Potting soil or Potting mix: Which one suits you better?

Posted by Aaron Chen on


For those who are new to the world of gardening, you may come across words such as potting soil and potting mix. These phrases might be a little confusing for others at first. Potting soil and potting mix are used to help grow plants that are cultivated in containers.

Although both are regarded as potting mediums, it is still important to identify and categorise the difference between the two. To clear up the confusion, below is a blog post about the difference between potting soil and potting mix.

Definition of terms

Potting soil is any gardening media that is composed of dirt. It could be completely dirt or it is mixed with other soil-less materials. It is usually used for filling in low spots in a raised bed.

Potting mix is an entirely soil-less garden medium. It is usually made up of a small amount of microorganisms to provide plants with a clean and sterile environment. On top of that, it also contains all the right ingredients to maximise the growth of plants.

A potting mix contains pine bark or any compostable organic matter, peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.


One of the best things about potting soil is that they are commonly not expensive compared to other gardening mediums. Apart from that, potting soil is readily available in your backyard. Just use the soil from your garden or mix soil with other materials such as compost, manure, etc.

Contrarily, potting mixes tend to be more expensive than potting soil. However, consumers still choose to use potting mixes because the extra costs are often worth it.


One of the characteristics of a good gardening medium is its “fluffiness”. This is to provide enough space for the roots to propagate easily. Aside from that, this allows the air to move freely. However, this is not the case for potting soil because potting soil easily compacts.

Luckily, potting mixes can provide the easiest and best-growing medium for roots. Most potting mixes are lightweight and fluffy. Aside from that, they have an easy-to-penetrate texture.

Aeration and drainage

For the roots to grow deeply, aeration is recommended. Aeration requires puncturing the soil with tiny holes in order for the water, air and nutrients to penetrate the roots.

Since potting soil easily gets compacted inside a container, the air movement is much less resulting in low aeration. Moreover, it easily gets water-logged. This interrupts the flow of water in the container which can lead to further complications for the plants.

Potting mixes, on the other hand, have better air-flow and water drainage. One of the main reasons is the addition of various ingredients such as peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite to the potting mix. As you may know, these types of materials are good for most plants since they can provide excellent retention, water drainage and airflow properties.

Nutrition-rich potting medium

Dirt in potting soil is naturally abundant in organic matter and minerals. This can offer stable nutrition to the plants. Potting soil can also be fully organic. For those who are looking for an eco-friendly option, potting soil is definitely worth considering.

Potting mixes are also packed with the right nutrients for growing plants. However, since they are soil-less, they are not all-natural. As its name implies, they are just a mix or combination of the different types of material to give proper nutrients to plants. Nonetheless, plants can still get the best nutrients for growing.

Ideal for container gardening

Container gardening is done when there is little or no garden space in your backyard. It uses different sizes and kinds of containers to grow plants.

Potting soil may not be an ideal medium for container gardening. Sometimes, it can do well when used in an open environment. But once it is packed into a container, certain problems in the soil might develop since it will compact easily. This results in blocking off the air circulation and become water-logged.

Furthermore, potting soil may not be ideal for seed starting. Since its particles are tough and heavy, it can be difficult for the seeds to germinate and grow when potting soil is used.

Fortunately, potting mixes are specifically designed for container gardening. Aside from that, you can custom mix your potting mixes so that it will be appropriate to use for a specific plant or particular stage of their growth. For instance, there are available potting mixes for seed-starting plants, orchid mix, cactus mix and many more.

Long-lasting potting medium

Since potting soil is made up of dirt, it will definitely last for a long time. You will just need to add fertiliser or organic manure from time to time to make it usable.

However, the organic parts of potting mixes will eventually break down as time passed by. When this happens, it will make the entire potting mix useless.


Potting soil and potting mix are two different kinds of potting mediums. They both have their own list of benefits and drawbacks.

When choosing which one to be used, it is crucial to consider all the features above. This will help you to determine which potting medium is suitable to use whether you are trying container gardening, large-scale gardening or raised bed gardening.

If gardening and nursery equipment are required for assisting handling potting soil or potting mix, please check out this leading nursery equipment manufacturer in Australia which has been in the market for over 50 years.

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