When tending to houseplants, you try to mimic their natural environment in your home, considering humidity, nutrition, and most important, soil. A quality potting soil mix is the easiest way to set up your houseplants’ soil for success. “When purchasing potting soil for your houseplants, look for a well-draining potting mix specifically for indoor plants,” says Erin Marino, Editorial Lead at The Sill, an online and brick-and-mortar plant retailer. “Indoor potting mixes are formulated to provide indoor plants with the nutrients, moisture, and airflow their roots need. Skip anything marketed for outdoor plants as the makeup of the mix will be different.”
We evaluated the many potting soil products for their intended use, as well as their added ingredients, such as fertilizer, and other attributes such as water retention. Our top choice was Wonder Soil Organic for its unique blend of slow-release organic nutrients, sterility, and pet-friendly formula.
Here are our top recommendations for the best indoor potting soil.
Best Overall: Wonder Soil Organic Potting Soil
Expands so can do more with less
Easy to use
Can grow mold if too moist
Who else recommends it? This also makes the top lists of NY Times and Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
What do buyers say? 95% of 1,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
Most potting soil for indoor plants contains the essential nutrients to give new greenery a good jump start, or transplants the food they need. Wonder Soil Premium Organic Potting Mix does this, adds more ingredients and more to help indoor plants thrive, and it can be used with just about any plant. All that earns this product our Best Overall selection.
In addition to earthworm castings, kelp, and perlite, all of which provide indoor plants with the nutrients they need to grow their best, Wonder Soil also contains coco coir, commonly used as a bonus-type growth medium. We like the coco coir in this product because it expands, keeping plants moist for longer, meaning you need to water less frequently. The manufacturer claims that when mixed with water, the product expands from 3 pounds in the resealable bag to 12 quarts of indoor soil. The product also contains mycorrhizae—fungal roots which can help plants better ingest nutrients and may add protection against diseases that reside in soil. Wonder Soil also is pre-mixed with garden soil mix, so it’s a plant starter as well.
To use Wonder Soil, which has a slow-release form of nitrogen, you just transplant the plant and add the product. You also can use it to start an indoor plant from seed. The manufacturer recommends only a third of a cup for a 4-inch pot. This mix also doubles as a seed starter.
Best Multi-Purpose: FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil
Flexibility in use
Slowly feed plants organic nutrients
Can be difficult to find
Expensive to ship
Ocean Forest is a blend of nutrient-rich natural ingredients, including worm castings, seaweed, bat guano, and coconut coir. The slow-release nature of these high-quality compounds allows the plant to feed when it needs to and lessens the need for you to add any fertilizers. Healthy plants are better at resisting disease, fungus, and pest outbreaks, and this soil helps get your plants to that point. Rare and special color variations can result in a big price tag for some indoor plants so it is worth it to get a soil you know will do the job.
Despite the heaps of nutrients, the mix is lightweight and offers plenty of aeration, allowing for effective moisture retention. We also like that Foxfarm product support specialists can assist one-on-one with providing detailed information on each potting soil and suggest the best one for your plants.
Best for African Violets: Sun Gro Horticulture Black Gold African Violet Mix
Can use on any indoor plant
Easy to use
Hard to find in larger-size packages
Sun Gro Horticulture Black Gold African Violet Mix may be especially formulated for African violets, but it is beneficial for any flowering indoor plant. It contains premium ingredients aimed at providing nutrients and retaining the right level of moisture. Sphagnum peat moss, perlite, volcanic pumice, and earthworm castings provide a healthy mix that is still light and airy.
African violets are finicky about their pH, with the optimal range leaning towards the acidic side. Taking this into consideration, SunGro adds dolomite lime to naturally lower the pH of the soil.
Best Organic: Espoma Organic Potting Mix
Mycorrhizae fungi added to increase root surface area
Flexibility in use
Reduced watering needs
Difficult to find larger-size packages
The hardest task for houseplant parents is learning how and when to water your plants. With this soil, you know it is time to water when the first few inches are dry to the touch. Thanks to the included root symbiotic mycorrhizae fungi in the mix, Espoma Organic Potting Soil requires up to 30 percent less water than ordinary soils, helping reduce the time you spend watering your plants.
Espoma Organic Potting Mix also improves the overall soil structure and slowly feeds plants as it breaks down, rewarding you with healthy plants all season long. As an extra bonus, it is an excellent choice for hobby plant propagators, as it improves plant cuttings and transplants to thrive.
Best Budget: Fertilome Ultimate Potting Mix
Can be used for seeds or seedlings
Coconut coir retains moisture
Contains plant food
Peat moss can attract fungus gnats
If you are a fan of tropical plants, this low-price soil mix is just what you need. That’s because many tropical plants, dracaenas, and cacti risk root rot if kept too moist, and Fertilome lacks moisture-retaining bark or coconut coir. The soil mix is light, nutritious, and sterile.
This mix can also be used for seed starting, propagation, and any other plant project you dream up. The peat moss breaks down slowly, acting as a soil conditioner and providing food to your plants.
Best For Houseplants: Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Resource Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Potting Soil
Great for finicky houseplants
Consistent quality and texture
Not for moisture-loving plants
Long shipping times
The Fiddle-Leaf Fig Plant Resource created soil that drains well, feeds the plant, and gives plenty of space for growing roots. Avoiding moisture-locking ingredients like coconut coir, this airy mix is well suited to finicky houseplants besides fiddle-leaf figs, including monsteras, dracaenas, and scheffleras. All need well-draining soil, moisture, and adequate light. Get one wrong and leaf drop soon follows.
This lightly textured, well-aerated product is formulated with an IBI certified biochar, which increases retention of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. Biochars can improve soil fertility as well. The product’s aged bark blend adds additional pore space to the soil, allowing houseplants to use the limited resources of indoor environments.
Best For Herbs: FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil
Not meant for seeds
Expensive to ship
We recommend Happy Frog for growing seedlings indoors before transferring them outside in the warmer months. This organic potting soil from FoxFarm, which can be used indoors and outdoors, is designed for those looking to get the most from their fruiting and flowering plants. The manufacturer claims the soil is pH adjusted for maximum nutrient uptake, so your plants feed more aggressively.
Foxfarm adds plenty of nutrients, including bat guano, that benefit your homegrown herbs. Included beneficial bacteria and fungi help break down nutrients into an easier form for plants to take up. This relationship boosts the health of the roots, creating stronger, healthier herbs with enhanced resistance to disease and pests. It should be noted that Happy Frog is too heavy to start seeds in and also is not a sterile mix.
Best for Cacti and Succulents: Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix
Easy to use
Some succulents might need a richer blend
Hoffman cacti and succulent mix has been a long favorite of cacti growers nationwide. This professional formula can be used for traditional desert cacti, as well as jungle cacti. This important distinction means succulents, which cannot stand to have “wet feet,” can be kept dry. The organic mix contains plenty of perlite to keep the soil light and airy, just how cacti like it. This aeration also provides exceptional drainage, helping to prevent root rot, common in succulents and cacti.
This product is also pH balanced, which is important since cacti and succulents prefer neutral soil environments. Hoffman also features clear, easy-to-follow directions for getting the most out of their mix. The 4-quart size might seem small at first, but a little goes a long way here.
The best potting soil for your indoor plants is Wonder Soil Organic, with its resealable packaging, rich nutrients, and light base. For those taking on the responsibility of a fiddle leaf fig or monstera, Fiddle-leaf Fig Resource’s Premium potting soil is a good bet. If you are on a budget but still want quality soil, versatile Fertilome Ultimate is a wonderful choice for seed starting and plant propagation projects.
What to Look For in Indoor Potting Soil
It’s always best to get a soil with good drainage, amendments to support growth and that is pH adjusted for indoor plants. When purchasing potting soil, what you need comes down to what you grow. Many of our recommended blends are all-purpose; for many projects, these are your best bets, as they serve a variety of plant types. If you have a sunroom full of cacti or succulents, get something tailored to them, as they have different moisture retention needs than those of typical flowers. Indoor plants, such as the fiddle leaf fig, are notorious for not putting up with “wet feet” and require a well-draining blend. African violets prefer a heavier, more acidic soil. Products labeled for these purple bloomers are perfect for most any other indoor flowering plant.
“If you want to get more nitty gritty, you can keep in mind what type of plants you are potting,” says Erin Marino, Editorial Lead at The Sill. “Different plants may prefer different potting mix ingredients.” Ingredients vary across the indoor potting soil spectrum, with some being exceptionally light on variety, and others containing moisture-absorbing materials such as coconut coir or moss. Rich ingredients, including bat guano, sea minerals, humus, and earthworm castings, are ideal for heavy feeders, among them flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
A plant’s native environment is a great indicator of their soil preference as well. “For example, a succulent plant like a snake plant or cactus will like a mix that is more porous, such as one that contains more perlite, that water can run through quickly and that will not hold moisture,” Marino adds. “On the other hand, plants native to more tropical and semi-tropical environments like ferns pay prefer a mix with more peat, since it helps the soil stay moist. So when looking for a potting mix, keep your plants’ natural habitats in mind. Does your plant call the dry desert or the tropical rainforest home? Special mixes have been developed for these different classes of plants."
Some plant potting mixes double as fertilizers. So instead of waiting for the soil to add nutrition as it slowly breaks down, these are available for plants to use when they need them. The tiny amounts of additional plant food included in soil blends is slow release, and carefully balanced to ensure that plants do not end up burned from over-fertilization. (You can recognize this by yellow “singe”-like edges against the foliage’s green background.) If using fertilizer makes you nervous, starting with quality soil helps reduce or eliminate the need for it.
What is the difference between soil for indoor plants and potting mix?
While both can contain ingredients such as moss, coconut coir, or perlite, there are several key differences. Unlike potting oil, potting mix contains no sand or topsoil. As a result, potting mix is usually much lighter and completely sterile of bacteria or fungi. Potting soil is heavier and less likely to be sterile. Potting mix is more likely to come with an added fertilizer whereas potting soil relies on natural composted items to be the fertilizing component. There are some plants you would want potting mix for, especially cacti and for seed-starting purposes.
Can you use outdoor soil indoors?
Most potting soil, especially if the product name includes “all-purpose,” can be used indoors and outdoors. These special indoor potting soils are designed to compensate for the lack of humidity in homes, and the specific moisture needs of indoor plants. Potting soil differs from topsoil in that it is meant to be used in raised beds and containers instead of in the ground, which makes it applicable to indoor and outdoor environments. However, some plants, such as orchids, violets, fiddle leaf figs, and cacti, are particular about their needs, so it is wise to purchase soil made for them.
How long does soil for indoor plants last?
Generally, bagged, unopened soil is good for up to 2 years if kept off the ground in a well-ventilated space. If your bag is opened, you have a good 6 months to use it. During that period, the soil is breaking down and all those valuable nutrients no longer will be available to feed and support plants. It is always a promising idea to start with unopened, fresh soil to ensure your plants are offered the best base to support them for numerous months. This is especially true for indoor potted plants. If your soil package has a foul smell, is infested with insects, or has mold growing in it, toss it and start fresh.
Don’t forget that your plants also do well with a soil refresh. “Plants typically benefit from being repotted every 12 to 18 months, depending on how actively they are growing,” says Marino. “Some slow growers, like cacti, can call the same pot home for years but may require a potting mix replenishment (new potting mix or fertilizer to provide fresh nutrients - but not more space). The growing season, early spring through late summer, is usually the best time to repot your plants. Because your plants are actively growing during this time, they’ll get the most out of additional space and fresh nutrients.”
What is organic soil?
Organic soil mimics what you would find if you were to dig around in your backyard. That magic topsoil layer that contains decomposing leaves and other material is what creates that rich, nutrient dense soil plants love. For that reason, organic soil products often are enhanced with ingredients such as earthworm castings, and humic matter. Organic potting mix breaks down slowly, and those nutrients are available for the plant to use when it needs it. This creates a complete ecosystem in a container, allowing you to do less but gain more. Certified organic soils have the logo of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) on the bag, ensuring that the product contains natural materials that have not been around herbicides, fertilizers, or pesticides.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Amanda Rose Newton, a freelance garden reviewer for The Spruce. As a horticulture professor, business owner, and entomologist, she delighted in personally testing out the recommended products to provide advice to those with unique needs, yards, and values when it comes to all things soil.
To make this list, Amanda Rose tested each product on a fiddle leaf fig, monstera, dracaena, African violet, and jade plant. Over the course of a month, she monitored their growth, soil moisture retention, and overall condition of the plants before offering her suggestions on the best choices for the indoor plant enthusiast. Emma Phelps, an Updates Writer for The Spruce, provided additional support for this roundup by contacting Erin Marino, Editorial Lead at The Sill. Marino provided insight on typical soil ingredients to look out for, repotting techniques, and other houseplant care tips.