Potting soil

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A flowerpot filled with potting soil

Potting soil, also known as potting mix or miracle soil, is a medium in which to grow plants, herbs and vegetables in a pot or other durable container. The first recorded use of the term is from an 1861 issue of the American Agriculturist.[1]

Some common ingredients used in potting soil are peat, composted bark, sand, perlite and recycled mushroom compost, although many others are used and the proportions vary hugely. Most available brands have their pH fine-tuned with limestone; some contain a small amount of fertilizer and slow-release nutrients.[2] Despite its name, little or no soil is used in potting soil because it is considered too heavy for growing houseplants.[3]

Some plants require potting soil that is specific for their environment. For example, an African violet would grow better in potting soil containing extra peat moss, while a cactus requires sharp drainage, similar to perlite or sand.[4] But potting soil is not ideal for all contained gardening. Insectivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap and the pitcher plant, prefer nutrient-poor soils common to bogs and fens,[5] while water-based plants thrive in a heavier topsoil mix.[6]

Commercially available potting soil is sterilized, in order to avoid the spread of weeds and plant-borne diseases. It is possible to reuse commercial potting soil, provided that the remnants of plant roots, fungus, weeds and insects are removed from the mixture through heating before new planting can take place.[7] Packaged potting soil is sold in bags ranging from 5 to 50 pounds (2.3–22.7 kg).[8]

As with garden soil, potting soil can attract insects. For example, the fungus gnat is often found around houseplants because it lays eggs in moist potting soil.[9]

Infections of Legionnaires' disease due to potting mix have been reported in Australia,[10] New Zealand,[11] the Netherlands[12] the United States [13], and Japan.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ Nissen, Dante. "The Indoor Plant Bible." Page 21. Barron’s. ISBN 0-7641-5769-8
  3. ^ Pleasant, Barbara. "The Complete Houseplant Survival Guide." Pages 314. Storey Publishing. ISBN 1-58017-569-4
  4. ^ Burne, Geoffrey. "Encyclopedia of Container Gardening." Page 22. Fog City Press. ISBN 978-1-877019-43-2
  5. ^ "Dirty Buttons - Arts and Culture - Philly Weekly". philadelphiaweekly.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07.
  6. ^ The Christian Science Monitor. "Creating a water garden in a tub". The Christian Science Monitor.
  7. ^ Carol Cloud Bailey. "Carol Cloud Bailey: Heat potting soil to prepare it for replanting". TCP. Archived from the original on 2016-05-30. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  8. ^ Reader's Digest Association. "Care-free Plants." Page 298. Readers Digest. ISBN 0-7621-0358-2
  9. ^ "How to minimize dents in carpet from furniture". azcentral.com.
  10. ^ Speers DJ, Tribe AE (October 1994). "Legionella longbeachae pneumonia associated with potting mix". Med. J. Aust. 161 (8): 509. PMID 7935133.
  11. ^ Kingston M, Padwell A (March 1994). "Fatal legionellosis from gardening". N. Z. Med. J. 107 (974): 111. PMID 8127508.
  12. ^ den Boer, JW; Yzerman, EP; Jansen, R; Bruin, JP; Verhoef, LP; Neve, G; van der Zwaluw, K (January 2007). "Legionnaires' disease and gardening". Clin. Microbiol. Infect. 13 (1): 88–91. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2006.01562.x. PMID 17184293.
  13. ^ "Legionnaires' disease associated with potting soil--California, Oregon, and Washington, May-June 2000". Can. Commun. Dis. Rep. 26 (22): 189–92. November 2000. PMID 11131692.
  14. ^ "Legionnaires' Disease Associated With Potting Soil --- California, Oregon, and Washington, May--June 2000". cdc.gov.