Potting soil or potting mix: Which is better for your plants?

Beginner gardeners may think that soil for pot plants is all the same and that plants will thrive on any healthy soil. But the best potting medium actually varies depending on your garden’s needs. 

Potting soil is sometimes used interchangeably with potting mix, but they are quite different. Potting soil for indoor plants typically contains soil (hence the name), while potting mix is a soilless medium. Knowing the difference is essential. This way, you don’t get the wrong potting medium from your local nursery or garden center.

What soil is best for potted plants?  

Potting mix is generally better for houseplants and container gardening. It’s free from pathogens, weed seeds, and other harmful elements. Plus, it can be “controlled” more easily than potting soil. You can simply add compost and peat moss to improve the potting mix. What’s more, you can get custom mixed potting mixes for specific plants, such as orchid mix and cactus mix. 

mixing vermiculite with potting soil to improve water retention, airflow, and root growth

On the other hand, potting soil is better for larger gardens, raised garden beds, and landscaping. Potting soil is also usually cheaper than potting mix. You can make your own potting soil with garden soil and other materials! 

The downside of potting soil is that it tends to become dense, compacted, and water-soaked. As a result, you may have a harder time growing seeds in potting soil than in a potting mix. 

Potting soil 


potting soil in woman's hands

Pros:

Potting soil provides the right composition and nutrients for pot plants. This medium is specially designed for the space limitations of a pot or container. As a growing medium, potting soil is different from typical garden soil or topsoil. 

Cons:

Since potting soil contains soil, it may not be as sterile as potting mix. It may have pathogens, fungus, or other elements that can harm your plants. 

Still, potting soil provides air, organic matter, and water that can benefit your potted plants. 

Suppose you want to grow organic vegetables in addition to your potted plants. You can look into organic potting soil with no chemicals to enhance the growing medium. 

Potting mix 

woman mixing potting mix for indoor plants

Potting mix for indoor plants is a typically soilless gardening medium. It usually contains peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and compost. 

Let’s take a look at each of these potting mix ingredients: 

  • Compost is decomposed organic matter (such as dry leaves and fruit peelings) added to soil to improve its texture and increase its nutrients.

  • Perlite is made of small, porous white balls of volcanic glass used to improve soil structure and prevent waterlogging. 

  • Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that looks like flakes. Like perlite, it improves soil structure and prevents waterlogging in pot plants. 

  • Peat moss is a type of moss that retains nutrients and helps aerate the soil. Peat moss also prevents clay-like soils from hardening. 

Potting mixes can come in many variants, including houseplant potting mix, seed starting mix, and even cactus and succulent mix. 

If you want to see if the potting soil mix you have on hand is ideal for your pot plants, you can consult a professional gardener.

Pros:

Potting mix provides ideal conditions for roots. This medium has a lightweight and fluffy texture, allowing for better airflow and water retention. 

Cons: 

Usually, potting mix is great for regulating the texture of the soil in indoor plants. But since it’s a soil-less medium, it may lack the necessary nutrients to keep your plants healthy. You may be able to fix this by applying fertilizer regularly or adding compost to the mix. 

Potting mix is also typically more expensive than potting soil. 

Bonus: Compost  

Compost, also known as the “black gold” of gardening, is made of decaying organic matter. While compost is made of purely organic material, soil may contain inorganic materials like rocks and minerals. 

woman throwing vegetable waste into compost bin

Compost can include dry leaves and fruit peelings. It can also contain other kitchen scraps, grass clippings, shredded newspaper, and even cardboard. 

Here are the benefits of compost: 

  • It can greatly improve the texture of whatever potting medium you’re using – helping clay-like soils have better drainage and sandy soils retain nutrients and water. 

  • You don’t need to buy compost from a store – you can simply have a compost pit in your garden and start making your own compost! 

Once your compost is ready, you can easily add it to your potting mix or potting soil to make your plants healthier.  

Getting potting soil or potting mix 

Potting soil and potting mix each have their advantages and disadvantages. Use potting mix for houseplants and container gardening, as this medium is more sterile and easier to control. But opt for potting soil for larger gardens and landscaping projects. 

You can book a soil delivery service to quickly and conveniently get your potting medium. Your Tasker can pick up what you need from the garden center, florist, or supermarket. The right potting medium is key to a healthy and thriving garden. 

FAQs on potting soil & potting mix

Potting mix and potting soil are not the same. However, these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Generally, potting mix is a soilless medium, while potting soil may or may not contain soil. Potting mix is a safer option for container plants, as this is sterile and free of fungus and other diseases.

Mixing potting soil with potting mix can be beneficial. Potting mix with perlite or vermiculite with peat moss can enrich potting soil. You can also add compost and leaf mold to your potting mix for more nutrients. A professional gardener can advise you on the best potting medium for your plants.

Yes! Some gardeners actually prefer potting soil for non-container gardening, which will be great for your vegetable patch. Of course, if you’re growing veggies and herbs in pots, you might want to experiment with potting mix first.

Potting soil is for planting plants, while compost improves the soil. Another difference is that soil is a natural material made of minerals and rock particles. Meanwhile, compost is recycled dead or dying organic matter like plant and kitchen waste.

Potting mix and potting soil are not the same. However, these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Generally, potting mix is a soilless medium, while potting soil may or may not contain soil. Potting mix is a safer option for container plants, as this is sterile and free of fungus and other diseases.

Yes! Some gardeners actually prefer potting soil for non-container gardening, which will be great for your vegetable patch. Of course, if you’re growing veggies and herbs in pots, you might want to experiment with potting mix first.

Mixing potting soil with potting mix can be beneficial. Potting mix with perlite or vermiculite with peat moss can enrich potting soil. You can also add compost and leaf mold to your potting mix for more nutrients. A professional gardener can advise you on the best potting medium for your plants.

Potting soil is for planting plants, while compost improves the soil. Another difference is that soil is a natural material made of minerals and rock particles. Meanwhile, compost is recycled dead or dying organic matter like plant and kitchen waste.