3 reasons why using garden soil in pots harms plants' health, say experts

Garden experts warn against using soil in pots – the natural solution that may be harming your container plants

Reusing soil in garden pots on a raised deck
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to planting, you would be forgiven for reusing garden soil in your pots. This rich organic material is readily available – and appears to contain all the nutrients your plants may crave for the best start in life. 

However, garden experts have revealed that using soil in pots is a deceivingly dangerous garden idea that will hinder your plant's health in the long term. Here’s what you need to know. 

Why using soil in pots will impact your plants' health

tiered container plant display in a courtyard garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘Garden soil is soil that is specifically meant for use in outdoor gardens. It is usually a mixture of loam, sand, and clay, and it is often enriched with organic matter such as compost or manure,’ explains the founder of Gardening Boost, Rodger St. Hilaire. 

However, while this mixture is beneficial for gardens, says Rodger, it doesn’t cater to the needs of your container plants. 

‘Using garden soil in pots is not ideal. The reason is that it tends to dry out more quickly than other types of soil and it can become compacted in pots,’ Rodger says. This makes it harder for plant roots to grow and access the nutrients they need – meaning your container gardening ideas' health will be impacted in a few ways… 

1. Using soil in pots will lead to nutrient problems

carrots growing in a pot on a terrace

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Garden expert and founder of Urban Organic Yield, Lindsey Hyland, warns that there are several downsides to using soil from your garden in your pots. However, the most significant problem is that the soil’s pH is not ideal for container plants. This can, therefore, lead to nutrient deficiencies that will negatively impact your plants' health. 

2. Using soil in pots can cause bacterial and fungal spread

Make a mixed plant display with veg, herbs and flowers

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Another problem with using soil in your containers is that the soil may contain harmful bacteria or fungi that could infect your plants and cause them to die. 

If you have no choice but to use garden soil, Rodger urges you to sterilize it first by cooking it in the oven. This should limit the bacteria in the container and allow your plant to flourish with less chance of running into problems. 

3. Garden soil is too dense for healthy growth 

vintage terracotta pots on shelves in Bunyan's 16th century coaching inn

(Image credit: Penny Wincer)

‘Garden soil is often too dense for pots, which can cause water to pool on the soil's surface and prevent it from draining properly. This can lead to root rot and other plant problems,’ Rodger explains. Therefore, while this natural solution may be good for your flower bed ideas, you should avoid using them in pots and invest in potting soil that is made for the job. 

The season of planting with the right soil begins now.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.