To answer that question, first consider what plants in general need to grow and thrive: sunlight, water, oxygen, and food. As part of this equation for indoor plants, it’s crucial to use the right type of soil that allows for proper drainage—and that’s where potting soil comes in.

use potting soil for indoor plants

When you use potting soil that allows for optimal drainage; you’ll prevent the formation of overwatered roots (also referred to as “wet feet”) that limit the plants’ access to the oxygen it requires. Because the pore space of potting soil naturally allows for more oxygen access, it contributes significantly to the health of the plant.

That’s the short version, anyhow. Now, we’ll break down the answer more fully.

What “Potting” Indicates

When you see the word potting in the context of soil, we’re always talking about soil that is intended to be used in a container. You’ll know that you’re planting in a container if you’re planting in anything other than the ground. That could mean you’re planting in indoor pots perhaps made from terra cotta or ceramic indoor pottery, outdoor planter boxes, or even raised garden beds.

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. 

When your goal is to plant flowers or other houseplants for use in indoor containers, Decker’s Nursery typically recommends potting soil. Why? The main issue to address in container gardening is appropriate drainage, and both products—potting soil and potting mix—provide this benefit. However, potting soil comes at a better price point and, at Decker’s Nursery, we’re always looking for ways to provide our customers with quality at the best price. Potting mixes can be as much as 35 to 50 percent more in cost. And because potting soil doesn’t contain organic matter or nutrients, we recommend incorporating a fertilizer regimen.

That said, potting soil is not always the recommended choice. If, for example, you plan to grow fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs, potting mix is typically a better option. This mixture still provides the primary benefit (providing container plants with the water and air they need through proper drainage) along with the additional benefit of including organic matter to help provide and retain nutrients better than potting soil alone.

Potting mix is also preferable for seed-starting and growing cannabis. Potting mixes, such as Happy Frog, contain the organic matter that helps cannabis grow more effectively and produce better buds.

More About Drainage 

As we’ve discussed the features of using potting soil or potting mix for indoor plants, the concept of appropriate drainage weaves through the narrative. Here’s more about why.

Plants come with root systems with crucial roles in plant health. Roots anchor plants into the soil and absorb water located around them. Plant roots are designed for these very specific purposes—and they perform their duties very well. So, when more water is available than what’s ideal, the roots will still absorb it, damaging plant health. When there is an overabundance of water in the soil, that’s the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi growth. This, in turn, suffocates the plant roots.

An overabundance of water can occur through overwatering, poor drainage, or a combination. When this happens, root rot develops and the plant may not survive. The best cure? Prevention, which includes planting in potting soil that facilitates healthy drainage and not overwatering.

Besides using the best potting soil for indoor plants, use indoor pots with drainage holes and create an appropriate watering schedule. In general, the soil should be moist but not wet in your container; this can translate into watering once or twice weekly during spring and summer with less watering taking place in the rest of the year. 

It’s also important to choose the correct size for your indoor containers. Ensure there’s enough space for the plant’s root system, taking into account its growth and how quickly that will likely happen. Too small pots can have soil that dries out too quickly. Too large? The soil may get too much water that’s then absorbed by plant roots. This can lead to mold and root rot.

To help with appropriate watering, you can use one of our convenient self-watering pots, available in three different sizes.

There are some aquatic plants that do well with more water, as well as other plants that do best with little water. So, if you have questions, contact our experts online; stop by our retail garden center, or call us at (631) 201-1148 during business hours. 

Best Potting Mix and Potting Soil for Indoor Plants

Although there’s no one right answer for all plants, Espoma Organic Potting Mix for All Potted Plants is ideal for most of them. This mix contains the finest natural ingredients, a rich blend of sphagnum peat moss, humus, and perlite. Fortified with earthworm castings, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, and shrimp meal, it’s also enhanced with Myco-tone®. What it doesn’t contain: any synthetic plant foods or chemicals. 

Contact Decker’s Nursery

At Decker’s, we have the best soil for indoor plants at reasonable prices at our family-owned and operated nursery and retail garden center. Stop by during open hours for everything you need to grow healthy houseplants—all at reasonable prices—or contact us online