The 13 Best Potting Soils for Indoor and Outdoor Plants
When shopping for the best potting soil, consider how much you will need, what type of plants you're growing, and whether the mix includes peat (which isn't always harvested sustainably). Also consider whether you need fertilizer and, if so, whether you want to avoid synthetics.
To narrow down the list, we researched the best potting soils, taking into account the considerations above along with consumer ratings. We also talked with Evan Davis Santi, a horticulturalist with Urban Plantscapes LLC, and Charlie Nardozzi, a Regional Emmy Award-winning garden author, radio, and TV personality.
The PittMoss Plentiful Organic Potting Mix is our top pick for best overall potting soil because it is peat-free and organic. Plus, it can be used for a variety of gardening needs.
Here are the best potting soils.
- Best Overall: PittMoss Plentiful Organic Potting Mix
- Best Organic: The Sill Organic Potting Mix
- Best Indoor: Good Dirt Indoor Potting Soil Mix
- Best for Raised Beds: Mountain Valley Seed Company Minute Soil Expanding Coconut Coir
- Best Garden Soil: Miracle-Gro Nature's Care Organic Garden Soil
- Best for Starting Seeds: Hoffman Seed Starter
- Best Orchid Mix: SuperMoss Orchid Bark
- Best for Moisture Control: Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
- Best for Outdoor Plants: Espoma Organic Potting Mix
- Best African Violet Mix: Soil Sunrise African Violet Potting Soil
- Best Peat-Free Soil: PittMoss Performance
- Best for Succulents and Cacti: Perfect Plants Organic Succulent Soil
- Best for Flowers: Proven Winners Premium All Purpose Potting Soil
What We Recommend
Best Overall: PittMoss Plentiful Organic Potting Mix
Best Organic: The Sill Organic Potting Mix
Best Indoor: Good Dirt Indoor Potting Soil Mix
Best for Raised Beds: Mountain Valley Seed Company Minute Soil Expanding Coconut Coir
Best Garden Soil: Miracle-Gro Nature's Care Organic Garden Soil
Best for Starting Seeds: Hoffman Seed Starter
Best Orchid Mix: SuperMoss Orchid Bark
Best for Moisture Control: Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
Best for Outdoor Plants: Espoma Organic Potting Mix
Best African Violet Mix: Soil Sunrise African Violet Potting Soil
Best Peat-Free Soil: PittMoss Performance
Best for Succulents and Cacti: Perfect Plants Organic Succulent Soil
Best for Flowers: Proven Winners Premium All Purpose Potting Soil
The Bottom Line
After carefully considering many mixes, the PittMoss Plentiful is our top pick for the best potting soil. It has a peat-free blend with recycled paper for added sustainability, and its all-purpose use makes it a good choice for a variety of gardening and plant needs.
What to Know About Potting Soil Before Shopping
Before buying potting soil, you'll need to know how much your project requires. For gardening outdoors, multiply the length, width and height of your space to calculate the cubic feet, then divide by 27 to determine cubic inches. You can use an online calculator for potted plants; simply type in your measurements for an estimate.
Soil and Mix Type
Evan Davis Santi, a horticulturalist with Urban Plantscapes LLC, says, "Most potting soil isn't really soil at all and is considerably lighter than garden soil." In fact, many potting soils available for purchase contain a "soilless" blend of ingredients.
The type of soil or potting mix you need depends on what you're planting. He notes that all-purpose blends are probably what you'll use most of the time. However, a sandy blend is going to be better for cacti and succulents while finer or lighter blends are the best potting soils for starting seeds.
Having appropriately drained soil is key to plant health. When planting directly into the ground, consider whether the soil you have promotes drainage or retention of water. If you're not sure, you can test drainage by digging a 12- to 18-inch hole and filling it with water. Once it drains, fill it again and observe how quickly the water drains. You'll want it to drain by about 1 inch every hour.
When buying potting soil or mix, Charlie Nardozzi, a Regional Emmy Award-winning garden author, radio, and TV personality, suggests avoiding "bags that are dense and wet" since that mix is likely "too heavy for most pots."
Many ingredients go into potting mixes, but you'll want to keep a few specifics in mind. When possible, you may want to opt for mixes without vermiculite since it could be harmful to health. Some vermiculite can contain a natural type of asbestos, although the EPA says the risk is minimal.
Peat is another common potting mix ingredient that you'll want to try to use sparingly because of its potential impact on the environment. When buying mixes with peat, look for sustainably harvested peat or an alternative such as coconut coir that's easier on the environment. Alternatively, Canadian peat moss may be a bit more sustainable than peat moss from other locations since Canada has some regulations in place for sustainable harvesting of peat.
If possible, try to also avoid synthetic fertilizers like hydrogel. Instead, fertilize plants with compost or buy organic fertilizer.
Suggested Plant Type
Nardozzi advises gardeners to "match the potting soil mix with the plants." With seeds, he says to look for a seed-starting or germinating mix because these mixes have "been milled so the mix is light and easy for seeds to grow in."
Outdoor containers and transplanted seedlings should have "a potting mix with compost added for [holding] extra water and nutrients."
Nardozzi says houseplants can use a more "general potting mix." However, he notes that growing cacti or African Violets requires a specialized mix.
Your Questions, Answered
Is potting soil reusable?
Potting soil is reusable with a bit of effort. For instance, if you observe insects, you'll want to remove them before reusing the soil. Nardozzi advises composting the soil if the plants that had been growing in it were diseased or infested with insects.
Does potting soil expire?
Santi and Nardozzi both agree that potting soil doesn't expire. However, Nardozzi adds that if the soil has gotten wet, it will be compacted and less effective, so you'll need to "fluff it up again before using." Santi adds that "you will need to reactivate the blend by adding water and nutrients." Adding compost would be a good option to reactivate the soil.
How much potting soil should you put in your planter?
When filling pots or planters, Nardozzi says to fill containers to 2 to 3 inches below the pot rim. He also advises to "wet the potting soil before filling the container because it will settle otherwise, and you'll have to add more later."
Who We Are
This article was written by Brittany VanDerBill, a freelance lifestyle and travel writer whose work has been published with several Dotdash Meredith brands. To create this list, she researched various types of potting soil products with high ratings and contacted two gardening experts: Evan Davis Santi, a horticulturalist with Urban Plantscapes LLC and Charlie Nardozzi, a Regional Emmy Award-winning garden author, radio, and TV personality,