Skip to Content

Potting Soil vs. Potting Mix: What’s Actually Inside Those Bags?

Potting Soil vs. Potting Mix: What’s Actually Inside Those Bags?

Share this post:

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Getting ready to plant things is something that you likely take very seriously. You want to be able to ensure that you get good results, and this means making sure that everything is right.

Certain plants are going to need certain things to be able to thrive. This is why you want to try to use the right soil when planting new plants in your garden or when you’re potting things in your house.

You might have seen different products that you can buy at nurseries and garden centers that are labeled as potting mix. If you also come across something called potting soil, then you might be wondering if there is a difference.

Read on to learn about potting soil and potting mix. You’ll be able to better understand the difference between potting soil and potting mix so that you can utilize them effectively.

Potting Soil Is Actually Just Soil

The first thing to know is that potting soil isn’t actually anything special at all. It might be labeled as potting soil at the stores that you go to, but this is actually just standard soil that you can use.

Potting soil is going to be soil that no longer has the elements that are necessary to make it ideal for potted plants. This means that the soil will not have the nutrients that plants need to thrive and you’ll need to add to the soil to make it ideal for your purposes.

People buy potting soil because they need standard soil that they can use as a base for something. It’s definitely useful to buy potting soil in certain situations, but you need to understand what you’re getting so that you don’t make mistakes.

Don’t expect potting soil from the store to be incredibly nutrient-rich soil that will make plants grow strong. Potting soil by itself is usually not the best thing for your potted plants.

If you want to make potting soil more viable to use in your garden or in your potted plants, then you can amend it with compost. Compost will help you to add nutrients to the soil so that your plants will be able to thrive.

Many people who buy potting soil for use in the garden will amend the soil themselves using compost. It isn’t hard to do since you’ll just be mixing the compost into the soil and then placing the soil wherever it is that you need it.

Even so, potting soil still isn’t going to be perfect for many indoor plants. You should keep this in mind when deciding what to buy.

What Is Potting Mix?

Potting mix doesn’t contain any soil at all, and that’s why the word soil isn’t present in the title. When you buy a bag that is labeled “potting mix,” you’re supposed to get a blend of things such as perlite, vermiculite, fine barks, and peat moss.

This is going to be perfect for many different types of plants that you would want to put in containers or small pots. Many of these plants are going to need to be potted in something that drains very well and potting mix is the perfect thing for that.

Potting mixes don’t compact very much, and this means that they won’t make it hard for the water to drain out of the bottom. If you use a heavier type of soil, then there’s a chance that water will stick around and pool toward the bottom of the container.

Many people use potting mix exclusively for small container plants and seedlings. The potting mix doesn’t dry out too fast, but it’ll also make the draining process easier.

Potting mix is good because it helps the roots of these plants to have access to oxygen as well. The roots need oxygen and soil that is overly dense can keep the air from circulating properly.

Not All Potting Mixes Are the Same

You can see that potting mixes will be very good in certain situations when you’re caring for indoor plants. It’s also important to know that there are different types of potting mixes out there that you can buy.

Different plants are going to have different requirements that must be considered. This means that not every potting mix is going to be the ideal solution for your potted plants.

For example, you might buy some succulents that need specific things. You can buy a potting mix that will be perfect for succulents.

That potting mix that worked for your succulents might not be great for orchids, though. Thankfully, you can find potting mix that will work wonderfully for orchids if you take the time to look.

You’re going to be able to find many types of potting mixes at local nurseries and garden centers. It’s also very easy to order potting mixes online that you can utilize.

Just research the requirements of the plant that you’re trying to pot ahead of time. This will allow you to have some knowledge of what you need so that you can make good choices.

Conversely, you could simply ask for help at the store from an expert if one is available. Many nurseries will have knowledgeable staff members who will be able to help you find what you need to get the right potting mix or soil for the plant that you’re planning on potting.

Some Stores Mistakenly Label Potting Mix as Potting Soil

Sadly, there are many stores out there that make mistakes when it comes to potting soil and potting mix. You might go to a garden center and buy a bag of potting mix only to discover that it’s actually potting soil.

This happens the other way around too, and this means that you need to be careful where you’re shopping. If you shop at a store that is a major chain or one that just has a small garden center, then you might be more likely to encounter errors such as this.

It can be frustrating to buy the wrong thing even though you bought something with the right label. To keep this from happening, it might be best to try to specifically shop at stores with knowledgeable representatives who can help you out.

You can also try to look at the soil or potting mix to see what it really is. Many of the bags allow you to see what’s inside easily enough, and you might be able to tell if you’re looking at soil or potting mix since the two are quite distinct visually.

Soil is going to be much heavier and more compact while the potting mix will have larger materials but will be substantially looser. Looking at the ingredients that are listed on the bag might help as well since many bags will list what is contained in the potting mix.

If a bag of potting mix contains soil, then it likely isn’t what you’re looking for when you’re potting indoor plants or looking for something for your containers. The stuff that contains soil is going to be useful for people who need something for raised beds.

Sadly, there are bags of potting mix and potting soil out there that don’t list the ingredients. This can make it tougher to determine whether the bag has the right stuff that you’re looking for.

You should look for a potting mix that doesn’t contain any soil at all. If you can’t tell whether a bag contains soil because no ingredients are listed, then you can try other methods.

The weight of the bag can also help you to determine if it’s the right thing because heavier bags will be more likely to contain soil. If a bag is lighter, then it seems much more likely that it’s actually a bag of potting mix.

It might be best to simply shy away from purchasing bags of potting mix or soil that don’t list the ingredients. You should be able to find a high-quality potting mix at a retailer that sells the best products, and all of those bags should list the ingredients so that you can make an informed choice.

Final Thoughts

The differences between bags of potting mix and bags of potting soil are substantial. Potting soil isn’t generally useful when it comes to potting your plants because it doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients.

This doesn’t stop some retail stores from mistakenly selling potting soil as if it were a potting mix. You have to be careful to try to look for the potting mix that you need to avoid making mistakes.

Even when you’re buying bags of potting mix, it’s going to be necessary to pay attention to what’s in the bag. Different types of potting mix will work better for different types of plants.

You might need a different type of potting mix for orchids than you would for a standard succulent. Thankfully, it’s going to be easy to research the ideal potting mix for different plants online.

Some people even have great retail stores where the staff members are very knowledgeable about plants. They might be able to point you in the right direction so that you can get the best potting mix.

Potting soil is going to be more useful for raised beds, leveling out your yard, and just doing other things that require generic soil. You could add nutrients to potting soil to make it better for plants, but it wouldn’t be great by itself.


If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel

Share this post: