Potting Soil vs. Potting Mix – Is There Really a Difference?

Yup. There sure is (a difference).

In the most basic definition, potting soil is meant to be used outside in your flower beds, vegetable gardens or landscaping. Potting mix is a soilless mix of peat, perlite and bark (generally), meant for use indoors with houseplants.

And that’s the end of this article. That was easy. Teehee.

Or not…because unfortunately, many of the producers of potting mix and potting soil do not respect the difference in these names. Some brands, not all, feel no need to label their products accurately. Which means that when you are shopping for one of these items, you will have to be careful. If you are considering a new brand or a new mix, I would recommend basing your choice on two things; weight and ingredients.

#1 – Weight of the Bag – So a super simplified way to make a quick judgement on whether a product is potting mix or potting soil is to pick up the bag. If you compare a similarly sized bag of potting mix to a bag of potting soil, the bag of potting soil is going to be much heavier. No matter what the label calls it.

#2 – Read the Contents Label – Going to the contents label is a must if you are buying a potting mix/soil for the first time. It will list exactly what contents are found inside of the bag. Here’s a photo from a seed-starting mix from Miracle-Gro.

After looking at the list of ingredients, you can see that there is no actual soil in this mix and so it is appropriate for use with houseplants and (thankfully) labeled correctly also.

It’s easy to see why plant people find a brand of potting soil or potting mix and then stay loyal to that brand. It can be scary to try new things especially where our beloved plants are concerned. To me, it feels safer to just make up my own potting mixes as opposed to buying a premade potting mix. That way I know absolutely every ingredient that is in my mix and what amount or percentage of each ingredient is included. I suppose you could say it gives me an element of control. If that appeals to you, I’ll include a link here to a blog post with the recipe for my Peace Lily potting mix. Also here is a link to a video for my Peace Lily potting mix.

I do also want to address the potting soil side of this discussion for all those Garden Girls and Garden Guys. I personally don’t tend to be as picky about brands when I need to bring potting soil into my flowerbeds. My vegetable garden, of course, is a completely different story since my family eats from our garden. Either way, a potting mix is not appropriate for an outdoor, in-the-ground plant. Our outdoor plants need to be planted in healthy living soil to thrive. (If you would like to read about what soil really is, I’ll include a link to my soil blog post for you.)

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Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

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