For the uninitiated, potting mix and potting soil can be the same. They look quite the same and it’s hard to differentiate between the two if you don’t know what to look for.
This guide, however, can fill you in on the differences between the two and which one might suit you best.
While they are often interchangeable, there are distinct differences between potting soil and potting mix. If you aren’t that stringent about how you want your plants to look or grow, they really won’t provide a noticeable difference.
But if you are going for a distinct look and growth pattern out of your garden, then you will definitely want to pay attention to the differences in both.
Though they look extremely similar, potting soil tends to not only be the cheaper alternative but is also more durable and nutrient-rich. With potting soil, you won’t have to replace it quite as often as it is meant to last longer than the alternative.
Potting mix, however, offers the right nutrient mix and offers great water retention. This means that your garden is getting the most out of each watering and requires less frequent watering to see consistent growth.
You will also notice when handling potting mix that it is much fluffier and lighter than the potting soil counterpart. This allows for great aeration and drainage so that your plants don’t get inundated with too much water that can do damage over the long run.
The Benefits of Each
The benefits of potting soil are that it is definitely cheap and can be fully organic. This is great because you don’t have to spend a ton to get an organic soil, though you’ll have to look closely at each label to know what it’s made from.
Not only that, but potting soil tends to last a long time and is nutrient-rich. This means that your plants get what they need for a longer time without you having to replace the soil.
Potting mix, meanwhile, tends to be lighter and fluffier while providing good drainage and aeration. This means that the air flow and water drainage are much better for delivering nutrients to your plants.
Not only that, but it has great water retention so that you can get the most out of each watering instead of having to water more frequently.
The Drawbacks of Each
Natural soil in general, not just potting soil, tends to get water-logged. This means that water won’t drain effectively, which could lead to issues with your plants over time. The soil also easily compacts, which means that air cannot flow through effectively.
With the soil not being quite as fluffy, it means that it is more difficult for the roots to grow and it means that the air does not move as freely throughout the soil as well. This low aeration can be a real problem for the overall growth of your plants.
Most of all, potting soil is not ideal for seed starting. The natural soil tends to be more dense and the particles tougher and heavier, which makes it more difficult for seeds to germinate and grow inside of.
Potting mix tends to be more costly. This is because they tend to need more specific materials, though it is generally accepted that a higher cost equals a higher level of quality.
It is also lighter weight, which means that high winds can be a problem. The last thing anyone wants is for his or her soil to go floating around in the wind.
Potting mix also tends to break down over time. The organic parts of the mix will break down and make the mixture a whole more unstable and unusable.
This means having to replace it far more often than you might potting soil.
When to Use Each One
It truly depends on what you are looking to get out of your soil when making your choice. If your decision comes down to purely cost, potting soil is likely the way to go. It is durable and requires replacing far less often than its counterparts.
But for our gardens, it doesn’t always come down to a matter of cost. Potting mix tends to offer greater versatility when it comes to both aeration and water retention.
This means that your plants are getting the necessary air and water required to grow in a healthier way.
Ultimately, it is up to you and what you are hoping to achieve with your garden. If you are looking for something to fill in space in your yard and keep your plants fed with minimal cost, then potting soil is your best bet.
If you are a more serious gardener looking for better results out of your plants, go with the costlier potting mix and see the results that it can produce.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.