These Are the Best Potting Soils for Indoor and Outdoor Plants, According to an Expert

These Are the Best Potting Soils for Indoor and Outdoor Plants, According to an Expert

Head to the nursery and you’ll find an array of potting soils for every imaginable gardening need from vegetable gardens to repotting your houseplants. However, there’s generally no need to purchase specialized potting soils for every type of plant. “Potting mixes are more or less interchangeable,” says Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD, professor and extension urban horticulturalist at Washington State University. “They also don’t need all those additives such as bio-stimulants and microbial inoculants.” If you’re concerned about sustainability, look for those that don’t contain ingredients such as peat and kelp, which may not be sustainably harvested.

On the other hand, some plants do benefit from specific soil types. “The media should reflect the natural habitat of the plant,” says Chalker-Scott. “For example, succulents and cacti do best in a coarse, sandy soil, while orchids that grow in trees do best in a rough, woody medium.”

When shopping locally, avoid buying bags that are saturated with water. Wet bags may compact and lose air spaces, which roots need to “breathe.” Soggy potting media also may release excess fertilizer (if the bag is labeled as continuous feed, controlled release or slow release), which can harm your baby plants.

Also, here's some good news if you’re thrifty: You can reuse old potting soil from previous year’s pots. “After old potting media has sat around for a while, it becomes compost,” says Chalker-Scott. “It doesn’t need any special treatment to ‘revive’ it. The material is still biologically active, with microbes freeing up nutrients as they decompose the material.”

The only exception: Don’t bring outdoor potting soil indoors because it may contain insect eggs, which can hatch once inside your home (yeah, definitely not something you want!), says Chalker-Scott.

Ahead, our top picks for the best potting soils for indoor and outdoor plants.

(Aleksandr Zubkov - Getty Images)
Burpee Natural and Organic Potting Mix


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This potting mix contains coconut coir, as an alternative to peat moss, to retain moisture. It can be used in containers both indoors and out, for flowers, herbs, vegetables and houseplants, and it contains a slow release plant food that feeds for several months. It’s also been reviewed and is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), a nonprofit organization that determines which products can be used in organic production.

PittMoss Plentiful Organic Potting Mix



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If you prefer a potting mix that doesn’t use peat, which may not be sustainably harvested, this one is made from recycled cellulose fibers, such as newspaper. It’s 100 percent peat-free and OMRI-listed. Its texture is different from most other types of potting mix, and it dries out quickly, so you may need to keep a careful eye on plants potted in this medium until you get a sense of how often you’ll need to water.

Harris Premium Succulent and Cactus Potting Mix



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Cacti and succulents don’t like to stay wet; in fact, overwatering is a common reason many of these plants die. This mix contains humus, pumice, compost, perlite and other ingredients for fast drainage, which prevents roots from compacting and staying soggy. Bonus: The zippered bag is easy to reseal.

Espoma Organic Orchid Mix



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Orchids need good drainage and plenty of air movement through the medium for healthy roots. This coarse-textured potting medium contains pine park, perlite and charcoal, which permits good root aeration. For best results, soak the chips to hydrate, let drain, then repot your orchid. This mix also works well for bromeliads.

Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix



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Some potting mixes contain hydrogels or water-storing crystals that are polymers which expand to absorb water, slowly releasing it as the soil dries. Though the polymer’s effectiveness diminishes over time, this may be helpful in containers that tend to dry out quickly, such as window boxes. It may also help you if you’re forgetful about watering. This mix also contains slow-release fertilizer that feeds plants for several months.

Minute Soil Compressed Coco Coir Fiber Grow Medium

Mountain Valley Seed Company


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If space is a premium and you don’t have room to store big bags of potting soil, this lightweight block expands to yield 15 gallons of soil (about a wheelbarrow-full) when you add water. Take out just what you need, when you need it. It’s also OMRI-listed and peat-free because it’s compressed coco coir fiber. It can be used as a growing medium or to add to existing pots to improve aeration and water retention. Just remember you will need to add your own fertilizer to feed plants because it doesn’t contain any.

(Minute Soil)

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Here are the best potting soils for all your plants, from vegetables to house plants to flowers. We found the best organic and multipurpose options.