The Best Potting Soil for Your Plants

Introduction

Creating healthy soil environment for your potted plants is one of the crucial factors that lead to the success of container growing. Hence, it is important to choose the best potting soil that meets plants’ need.

However, you could find it a bit overwhelming to decide what to buy when seeing many types of potting soil in garden centers or on the online sales website. I am here to help you.

There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

What is potting soil?

Potting soil is also known as a potting mix or potting compost, which is important for gardeners when they start to seed indoors. It is the medium to grow your plants in pots or other containers.

The standard potting soil includes soil, sand, and humus that account equal part of the mixture. This combination could be used for almost potted plants.

Today, commercial potting soils are a bit different. Their recipes consist of sphagnum peat moss or calcined clay to absorb water in the soil, composted organic ingredients to provide nutrients, and vermiculite or perlite to improve drainage.

How to choose the best potting soil

The best potting soil for your needs depends on several factors such as the types of plants or the properties of soil. As your plants could benefit from different kinds of soil, you need to take a close look to potting soil to choose the right fit for your garden.

The mix of ingredients

One of the best ways to find out differences among a variety of commercial products to buy the best potting soil is reading information on their labels. Doing that, you could have an understanding of their content and, then, purchase the right one for your plants.

Different mixtures could improve the condition of drainage and hold nutrients of plants at different levels due to the variation of the proportion of perlite, peat moss, and vermiculite in the potting soil.

Another thing that you need to notice is that sand might be found in some specialty mixes, but it does not help to hold moisture and nutrients well, not mention to the fact that it could interfere with drainage.

You also need to determine the amount of fertilizer in the potting soil. The period for which fertilizer could feed the plants depends on the nutrients levels that it adds to the soil.

Plant location

The place you grow your plants is also the consideration when choosing the best potting soil. It is because depending on the amount of sunlight; your plants would lose the water quickly or slowly and need different soil.

Plants that are grown in full sun would be suitable for medium-weight soil holding water well. Meanwhile, plants in the shade only need lighter soil due to the different water retention.

Organic or non-organic potting soil

It is not a problem to choose organic or non-organic potting soil as both of them are suitable for your potted plants, with the exception of the use of fertilizer in the non-organic one.

In a single gardening season, the ingredients of non-organic mixes could provide nutrients for your plants. However, organic potting soil includes materials that could be used for your container growing over many seasons.

If you want to choose the organic potting soil, you should check OMRI listed. It could confirm with you that there is no non-organic ingredient in the products you want to purchase.

Best potting soil for different purposes

Although all-purpose potting soil could be the right choice for almost plants that you want to grow in pots, you should consider other kinds of potting soil that are suitable to some special case.

If you want to grow cactus and other succulents, African violets, orchids or roses, the plant-specific potting soil could match well with the plants’ need and provide plants with the exact condition to grow the best.

Starting to grow a new plant and transplanting seedlings would need different mixes of potting soil. While seed-starting mixture could nurture the seedlings until they are ready to be transplanted, the transplanting mixture could help the seedlings keep hydrated after the transition and have a healthy growth.

Photo credit: regan76 via Foter.com / CC BY

What to do if you cannot decide to buy which one

If you cannot decide which is the best potting soil for your plants, you could buy two or more types of soil and try them before concluding how they are effective.

Firstly, you grow your plants in all of the kinds of potting soil you purchased. Then, you monitor the growth and overall health of your potted plants. Finally, you choose the soil that cultivates the healthiest plants and continues to use it.

If you want to use different kinds of potting soil in one container, you should blend them thoroughly to ensure your plants grow at the same condition.

Avoid common mistakes

You should always be aware of the fact that the quality of the potting soil is not measured by weight. Sometimes, the best potting soil could be somewhat light or seem not water logged.

Best potting soil might not help if you forget to replace it periodically, especially if your plants struggle to grow.

Product Reviews – The Best Potting Soil

1. FoxFarm FX14000 1-1/2-Cubic Feet Ocean Forest Potting Soil

This is a kind of organic potting soil which includes earthworm castings, bat guano, and sea-going fish and crab meal. Interestingly, it could be ready to use in its bag.

Another feature of FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil that gives it the light and aerated texture is composted forest humus, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss. Thanks to that, this kind of potting soil is pH adjusted at 6.3 to 6.8 for good fertilizer uptake.

I bought this potting soil to use in pots and also boost my seedlings’ health and enjoyed with the result. It took only two weeks to see the different growth it could help my plants, compared to some other potting soil that I used to buy.

With this kind of potting soil, I did not add fertilizer or any supplement during the time I grow my plants, and it was fine. One more thing that makes I prefer this soil rather than some other ones is that it smells pretty good.

Besides the positive features, the negative comments usually come from the package that tends to tear when being delivered. More importantly, some people think that it is expensive and they would reconsider when deciding if they switch to this potting soil for a long time to change the soil they used in the past.


Pros

  • Good smell
  • No bugs
  • Good mixture of organic materials
  • Suitable for both transplanted plants and seedlings as well
  • Could be used directly in the bag

Cons

  • Not good packaging
  • Little strong for some seedlings

2. Window Garden Fiber Soil (12 Quarts) Organic Potting Soil

Window Garden fiber soil is another kind of organic potting soil made of natural fibers. This feature makes this soil absorb a great deal of water to provide for plants. Regarding absorbing nutrients, it is a positive characteristic because of its neutral pH that needn’t to be adjusted with lime.

Another advantage of this soil is reusable, which allows you to save your money for another season. In addition to this, if you find it difficult to store a large amount of potting soil, you could try this soil because it forms into compressed discs.

The thing I like the most about this kind of potting soil is environmentally friendly. Instead of using peat moss in the recipe, it includes coconut husks which could be renewable.

The significant negative feature of Window Garden fiber soil is its price. It is much more expensive than other potting soil. It could be explained by the different materials in its recipes, compared to other products.

One more thing people usually complain about this product is that it contains little nutrients. Therefore, you need to add fertilizer or mix with compost to feed your plants if you want to grow your garden with it.


Pros

  • Easy and convenient to store
  • Reusable
  • Special ingredients that help to retain moisture and nutrients
  • Eco-friendly
  • Help to repot easily

Cons

  • Minimal nutrients and need to add fertilizer
  • Plants grow slower than plants grown with other potting soil
  • Drying period is too long sometimes

3. FoxFarm FX14047 2-Cubic Feet FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil

This kind of potting soil is another product of FoxFarm that are recommended by many people. I also know thought about try using it after seeing my friend to use it for her garden.

One important feature of this potting soil is that it helps to break down the organic matter to feed plants’ root thanks to its microbes and fungi. My friend said that her plants developed fairly well and had more fruits when using this soil.

You should note that if you grow some special plants, you need to add fertilizer to ensure your plants to grow well although this kind of potting soil could provide your plants with most of the nutrients.

Some people give negative comments about this soil, which I think it is considerable. Firstly, they said that they find it uncomfortable to smell this soil. Secondly, it could contain larva or spider mites that annoy them.


Pros

  • Suitable for almost plants, including seedlings thanks to the fact that it is light and airy
  • Help to enhance the ability to absorb nutrients of roots

Cons

  • Smell could be uncomfortable to some people
  • The larva or spider mites could annoy people sometimes

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

Black Gold is one of the most popular potting soil sellers in the USA. It is regionally formulated and suitable for the plants in the western region only. It is also said that its organic ingredients were tested and its performance was recorded carefully to prove the effects.

Black Gold Organic Potting Soil is a kind of all-purpose potting soil that could match well with almost the plants you want to grow. It contains organic food, fiber and also adds fertilizer.

This kind of soil has a rich and loamy mix, which is great because it is one of the best for garden applications.

I used to try this kind of soil for hanging baskets, patio containers, herb gardens and vegetable plantings and found it was pretty good for drainage. I think it is because of its perlite that is another nice addition to this soil.

Though this potting soil contains fertilizer, it is recommended that feeding is needed after a period of three or five weeks. You should monitor your plants and, then, decide how to feed them effectively.


Pros

  • Good mix of organic ingredients
  • Ensuring presence of micronutrients
  • Well-draining
  • No bugs
  • Light, clean and loose

Cons

  • A little bit expensive
  • Might attract flies
  • A little bit dense with some plants

5. Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix, 8-Quart

If you have planted something in pots, you might hear of Miracle-Gro. Although its ‘standard’ products, which is an all-purpose potting mix, is not many people’s favorite choice, the situation is different when it comes to the potting mix for seed starting.

Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix could be used when starting plants from seeds or rooting leaf, stem or root cuttings in containers. By growing with it, your plants would benefit from the ingredients to help their roots to develop fast.

The fertilizer that is added is sufficient for seedlings and repotted plants. I have tried it with my pepper and tomatoes plants, and I enjoyed the result. My plants have had a healthy look like I wanted.

Some people complaint that it could make their plants dry, which I think that it is not a common problem for many plants. It might depend on the specific plants and the growing location as well.

One more negative thing related to Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix when it is used indoors is the presence of flies. I think it is because of the larva that is included in the mix and it might be a potential issue that needs to be addressed shortly.


Pros

  • Good mix of materials for seed starting
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • Making some plants dry
  • The presence of flies when used indoors

Here is a video that demonstrates the use of some potting soils:

Choosing the Best Potting Soil for Your Plants

I believe that the best potting soil would be suitable for almost the plants you want to grow and provide them with the best condition to develop. Also, it needs to be offered at reasonable price.

In my opinion, FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil would be the best choice for container growing. Meanwhile, FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil is considerable because of the quality at a fairly high price.

If you need to find out best potting soil for your seedlings only, Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix would be the right fit. Additionally, if you want to use the products of a big brand that has its ingredients tested or an environmentally friendly product, Window Garden Fiber Soil and Black Gold Organic Potting Soil are the suitable soil for you.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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