix you use will allow easy drainage as excessive water can drown your plants, and this could easily happen since your plant is only in a container.
What Are The Contents Of Potting Soil?
Some plants prefer moist soil like Ostrich Ferns and Bee Balms. There are also plants that can only thrive on dry soil like oregano, thyme and agave.
You need to check the ingredients in a potting soil for you to know if it has components that could aerate the mix or let it hold more water, depending on what your plant really needs.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re growing plants indoors with the use of grow lights.
This means that your soil won’t easily run out of water because of less light exposure.
However, for plants that will mostly stay under lights or heat, then you’ll need a potting mix that can hold water for a long time.
Organic VS Non Organic Potting Soil
Both organic and non organic soil mix can actually let your plants thrive, however, it’s always safe to say to go for organic mixes, especially if you are growing vegetables or herbs for consumption.
Potting Mix Ingredients Common To Potting Soil
The three main ingredients of a potting mix mentioned above are just the primary components.Different manufacturers already have ready to use combinations that you can get.
However, it’s still best to know more about the other components that some potting mixes have.
Here are a few more information about the primary and other possible ingredients that different potting mixes have:
Peat Moss – This can help hold water in the potting mix as its consistency is thick. It is also a good source of organic matter.
Pine Bark – The purpose it has is to allow air circulation in your potting mix.
Vermiculite – It’s spongey in texture, and so it also helps aerate the potting mix. An alternative for this is called perlite. While some may think both have the same purpose, perlites are porous and hard. At the same time, perlites have more alkaline.
Manure – There are two types of manure that may be included in a potting mix. First is animal manure and the other is a compost.
Sand – It helps the potting soil to retain unneeded water to avoid damaging your plant’s roots.
Plant-Specific Potting Mixes
Thank heavens as choosing the best potting mix can be way easier than you think because of ready-made potting soil mix that is already explicitly labelled.
Here are a few plant-specific potting mixes that you can simply get from different gardening supplies place.Orchid Mix: This is because orchids doesn’t really need soil to thrive.
Cacti and Succulent Mix: This mix is most likely rich in peat moss as it can easily dry out.
Potting Mix for Herbs: However, most herbs like rosemary, bay leaves, and lavender require really dry soil to thrive. So like the mix for cacti and succulents, potting mix for herbs are mostly light-weight.Peat-free Potting Soil: Peat-free mixes are made to reduce the negative impact of the process of peat extraction from plants.
Which Kind of Soil is Great for Different Plants
After learning about the different components of potting mixes and how they really function, It can still be confusing to choose the right potting mix.
Here is a guide you can check that is based on the type of plants that you will grow in containers:
Type of Plant
If you're trying to grow vegetables indoor, keep in mind that most leafy vegetables usually prefer moist to watery soil. What will work best with them would be potting mixes that have lots of peat moss.
Here are the best two mixes that we find great.
Espoma AP8 8-Quart Organic Potting Mix
Epsoma is a well-known brand when it comes to the best potting soil and fertilizers out there. The Epsoma AP8 is one of their many mixes that you can get, and it can be used on indoor and outdoor pot or container plants.
This potting mix is organic and has a good ability to retain water. It gets even better because it is enhanced with Micro-Tone formula that makes the soil save water.
This potting mix is composed of peat moss, humus, earthworm castings, alfalfa meal, shrimp meal, kelp meal, and lots of perlites.Don’t worry about its alkaline level even if it has lots of perlites because another ingredient used in this mix is limestone to balance its PH.All those combined, this mix promotes healthy growth for your plant’s roots.
It is also said to be a big help to speed up the growth of a seedling. The Micro-Tone formula it has helps with letting your plants grow stress-free.It has a nice earthy smell, and this is best to use on plants that require moist to grow healthily.The label does claim that this can be used on all potting plants but be mindful when using this on herbs and cacti.
Black Gold Sugar Bag Natural and Organic Potting MixThis organic potting soil is enriched with screened earthworm castings, peat moss, forest humus, aged bark, horticultural-grade perlite, pumice, and organic-grade fertilizer.This can also be used on indoor and outdoor plant containers.
It’s considered to be on the mid-level when it comes to water retention so it could be easy to manipulate, depending on your plant’s needs.
What’s great about this mix is that it is regionally formulated.
This means that they have a different formula in each western region to make sure that it would work based on the weather in your place.
It has a medium PH level of 8.5 so don’t worry about it even if it has perlites.
If Epsoma has the Micro-Tone formula, this potting mix from Blood Gold Sugar takes pride of their silicone-enriched additive that they call RESiLIENCE.
This additive can help enhance your plant’s growth, help with good flowering, and make your plants more resistant to wilting.
Overall, this mix is lightweight, so it’s also good to use on wall planters. This is available in 8 and 16 quartz bags.
Best potting soil for herbs
When you’re trying to grow herbs indoors, you probably already know how important it is that you put them in containers with good drainage as most herbs prefer dry soil.
However, don’t just rely on that hole on your pot when you’re thinking about drainage. It’s best to get potting mixes with ingredients like coir and perlites that help with better soil drainage.
Here are the great mixes for your herbs.
Spade to Fork’s Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit
Interestingly, Spade to Fork is a family-owned and run business in Oregon, and they make sure that they help you well with starting your indoor garden by growing herbs.
This company sells kits, so this means this already includes everything you need, of course except water and light, which you should already have.
The kit contains 5 types of USDA-certified organic and non-GMO seeds, The five herbs you may grow are Italian large leaf basil, coriander cilantro or also known as a slow bolt, Peione parsley, broadleaf sage, and thymes.Aside from the seeds, the kit has five pots where you can use that are also certified by the USDA as organic compostable peat pots and another five organic disk potting soil discs.If you’re not yet familiar with potting soil discs, these are just soil that is shaped and molded in discs.Think of how soil pellets are made.
You can never go wrong with this kit if you are a first-timer or a newbie as this also comes with a 10-page guide that will help you with the growing process.
To also not get confused of all the herbs you’re growing, Spade to Fork also included custom wood plant markers that we find adorable.Spade to Fork boasts of a hundred percent guarantee when it comes to the herbs’ growth. If for some reason, their kit didn’t do what’s promised, they can easily replace it or have you refunded.
Miracle-Gro Expand 'N Gro Potting Soil
This concentrated potting mix is a good substitute for garden soil, and it is made of compressed coir and fertilizers. This could even be mixed with in-ground soil, so it can be used outdoors and for container plants. It comes in .33 and .67 CF bags.
This is formulated to lightweight, but it could hold up to 50% more water than a basic potting soil.
Air circulation is also not a problem as this product claim to create up to 90% more air space than a gardening or native soil.
This needs to be watered to expand. All you really need to do is to put it in the pot, mix with water, and wait for it to expand.
This may take about 10 minutes so don’t be bothered if it doesn’t expand right away.
Also, this is non-organic, so we suggest that you only use a portion of this if you are growing plants for food. This can be used for up to 6 months.
The coir fibers are good for your plant’s roots and help them grow healthy.
At the same time, this could also be used when you are repotting your plants, even the ones that seem to be already drying out.The coir fibers have the capability to help a plant become healthy again.
best potting soil for indoor plants
Generally, there are a lot of indoor plants and it is safe to say that all of them may differ when it comes to what kind of soil would suit their needs.Some indoor plants prefer moist soil, while some need the soil to be rough and dry. Because of this, it’s best to use potting mixes that are versatile and mixes that you can easily engineer when it comes to watering.
Nature’s Living Organic and Concentrated Potting Soil
This is another one of those concentrated potting mix you can get that contains nutrients that your plants will need from the moment you plant them and until it’s time to harvest them.
This mix consists of organic earthworm castings, high quality Bat Guano, blood meal, bone meal, fish bone meal, neem meal, humic acid, rock phosphate, dolomite lime, azomite, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, coco coir, crushed oyster shell, humic acid, Epsom salt, coconut water powder and aloe vera.There is quite a long list of the microorganisms and fungus that this mix has, but some of them are Glomus Aggregatum, Glomus etunicatum, Glomus intraradices,Glomus Mosseae, Pisolithus Tinctorius, Scleroderma Cepa, and Scleroderma Citrinum.These microorganism and fungi are well-sourced.
Some of these are also cultured by the same manufacturer to ensure the utmost quality.
This should be used as a mix of organic potting soil. It doesn’t expand, and it is as it is. Because of its ingredients, this can be used on any indoor plants, and this is also a good mix to use if you are trying to reenergize your potting soil.You may get a bit surprised with how little this bag of product is, but it can actually power up about 5 gallons of potting soil.It is available in one and five-pound bags.
Burpee Organic 99939 Premium Potting Mix
This organic premium potting mix from Burpee consists of burpee plant food, coconut coir and traces of fertilizers. This mix has a high capacity when it comes to holding water.
It could be used on any plants, as the manufacturer claims, but just make sure that you control the drainage and light exposure of your plants well, especially if you have plants that thrive better in rough and dry soil.
This potting mix can feed your plants for up to three months to make sure that your plants produce vibrant flowers and healthy and delicious herbs and vegetables.
It can be used on indoor and outdoor growth.
With this mix, you don’t have to water your plants often. This is great for plants that need moist soil to thrive. You can get this in a bag that has 8 Quartz of product.
best potting soil for succulents
Definitely, cacti and succulents do not require moist and watery soil.
Most cacti and succulents prefer being placed in rough soil that could allow smooth aeration and drainage.That said, it’s best to get cactus mixes that contain barks, pumice, and sand.
Superfly Bonzai Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix
The Superfly Bonzai’s Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix is already ready to use.
If you don’t want to use anything else with this, just make sure that your plant has drainage holes.
This is a mix good for draining water and is dirt-free. You can get this in 1.25, 2.
5, 6, and 12-quart bags.
For plants like Lithops, if you’ll be using this as your soil, be sure to use a deeper pot to make sure that water won’t stay too long in your soil.
Black Gold’s Sun Gro Horticulture Cactus Mix
This is good when it comes to water drainage, and it has coarse particles that cacti and succulents love.
However, with that said, avoid using this on plants that are not under the family of cacti, bromeliads, and succulents.
Just like most Black Gold products, this formula or ingredients of this can also vary in the western regions so the packaging could be different if in case you notice the differences.
Now, even if this is best for cacti, succulents, and bromeliads, always put this mix in a pot with drainage to avoid root rotting.available in 8 Quartz bags.
Those are the potting soil and mixes that made it on our list!
If in case you still want to check on other products that didn’t make our list, remember the things that you need to consider when choosing the right potting soil for your plants.You can scroll back up and reread that part!
How to Use Potting Soil
The use really depends on the potting soil you have. Some are already ready to use, meaning you can just put it in a pot or container and they are already all set.
There still are potting mixes that should be mixed with soil or fertilizers.
A general rule, however, is not to fill the whole pot or container with the mix that you have. Most plants only need about 10 to 12 inches of soil to thrive. It’s already inefficient to use more than what your plant needs.
There are still growers who think that they can use potting mixes multiple times.
This isn’t really the case.The most you can reuse this is twice.
The nutrients in the mix will eventually deplete as the first plants that used it will only leave a few for the next batch.
Improving Your Potting Soil
Now, we did say that it’s not ideal to reuse potting soil or mixes. However, there are still ways for you to reuse them without affecting the growth of the next plants that will use it.
This is ideal if you have the time to revitalize your potting mix and if you want less waste.
There are a few things to consider before you can reuse a potting mix without any problems. You need to check the condition of the previous plants that used it.If it has been infested, let that potting soil go to avoid that from happening again.
The length of use is also an important matter.If you used potting soil for more than a year, then it’s best to not reuse the whole thing, but rather just half of it and mix it with a new mix.
However, if your potting soil was only used for about 6 months, then you can still reuse it without a problem.
You need to check the ingredients that your potting soil has and just add more of those in the mix.What’s good is that you can make your mix customized, depending on what your plant needs.
Can I use plant-specific potting mixes on other plants?
Yes, you can! You just need to know whether the plant-specific mix you got is considered light or heavy when it comes to absorbing water.
If you have an orchid mix, this could work fine with succulents because of the mix’s ability to absorb and dry out water.
What Is The Difference Between Garden Soil and Potting Soil?
Basically, gardening soil is as natural as it could get.
You can use gardening soil with other ingredients or fertilizers to promote better health for your outdoor plants.
Growing plants in a pot or container also make the process less natural, and so potting soil mixes are curated to help plants healthily thrive in containers.
Can I use gardening soil when planting in pots or containers?
It is possible for plants to survive when planted with gardening soil in pots; however, the result may just get you disappointed.Gardening soil is naturally heavy, and it will make your plants have a hard time to move and grow. It also won’t work for plants that need dry soil as gardening soil can hold water for a long period of time in a container without drainage.
Can I grow plants in pots and containers without drainage?
Even if you have the best potting soil in the market, it’s always best to use a pot or container with a drainage hole. This will make it easy for you to maintain the water need of your plants.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.