Is Garden Soil Okay for Indoor Plants?

YouTube video

In my first attempt at having indoor plants, I used the nutrient-rich soil from our yard, where we grew vegetables and fruits. However, I soon realized that all the plants were struggling, and I realized it might be the soil I used.

My indoor plants were not growing because of the soil in my apartment. But why were my vegetables and fruits growing happily in the same soil while my indoor plants were struggling to survive?

I did considerable research to find out if I could use garden soil indoors, and here’s what I learned!

A garden’s soil is composed of clay, sand, and silt that becomes heavier as it dries and is prone to becoming compacted. A number of potted plants cannot survive in this type of soil due to its insufficient aeration and inability to hold water and nutrients. It is therefore not recommended to use garden soil for indoor plants.

In light of the above, we recognize that garden soil is not an ideal choice for indoor plants. But what should I use instead? And what makes garden soil a poor choice for indoor plants? Let’s get right to it.

What kind of soil do indoor plants need?

You need specific characteristics in your soil for the best growth of your indoor plants. These include:

Good drainage

Since most indoor plants die as a result of overwatering, the essential attribute of indoor plant potting mixes is drainage capacity.

The soil mix should have good drainage in order to keep your indoor plants healthy and happy. If it is holding a lot of water, the plants are in trouble.

Light and aerated

It’s easy for garden soil to harden and compact in a container after it dries out.

To thrive, your indoor plants need a light blend of soil that allows their roots to breathe. The growth of your plant depends on this, so you must choose a mix that is both light and aerated.

Moisture retention

In order for the roots of indoor plants to stay healthy, the soil must have some moisture in it. If the soil is completely dry, then the roots will suffer.

Ideally, you want your soil moist, but not soaked with water. Think of it as a drained sponge. You can feel some moisture in it, but it’s not sopping wet like a wet sponge. That’s the type of soil you want.

The right balance of nutrients

Just as vitamins are vital to a human being, nutrition is like a dietary supplement for plants.

It is important to ensure the soil has a balance of nutrients, such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK).

You need these nutrients for your indoor plants, but don’t overfeed them, as too much of anything is not good for us, and the same is true for our plants as well.

You’re probably wondering what the difference is between indoor and outdoor plants. Doesn’t garden soil have all of these necessary elements?

In that case, why are my plants doing well in the same soil outdoors but struggling inside my home? Don’t worry. I have answers for all your questions. Keep reading, and I will clear all your doubts.

Why is garden soil bad for indoor plants?

Despite your interest in using the freely available garden soil for your indoor plants, here are the reasons why you should not do so. Let’s dive right in.

Compact and heavy

In the garden, soil is a mixture of clay, sand, and silt that gets compacted and heavy, so it doesn’t pass the two essential tests we discussed earlier.

There are times when you will find the soil wet and soaked or dry and hard, which does not make sense for our indoor plants.

Critters and bugs

Bringing garden soil indoors could include bringing in the soil, as well as the critters and bugs, which could be beneficial to your plants. We’re talking about bringing in the soil, along with the critters and bugs.

As your living environment becomes balanced, there’s a strong possibility that undesirable pests and bugs will also move in, giving them an opportunity to thrive and harm your plants. 

Water holding

The soil in most gardens either holds too much water or doesn’t hold any water at all.

You can damage the health of your plants if you do this, since indoor plants require well-balanced soil that holds water long enough for them to absorb nutrients and hydration from their roots.

Poor moisture balance

It doesn’t have a moisture balance either since garden soil can’t hold the moisture necessary for the plants to thrive.

For plants to thrive, the soil in a garden needs moisture, but it tends to get hard and dry after some time if it is not watered.

Unwanted Weeds

Taking soil from the garden and using it in a pot can lead to weeds germinating and creating a nuisance for your indoor plants. Some of these weeds are caused by the surfaced seeds.

Other diseases

A lot of fungus, bacteria, and spores can be found in garden soil, so you should avoid using it indoors.

We should avoid using it primarily for indoor plants to avoid bringing bacteria and spores inside our homes as they can affect your family’s health as they thrive and spread well in an unbalanced environment inside our homes.

Hopefully you don’t need me to explain why garden soil is an unwise choice for indoor plants. If we can’t use garden soil, what else should we use? Let’s find out!

What can I use for indoor plants instead of garden soil?

It is usually recommended to use a soil-less medium called a potting mix for effective plant care. But, what is a potting mix?

Plant pots are made of potting mix, which is a mixture of natural ingredients like peat moss, sand, perlite, and other materials that make plants thrive.

As the name implies, this type of mix does not include soil, but it contains a variety of light elements that help keep water and nutrients in the mix so that plants can thrive. Let’s dig into a few of the elements in these mixes:


The most important component of any soil mix is peat moss. It is an organic material that retains water and nutrients necessary for your indoor plants to survive and grow.


Sand is also a popular addition to the potting mix. Its fine particle size and high drainage characteristics make it a perfect choice for most soil mixes. Cactus and succulents particularly enjoy it.


This lightweight material is super porous, which aids in aeration and water retention within the soil mix. Perlite and pumice have air pockets embedded in them.


Other important ingredients for soil mixes include compost or vermicompost. We create artificial potting soil that does not contain any nutrients in it. Therefore, it is important to add compost to our indoor plants for healthy growth. Compost provides our indoor plants with essential nutrients for healthy growth.


Adding vermiculite to soil mixes is also necessary, since these small nutrient-rich pellets or stones encourage the growth of beneficial microbes and bacteria required for a healthy soil mix.

In addition, it acts as a reservoir for water, retains moisture, and slowly releases macronutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium into the soil mix.

Wood chips

By slow decomposition, wood chips provide nutrients essential for proper drainage and improve soil quality.

It is also possible to use wood chips as mulch if you live in a dry area to keep your soil moist and humidity around your plants. However, the aesthetic may not be appealing to everyone.

Alternatively, you can also make a DIY mix according to your plants’ needs. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Mix two-part of peat moss
  • Add a part of a compost
  • Add a part of perlite/pumice
  • And also, add a handful of wood chips

DIY mixes can also be made by reducing peat moss at the rate of one part and adding sand at the rate of one part.


Does garden soil make good soil for houseplants? No, it does not make good soil for houseplants, which are unable to prosper in it.

In gardens, soil tends to get compacted, which doesn’t allow enough air and space for the delicate roots of houseplants.

Using an inefficient medium like garden soil for indoor plants can only exacerbate their difficulties. The growing environment inside a home is quite different.

In order to get the best results from your indoor plants, it is recommended to use soil-less potting mixes. You can either buy a ready-made mix or prepare it yourself using the methods we discussed earlier.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!