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The Journey from Soil to Soul

The Journey from Soil to Soul

Potting soil is all too often the forgotten hero on the stoep, yet it's the backbone of growing happy container plants. Your indoor and outdoor plants, veggies, windowsill herbs, winter and summer bulbs, and annuals need to be set-off on the right foot. Potting soil is a secret sauce of ingredients tailor-made for container planting. The topic of potting soil may not set your heart racing, but it matters greatly when it comes to the health of the plants that bring so much joy to your soul.


Many novice gardeners will think that taking soil from the garden and popping it into a container is the easiest – and cheapest – way to go. On the contrary, it may turn out to be more expensive, as getting the balance right in your pots can be a delicate act, with plants often paying the price if someone gets it wrong. With the endless options available, choosing the right potting soil for your specific gardening needs can be a tad overwhelming. 


Worry not, instead be happy because the Petal Pixies are here to take the whelms out of it for you! Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and come dig a little deeper with us. 


The difference between soil and dirt 

Soil teems with life, whereas dirt doesn’t. Interestingly, the best potting soil isn’t actually made of soil. There is indeed a difference between ordinary garden soil and the substance you should be putting in your pots. Potting soil differs from regular soil as it’s specifically formulated with a number of ingredients tailor-made to meet the nutrient needs of potted plants. Think of it as soul food for your plants that contains a pleasing combination of organic materials such as compost, bark, coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, and peat or sphagnum moss. The reason you need to use potting soil in a pot or container is because there’s a limited amount of space for water to go, unlike in a garden bed, thus it’s designed to help keep moisture in the planter while allowing for good drainage and ventilation. 

What's the difference between potting soil and potting mix?

Although the terms potting soil and potting mix tango interchangeably, there is actually a difference. Potting soil may or may not contain soil, while potting mix is strictly a soilless medium. Potting mix is sterile, which means pesky pathogens such as fungus or other diseases won’t be ruining the plant party. 

Is all soil organic? 

Sure, there are many varieties of potting soil and mixes available, but the best way to start is with those that are organic. Don’t be tempted to just grab the cheapest - have a read of the contents on the pack first, checking that they are labelled ‘organic’. For the love of tulips, please avoid potting soil that doesn’t list the ingredients on the packaging! Cheaper or generic brands may contain fillers such as garden soil or topsoil, which can compromise texture and quality. Though branded potting mixes can be more expensive, they are worth the extra investment.


There has been some debate over the years around the use of organic potting soil, focussing on its longevity; some say that because it comprises mainly biodegradable components, it has a shorter shelf life and will need replacing every few years. While this may be true in situations where nutrients need to be replenished frequently or where poor drainage or compaction lead to an oxygen-deficient environment, in most circumstances organic potting soils can last up to five years if well-managed.



What makes organic soil different 


Organic potting mixes stand tall as the guardians of botanical well-being. They are generally better for container plants because they typically contain a higher amount of nutrients without posing a health risk to humans or little critters who may eat plants cultivated in these soils. Research has found that potting soils with added nutrients have higher water retention and lower nutrient loss compared to ordinary soils. This, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed your plants on a regular basis, as plants will use up the nutrients as they grow. Do keep in mind that when using any synthetic fertilisers, you will need to repot plants every few years to ensure you don’t get a build-up of chemicals which could be detrimental to the plant. 


What about non-organic soil mixes?


Non-organic mixes are often made with synthetic chemicals and vermiculite. They are excellent at retaining moisture, which is beneficial for some plants that require moist soil. Furthermore, they are long-lasting and require less maintenance. 


Keep your best fronds happy 


Give your plants the best! Other than the preferred use of organic, sustainable ingredients, here are a few cherry-picked considerations that will help you choose the best potting soil option for your plants. Bear in mind that different types of soils absorb and hold onto moisture at different rates.


  • Make sure you choose a soil that will provide adequate moisture without becoming water-logged or extremely dry. For instance, succulents prefer sandy soils which drain really well and quickly, while African violets grow best in finely textured soils that hold onto some moisture but also allow adequate drainage. Orchids, on the other hand, need a porous mix that can include sphagnum moss, fir bark and coconut husk which holds just enough water to ensure that the roots don’t ‘drown’.


  • Most important though is that the mix in the container, whatever the plant (unless it’s a bog plant!) is light and airy, with loads of tiny air spaces that allow the soil to absorb more water than traditional dirt or clay-based soils. 


  • Enhanced water accessibility lets more oxygen flow through the medium so the plants’ roots get access to air which ensures they can uptake available nutrients in the soil quicker. Allowing oxygen to penetrate also helps prevent diseases and fungi from growing in your medium. 


  • Your plants need to be properly hydrated - not too much water, nor too little. Yes, the Goldilocks syndrome – one which the right potting mix will get just right though!


Is potting soil good for all plants?


Pre-mixed soils are convenient and contain a healthy selection of nutrient and mineral combinations making it oh so easy. Ultimately, there really isn't one single perfect type of potting soil; it will depend on what plant you're trying to grow. 

Using Pokon Potting Soil for many plants – and also as a substrate when sowing seeds out – is a great start!


This well-thought out mix is lighter, cleaner and weed-seed free, and contains everything your precious pot plant could need to get off on the right foot. Not only that, it has the RHP Quality Mark - the mark of this non-profit foundation that has been the European Knowledge Centre for all kinds of growing media since 1963, and they guarantee that soil improving materials with their quality mark are stable and give optimal nutrients in the medium.


What soil is best for potting my plants?

Match your potting soil to your plant for the perfect pairing. 

  • Pokon Potting Soil is suitable for growing container herbs, vegetables, bulbs and seeds. 
  • Bonsai Growing Medium is a top choice for growing your miniature plants and trees.
  • Orchid Growing Medium provides a cosy environment for orchids to thrive. 
  • Cactus Growing Medium will give your prickly plants a happy home to grow in. 

Discover the range here.

Here’s to choosing soil that makes your soul sing and your plants flourish!

Happy planting! 


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