Houseplants bring freshness and vitality to any home, but droopy leaves and unhappy stems can be a real downer. Even if you’re doing everything by the book—adjusting sunlight, timing waterings—your plants might still be suffering because of the soil.

There’s a big difference between potting soil and potting mix, and getting it right can be the key to your plant’s happiness.

What exactly is potting soil?

Potting soil is what you might picture when you think of traditional soil—it’s heavy, dense, and meant for outdoor use. It’s packed with all the nutrients plants need, but it’s not great at drainage. Plus, it might harbor unwanted guests like weed seeds or fungi.

If you’re using potting soil, it’s a good idea to give it a refresh once a year, usually after the winter chill has passed.

When to reach for potting soil

Potting soil is your go-to for outdoor landscaping projects. It’s perfect for mixing with compost and fertiliser to give your garden beds a boost. Bagged versions often come with added compost, making them perfect for reviving your flower beds after the cold season.

Ingredients checklist for potting soil:

  • Soil
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Wetting agent
  • Fertiliser


Decoding potting mix

Contrary to popular belief, potting mix doesn’t actually contain any soil. Instead, it’s a blend of organic matter, fertiliser, and additives like perlite for better drainage. It’s lighter and fluffier than potting soil, ensuring your plants’ roots have room to breathe. Plus, it’s sterile, so you don’t have to worry about unwelcome fungi or weeds. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to refresh your potting mix every six to eight months to keep your plants thriving.

When to opt for potting mix

Potting mix is the way to go for your indoor houseplants. Unless your plant specifically calls for soil, potting mix will provide the perfect environment for healthy growth.

Ingredients checklist for potting mix

  • Organic matter
  • Fertilizer
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss

Tailored mixes for different plants

Not all plants have the same needs when it comes to soil. That’s where specialised potting mixes come in handy:

Moisture-control potting mix: Ideal for plants that like to hold onto water a bit longer, such as those that thrive in humid conditions. These mixes help regulate moisture levels, keeping your plants happy and hydrated.

Succulent or Cacti potting mix: On the flip side, succulents and cacti prefer soil that drains quickly to prevent waterlogging. Look for mixes with a higher proportion of perlite and sand to keep these desert darlings thriving.


By understanding the difference between potting soil and potting mix, along with knowing when to use each, you’ll set your indoor garden up for success. So, whether you’re reviving your outdoor oasis or tending to your indoor jungle, choosing the right soil is the first step toward plant perfection.

ALSO SEE: Making your own potting mix

Colourful Calatheas

Feature image: Pexels