Potting Mix 101




What about soil? 
The majority of plants need soil to live. Their roots need soil to get water. However, not all soil is 100% soil. We might see our plants potted in brown, soily dirt, but they might be potted in something else. Most people use "potting mixes" or "artificial potting media". Potting Mixes are characterized by their lightweight, weed-free properties. We can't use outdoor soil for our indoor plants. Mainly, because when we take soil from the outdoors, indoors, we're taking in all the critters that live in that soil too (critters that by the way, would love to eat your plants). Also, outdoor soil is mostly composed of clay, sand and silt, which are heavy and prone to hardening when they dry out entirely. (I bet you think this doesn't sound too good for your indoor plant, don't you?)
What’s in potting media/mix?
Mostly, potting mixes have peat, with perlite and compost. Different mixes may also have wood chips, poma stones, sand or other materials.


About soil's components:
Peat —  Most mixes contain peat, in high quantities. It's spongy and holds water.
Perlite — White, light pebbles made from volcanic glass. They help in controlling water and air inside the potting mix.
Sand — silicon dioxide. Helps in draining water.
Wood chips/Bark — Organic matter that's about to decay. It provides a release of macronutrients and is denser than peat.
Compost — Nutrient rich and microbe rich, it helps plants grow a lot faster.
Glass/Rocks — Don't trust mixes that have these! They are heavy and not recommended as an ingredient in soil.


What media should you use?
This really depends on where you want to grow your plants. For anything indoors, you'd want to use a potting mix. For anything outdoors, you'd want to use soil. Soil is better for anything outdoors because it's heavier than potting mix (soil adds unnecessary weight to your indoor containers). Indoor plants need more air circulation in their roots. This means that if we use heavy soil for our indoor plants, we could potentially damage it's roots and block moisture. This can cause disease and bacteria in our indoor plants (your plant could potentially die, too). 


It's important to take into account that different plants also prefer different potting mix components. Succulents, snake plants and aloe like more porous mixes, that allow water to run through quickly and not hold in as much humidity. They prefer dry soil than overly wet soil. Ferns prefer media that contains more peat, that helps soil stay moist. 
Different mixes have been developed for some species of plants. Succulent mix was developed with extra sand and coarser materials to help them drain water faster. Orchid mix is made up of tree bark, perlite and sphagnum moss. Succulents could be planted in regular potting mix. Orchids must be planted in orchid mix, which resembles the trees in which they grow in the wilderness (orchids require a little more care). 




Bottom Line
Potting mix is never outdoor soil. Use potting mix for any of your indoor plants. Take into account that it must give your plant's roots air, moisture and nutrition. Soil from the outdoors is recommended for outdoor gardening only.
For any other questions, make sure to contact our plant experts!