Potting Soil: Best for Containers
Potting soil, which may also be called potting mix, isn’t actually soil at all. (Surprise!) Soil comes from the earth as a mixture of organic materials (decomposed plants and animals) and minerals (like ground-up rock and clay) as well as air and water. On the other hand, potting mix is a man-made mixture composed of natural substances, typically composted bark (such as pine), peat moss and minerals such as vermiculite and perlite. Those little white specks in potting mix? That’s perlite, a natural volcanic substance that helps with aeration, allowing movement of water and air through the “soil.”
Potting mix is the ideal choice for growing plants in containers (also called pots or planters) because it’s lightweight and provides good drainage. Heavier soils hold water more than potting mix, and plants that sit in containers filled with heavy, wet soil can get root rot and a whole host of other issues. It’s much easier for you and better for plants to grow in containers using potting mix.
- Be lightweight and fluffy
- Help get moisture and nutrients to the roots of your container plants
- Provide enough air in the container so that roots don’t rot
- Support plants so they aren’t susceptible to damage from wind.
Potting mixes are available for purchase from a variety of companies. Most contain similar ingredients in a similar ratio, but some may tout other benefits such as included fertilizer or water retaining crystals. Be aware that if your mix contains these additives, you’ll need to adjust how you care for plants. For example, if your mix touts moisture retention, you may need to water less or else you’ll overwater and negate the positive effects of using potting mix. If your mix contains fertilizer, you may want to hold back on adding more fertilizers, especially at first.