Potting Soil Vs Potting Mix: The Difference Explained

Getting a growing medium for houseplants is one of the most important tasks to perform when getting ready to grow a plant. Although some plants can be raised in water, most plants grow best in the soil.

In the world of gardening, potting mix and potting soil are two words that are often used interchangeably because they are used for the same purpose and this confuses a lot of people. However, they are two different words that mean different things.

The main difference between potting soil and potting mix is their component, potting soil is mainly a gardening container that is just dirt while a potting mix has no dirt rather it is the combination of rich materials like peat moss, sphagnum, bark, perlite, vermiculite, and many others. Potting soil is pretty basic but the potting mix contains adequate plant elements.

If you are vast in gardening, you might be familiar with this; however, if gardening is new to you, you might be purchasing one instead of the other.

The difference between these two isn’t so much and you only have to get a little bit more familiar to understand them. In this article, we will be helping you state out all the differences you should look out for to identify potting mix and potting soil. 

Before we go right into the differences, there is a need to know what each is, even though both are regarded as a growing medium for plants

What Is Potting Mix? 

A potting mix is a growing medium for plants, which is soilless and created for the specific purpose of growing plants in containers.

A potting mix is usually a combination of certain materials that are healthy and right for the growth of plants. The potting mix is light and fluffy and this help’s the plant’s root find its way about.

There are various types of potting mix and they can be created for a specific purpose and specific plants i.e. cactus and orchid both have a potting mix that models their natural habitat. You can also purchase a potting mix for seed growing. As expected, the potting mix comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Of Using A Potting Mix

Here are some reasons to consider using a potting mix.

1. Proper Aeration And Draining System

The potting mix allows the free flow of air and water unlike the potting soil which is quick to become compact and this allows the plant to grow as healthily as possible.  

2. Light Weight

The proper texture for growing a houseplant should be light, and this is what the potting mix gives, unlike potting soil that is dense and hard. In a potting mix, the roots can move freely. There is also a free flow of air and water.

3. Retention Of Water

The potting mix is made up of various materials that together allow water to drain fast and well, yet retain moisture. They also provide airflow properties to aid the plant’s growing process.

4. Nutritious

The potting mix provides the right amount of nutrients that your houseplant requires. You do not need to adjust or make any amendments to the soil. 

Disadvantages Of Potting Mix

Here are some reasons to go for other options than a potting mix.

1. Costly

Potting mix requires certain materials, which cost money, sometimes a lot of money. It is much cheaper and easier to reach for a potting soil than a potting mix because of this. 

2. Short Term

Over time the potting mix breaks down and becomes useless for planting. Unlike the potting soil, you cannot use the potting mix for a long time. 

3. Lightweight

Although there are advantages to the potting mix being light, it may not be suitable in some parts of the world. If you live in a windy environment, your plant and soil may be easily tossed from one end to another because of the weight of your soil. We recommend that you make use of heavy containers in places like this. 

What Is Potting Soil? 

Potting soil is a growing medium of plants that is made up of dirt and other soilless materials, and together, they make up potting soil.

Potting soil is rich in nutrients and this is because of the decayed organic matter and minerals. The potting mix, when mixed with dirt is often regarded as potting soil. Potting soil has various advantages; however, it also has disadvantages that can negate all of its advantages.  

Advantages Of Using Potting Soil

Here are some reasons to consider using potting soil over potting mix.

1. Less Costly

The first reason a lot of people purchase a potting mix is that it is cheaper when compared to the potting mix. It is also very easy to create; hence you can make your potting soil without spending a dime. You only require soil from the garden and/or mix soil with other materials. 

2. Its Organic

If you are all out for organic farming, then the potting soil might just be for you. The potting soil can be fully organic; you only have to mind what you mix to get your soil, unlike potting mix which cannot be guaranteed as organic. Are you eco-friendly? This is for you. 

3. Lasts long

Because the potting soil is 100% organic and natural, it will last for a long period than potting mix. The potting mix overtimes will become unusable, however, potting soil can be used and reused, and you might just have to top it up with some organic matters. 

4. Nutritious

The natural soil is rich in organic matters and that means your plants will be provided all the nutrients it requires. In most cases, likely, you do not require the use of fertilizer once your plant is growing in potting soil. 

Disadvantages of Using Potting Soil

Here are some reasons why you should consider other potting soil alternatives.

1. Easily Compact

This is the most identified disadvantage of using potting soil in a container or for growing a houseplant. The soil, when placed in a container, restricts air circulation in the soil and this hinders that plant’s growth. It is often advised that potting soil should not be used in isolation in a container.   

2. Low Aeration

The use of potting soil makes it hard for air to penetrate the soil. The air movement is usually slow and this is because the soil gets compacted easily when placed in a container.

3. Not Light

Plants grown for indoor purposes and in containers require a very light growing medium, however, the potting soil is not light, neither is it fluffy. A light soil allows the free flow of air and gives space for the roots of the plants to grow. 

4. Unideal For Seed Starting

Seeds will not grow properly in hard and dense soil and this is the situation of the potting mix. Seeds will germinate fast and develop properly when grown in a potting mix, then in potting soil.

The Difference Between Potting Soil And Potting Mix

Making the right choice of growing medium for your plant is as essential as every other thing.

Your choice will determine how healthy your plant becomes and turns out. However, we recommend that you first identify the plant to grow and choose which growing medium is suitable for it, based on the advantages and disadvantages of both plants.

Potting MixPotting Soil
Well drainingCompact
Short termLong-lasting
Suitable for seed growingNot suitable for seed growing
Easy/high aerationLow aeration
Not 100% organicOrganic
Suitable indoorSuitable outdoor

Bear in mind that if you will be starting a plant from seed, then you should go for potting mix.

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