8 Best Potting Soils for Outdoor Plants in 2024: Reviews and Top Picks
There are a ton of different options for potting soil. If you are looking for the best results or the best deal, it can be overwhelming to sift through the dozens of different types of potting soil, hoping to find one that will work for your garden. Some soils are great for flowers, while others are better for herbs. Which potting soil is right for you?
To help answer that question, we have marshaled together eight of the best potting soils on the market today. There are general purpose soils, specialty soils, organic soils, and expanding soils on this list that can meet a bevy of different planting needs. There is also a buyer’s guide included at the end to help narrow down the choices to best fit your individual gardening needs.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2024
|FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix
|Best All Purpose
|Michigan Peat 5720 Garden Magic Potting Soil
|Best On a Budget
|Miracle-Gro Potting Mix
|Best For Vegetables
|SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black Gold Organic Potting Soil
|Best For Flowers
|Coast of Maine Organic Natural Gardening Compost Potting Soil
The 8 Best Potting Soils for Outdoor Plants
1. Best Overall – FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix
FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix is an extremely unique potting soil that has everything you need to grow thriving outdoor plants. This soil is specially formulated for use in outdoor containers and has special additives. These additives combine the best of land and sea for a proprietary blend of plant food designed to supercharge your garden. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix contains a mixture of worm castings, bat guano, fish and crab meal, forest humus, and moss. This is a rich combination of plant foods that you won’t find anywhere else.
Not only that but the soil has been tweaked to be at a pH level of 6.3, which is more suitable for fertilizer intake than other soils. That means that any additional foods or fertilizers you add will be taken into the soil more efficiently, leading to better results. All of this adds up to an outdoor potting soil that has everything your plants could need contained in one single bag. It encourages healthier roots, thicker stems, stronger branches, and better vegetables. The soil is well-aerated and well-draining.
These bags contain 12 dry quarts of soil and weigh just eight pounds. You can buy single bags, packs of two, or packs of four. This is the perfect purchase for someone trying to start a healthy, vibrant container garden with vegetables, flowers, or herbs.
The biggest downside to this soil is that it is super organic, meaning that it can contain bugs, mites, and other tiny organisms. That can be surprising and frustrating for those who are unaware of the risks that come with highly organic soil. Otherwise, this is the best all-purpose soil on the market for outdoor plants.
2. Best All Purpose – Michigan Peat 5720 Garden Magic Potting Soil
|1.5 cubic feet
If you are simply looking for a basic all-purpose outdoor potting soil that can be used in a variety of different ways, you want to get the Michigan Peat 5720 Garden Magic Potting Soil. This is a no-frills product that offers a rich soil mixture without any chemicals, additives, or fertilizers. It is porous enough to let excess water run through but moist enough to retain enough water to prevent excessive dryness. You can just as easily add this soil to a single hanging flowerpot or use it to soil an entire vegetable bed.
This is a very versatile soil mix that aims to do all of the basic things well. The 20lbs bags are robust but not overly heavy. They carry roughly 1.5 cubic feet of soil per bag. A few bags will be enough for most gardeners to get some good use out of.
The only drawback is that for basic outdoor potting soil, some people have found better results at their local hardware stores. Bags are easier to obtain and a little cheaper. They won’t necessarily be better, but in some cases, people find it more convenient to pick up local soil than order online. Michigan Peat 5720 Garden Magic Potting Soil is susceptible to this because it does not have any fancy additives or upgrades to make it stand out from the crowd. But it is a very good outdoor potting soil, nonetheless. Some people want the basics for their gardens.
3. Best On a Budget – Miracle-Gro Potting Mix 1 cu. ft.
|1 cubic foot
When it comes to getting a great deal, it is not just about the price. It is about the value you get for your dollar. Sometimes, the cheapest products are the worst products. Buying a bum product isn’t a good deal. It is a letdown. That is why Miracle-Gro Potting Mix is the best value for a gardener on a budget. It is a proven product with a great track record. It is affordable and effective. You know you are getting potting soil that will work without wasting your money.
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix is a versatile planting soil that can work in indoor or outdoor containers. Users report larger plants, more vibrant flowers, and bigger vegetables over other potting mixes. All of those benefits are available for an extremely fair price that won’t put anyone out. It contains Miracle-Gro plant food that will slowly feed your garden for a period of six months, keeping everything happy and healthy.
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix does not do anything spectacularly well, but it also is a great deal for the money. This potting soil is almost universally well received without any major complaints or letdowns. But it is not specialized.
4. Best For Vegetables – SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black Gold Organic Potting Soil
If you are looking to start a small vegetable or herb garden, look no further. SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black Gold Organic Potting Soil is an excellent potting soil designed for use in outdoor spaces. It has a proven track record with simple herbs like basil, mint, and oregano. It has also been used to grow large and colorful tomatoes, healthy lettuce, and peppers. This potting soil mix is pre-charged with all sorts of dense nutrients aimed at making the most out of a small vegetable garden. This soil can help seeds start, or it can give a boost to languishing soil quality.
The organic fertilizing elements included in this potting soil are worm castings, Canadian sphagnum peat moss, and forest humus. This combination works to feed plants of all ages and help them produce large edible vegetables. This is a benefit over simple potting mixes that act only as a substrate, not as plant food. This is the perfect product for anyone looking to dabble in outdoor herbs or raised vegetable beds.
The one thing to be aware of is this bag’s size. An eight-quart bag is not very large, and the price can be a little high depending on what you are used to. Do not be fooled by the pictures and the reviews. This bag will not fill an entire garden. You will need multiple bags if you are doing more than one small planter.
5. Best For Flowers – Coast of Maine Organic Natural Gardening Compost Potting Soil
If you are an avid gardener with a focus on flowers, you need potting soil that is as dedicated as you are to the floral craft. Coast of Maine Organic Natural Gardening Compost Potting Soil is a specialized potting soil blend that is designed to create healthy colorful flowers. This potting soil can be used in containers or in flower beds. It is specially formulated to help roses grow deeper roots and thicker stems. It includes natural fertilizing materials like compost, bark, lime, and peat moss.
You can use Coast of Maine Organic Natural Gardening Compost Potting Soil in new garden beds with fresh flowers, or you can add it to existing soil to help revitalize the beds for a new season. The bags are sold in 20-quart sizes, and you can get packs from singles to ten delivered right to your door. High-end flowers, such as roses, can be finicky, and simple potting soil often doesn’t do enough to help facilitate healthy growth for certain flowers. Coast of Maine Organic Natural Gardening Compost Potting Soil closes that gap and gives you a product you can feel good about putting in your rose bed.
The only thing that might put someone off is the inclusion of particular fertilizing elements. Not everyone likes to use lime or peat moss in their gardens, but those things are included premixed here. If you are looking for more of a pure soil, then you might want to compare other options.
6. Best For Seeds – Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix
|8 quarts (x2)
Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix is a soil designed for starting seeds. If you are looking for a great outdoor potting soil that can be used to supercharge your seedlings, then you need to check out Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix. This potting soil includes coconut coir and other proprietary plant foods that are designed to feed your seeds and get them going better than plain potting soil. The plant food will slowly seep into the soil over the course of three months, making this the ideal soil for outdoor raised beds or herb gardens. Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix has been proven to work on organic herbs, traditional herbs, vegetables, and flowers.
This product contains two packs measuring eight quarts each. The bags are small, light, and ideal for use on small beds or individual pots. After you plant your seeds, you won’t have to worry about fertilizing or feeding them for weeks which is a great benefit of this particular soil mixture.
One of the biggest complaints about this particular soil mixture was the fact that some bags contained large chunks in them that people did not care for. Some users reported getting pieces of sticks, wood, and mulch in their bags. A few others reported getting some sort of rubberized material along with their soil. That last report was particularly concerning for people looking for a wholly organic mix. Otherwise, outside of these rare complaints, this is a well-regarded potting soil for seed starts outside at home.
7. Best Organic – WONDER SOIL Organic Potting Soil
WONDER SOIL Organic Potting Soil is a great option for those looking to stock their garden with only organic materials. This potting soil is completely natural and filled with organic additives that are aimed at producing healthy and thriving plants. WONDER SOIL Organic Potting Soil includes worm castings, mycorrhizae, kelp, perlite, gypsum, magnesium, minerals, and even hummus. The result is a soil blend that aims to recreate the natural conditions of live soil found on the ground in the convenience of a resealable bag.
In addition to the great fertilizing materials mixed into this soil is the fact that this is expanding soil. The bag weighs just three pounds when it arrives, making it a breeze to move out to your garden. After adding water, the soil will expand to twelve quarts which are good enough to fill multiple outdoor pots. This lightweight, well-draining soil with natural fertilizer will help save you money on artificial fertilizers and plant foods while keeping your pots nice and moist between waterings.
Users’ main complaints revolve around the size of the bag. This is a small bag of organic soil. Organic items are often more expensive than non-organic options. Even so, this low-volume bag carries a hefty price. The amount of soil has disappointed more than one user so gauge its usefulness by the volume and the weight rather than the pictures, which can be misleading.
8. Best Expanding – Glee Potting Mix- Lighter Soil and Bigger Plants
|0.4 cubic feet
When it comes to expanding potting soil, there are few better options than Glee Potting Mix- Lighter Soil and Bigger Plants. This is a new product that fuses the healthy base of rich potting soil with new hydra fiber technology. This bag will expand to over double the size after you soak it in water. This allows you to easily order potting soil online without having to worry about receiving extremely heavy bags through the mail. This bag weighs just seven pounds making it extremely easy to ship, carry and haul.
Glee Potting Mix is extremely versatile. It can be used for indoor pots or outdoor garden beds. This soil can be used for perennials, annuals, vegetables, fruits, succulents, flowers, and herbs. The expanding nature of this potting soil makes it easy to clean up, it uses less water than traditional soil thanks to the hydra fiber technology, and it has a large amount of air which helps root growth.
The reported downside of this new product is the fact that some people lose volume during soaking. If you do not soak in a sealed container, you have a chance of losing some of the soil to wash out. That can happen with any soil, but it is frustrating when you pay for special expanding soil to watch it wash away. The other thing users complained about is the fact that it does not have the same look and feel as traditional soil. Expanding soil is a different beast from traditional soil, so be aware of that before you buy.
Always pay attention to the soil volume before making a purchase. Some bags are much smaller than others. The prices, photos, and weights can all be deceptive. The surefire way to know how much soil you are getting for your money is to look at the volume. Some bags can be as small as eight quarts or as large as 20 quarts. Some bags only contain 0.4 cubic feet of soil, while others can contain 2 cubic feet of soil. It is extremely disappointing and frustrating to buy a specialty bag of soil only to realize you bought 8 quarts when you needed a lot more to finish your job. That can cause both the time and the money to rapidly increase without you realizing it.
Specialized vs. General
There are two broad categories of potting soil on the market for outdoor plants, general and specialized. General soil usually contains no additives, and it is not geared toward any particular type or species of plant. General soil is also known as all-purpose soil. The foil to all-purpose soil is specialty soil. Specialty soils contain additives or mixtures that aim to make them better for certain types of plants at the expense of others. Specialty soils can target flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, cactuses, succulents, and more. If you are planning on growing a specific type of plant, you might want to look into specialty soils as opposed to general soils.
Buying In Bulk
If you are doing a large project, you might want to use a soil calculator to figure out how much soil you need before you buy. In many cases, you can save money by buying in bulk. If you know you are going to need multiple bags, you can search for a deal that will ship 2, 4, 5, or even 10 bags to your door for a discount. Buying soil piecemeal in single packages is the most expensive way to buy soil. Doing a little math and guesswork ahead of time can save you money on the backend if you are in a position to buy multiple bags at one time.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
Another thing you want to consider is organic versus non-organic soil. Organic soil contains natural materials and is often made from manure, peat moss, and other similar materials. Organic soil is great for people who want to grow an authentic organic garden, but it does have some drawbacks. Organic soil can contain microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. They are harder to control and harder to manage than non-organic soils. Organic soils have a tendency to mold and can introduce new bugs into your garden.
Non-organic soil does not have any organic matter in it. It is largely dirt and minerals. That is great for some people who do not want to deal with the living component of organic soil. Many gardeners prefer organic soil, but not all of them do. Be sure to double-check whether you are buying organic or non-organic soil before making a purchase.
The other thing you want to check is what kind of additives the potting soil contains. Potting soil can contain all sorts of additives, from lime to magnesium to peat and even worm castings. Additives can also include chemical fertilizers like nitrogen or phosphorus. Manure also qualifies as an additive. Some people like additives because they add food, nutrients, and fertilizer to the soil, while other people do not like additives. Some gardeners like specific types of additives and not others. It is important to check the additive list before putting something into your garden, so you know exactly what is going into your soil.
With so many options on the market, it can be daunting to buy outdoor potting soil. You don’t want to get ripped off, and you don’t want to get ineffective soil that won’t help your plants thrive. Luckily, there are plenty of effective options and great products available for gardeners of all kinds. Whether you want to start a small outdoor herb garden for personal use or build multiple raised beds for serious vegetable growth there is a potting soil on this list that will work great for you.
- 7 Best Well-Draining Potting Soils – Reviews & Top Picks
- 8 DIY Potting Soil Ideas for Your Houseplants (With Pictures)
Featured Image Credit: rolkadd, Shutterstock