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All Soil Is Created Equally– PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #11

October 23, 2017

MONDAY 10.23.17 MYTH: All soil is created equally

The day when I purchased my first plant – a succulent – I armed myself with a bucket and a digger, and headed to my city-dwelling courtyard to start poking the ground. I made repotting a mission since I rewarded myself a pretty designer planter. In the middle of the sweat, a senior neighbor struck up a conversation on how nice to see young people caring about plants nowadays. I gently corrected her, telling her all my efforts were only for a small succulent I just bought and was uber excited about. She surprisingly laid down the law – that no indoor plants should be living in dirt. Dirt? Indoor plants? I was perplexed- don’t all plants live in dirt? 

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between soil, potting mix, and dirt? Does it matter which one you use for indoor plants?

Image via Online

Soil VS. Potting Mix

Potting mix:

AKA potting soil is in fact not real soil from the earth. Instead, it’s a fine mixture made from compost such as bark, peat moss, perlite, and other ingredients.  In addition, it is low in mineral content and microbial diversity – but needs to be that way. Because potting mix is mainly used for indoor plants.


On the other hands, is a rich medium that is rich in nutrients and microbes from the mother nature. Soil is what you see on the ground, in the park, or use in outdoor gardens mostly. Soil outside is the result of hundreds of years of erosion of rocks and a little bit of organic matter. Soil outside also contains insects and possibly plant pathogens that you won’t want to have indoors.

Other Media 


I don’t know about you, but I often confused the difference between soil and dirt. Frankly, I used it interchangeably. Little did I know that dirt is dead soil, basically. When you hold dirt in your hand, the consistency is often rocky and silty. In addition, dirt lacks beneficial nutrients and microorganisms that healthy plants need and thrive on.


Compost is the decayed organic material and should only be used when it has broken down completely. Compost will often look dark and have a rich, earthy smell. In addition, it is used as a fertilization for garden soil, not meant to replace your regular soil or potting mix.

What media should you use? 

What media you use really depends on where you grow your plants. For example, you want to use a potting mix to grow plants, herbs, and vegetables that are indoors. Whereas soil is best for any outdoor planting, such as your garden. Why? You wouldn’t want to use soil for any potted plants indoors because soil is so heavy that it will make your containers much heavier than if you use a potting mix. Your indoor plants need good air circulation in their roots system. Using soil in a planter is often too heavy and compact, not allowing for plant roots to spread, and not allowing for moisture to penetrate the soil. As a result, diseases and bacterias can easily creep on your plant and attack it – your plant may die.

In addition, different plants sometimes will prefer different potting mix made up. For example, a succulent, snake plant, or aloe will like a media that is more porous, such as perlite, that water can run through quickly and not hold as much water. (We all know how they prefer to be on the dry side, right?) On the other hand, ferns and mini terrarium plants will prefer a medium with more peat.  Since it helps the soil to stay uniformly moist, which is what most tropical plants prefer.

The bottom line is potting mix is different from the soil outside! Remember, it’s best to use potting mix for any indoor plants. Use one that gives your plant roots the preferred air, moisture, and nutrition balance it needs. Oh, and if you are wondering what happened to my first succulent, it died after a few month because I used soil. Lesson learned!

PS: Not sure what kind of potting soil to buy? Email us at help@thesill.com.

PPS: Read more plant knowledge here, including know where to put your plants, and find the correct size planter for your plants










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