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Can You Use Garden Soil for Potted Plants?

Can You Use Garden Soil for Potted Plants? + [What to Use Instead]

Growing plants in pots is a very convenient method of gardening. You can grow your plants in pots inside or outside. From chillies to vegetables to fruits, you can plant virtually anything in pots at any time. 

You can use the soil from your garden for your container plants, but is topsoil the best for your plants?

One of the questions that a lot of gardeners are asking is, can you use garden soil for potted plants?

The short answer is, yes, you can use garden soil for potted plants. Nevertheless, garden soil is not the best choice for potted plants. This is because it is heavy, pest-infested, and doesn’t have a proper balance of nutrients. All these might result in plant suffocation and death.

Can you use garden soil for potted plants

RelatedYou must be wondering what to use if the garden soil is not the best choice.  

Keep reading to learn why garden soil may not be ideal for potted plants in more detail as well as what to use instead.

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Why Is Garden Soil Not Recommended for Potted Plants?

Here are the reasons why you should not grow your potted plants in garden soil.


Garden soil is not sterile, so it contains pathogens that cause disease. While in the garden, these pathogens may not cause much havoc because they have more space.

However, the case is different when you move the soil into pots (limited space). Controlling diseases become more difficult. Things might even get worse if the potted plants are indoors.


If you are a gardener, you must have noticed how heavy and dark garden soil is.

In other cases, you will see that it is dry and complex, especially when the weather is hot.

These two properties disqualify garden soil from being used to grow potted plants.

Heavy soil doesn’t allow air to flow to the roots well, resulting in plant suffocation.

On the other hand, the heaviness of garden soil may cause high water retention, thus causing your plants to rot.

Presence of Weed Seeds

This is another reason why you should not use garden soil to grow your potted plants.

There are thousands of different seeds in garden soil. Most of them are brought about by the wind, which carries them from one spot to another.

If you transfer that particular garden soil into containers and plant your seedlings, you will notice other seeds growing also, and they are weed seeds.

This will translate to competition for nutrients and moisture, and therefore your plants might not grow to yield as per your expectations.

Best Alternative to Using Topsoil in Containers

The best alternative to using topsoil in pots is potting mix. You can make potting mix ingredients such as peat moss, coconut coir, bark, perlite and vermiculite.

Or buy bagged potting mix. This is the best option if you are not good at D.I.Y or just don’t want to do it yourself.

Below are some of the properties of potting mix that make it ideal for potted plants.

Properties of Potting Mix


Your potted plants can never thrive well if their roots are not breathing well.

Potting mix is compact and allows air to flow so that the roots of your plants don’t suffocate.

The delivery of oxygen to the roots is critical for the plants to survive and grow to your expectations.

Soilless and Sterile

Potting mix is soilless and sterile, hence it does not contain pathogens, making it safer for your plants to thrive.


This is another essential property of potting mix. Naturally, plants require water for survival, but they might not survive if the soil doesn’t drain the water effectively.

This is more so if the water settles at the bottom of the pot. The water might lead to root rot due to bacterial and fungal infections.

Also, if the soil doesn’t drain properly, your plant might drown.

Moisture Control/Retention

For your plants to survive, they need moisture. It helps them to form well and yield properly.

For this to happen, the soil in the pot should have a specific range of moisture.

Potting mix helps with moisture retention. The moisture level is an excellent determinant of how healthy the soil is.

Most plants require a moisture range of between 20% – 50%.

Proper Nutrients

Potting mix has the proper nutrients needed for the growth of your plants.

Some of the most critical nutrients for potted plants include Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. This explains why most plant fertilizers have the N.P.K. in them.

Can I Use Garden Soil for Potted Plants? Conclusion

You can use garden soil for potted plants, but it is not recommended. It is heavy and will hinder air penetration and can retain too much water, all of which will affect your plants negatively. Also, the soil has lots of contaminants, which might be challenging to control if transferred into pots. Why risk all these when you have better options? Make or buy potting mix.

Can I use garden soil in pots for plants or not

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