Whether you know it as compost, potting soil or potting mix, this is one ingredient your plants simply can't live without, and choosing the right variety is essential for optimising their growth. From indoor houseplants to hydrangeas and succulents to exotic orchids, there's a potting soil type to suit any plant – the trick is knowing which goes with which!
We've compared the ingredients, nutrients and drainage capacity from popular brands such as Miracle-Gro, Canna Terra and Westland. We've also measured the prices, reviews and features on Amazon and eBay and brought you our ultimate guide to choosing the best potting soil in the UK – enjoy!
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A houseplant potting mix is suitable for most indoor houseplants. The soil is very coarse in texture, and can dry out reasonably quickly, so you need to keep an eye on the water levels. This mix is usually composed of sphagnum peat moss, pine bark and vermiculite or perlite which helps the soil absorb moisture, keeping it soft when wet.
A standard houseplant mix doesn't usually contain any extra nutrient-boosting ingredients, so make sure you check the ingredients list first if you need something extra. Usually, you will need to add your own fertiliser.
If you're looking for a potting mix for germinating seeds rather than for using with fully-grown plants, the soil will need different properties. A seed-starting soil mix is designed specifically for germinating seeds and usually contains additional fertilisers which can feed the plant for months.
This soil won't contain any bark so will have a much finer texture than ordinary soil mix and will often include extra ingredients like coconut coir fibre. A good tip is to choose a well-drained soil mix – this helps to avoid fungal disease with seeds.
The goal here is to replicate the ideal natural environment for that plant, so you'll need to choose a specialised soil mix. Here are some of the most common plants that require specialised blends:
When it comes to potting soil ingredients, the rule of thumb is 'more is more'. Once you've chosen the type of soil mix, select a blend that has the most added nutrients – these will all help in assisting with plant growth. There are three main ingredients to look out for:
Horticultural vermiculite or perlite:
Most organic mixes contain a combination of seaweed, soybean meal, humus, mushroom compost, fish meal, bat guano and bone meal. Here are some key points to consider about organic soil:
The makeup of non-organic potting soil usually consists of a combination of bark, peat moss and perlite/vermiculite. Here are some key points to consider about non-organic soil:
After finding out the conditions your plants thrive in, make sure your potting soil is the best one for that location. For example, plants that reside in shady parts of the house will need lighter soil to enable quick absorption of water, whereas those that need direct sunlight will require denser soil to retain water and not dry out too quickly.
When it comes to hanging baskets, you'll want to look for a product that includes a wetting agent in its list of ingredients. These wetting agents prevent one of the biggest problems with hanging baskets, which is overly-dry soil.
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Before growing anything in your soil, you'll need the soil to be able to maximise the amount of water and nutrients that will reach the plant. Certain ingredients in the soil can help this process by trapping water and retaining it. Check the description for any moisture-retentive ingredients such as peat moss. Opt for a soil with great water retention if your chosen plant naturally thrives in moist conditions.
Aside from food and water, plants also need oxygen to grow. Maximise airflow through your soil by using light and fluffy potting mixes. If your plant needs lots of oxygen, choose a soil mix which allows for decent airflow. You'll want the soil to have flexibility so that the roots grow easily through the compost and can receive air and water. Make sure to choose a soil that doesn't get too dense when wet.
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Professional Soil Mix
The UK’s No.1 Professional Soil Mix for House Plants
All-Purpose Expanding Potting Mix With Added Fertilisers and Coconut Coir
All Purpose Enriched Compost
Low-Peat Enriched Compost to Encourage Plant Growth
Multi-Purpose Compost With John Innes
Secret Blend That Guarantees the Right Level of Water for Your Plant
All Purpose Premium Compost
Potting Soil With 14 Slow-Release Nutrients and Minerals
All-Mix Potting Soil
Fertile Soil Mix for Germinating Seeds and Outdoor Plants
All Purpose Compost
A Peat-Based Potting Mix That's Perfect for Seeding
Compo Sana Potting Soil
Perlite Potting Soil for Use Between October and March
Orchid Potting Mix
Peat-Free Soil Mix for Orchids
Organic Cactus & Succulent Soil Mix
An Organic Soil Mix for Desert and Jungle Cacti and Succulents
Claiming to be "the purest potting mix possible for plant cultivation" Canna's Terra Professional Soil Mix is also our number one choice. Containing more premium ingredients than your average houseplant potting mix, this is the highest quality mix you'll find in the UK.
Canna's products are predominantly made for the professional audience, so you know it's good stuff. It's pest-free, friable and filled with tonnes of organic matter, providing heaps of nutrients to your plant. For an all-purpose soil mix, you can't get better than this.
This lightweight potting mix is enriched with extra micro-nutrients which boosts overall plant health and development. One of its biggest selling points is that the compost comes tightly packed but expands significantly once water is added. This makes this product perfect for those tight on storage space!
This exceptional value, all-purpose potting mix is a great all-rounder and suitable for most plants – both indoors and out. It also has the added bonus of a decent water retention capacity.
One of the leaders in the gardening industry, Miracle-Gro produces countless gardening products including a wide variety of composts and potting soils. But their Miracle-gro All-Purpose Enriched Compost is one of the best.
With a low peat count, this compost almost guarantees to increase plant growth, compared with a standard potting mix. The ingredients contain a whole list of nutrients, but one of the most essential elements is its Smart Release Feed granules.
This mix from Westland is an advanced, rich, multi-purpose compost, packed with nutrients to optimise plant growth. Westland partnered with John Innes (the horticultural institute) to incorporate their unique formula for water retention into their blend.
This unique formula allows the soil to retain the nutrients and slowly release them when needed. This helps in curbing both over and under-watering. It also includes perlite to improve air circulation around the roots.
This is an excellent compost to buy if you're interested in versatility. While this is primarily a potting soil, it can work well with flower beds, hanging baskets, outside potted plants, borders and houseplants.
With a unique blend of 14 nutrients and minerals, you can be sure that your plants are getting a decent medium! This soil mix also contains granules that slowly release the nutrients over six months, so there's no need for fertiliser for a long time!
The potting soil from Biobuzz has an excellent makeup of 20% sphagnum peat moss, 25% garden peat, 10% high-quality worm-humus, 30% perlite and 5% Biobuzz pre-mix. This mix is heavily pre-fertilised, so it's great for seedlings, seeds, and any plant for that matter.
This fertile soil contains a micro-fill ecosystem, but even though this product contains fertiliser, it will only be enough to last a couple of weeks, then you'll need to top the soil with fertiliser yourself. This product is also only suitable for outdoor plants.
This rich, peat-based compost from Jack's Magic is an excellent purchase if you want one product for numerous plants. This mix can be used for germinating and potted plants, and is suitable for inside and outside use.
The soil is a mix of natural ingredients, but not organic, meaning the mix could be lacking in additional nutrients that you would get from an organic product. However, it does contain enough fertiliser for around 4 weeks, making it particularly good for seeding.
This potting soil is an excellent all-rounder, working well for both indoor, garden and balcony plants. It contains a unique root-activator to ensure strong root growth, and the mix contains a decent dose of fertiliser so you won't need to add that in for up to eight weeks.
The Compo Sana Universal Potting Soil also contains a healthy amount of perlite which allows the soil to breathe and increases water drainage. The downside is that this soil mix can only be used from March to October.
This product from Westland has 0% peat, making it perfect for potting and re-potting orchids. This professionally-made soil is a unique blend of bark and Seramis clay.
These ingredients provide an open structure for lots of airflow to circulate the roots, plus, the bark also helps the soil to retain moisture. The issue with this product is that the value for money isn't great considering the smaller-sized bag.
If you need specialised soil for cacti or succulents, this mix by Westland is one of the best products out there. It works for both desert and jungle-type cacti and succulents, providing the unique formula these plants need to thrive. The formula contains additional properties for drainage.
However, due to the composition of this soil, it can only be used with a specific type of plant so is not as multipurpose as some. But if you're keen to turn your green fingers to the challenge of succulents or cacti, this bag is a great price to start you out.
As any seasoned gardener will tell you, vegetables and flowers begin with good soil! Potting soil is a growing medium which nurtures, feeds and waters your plants. It comes in various shapes and sizes so that when used correctly, it creates the ideal environment for your plant to thrive.
Understanding the various types and properties of compost will help you pick the right mix for your plants. Depending on the plant, this could be fertile and rich soil, loamy soil, sandy soil, 'soilless soil' or organic soil. It may seem confusing at first, but our guide is here to help!
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