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Best Potting Soil for Any Plant – Buying Guide and Recommendation

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Most people aren't just born with a green thumb - they acquire it through careful research, planning, and practice. One of the biggest considerations for growing gorgeous plants is what type of soil to use. For potted plants, it's even more important to find the best potting soil available for drainage, nutrition, and growth, as these plants are confined to a smaller space.

Our Pick:

Foxfarm Ocean Forest Soil

Foxfarms's Ocean Forest potting soil is the best option if you are just starting out, as it provides an excellent base for most plants and is incredibly easy to use. With well-rounded nutrition and good water retention, it's the best choice for beginning gardeners.

What to Look for in Potting Soil

There are a lot of different types of potting soil available, but not all of them are up to the task of providing a solid base for your potted plants. When you are looking for the best potting soil for your potted flowers, vegetables, or herbs, you'll need to consider a few different aspects about the product.

One of the biggest things potting soil has to do is retain moisture and nutrients for your plants.

On the flip side, they also need to be able to provide your plants' roots with air and circulation. The best potting soil is going to be light and fluffy upon opening the bag, and not too dense even once you get it wet. Otherwise, the roots of the plant may get smothered. They could also develop rot or mold. The soil should have some give if you poke your finger into it.

If the soil becomes really hard after watering, your plant won't be able to expand and grow its roots through the potting mix.

To judge the density of a potting soil before you make a purchase, just pick up the bag! It shouldn't be too heavy - a very heavy bag of potting soil, before it's been exposed to moisture, usually means it has a lot of fillers like sand or mulch, which leads to a dense, thick soil that isn't suitable for most sun-loving plants. Fillers also take up valuable space which could be used by some type of fertilizer.

The other big factor here is considering what's inside the bag.

A good potting soil will have a variety of nutrients for feeding plants, as opposed to just one or two. Look on the bag for a list of included ingredients; a potting soil that just says 'fertilizer' on the bag probably doesn't include many different nutrients.

Remember: a trustworthy brand will be open about what is in their product by including a detailed label.

Organic or Non-Organic?

Foods and products that are organic are gaining in popularity, but is it worth it to go organic with your potting soil?

Honestly, it's a personal preference.

Both types of potting soil can work well if you get a reputable brand's product and follow the considerations above.

Personally, I've had very good luck with natural ingredients, so I usually look for natural fertilizers like seaweed, worm castings, and compost. One of the best benefits to these fertilizers is that they will work on pretty much any potted plant, from veggies to herbs to flowers.

It's also easier to supplement these fertilizers yourself, using your own compost or seaweed mixture, as the soil starts to break down.

Plant-Specific Choices

Some plants will require special potting soil in order to thrive.

If you have a unique plant such as a cactus or other succulents, roses, or orchids, you may want to find a specific potting soil for their growth. Plant-specific potting soils for these unique plants will have specialized nutrients and density ratios to ensure they are healthy.

This is also true if you are trying to start plants from seeds.

Regular potting soil may not be the best choice for this endeavor. Potting soil specifically for seed-starting will be lighter and airier then regular bags, so it allows more sunlight and warmth to reach the seeds, giving them a better chance at germination.

Best Potting Soil - Reviews

We've gathered a list of 7 of the best potting soils available on the market today. Whether you want to grow some simple herbs or are challenging yourself with exotic flowers, these potting soils are up to the task of keeping your plants healthy and happy.

1. Miracle-Gro Potting Mix

This golden standard in the potting world is so popular thanks to its affordable price and great track record for growing plants big and beautiful. This potting soil is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

This product uses peat moss, perlite, fertilizer, and a wetting agent to create a suitable potting soil for plants. The specific ingredients may vary depending on where the bag was made.

This potting soil is guaranteed to include at least .21% nitrogen, .11% phosphate, and .16% potash for fertilizing needs.

Pros:

  • Affordable option
  • Easy to find at most stores
  • ​Designed for also all potted plants
  • ​Easy to use
  • ​Results are guaranteed or you can get a refund
  • ​Product is certified by the Mulch and Soil Council

Cons:

  • Can have a strange odor
  • Fertilizer can attract flies
  • Not organic
  • May get too dense with a lot of water

2. Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil

This organic potting soil uses worm castings, perlite, pumice, and organic fertilizers to care for your plants. All ingredients are certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

This soil includes Black Gold's RESiLIENCE silicon compound to help reduce wilting, encourage stronger growth, and produce earlier flowers in your potted plants. This addition is also said to increase moisture retention in the soil.

Upon purchase, this soil has a pH level that is right down the middle: around 8.5. Additional products can be added to customize the pH as needed.

Pros:

  • Certified organic product
  • Excellent drainage and aeration
  • Multiple fertilizers for growth
  • Good ingredients for moisture retention
  • Product has a nice earthy smell

Cons:

  • Product can attract gnats
  • Wet soil can grow spores
  • Expensive price

3. Espoma Organic Potting Soil

This potting soil is a blend of peat moss, peat humus, Espoma's Myco-tone, worm castings, and perlite. All ingredients are organic and the company states that their products are safe for use around pets.

This potting soil uses Espoma's proprietary Myco-tone addition, which utilizes 11 different strains of mycorrhizae to promote root growth and reduce stress in your plants. This can be especially useful if you need to transplant a plant outdoors or to a new pot.

The label of this product stats that there is a guaranteed analysis for the fertilizers. You can expect to get a least 7% nitrogen, 2% phosphate, and 2% potash when you purchase a bag.

Pros:

  • Organic ingredients
  • Not attractive to bugs
  • Excellent fertilizer ratio
  • Small, family-owned business

Cons:

  • Poor moisture retention
  • Expensive product
  • Soil is very loose
  • Not certified

4. Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix

This is a potting soil specifically designed for cacti and succulents. It uses a blend of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, reed sedge peat, limestone, perlite, and sand to create a mix that is suitable for these unique plants.

This is an organic mix that is designed to provide excellent drainage for these plants that don't need a ton of water. The pH is also already balanced for succulents, so the soil is ready to use right out of the bag.

Pros:

  • Best choice for succulents
  • Organic ingredients
  • Excellent drainage
  • Ready-to-use

Cons:

  • Poor moisture absorption
  • Few sizes options available
  • Not certified organic

5. Foxfarm Ocean Forest Soil

Foxfarm's soil made for containers contains forest humus, sandy loam, peat moss, and natural fertilizers including bat guano, worm castings, ocean fish, and crab meal. The product has a pH of 6.3-6.8 to allow the fertilizer to work as efficiently as possible.

The fertilizers in this bag are meant to last over a month, so even as the soil breaks down, no additives are needed. This makes this soil a good choice for beginners or someone who doesn't have a lot of time to garden.

Pros:

  • Several different types of fertilizers
  • Good value
  • Ready-to-use right out of the bag
  • Long-lasting

Cons:

  • Bag may include large pieces of organic material
  • Soil can heat up a lot in the sun

6. Michigan Peat Garden Magic Potting Soil

Michigan Peat's potting soil mix is ready to use straight from the bag, and uses a dark blend of materials including reed sedge peat. perlite, and sand. Their potting soil can be used in pots or garden beds indoors or outdoors.

Michigan Peat is a smaller company that's been in business for over 50 years, and they spent a fair amount of time developing their potting soil so it would offer good nutrition, water retention, and drainage in one package.

Pros:

  • Great moisture retaining properties
  • Designed for use indoors and outdoors

Cons:

  • Soil may get too moist due to high water retentive abilities
  • Dark colored soil can heat up quickly
  • Low amount of fertilizers

7. Sun Bulb Better-Gro Special Orchid Mix

Orchids are difficult, picky flowers that require a lot of special care. This includes unique potting soil requirements. Sun Bulb's potting mix is designed specifically for potted orchid flowers.

This soil is created with western fir bark, hardwood charcoal, and sponge rock to meet an orchid's unique needs for retained moisture, drainage, and nutrition. This blend is suitable for any epiphytic orchid.

Pros:

  • Specialized care for orchids
  • Designed by orchid growers
  • ​Superior drainage for root growth
  • Can also be suitable for succulents

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Dark colored soil can heat up quickly
  • Large particles can cause trouble for smaller plants

The Winner

You don't want to fail at gardening before you even have a chance to enjoy it, so make sure you take the time to research a good potting soil for you get started so you don't set yourself up for disappointment. Whether you want to grow some simple herbs or have big dreams for exotic potted blossoms, there's a potting soil out there to help you succeed.

Our Pick:

Foxfarm Ocean Forest Soil

Foxfarms's Ocean Forest potting soil is the best option if you are just starting out, as it provides an excellent base for most plants and is incredibly easy to use. With well-rounded nutrition and good water retention, it's the best choice for beginning gardeners.

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