What Is A Good Cheap Potting Soil? (Best Alternatives)

Are you on a budget but still want to provide your plants with high-quality potting soil? In this valuable blog post, we explore the best cheap potting soil alternatives that won’t compromise your plants’ health and growth.

Discover cost-effective options and learn how to make the most of your gardening resources without breaking the bank.

Understanding the difference between potting soil and topsoil is important for successful gardening in containers.
Potting soil is designed to provide the necessary nutrients and drainage for plants grown in pots, while topsoil is a more general-purpose soil that may not be suitable for container gardening.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best potting soil for your plants, including drainage, water retention, and nutrient content.
In addition to traditional potting soil, there are many alternatives available, such as coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, and compost.
Making your own potting soil can be a cost-effective and customizable option for container gardening.

Additionally, delve into related topics such as creating good potting soil for vegetables and finding the best potting mix. Enhance your gardening experience by choosing affordable yet effective potting soil alternatives. Start your journey towards a thriving, budget-friendly garden today!

Peat moss

Peat moss is another excellent choice for potting soil. It’s inexpensive and easy to find, so it’s one of the best options for someone who wants to get started growing plants on a budget.

The downside is that peat moss isn’t as nutrient-rich as some other soils, so it won’t give your plants quite as much of a boost in growth or flowering. You can use peat moss in both indoor and outdoor plants though!

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Another option that many gardeners prefer is coir. Coir is a byproduct of the coconut industry, and it’s made from coconut husks. 

It’s a great choice for pots because it holds water well and can be used in place of peat moss or sphagnum moss. 

Coir is also good at absorbing excess nutrients from your soil, so it helps keep your potting mix balanced as you use it up over time.

Unlike peat moss, coir has no acidity level—which means you don’t have to worry about adjusting pH levels when you’re using it as part of your potting mix (or when adding fertilizer).

Sandy loam

Sandy loam is a popular choice for potted plants. It’s a mixture of sand, silt and clay that helps to prevent soil from becoming compacted over time. 

If you’re looking for an affordable potting soil that won’t break the bank, this is a good option.

You can find sandy loam at most garden centers or hardware stores (in bags). It costs less than other types of potting soil because it doesn’t have nutrients added in like some other mixes do. 

You also don’t need any special ingredients to make sandy loam—it just needs to be mixed together with water until it reaches the right consistency!

“Knowing when to replace potting soil can be tricky, but it’s important for the health of your plants. Learn more about how often you should replace your potting soil in our informative article.” – how-often-should-you-replace-your-potting-soil


Vermiculite is a mineral, an aluminum and magnesium silicate hydroxide. It’s used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure, drainage and aeration. 

Vermiculite also helps to increase water retention in potting mixes by increasing capillary action between the particles of dirt.

Vermiculite is safe to use around plants because it’s sterile and contains no harmful organisms or chemicals. 

Because it tends to break down quickly when exposed to air, you should not use vermiculite as mulch unless you are trying to re-mulch an area where grasses or weeds have been removed from your lawn or garden bed recently through chemical application or hand pulling techniques (such as core aerating).


Perlite is a glassy, white volcanic mineral that’s used in potting soil to provide aeration and drainage. 

Perlite is naturally lightweight and porous, which makes it ideal for use as an ingredient in potting soil. 

The main drawback of perlite is that plants that require a lot of moisture may not thrive in this type of soil.

Perlite also has many other uses besides just making potting soil more breathable:

  • It can be used as a coolant in refrigerators (it absorbs heat) or air conditioning systems (it helps make the air colder).
  • It can be used as an insulator to keep objects warm or cold.
  • Its low cost makes it ideal for decorative projects such as vases filled with rocks or flowers submerged in water—a great way to add interest without breaking the bank!

“Finding the best potting soil for your plants can make all the difference in their growth and health. Check out our article on what is the best potting soil to learn more about the different types and what to look for.” – what-is-the-best-pot-soil-find-out

Composted leaves

Composted leaves are another great option for a cheap potting soil. Not only are they easy to find in your backyard, but they can also be used as a soil amendment and mulch.

Composted leaves are high in nitrogen, which makes them great for adding nutrients to your garden soil. 

They also help retain moisture in the ground because of their high organic matter content. Composting them will help break down the large lignin molecules that make up leaf cells into smaller forms that plants can use more easily.


Humus is the organic part of soil. It’s made up of decomposed plant matter, and it’s important for soil structure and nutrient cycling. 

Humus contains many different kinds of microorganisms that break down organic materials into smaller particles, making them available to plants. 

These microorganisms also help keep nutrients in the soil where they can be used by plants rather than washing away with excess water, which would cause anaerobic conditions (that means no oxygen).

Humus also helps retain water, so if you want a moist potting mix instead of one that drains quickly but stays too wet too long (which could lead to root rot), or if you’re growing plants in containers that don’t hold much water on their own like tomatoes or peppers—humus will help ensure that your roots stay hydrated even when you forget about them for a few days!

“Using bad potting soil can lead to poor plant growth and even death. Make sure you know how to spot bad soil by checking out our helpful article on how to know if potting soil is bad.” – how-do-you-know-if-potting-soil-is-bad-answered

Hay and straw

Hay and straw are not good choices for potting soil.

Hay is covered in seeds, which means that if you use hay, it’s very likely that your potting soil will become infested with weeds. 

Even if you don’t see weeds growing in your pots right away, the seeds from the hay will eventually sprout up once they get moist enough. And if you have pets or children who play in your garden, there’s also a chance that those weeds could end up being ingested by them!

On top of this, hay doesn’t hold moisture well at all due to its large surface area and porous nature—the exact opposite of what you want from potted plants! 

If you’re looking for something cheap but effective for growing plants indoors or outdoors during summer months (and beyond), stick with bark mulch instead:

Pine bark fines

Pine bark fines are an excellent alternative to peat moss. Pine bark fines are made from the waste product of pine sawmills and contain carbon, potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. 

They also have good moisture holding capacity, making them the perfect choice for plants with low water requirements.

However, pine bark fines can be difficult to find at your local nursery or garden center so it may be necessary to order it online instead.

“Growing healthy vegetables starts with the right potting soil. Learn how to make good potting soil for your vegetable garden by following our simple steps in this informative article.” – how-do-you-make-good-potting-soil-for-vegetables

Sand and gravel

Sand and gravel are great options if you have a sandy or clay soil. Sand and gravel are used to improve drainage, prevent compaction, increase aeration, and retain moisture in the soil. They also help with drainage by adding air spaces between particles in the potting mix. 

This allows water to drain through the mixture more easily as well as preventing it from becoming compacted into mounds of mud at their base (which would happen with clay).

If you’re going to use sand or gravels in your potting mix then consider using them sparingly; they can dry out plants quickly if they’re overused!


We hope we’ve given you some food for thought. You may want to try experimenting with different types of potting soil, or even just mixing up the soil in your existing containers. 

The best approach is to choose a variety of soils that work well together and then experiment with them until you find something that works for your plants. 

And if all else fails, we recommend sticking with one type at a time so that you don’t have an overabundance of nutrients in any one area!

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about potting soil and alternatives, check out these helpful resources:

Potting Soil Alternatives: Learn About Soil Substitutes for Plants: This article from Home Guides explores various alternatives to traditional potting soil, including options for organic and environmentally friendly gardening.

DIY Potting Soil: How to Make Your Own Potting Soil Mix: Savvy Gardening offers a helpful guide on making your own potting soil mix, including tips on the best ingredients to use and how to adjust the recipe for different types of plants.


What is potting soil?

Potting soil is a specially formulated type of soil that is used in container gardening. It is designed to provide the necessary nutrients and drainage for plants that are grown in pots or other containers.

Can I use regular soil in pots?

While it is possible to use regular soil in pots, it is generally not recommended. Regular soil may not provide adequate drainage, and it may also contain weed seeds and other unwanted contaminants.

What are some alternatives to potting soil?

Some alternatives to traditional potting soil include coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, and compost.

How do I know if my potting soil needs to be replaced?

Potting soil should be replaced on a regular basis to ensure the health of your plants. Signs that your potting soil needs to be replaced include poor plant growth, drainage problems, and the presence of pests or disease.

Can I make my own potting soil?

Yes, you can make your own potting soil using a combination of ingredients like peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and compost. There are many recipes available online that you can use as a guide.