7 Different Types Of Potting Soil You Need To Know

types of potting soil

There are many different types of potting soil on the market, and you may wonder what makes them so different from one another. Potting soil can be used to help your houseplants grow healthy and strong.

Potting soil is an important part of your garden. It serves as the foundation on which your plant’s roots will grow, enabling them to absorb the right amount of water and nutrients from the earth so they can grow strong and healthy.

Potting soil also serves as a barrier between the earth and your plant’s delicate roots, preventing insects from damaging them in their search for food and moisture.

It’s important to know what types of potting soil you’re using to avoid any potential issues with your plants, so in this article, we’ll go over 7 different types of potting soil you need to know about, to use safely and effectively in your home or garden.

What is potting soil?

types of potting soil

Potting soil is a type of soil that is specifically designed for potted plants. It is usually made from a mixture of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This mixture allows the potting soil to hold moisture and nutrients well, while also providing good drainage.

The best potting soils are dark in color, as this shows that they have been properly aged.

When shopping for different types of potting soil at the store, be sure to read the ingredients list so you know what you’re getting. Avoid anything with artificial ingredients or additives like fertilizer or pesticides.

Components of potting soil

There are three main components of potting soil: organic matter, inorganic matter, and water.

Organic matter includes things like compost, peat moss, and coco coir. This part of the potting soil helps hold moisture and nutrients.

Inorganic matter is made up of things like perlite and vermiculite. This part of the potting soil helps with drainage and aeration.

Water is necessary for this process, so it is important that there be enough on hand. The ideal amount of water should be around 1 inch per foot deep. It can also be mixed into the soil before filling pots or flats to create a moist environment for seeds or seedlings to grow.

A good rule of thumb is that if you put your fingers into the potting mix and they come out damp but not wet, it’s ready for use!

What Is peat moss?

Peat moss is an organic material that is formed over centuries from the decomposition of plants. Peat moss is a key ingredient in potting soil because it helps with water retention and aeration.

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Peat moss is also acidic, which can be beneficial for plants that prefer acidic conditions. It has no nutrients, so you need to add fertilizers when using peat moss as your primary growing medium.

Pine bark fines

types of potting soil

If you’re looking for potting soil that provides good drainage and aeration while still being lightweight, pine bark fines soil types may be the way to go. This type of potting soil is made from finely ground pine bark and is often used in orchids and succulents.

You can also use it as an alternative to peat moss if you want your plants to stay drier. A downside is that it’s not easy to find, so don’t forget this one when stocking up on supplies! It usually comes in bags, but can also come loose if you order online.


types of potting soil

Another lightweight option, vermiculite is made from mica-based minerals that allow it to retain moisture better than some other types of potting soils. It’s best used with trees and shrubs because they will dry out faster than other plants.

Plus, vermiculite won’t clump together as clay does, which means you’ll have less work to do when it’s time to mix. Some people like using this type of potting soil as a substitute for perlite because vermiculite has more air pockets than perlite does.


Light and fluffy yet packing more volume than sand, perlite is perfect for those who need their plants to drain well and grow quickly (so basically everyone).

While it’s heavier than many other types of potting soil, it still retains excellent water retention properties.

Plus, unlike many others, perlite is pH neutral and won’t alter your plant’s chemistry over time.

One downside? You might end up paying a little more for this one since it isn’t always available at stores near you. But I think it’s worth it if you want a long-lasting potting soil that drains well and supports root growth

Coco coir

types of potting soil

Made from the fibrous material found between the outer shell and meat of coconuts, coco coir is suitable for all sorts of plants, including both indoor and outdoor ones.

Unlike traditional potting soils, coco coir doesn’t break down or decompose easily thanks to its high lignin content. This makes it a really sustainable choice for gardeners who want to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact.

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Coco coir also offers good aeration and is great for keeping roots moist without getting soggy, which means you won’t have to worry about overwatering your plants. And did we mention that coco coir smells really good too?

It can sometimes feel a bit heavy when you’re working with it, but once watered, it turns into something soft and easy to work with.

Coco coir is also often used as an alternative to peat moss, which might make it easier for you to justify spending the extra money. Another important thing to note about coco coir is that, just like pine bark fines, it’s not always easy to find.


Also known as dolomite, limestone is a type of rock that’s rich in calcium. It’s often used in agricultural and horticultural applications, as it can help to neutralize soil acidity. Limestone can also be used as a potting soil amendment, as it can help to improve drainage and aeration. When using lime as an amendment, use 1⁄4 cup for every 10 gallons of potting mix or 2 pounds per 100 square feet.


Just like at the beach, sand drains quickly and doesn’t hold onto moisture or nutrients very well. This makes it great for plants that need lots of drainages, like succulents. But because it doesn’t hold onto water or nutrients, you’ll need to fertilize and water your plants more often if you’re using sand. It’s also heavy and can be difficult to work with.

What is the difference between potting soil and gardening soil?

Potting soil is a type of soil that is specifically designed for use in containers. It is usually made from a mix of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Garden soil, on the other hand, is the type of soil that you would find in a garden bed. It is typically a mix of topsoil, sand, and organic matter.

Potting soil tends to be heavier than gardening soil because it contains more clay particles. The weight difference can make planting pots difficult, but it is worth it because potting soils are more likely to retain moisture better than gardening soils which makes them perfect for container plants.

What are the different types of potting soil?

If you’re new to gardening, you might be wondering what type of potting soil is best for your plants. Here’s a quick guide to the seven most popular types of potting soil:

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General purpose potting soil

These types of potting soil can be used for all different types of plants. It is not too expensive and has an average pH level, meaning it will help maintain a plant’s desired acidity level.

For some people, these types of potting soil may be too heavy on the clay side and others might find it to have too much sand. It is typically made from a mix of composted plant matter, peat moss, loam, and other ingredients that are usually added for specific purposes like holding moisture or increasing the nutrients available in the mixture.

Cactus mix

This mix is designed specifically for cacti and succulents. It’s sterile, so it will not rot or decay which makes it ideal for growing in pots that are indoors or outdoors. It also has a pH level of 5.5-6.5 which is ideal for most succulent plants.

In addition, these types of potting soil mix contain just the right amount of organic material like peat moss, sand, and perlite which provide some moisture retention without being too wet or dry. Since they don’t contain any weed seeds, you can use them as a good option if you’re gardening with kids or pets.

Orchid potting soil

While it’s not technically a potting soil, orchid mixes are designed to help orchids thrive in their pots by adding more nutrients than normal potting soils do. These specialized types of potting soil mixes also have better drainage and moisture retention properties that allow the roots to stay healthy without drying out.

If you’re looking for some variety when choosing which types of potting soil mix you should use, try using an orchid mix! It won’t add any nutrition to your plants, but it will offer them something they can’t get from other potting soils.

And if your plants already seem happy with the type of potting soil they’ve been planted in, you don’t need to switch over.

Organic potting soil

These types of potting soil typically include peat moss, composted bark or leaves, sphagnum moss, and ground pine bark. The idea behind it is that plant roots will grow better if they are able to feed on decomposing organic matter.

It’s a good option for gardeners who want to do their part in minimizing the environmental footprint by minimizing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. A downside is that you may have trouble finding this in big-box stores; you might need to go straight to a nursery or garden center.

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Seed starting mix

These types of potting soil contain vermiculite, perlite, sphagnum peat moss, and ground pine bark. It’s used primarily by gardeners who want to start seeds indoors. These mixes are lightweight and water-retentive, so they don’t become saturated when watered. But they are also too lightweight for outdoor use.

Moisture control potting soil

These types of potting soil are designed to provide plants with all the water they need during the hot summer months when moisture can be hard to come by. Moisture control potting soils contain expanded clay pellets that absorb water and release it slowly over time, preventing dry roots and wilted foliage.

A lightweight blend, these types of potting soil drain well and retains a lot of moisture, but will not compact easily. It also retains nutrients better than other types of potting soil because its ingredients are slow-release fertilizers such as fish meal, composted manure, alfalfa meal, or soybean meal.

Outdoor potting mix

These types of potting soil are typically made up of fir bark, shredded hardwood mulch, coarse sand, and natural topsoil. It’s perfect for outdoor use because it drains well while still retaining water like a sponge.

The sandy content in these types of potting soil mix prevents compaction that can occur with clay-based soils. However, these types of soils are often high in salts so they may not be the best choice for plants in pots.

Choosing the best potting soil

When it comes to choosing the best potting soil, there are 4 major golden rules you must follow:

  1. Light, fluffy potting soil should be used in containers.
  2. Peat moss, pine bark, perlite, or vermiculite should be the main components of potting soil.
  3. Adding fertilizer as a “starter charge” or in a slow-release formulation is possible. Make the necessary adjustments to your fertilization practices.
  4. If you are using potting soil containing moisture-retaining agents, you may have to adjust your watering patterns.