Choosing the best types of potting soil for your flowers, herbs, and vegetables will greatly enhance your plant’s performance. In this article, we’ll describe some of the most in-demand types of potting soils, and we’ll use our varieties of Espoma Organic Potting Soils as examples.

different types of potting soil

Most often, the terms “potting soils” and “potting mixes” are used interchangeably. The differences are subtle and important to understand. There is a difference in cost between the two types and your selection will likely be based on what you’re growing. 

Potting soil:

  • Potting soil is a structured soil, (man-made) it doesn’t have any actual soil in the compound. It’s formulated to provide optimum drainage which is critical when you’re planting in any sort of container (pots, elevated gardens, etc). 
  • Potting soil provides the basic needs of any plant; it’s a growing medium that will support the plant and provide space for roots to grow well. 
  • Because potting soil doesn’t contain organic material, you’ll need to incorporate a fertilizing practice into your plant care. The type of fertilizer required will differ by the kind of plant you’re growing.
  • Potting soil may include a low ratio of organic fertilizer. The Espoma brand of soils also include mycorrhizal spores that work with a plant’s root system to increase the efficacy and size of a root system.
  • Potting soil is perfect for growing flowers, succulents, and houseplants. Some gardeners use it in very large containers because it’s significantly lighter in weight. 

Potting mix:

  • Potting mixes have been developed because container gardening has grown in popularity. As our homes and outdoor living areas become smaller, we try to maximize the limited space.  
  • Potting mixes are essentially potting soil with organic matter added. Most often they will have a low-ratio fertilizer and may also include bio-stimulants like mycorrhizal spores. 
  • Despite the (pretty confusing) similarity to the name “potting soil,” it does not contain any soil. Instead, this mix contains organic substances that help with drainage: peat moss, sphagnum moss, pine bark, and so on. Additional organic material also provides the nutrients that plants need for optimal health and these differences are primarily what make up the higher cost.
  • Potting mixes were primarily developed to assist with vegetables and crops being grown in containers. Many cannabis growers also use potting mixes as it tends to yield the best results. 

All of Decker’s potting soils/mixes contain rich blends of the finest natural ingredients with no synthetic plant foods or chemicals.

All Purpose Potting Mix

The Espoma Organic Potting Mix is a general-purpose potting mix that is ideal for indoor and outdoor container gardening alike, this blend contains sphagnum peat moss, humus, and perlite fortified with earthworm castings, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and feather meal—enhanced with Myco-tone®.

Seed Starter

Seed starter potting mix is very targeted in its purpose: to nurture seedlings and root cuttings. Espoma Organic Seed Starter improves moisture retention in the soil and promotes root growth. Use this product in the late winter or early spring to start the seeding process before transplanting them into your garden. This product is formulated from the following: 80 to 90 percent sphagnum peat moss, perlite, limestone (to adjust pH), and yucca extract. 

Was selected as the best Seed Starting Soil by Better Homes and Garden.

Cactus Mix

The Espoma Organic Cactus Mix is an all-natural potting soil mix used for cactus, palm, and citrus—as well as for all succulents. This product promotes optimum aeration and drainage and root growth. You can use it any time of the year in planting containers.

Orchid Mix

The Espoma Organic Orchid Mix is the ideal, all-natural, premium soil mix for orchids and other epiphytes. This potting soil allows water to drain freely and air to circulate well around the orchid roots, which is vital for healthy plants. This product is specially designed to help plants that naturally thrive in the branches of tropical rainforest trees but are grown in your gardening containers. 

Raised Bed

Here’s another one of the popular types of potting mix: the Espoma Organic Raised Bed Mix. This is specifically designed to create the ideal growing environment within all of your outdoor raised garden beds where organic gardening takes place. This product is enhanced with alfalfa, kelp, and feather meal along with Myco-tone®.

Land & Sea

The Espoma Organic Land & Sea Gourmet Compost is a different kind of product, but we’ll include this in our list because of its popularity. This is a special blend of peat and humus from the land along with crab and lobster shells from the sea. The result? A high-quality finished compost created from the finest ingredients available. You can then use this to improve your native soils prior to planting flowers, vegetables, trees, and shrubs. 

Additional Types of Potting Mixes

Other types of potting mix available at Decker’s Nursery include the following: 

  • Espoma Organic Moisture Mix: This is another all-purpose product for indoor and outdoor container gardening. It contains coir, earthworm castings, and Myco-tone®.
  • Espoma Organic African Violet Mix: This improves aeration and moisture retention and promotes root growth; it’s also a premium choice for other houseplants besides violets. 
  • Espoma Organic Bonsai Mix: This blend includes calcined clay and expanded shale. Specially formulated for all Bonsai, it improves moisture retention and provides optimal aeration and drainage.

Benefits of Potting Soils and Potting Mixes

To grow and thrive, plants need sunlight, water, oxygen, and food. With container plants, it’s vital to select the type of potting soil that allows optimal drainage and aeration.

The root systems of plants play crucial roles in their health, anchoring them into the soil and absorbing water and nutrients around them. Plant roots perform their duties well—even too well. If too much water is available to them, they’ll continue to absorb it; so, what’s absolutely necessary for plant health (water) can lead to damaged plant health when there’s an overabundance available to absorb in the soil. This can happen through overwatering or poor drainage—or a combination. 

Once too much water is absorbed, root rot develops and may be not reversible. So, prevention is the best cure, which includes choosing the proper potting mixes or soils for the plants you’re growing—which facilitates healthy drainage. Also, be sure to plant them in containers with drainage holes and then water them appropriately. Soil should be moist but not wet; try watering once or twice a week during spring and summer and less during the rest of the year. Watch for signs of dried-out soil, as well, because this usually means there isn’t enough moisture for the plant’s roots to absorb.  

You can try one of our convenient self-watering pots, available in three different sizes, to streamline the process of determining just the right amount of water needed.

Contact Decker’s Nursery 

If you have questions about the right types of potting mix to buy for your container plants, just let us know. Whether you contact our experts online; stop by our retail garden center, or call us at (631) 201-1148 during business hours, we’re always happy to help!