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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''.


Ingredients

Most commonly, potting soil is either
peat Peat (), also known as turf (), is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of species and the they provide. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular , life forms, structure, ...
moss (with limestone)-based or coconut coir-based. Additional ingredients used in the mix may include
sand Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock (geology), rock and mineral particles. Sand has various compositions but is defined by its grain size. Sand grains are smaller than gravel and coarser than silt. Sand can also refer ...

sand
,
perlite Perlite is an amorphous In condensed matter physics Condensed matter physics is the field of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , ...

perlite
, and
grit Grit, Grits, or Gritty may refer to: Food * Grit (grain), bran, chaff, mill-dust or coarse oatmeal * Grits, a corn-based food common in the Southern United States Minerals * Grit, winter pavement-treatment minerals deployed in grit bins * Gr ...
(for improving drainage) and
vermiculite Vermiculite is a hydrous In chemistry, a hydrate is a substance that contains water or its constituent elements. The chemical state of the water varies widely between different classes of hydrates, some of which were so labeled before their chemi ...
(to increase water retention). Fertiliser (in the form of
compost Compost is a mixture of ingredients used to fertilize and improve the soil. It is commonly prepared by decomposing plant and food waste and recycling Recycling is the process of converting waste Waste (or wastes) are unwanted ...

compost
; i.e. leaf mold,
bark Bark may refer to: * Bark (botany), an outer layer of a woody plant * Bark (sound), a vocalization of some animals Places * Bark, Germany * Bark, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Bark'' (Jefferson Airp ...
compost or recycled mushroom compost) is generally not added (or only in very small quantities) for potting soil used for cuttings and seedlings as large amounts of fertiliser are too aggressive for them. It is used for larger plants (larger pots) though. Despite its name, little or no
soil Soil is a mixture In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements that make up matter to the chemical compound, comp ...

soil
is used in potting soil because it is considered too heavy for growing houseplants.


Peat

The use of peat is
controversial Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view. The word was coined from the Latin ''controversia'', as a composite of ''controversus'' – "turned in an opposite di ...
since the harvesting of peat moss from
peatland , one of the largest fens in Estonia. A mire, peatland or quagmire is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem An ecosystem is a community (ecology), community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of thei ...
s (which includes unique habitats such as bogs and fens) degrades these peatlands. Peatlands are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. Peat also has a very slow accumulation rate, as little as 1mm per year, so they take a long time to regenerate. Also, the removal of the layer of CO2 absorbing plants releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. As such, alternatives such as coconut coir are promoted by some organisations.


Different mixes for different uses and plants

For seed starting and cuttings, a mix can be made using 40% coconut coir or peat moss with limestone, 40% vermiculite, and 20% sand. Besides sand, it is also possible to use perlite, using near-similar sized percentages (33%-33%-33%). For seed starting, a "germination mix" is typically light-weight and suitable for starting small-seeded plants. A "seed starting" mix is suitable for larger seeded crops. Following early growth, most plants prefer a potting mix that is more well-draining, often with less than 20% of peat moss or other fine-grained materials. Plants also require potting soil that is specific for their environment. For example, an
African violet
African violet
would grow better in potting soil containing extra peat moss. Cacti and succulents require sharp drainage, thus requiring a much larger percentage of perlite or sand. Insectivorous plants, such as the
Venus flytrap The Venus flytrap (''Dionaea muscipula'') is a carnivorous plant native to subtropical The subtropical zones or subtropics are geographic and climate zones located to the north and south of the tropical zone. Geographically part of the ...

Venus flytrap
and the
pitcher plant 250px, Scanning electron micrograph of a pitcher's inner surface Pitcher plants are several different carnivorous plants which have modified leaves known as pitfall traps—a prey-trapping mechanism featuring a deep cavity filled with digesti ...

pitcher plant
, prefer nutrient-poor soils common to bogs and fens, while water-based plants thrive in a heavier topsoil mix.


Sterilization

As with garden soil, potting soil can attract insects. For example, the
fungus gnat Fungus gnats are small, dark, short-lived gnats, of the families Sciaridae, Diadocidiidae, Ditomyiidae, Keroplatidae, Bolitophilidae, and Mycetophilidae (order Diptera); they comprise six of the seven families placed in the Family (biology), super ...

fungus gnat
is often found around houseplants because it lays eggs in moist potting soil. 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. Packaged potting soil is sold in bags ranging from . Infections of
Legionnaires' disease Legionnaires' disease is a form of atypical pneumonia Atypical pneumonia, also known as walking pneumonia, is any type of pneumonia Pneumonia is an Inflammation, inflammatory condition of the lung primarily affecting the small air sacs kno ...
due to potting mix have been reported in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
, the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
, the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, and Japan.


See also

*
Agricultural soil science Agricultural soil science is a branch of soil science Soil science is the study of soil Soil (often stylized as SOiL) is an American rock band that was formed in Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map ...
*
Compost Compost is a mixture of ingredients used to fertilize and improve the soil. It is commonly prepared by decomposing plant and food waste and recycling Recycling is the process of converting waste Waste (or wastes) are unwanted ...

Compost
*
Container garden Container gardening or pot gardening/farming is the practice of growing plants, including edible plants, exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. A container in gardening is a small, enclosed and usually portable object ...
** Garden vases **
Sub-irrigated planter Sub-irrigated planter (SIP) is a generic name for a special type of planting box used in container gardening and commercial landscaping. A SIP is any method of watering plants where the water is introduced from the bottom, allowing the water to soa ...
*
Good agricultural practice Good agricultural practice (GAP) is a certification system for agriculture, specifying procedures (and attendant documentation) that must be implemented to create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome, using sustainabl ...
*
Houseplant A houseplant is a plant Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, th ...

Houseplant
*
Mulch A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving soil fertility, fertility and health of the soil, reducing Weed control, weed growth and enhancing the vi ...

Mulch
*
Soil biology Soil biology is the study of Soil microbiology, microbial and faunal activity and ecology in soil. Soil life, soil biota, soil fauna, or edaphon is a collective term that encompasses all organisms that spend a significant portion of their biologic ...
*
Soil science Soil science is the study of soil Surface-water- gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland.">Northern_Ireland.html" ;"title="glacial till, Northern Ireland">glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic matter, mine ...
*
Substrate Substrate may refer to: Physical layers *Substrate (biology), the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the surface or medium on which an organism grows or is attached **Substrate (locomotion), the surface over which an organism loco ...
*
Topsoil Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil Soil is a mixture In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements t ...


References

{{Plant nutrition Soil improvers Gardening aids Soil Garden vases