GardeningPlant GuideOctober 1, 2022by Colin RossWhat is Potting Soil?


When you are growing plants in a pot or container garden, it is important to use a different type of soil mixture than if you were going to grow the same plants directly into the ground. Potting soil or Potting mix is a general term for a mixture of ingredients to allow plants to thrive in containers. This mix is much lighter than topsoil or “regular dirt”. Potting soil will often have peat moss, perlite, and other additives to keep it light and fluffy so that roots can easily develop.


Every company and garden center is going to have a slightly different blend and reasons why theirs is the best, but all potting soils have a few things in common.

The main ingredient is going to be organic matter. The five most common are

  • Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • Composted Bark or Wood
  • Manure / Castings
  • Compost
  • Coconut Coir
The other ingredients in commercially available potting soils are inorganic matter like vermiculite, perlite, sand, and other products to help with water control and the aeration of your soil. You will also find mixes that already have fertilizers included in them geared towards growing specific plants.


I think both are good options and the real determinant is how much potting you plan on doing. Name brand potting soil is expensive and for many hard to justify. You see a cheaper bag next to it, but it could have topsoil or other inferior ingredients to help keep it cheap. I think you need to either buy the good stuff or make your own at home.
If you want to grow TONS of plants, DIY is the way to go. If you are just going to fill a few pots to put on your porch or do minor indoor gardening, buying the premade stuff is the way to go.
You can absolutely save money by buying compost and manure from your local landscape supply store, get some Peat Moss, fertilizer, vermiculite, and other things that we mentioned before and mix them all together. I can make a trailer full of pretty good potting mix for 60-75 bucks which is much money as only 6 or 7 bags of potting mix in the store. If you only need a little, doing this method will leave you with a TON of dirt to store, literally.
There is also the benefit of less likely critters to come in the soil if you buy premade bags than making your own.
If you are going to buy it, check out my personal recommendation for multipurpose potting soil via this Amazon Affiliate Link.
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