Potting Soil for Indoor Plants and Container Plants
How to Get the Most From Your Potting Soil
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle
As an indoor gardener, you ask a great deal out of potting soil. You want it to support and nourish your plants, often for years at a time. But the truth is, most bagged soils just aren’t designed for this. Here’s why.
The Nature of Soil Mixes
Most soil mixes are peat-based mixes, often made with reed or sedge peat, and pH adjusted with lime. They are rich and loamy fresh out of the bag, and often they are enhanced with fertilizer or water-retention crystals. If you’ve been gardening for a long time, though, you may notice that plants rarely thrive in these kinds of soils for too long. Instead, after a growing season—or maybe even two—the plant no longer grows as fast or looks as vibrant. With some poorer quality bagged soils, plants are lucky to survive a few months.
This happens because peat-based soils really aren’t designed for long-term use. They’re not actually designed for plants at all—they’re made for your convenience. They’re cheaper to produce, and they are lightweight and easy to bag and sell.
The problem is that peat decomposes quickly. Like any organic material, all soils decompose over time, but peat is an especially rapid decomposer. It’s safe to say that most peat-based soils are mushy soup within a year, and some come right of the bag as a heavy glop of mush.
Problems With Decomposing Potting Soil
As these soils decompose, a number of negative forces will affect your plants:
- The peat slowly compresses. In the pot, it’ll look like the dirt is “settling,” when in fact, it’s actually breaking down. As it does, the particles pack themselves around the roots, slowly starving them of oxygen. The youngest, newest, and smallest roots are affected first. Just like plants need water and fertilizer, they also need ample air around the roots. A plant with good aeration in the root zone is a healthy plant. A plant that can’t breath is a dead plant.
- Drainage is impeded. As the soil particles become smaller and smaller, it’s harder for water to drain through the pot. A layer of drainage pebbles at the bottom of the pot will actually make this problem worse. All you’re doing is reducing the amount of soil in the pot, so the plant will have even less room to grow.
- Salt build-up is encouraged. As the drainage slows, it allows for a faster buildup of salts and solids from fertilizer. Over time, this stresses the plant and can scorch the same tender roots that are stressed by the soil impaction.
With all of this happening in a single season, is it any wonder that plants that thrive for a few months in their new pots begin to lose vibrancy within a year?
Improving Your Potting Soil
Take these steps to ensure your plants have the soil they need:
Popular potting soils are great for convenience, but are they also great for your plants? Find out what's wrong with yours and how to fix it.
8 Best Potting Soil for Indoor Plants – (2020 Reviews & Guide)
Every gardener knows the importance of having good soil. Your soil is a cradle of sorts for your plants.
No matter how much sun and rain they get, without good soil, your plants don’t have much chance for thriving.
Having a good media is important for both indoor and outdoor plants. However, using the best potting soil for indoor plants is especially important.
They don’t have the means of absorbing extra nutrients from surrounding soil and dirt. For this reason, it’s crucial to have the cream of the crop when it comes to topsoil.
Here’s a deeper look into different types of soil and other important soil queries you may have.
Table of Contents
What is the Best Potting Soil for Indoor Plants?
Most people assume that indoor plants are a lot less fussy than outdoor plants. That’s true to a certain extent. But some people take this too far and underestimate how much attention they should be giving.
Your indoor plants are generally easier to take care of than your outdoor ones. However, there are some rules that apply to all kinds of plants, but especially indoor ones. Let’s start off with some general rules.
The best potting soil for your indoor plants is the one that’s best tailored to their needs. Certain plants like to have acidic soil while others need a more balanced home.
Similarly, certain plants need a higher concentration of a certain substance, like nitrogen. Different chemicals like that help them grow better, so start off by learning the details. Understanding the types of chemicals your plants need can help you find the best soil for them.
Next, take some time to look into the watering situation for your indoor plants. Because you’re looking for potting soil, it’s safe to say that the drainage is different. Your indoor plants don’t drain and absorb water quite like your outdoor ones.
For this reason, you should look for a potting soil that absorbs excess moisture quickly. Even in this case, you want to be careful for the soil to not get too dry. A happy medium is a good starting point if you’re not sure which consistency would be best.
Lastly, it’s imperative to buy indoor soil that’s not too thick. You want to pick a lighter soil that can resist compaction.
Because you’re using this soil for indoor plants, you’re watering from overhead. This constant overhead action and no movement within the soil cause it to firm up.
This makes it difficult for the roots to spread out and thrive. So, a light and airy soil is the way to go for indoor plants.
The 8 Best Potting Soil for Indoor Plants
The goal for every garden should be to create topsoil that’s as unique as every plant. With the market absolutely saturated with soils, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In any case, here are some of the best soils you can use for your indoor plants.
|Miracle-Gro Potting Mix||8, 16 quart|
|FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil||38.5 quart|
|FoxFarm FX14047 Happy Frog Potting Soil||51.4 quart|
|Miracle-Gro 72776430 Indoor Potting Mix||6, 16 quart|
|Espoma AP4 Organic Potting Mix||4 quart|
|Premium All Purpose Potting Soil||40 quart|
|Black Gold Natural and Organic Potting Soil||16 quart|
|Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix||8 quart|
Best Indoor Plant Potting Soil Reviews
1. Miracle-Gro Potting Mix
The first product to consider is the Miracle-Gro potting mix. Any good gardener has heard of Miracle-Gro. That’s because it’s actually nothing short of a miracle.
Like its many other products, this Miracle-Gro potting soil has a lot to offer. It has all of the necessary nutrients that you would need for indoor planting. While you can use it for outdoor plants, it’s specially tailored for your indoor buddies.
This potting mix works for all plants, as long as they’re in a container. The light texture makes it perfect for that. It helps you to avoid packing in the soil and creating a tough environment for roots to grow and spread.
As a potting mix, this can help your plants grow twice as large and produce twice as many flowers. It also helps that this Miracle-Gro product has an extended-release design. This means that it continues to feed your plants for up to six months after the initial feeding.
Another great feature for this product is that you can use as a stand-alone soil. If you already have great soil, this adds a little extra oomph. If you don’t have soil at all, this is perfect to use on its own and still get great blooming results.
2. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil
Next is the FoxFarm Ocean Forest potting soil. While this company isn’t as well-known as Miracle-Gro is, it still has great results. Let’s take a look at some of its amazing features.
For starters, the ingredient list on this product is perfect. It contains a good blend of nitrogen and phosphate, which are essential for plant growth. It also has some unique and beneficial ingredients that are hard to come by in other potting soils.
Some of the natural components of this potting soil are earthworm castings, bat guano, and moss. These provide nutrients, while the forest humus and sandy loam keep everything light. It’s truly a perfect blend of stuff and takes care of every problem potted soil might face.
A big point to remember here is that this FoxFarm potting soil creates a pH of 6.3-6.8. So, if your indoor plants need soil that’s a little more basic or acidic, you need to adjust it accordingly. However, this works great on its own for most indoor plants.
3. FoxFarm FX14047 Happy Frog Potting Soil
Another great product by FoxFarm is this Happy Frog indoor potting mix. This also works just as well as the previous product. The main difference between the two is the ingredients list.
This potting soil can be used indoors and outdoors, as long as the plants are potted. Some ingredients that help plants grow strong include humic acid and mycorrhizae. These biological components allow for plants to feed and grow more aggressively.
Other important ingredient information lies in the N-P-K ratio on this. You can expect a mix of 4-1-7 parts for this potting soil. That’s pretty standard as far as potting mixes go, so it’s good for general use.
Like its sister Ocean Forest product, the Happy Frog mixture has a light texture. It’s also very well-aerated, so you don’t have to worry about creating tough soil. You can also use this mix on its own or in combination with previously planted soils.
Another great feature of this product is that it comes in a very large bag. Most potting soils can be used once or twice before you run out of a good supply. But this FoxFarm Happy Frog soil comes with 45 pounds, so you can use it year after year.
4. Miracle-Gro 72776430 Indoor Potting Mix
This product by Miracle-Gro contains a lot of the essential ingredients that potting soil needs. However, there are a few things that make it stand out from the rest.
One thing that gardeners have to worry about with potting mix is attracting gnats. These little pests don’t harm your potting mix, but they can wreak havoc on your plants. Using a potting mix that’s old or from the previous year can lead to this problem.
But Miracle-Gro has taken care of that problem. It’s specifically designed to repel those types of gnats and other small bugs. So, you can apply this soil without having to worry about the damage little critters might do to your plants.
Other than that, this is a pretty similar product to the previous Miracle-Gro one. It has an extended-release design, so you can apply it and forget about it for a long time. The time limit for this specific product is six months.
5. Espoma AP4 Organic Potting Mix
The Espoma potting soil is a product you can’t go wrong with. This one has lots to offer its users, starting with great results. It has thousands of glowing reviews online, so that’s definitely a plus.
The Espoma potting soil helps your indoor or outdoor potted plants in a number of ways. You can rely on this potting mix to help sustain excellent growth both above and below the soil. It helps to create stronger roots and also assists in producing greater blooms.
What’s also great about the Espoma potting soil is that it helps the plants retain moisture. As long as you water them correctly, you don’t have to worry about your soil getting too dry. Additionally, this potting soil comes with its own drought preventing ingredients.
The Myco-tone used is the main thing that keeps droughts at bay. Your plants won’t feel a thing if you accidentally forget to water them once or twice. Just make sure it doesn’t become a habit.
Other star ingredients include peat moss, peat humus, perlite, and dolomitic limestone. With a lineup this great, it’s no wonder that this potting soil has such great reviews. It also comes in a smaller bag, so if you just need a little soil, this is perfect.
6. Premium All Purpose Potting Soil
If you’re looking for something expansive that’s used with all plants, this is perfect. The Proven Winners premium potting soil is a solution to most plants’ potting woes. Here’s what you can expect from this winner potting soil.
For starters, you get around two pounds of potting soil for a very good price. Compared to the other soils, this one is very cost-efficient. Additionally, it also comes in different sizes.
The main highlight of this product is that you can use it for almost all of your potted plants. Whether you have annuals, perennials, shrubs, or herbs, this is perfect. You can also use it for vegetables and other DIY plant projects.
One important thing about the Proven Winners potting soil is it’s sans fertilizer. If you want some fertilizer to sweeten up your soil some more, you have to add it yourself. This product comes with a very small amount, so make sure to add some during the planting process.
Also, the Proven Winners premium soil is considered a medium-weight soil. When looking for potting soils, you want something that’s light and airy. This soil is a bit heavier, so it requires some extra care and good drainage to be effective.
7. Black Gold Natural and Organic Potting Soil
The BlackGold potting soil is the gold standard when it comes to soils. It has everything your potted plants need to grow healthily. Plus, you can get it for a good price and with varying sizes.
Unlike the other potting soils, this one is perfect for specific types of plants. You should use it most for flowers, herbs, and vegetables. While you can use it for other plants, it won’t be as effective as it is with these types.
This soil is very rich and loamy, so it retains moisture well. This type of soil is what vegetables and flowering plants need, so you don’t have to add anything extra for them. It also has natural ingredients like perlite and pumice that help with pore and air space.
Also, this potting mix has a medium pH of a perfect 6.5. You may need to add additional nutrients to make more basic or acidic, as per your plants’ taste.
A cool fact about the BlackGold potting soil is that it’s regionally formulated. This soil is especially effective for planting in the western region. Most of its ingredients are found in the western part of the states, so if you live there, this is right up your alley.
8. Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix
Lastly, we have the Burpees Organic premium potting mix. This is probably the most unique product on this list, as it utilizes a special ingredient. You probably didn’t guess that there would be coconut in this!
The Burpee Organic mix is formulated with a special plant food diet that has everything. Potassium, nitrogen, and phosphate are all here. Along with the basic essentials, this also has coconut coir in it.
Coconut coir is used to help retain moisture in the plants’ soil. Unlike other moisture-retaining agents, this one is a renewable resource. So, you’re helping your plants without harming the Earth.
While this does have an extended-release design, it’s a little shorter than most potting mixes. You can apply this soil and forget about it for about three months. After that, you need to replant or replenish your soil’s supply of potting mix.
This soil is especially useful for flowers, vegetables, and herbs. With other plants, you may need to add different ingredients to make the soil perfect for their needs.
You can also use the Burpee potting soil for any type of pot. Whether you have an actual pot or a small container, you can take advantage of this soil. You can even use for overhead hanging pots, as long as you have the correct drainage system ready.
Can You Use Outdoor Potting Soil for Indoor Plants?
Outdoor potting soil and indoor potting soil are essentially the same things. They both contain key nutrients that your plants need. The main difference is simply in the labeling of the product.
Certain plants can really only grow well outdoors, like fruit trees and shrubs. Outdoor potting mix is made specifically for these types of plants.
The ingredients vary only slightly than what you’d find in an indoor potting mix. For this reason, you can use an outdoor potting mix for indoor plants. The big difference comes when you try to use outdoor soil (not potting mix) for indoor plants.
Can You Use Garden Soil for Indoor Plants?
People who are not experienced with gardening often wonder about the soil. Does it really matter what kind of soil you use? Can’t you just use outdoor soil for indoor potted plants?
Well, the answer is a bit more technical than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. While you can use outdoor soil for indoor plants, you really shouldn’t. There are a few different reasons why.
First and foremost, outdoor soil is very different from the potting mix. Outdoor soil has different amounts of nutrients and minerals in it. It’s the perfect soil for outdoor plants, but it doesn’t work as well for indoor ones.
You can use it for indoor plants, but it won’t let them grow to their potential. What’s the use of using a type of soil if it doesn’t even grow your plants properly?
Similarly, outdoor soil is generally thicker and denser than indoor soil. The outdoors have nature’s aerators in the form of earthworms and insects. These tiny workmen sift through the soil and keep it light and fluffy.
Using outdoor soil without the earthworms indoors is a recipe for disaster. The soil is likely to become too compacted and hard. This won’t allow the roots of your plants to flourish, so stick with potting mix for indoor plants.
Is There a Difference Between Potting Soil and Potting Mix?
The difference between potting soil and potting mix can seem trivial. While the name of the products is similar, their functions couldn’t be any more different. It all lies in their ingredients.
Potting soil is just regular soil that you can put in a pot for plants. You can tell it’s different usually by reading the ingredients label. This type of medium should have soil listed as a component.
This tells you that this is meant for use outdoors. Even if it says potting soil, it usually means gardening soil. You can use it for your garden or fill in a sparse area on the ground.
Gardening soil tends to be thicker, so don’t use that for your indoor plants. On the other hand, the potting mix is completely different. Potting mix is what you should use for actually potted plants.
This mix is a lot lighter than traditional soil is. The fact that it’s lightweight allows the roots of the plants to spread out evenly. This is what you should actually use for indoor potted plants, not potting soil.
Again, the main thing to look out for is the ingredients. If there’s the soil in the mix, it’s probably not the best idea for indoor potted plants. If the bag is light, and you don’t see any soil component, go ahead and use it indoors.
You can see how the difference is minute, but the labeling tells all. Paying a little extra attention to the labels is all you need. That way, you can tell the difference between potting soil and potting mix.
How to Prepare Potting Soil for Planting?
If you want to prepare your own potting soil for planting, there are a few things you should do. First, start by differentiating which soil mix you want. Plants that need moist soil need a soil-based potting media, while others need a peat-based one.
To make soil-based media, mix equal parts of sterilized loam soil and moist coarse sphagnum peat moss. Mix in one gallon of coarse perlite. Adjust the mixture by adding more sand or more peat moss until you get a loose, well-drained mixture.
Your soil-based media is now ready! You can add this to a pot and directly plant something in it. You can also add additional soils or substances to meet your plants’ needs.
If you’re making a peat-based mixture, start by pouring two gallons of peat-moss in a basket. Add two gallons of perlite or vermiculite. Mix thoroughly, and just wet it slightly before adding it to pots.
Whether you make your own mix or use a store-bought variety, make sure of a few things. Ensuring your plants have good drainage is key with potted plants. Also, invest in buying sterile products and soil, as these prevent the start of the disease.
Now you should be able to find good potting soil for indoor plants in your home. If you’re having trouble, you can always check with your local nursery for suggestions. Good soil is as important as rain and sunshine, so don’t be afraid to invest your time and money in it.
Looking for the best potting soil for indoor plants? Check out our buying guides to help you spend your money wisely on the best indoor plant soil.