Do You Fill Plant Pots With Soil Or Compost?

Bergs Potter Plant Pots

Gardening is a rewarding hobby, and it becomes more enjoyable when you experiment with various planting techniques. One common question that comes up among gardening beginners is: Do you fill plant pots with soil or compost? This article will provide you with valuable insights on the pros and cons of using soil and compost in your plant pots, common mistakes to avoid when filling your pots, how to prepare and mix potting materials for optimal growth, and tips for maintaining healthy plants in pots. Ultimately, it will help you make the right choice for your plants.

Do you fill plant pots with soil or compost?

The simple answer is - it depends on your plants' needs and your personal preferences. Soil and compost, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, gardeners tend to use a mix of soil and compost in their plant pots to provide the necessary nutrients and drainage for their plants. The right combination of these two elements can create a healthy environment for your plants to grow and thrive.

Before we dive into the pros and cons of using soil and compost in plant pots, it's essential to understand the differences between these two materials. Soil is a natural mixture of minerals, organic matter, and living organisms, while compost is decomposed plant and animal materials that can be added to the soil to improve its fertility and structure. Compost is often considered a soil amendment, meaning it can be mixed with soil to enhance its overall quality.

Pros and cons of using soil in plant pots


  1. Natural environment: Using soil in plant pots provides a natural environment for plants to grow, as it is similar to what they would experience in the ground. This can help plants adapt more easily to their new environment.

  2. Affordability: Soil is more affordable than compost, making it a cost-effective option for filling plant pots.


  1. Poor drainage: Soil can become compacted in plant pots, leading to poor drainage. This can cause root rot and other issues for your plants.

  2. Pest and disease issues: Soil can harbor pests and diseases, which can be challenging to control in a confined space like a plant pot.

  3. Heavy and difficult to move: Soil-filled plant pots can be quite heavy, making them difficult to move or transport.

Pros and cons of using compost in plant pots


  1. Improved soil structure: Compost can improve the structure of your soil, making it more porous and better able to retain moisture and nutrients.

  2. Increased nutrient content: Compost is rich in organic matter and nutrients, providing an excellent source of nutrition for your plants.


  1. Less stable: Compost can break down over time, causing the plant pot's contents to settle and compact. This can result in poor drainage and aeration for your plants.

  2. Potential nutrient imbalances: Compost can sometimes contain high levels of certain nutrients, which can lead to imbalances and potentially harm your plants.

  3. Expense: High-quality compost can be more expensive than soil, especially if you need a large quantity for multiple plant pots.

Common mistakes to avoid when filling plant pots

  1. Overfilling pots: Overfilling your plant pot will leave no room for watering, leading to waterlogged soil and an unhealthy plant. Make sure to leave about an inch of space between the soil or compost surface and the rim of the pot.

  2. Not providing adequate drainage: Ensure your plant pot has drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom, leading to root rot and other issues.

  3. Not considering the plant's needs: Different plants have different requirements for soil type, nutrient levels, and moisture retention. Make sure to research your specific plants and choose the appropriate soil or compost mix to meet their needs.

How to prepare and mix potting materials for optimal growth

  1. Start with a high-quality base material: Whether you're using soil or compost, make sure it's a high-quality product that's free from pests and diseases. Sterilized potting soil or well-aged compost is ideal.

  2. Add amendments as needed: Depending on your plant's needs, you may need to add additional materials to improve the soil or compost's structure, nutrient content, or drainage. Common amendments include perlite, vermiculite, sand, and peat moss.

  3. Mix thoroughly: Make sure to mix all materials evenly to ensure a consistent growing environment for your plants. This can be done in a large container or directly in the plant pot.

  4. Test the pH and nutrient levels: Use a soil test kit to check the pH and nutrient levels of your potting mix, and adjust as needed to meet your plants' specific requirements.

Tips for maintaining healthy plants in pots

  1. Water wisely: Overwatering or underwatering can harm your plants. Monitor the moisture levels in your plant pots and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

  2. Feed your plants: Even with a nutrient-rich potting mix, your plants may need additional fertilization to thrive. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or liquid feed to provide essential nutrients.

  3. Repot as needed: As your plants grow, they may outgrow their current pots. Make sure to repot them into larger containers with fresh potting mix to prevent root-bound issues and encourage continued growth.

  4. Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep a close eye on your potted plants for any signs of pests or diseases, and treat them promptly to prevent the spread to other plants.

Conclusion: Making the right choice for your plants

Deciding whether to fill plant pots with soil or compost ultimately depends on your plants' specific needs and your preferences as a gardener. Both options have their pros and cons, so consider your plants' requirements, your budget, and the maintenance involved when making your decision. By choosing the right potting mix and following proper care techniques, you'll be well on your way to enjoying healthy, thriving plants in your pots.