What Kind of Soil to Use in Container Gardening

What Kind of Soil to Use in Container Gardening

If you’re new to container gardening, you’ve probably wondered what kind of soil to use in container gardening is best.

Between garden soil, top soil, and potting soil it can be confusing. It can also probably be tempting to either use soil straight from the ground (top soil) since it is free and readily available.

It can also be tempting to purchase garden soil from your gardening store. However,0 if you’re planning on creating a container garden, it is best to use potting soil for any plants in your container garden.

Keep reading to learn more about why potting soil is the right choice, and our top picks for potting soil to use in container gardening!

Why do You Need to Use Potting Soil?

When planting a container garden, its important to choose the right soil.

As a new gardener, it can be tempting to use soil straight from the ground, or even bags labelled garden soil at your local gardening store. These are often cheaper (or free) compared to potting mixes.

However, potting mixes are the best choice for container gardens for several reasons.


Potting mixes contain multiple ingredients in them. Often you’ll see the most common mediums aside from soil are perlite or coco peat (also called coco coir).

These mediums help keep potting soil less dense than garden soil or soil in the ground. As a result, they help provide drainage for potted plants.

Getting the right amount of drainage can be done in several different ways, but its difficult to do at all if you have a super dense and compact soil. Garden soil or ground soil will hold a lot of moisture and leave you’re plants roots susceptible to root rot.

By using a potting soil instead of garden soil or ground soil you’re helping your plant avoid this risk.


Another key factor that potting soil offers is the nutrients mixed in.

When you use garden soil or top soil, there’s no nutrients already mixed in. Its possible that your soil is naturally rich in the nutrients and ingredients needed for your plants.

However, its also possible that it does not have the right mix.

You also risk other potential issues like pH level. A ground soil’s pH level could be drastically different than what your plant needs to thrive.

Unless you’re planning to add fertilizer, and check the pH level of your soil prior to planting, we recommend using potting soil for your container garden.


Aeration is another benefit you’ll gain from using potting soil.

Similar to how potting soil provides drainage, the fact that potting soil is less compact means that you’re roots will get better air flow. This might sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually quite good for plant’s roots to get some air exposure.

No Pests

The last benefit of using potting soil that we’ll mention is the fact that if you purchasing potting soil its unlikely that you’ll get a mix that has pests in it.

When you use soil from the ground it can be hard to tell exactly what insects or larvae you’re bringing with it. This can lead to your plant suffering from diseases or infestations later on. If you’re planting a seed it can kill your plant early on when its in its most vulnerable seedling stage.

The Best Potting Soil Options for Container Gardening

Now, lets discuss the best potting soil options for container gardening.

Best Option: Happy Frog Potting Mix

Our top pick is the Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil mix. You’ll notice we have recommended this potting soil in many other articles on Fig and Spruce.

This mix is specifically designed for container planting, and the balance of ingredients will work well for a wide range of plants (meaning you don’t generally need to worry about buying multiple types of potting mix for different plants).

This potting soil is nutrient rich and comes with an adjusted pH level to allow for “maximum nutrient uptake”.

The price on this potting soil is also very comparable to budget potting mixes, so for the quality that you’re getting this bag is a great option for your container garden.

Best Budget Option: Miracle Gro Potting Mix

If you’re looking for a budget option, you could consider the miracle gro potting mix.

It also comes in varying sizes, so if you know you only need a small amount of soil this is a good option.

While this might not have all the high quality ingredients that the Happy Frog Potting Mix has, it still offers a solid potting mix for your plants. It comes with fertilizers mixed in that are balanced specifically for container gardens.

Miracle Gro is a company that is well established as a budget friendly gardening brand, and this potting mix is no exception. You get a very high quality mix for the money spent with this item.

Best Drainage Option: Mother Earth Coco + Perlite Mix

For those with a heavy hand at watering their plants, you may want to consider the mother earth coco perlite mix. This is an “alternative to potting soil” in that it is a mix of 65-75% coco coir and perlite.

This mix will give you’re plant the most drainage and aeration. If you’re someone who has killed plants from over watering, this could be a good mix to consider.

What to consider:

Lets talk about some factors to consider when evaluating potting mixes.

What ingredients are used?

The ingredients that make up a potting soil are the key to selecting a good one. Look for mediums like coco coir or perlite that add drainage.

Also look for descriptions that note organic ingredients, this will help ensure a nutrient rich mix.

Does it include fertilizer?

Something to consider is does the potting mix include fertilizer? Often times it does, but its always a good idea to check before buying. If it does not you’ll want to consider adding fertilizer to the mix to ensure your plants have everything they need to thrive.

Can I use Garden Soil?

So – if after reading this article you’re still considering using garden soil, our answer is yes, conditionally.

It is definitely possible to use garden soil in place of potting soil in a container garden.

However, you’ll want to ensure that the pH level in your soil is right. Youl’ll also need to confirm that it has the nutrients you need (likely this will mean adding fertilizer).

You’ll also want to mix a medium in like perlite or coco coir/coco peat to ensure that the soil is not too dense for your potted plants.

So – can you use garden soil for a container garden? Yes. Should you? We would only say yes if you’re comfortable making several adjustments and testing the soil prior to use.

For beginners just getting started with container gardening, we would recommend a potting mix to help avoid these pitfalls discussed above.

What potting soil have you used that you loved? Let us know in the comments below!