Topsoil Vs Potting Soil The Crucial Differences


If you love plants and care for them, But still you don’t know what is the difference between topsoil and potting soil, It can be pretty confusing especially if you are a beginner.

However, you’re not alone, so don’t worry!

What distinguishes potting soil from topsoil? Both indoors and outdoors, potting soil is utilized in pots and other containers. It is nutrient-amended and made to drain efficiently. Topsoil is utilized considerably more frequently.

It hasn’t been enhanced or modified like potting soil, yet it is employed in significant landscaping projects.

This article I will help you understand the differences between topsoil and potting soil.

What Is The Difference Between Topsoil And Potting Soil?

The word “topsoil” can be used to refer to a variety of things because all topsoils are unique and can vary.

Topsoil is the term for the very first, the top layer of the Earth’s crust, which is rich in nutrients since plants have often lived and died there for a very long period.

Purpose And Application

Potting soil is not dirt, but topsoil is. In reality, true potting does not have dirt at all. Topsoil is used for ground-level planting.

However, if you plan to grow plants in pots, it is better to use potting soil. 

Plants will flourish in potting soil if they receive regular irrigation since they breathe via their roots. Moisture crystals, tiny polymer flecks that assist potting soils to resist drying out too rapidly, are present in some varieties.

Filling up low areas along walkways, on lawns, and on patios with topsoil is a good idea. Lawn grass has a higher probability of growing on topsoil than in subsoil or clay if you add a few amounts of topsoil.

Topsoil can improve plant growth if you replace the old soil while planting trees and bushes.

What Is Potting Soil Used For

Because it has the ideal moisture retention and texture for growing plants in a compact space, potting soil is great for pot and container plants.

All container plants should be cultivated in some kind of potting soil.

Many types are specifically designed for particular plants like African violets, succulents, or orchids.

It has been sterilized, removing any potential organisms and fungus.

So, the risk of them transferring to other plants is minimized.

Additionally, potting soil has been cleaned to remove weed seeds and other contaminants.

It won’t compress like topsoil or regular garden soil in containers, allowing for greater root development for container plants.

To accommodate diverse plant species, potting soil is available in a wide variety. There are several popular varieties of potting soil available, including

  • All-Purpose Potting Soil is the first type of potting soil and is most widely used among gardeners. It works best for vegetables and flowers. Consider adding a water-soluble fertilizer to ensure a bountiful crop and promote blooming.
  • Seed-starting mix is a sterile, lightweight potting mixture used to germinate seeds. It helps the fragile and small roots to expand and grow. This lightweight is caused by vermiculite and perlite.  It could have a beginning fertilizer in it.
  • Cacti and succulents, including the species of Opuntia, need a mix that drains better than standard potting soil. Compost, peat, vermiculite, or perlite with a little amount of horticultural sand are the typical ingredients in potting soil mixtures for cacti.
  • Orchid Mix potting soil is just what orchids need in terms of a mix that does not decompose easily and has good aeration. The majority of mixtures have a clumpy texture that reflects the natural world. 

What Is Topsoil Used For

When it comes to garden soil, improving the existing soil is always preferable to removing and replacing the current dirt.

Topsoil and the soil currently present on your property should be blended 50/50. Mixing the two types of soil helps rainfall to go through layers rather than accumulating between them since each form of soil drains water at a different rate.

Topsoil is significantly less expensive because it is supplied in bulk, making it ideal for raised beds.

It can become fluffy and well-drained by mixing it with compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.  Your raised beds will collapse, bulge, and shatter otherwise.


Topsoil contains several ingredients such as sand, clay, grounded rocks, and organic recourses.

On the other hand, potting soil is made out of peat moss and organic components such as decomposed sawdust. 

There is a lot of decayed plant in the topsoil found in forests. Farm fields’ topsoil has been disturbed, blended, and frequently depleted by repeated plantings.

Topsoil frequently contains composted manure or clay. They also include weed seeds, fungus, and soil bacteria.

Using exact formulae and procedures, potting soils are carefully blended.

The majority of potting soils are composed mostly of peat moss, with various components also included making them perfect for particular applications.

For instance, seed starting mixtures are extremely fine and fluffy, allowing for the easy distribution of delicate, tiny roots.

Larger chunks and more bark can be seen in perennial mixtures.

Some potting soils contain vermiculite or perlite, which are air-filled flakes of fluffy, lightweight rock.

Good-quality potting soils are sterile, which means they don’t contain any weed seeds or disease organisms at all.


Topsoil is hefty. Since potting soil consists primarily of air, it is light. Topsoil retains a lot of water, thus it will remain damp for a long period.

Potting soil dries very rapidly because it allows for easy water drainage. Topsoil is compact and thick. Potting soil is frothy and challenging to compact.


Potting soil is typically specially designed and mixed planting media that can contain various components.

Some of those components can be pricy. Therefore, all that makes the potting soil more expansive in comparison to topsoil. 

Topsoil tends to be cheaper because it is typically the top part of fertile dirt, typically found around farming areas.

It has natural minerals and components that are received from decaying plant matter that is fallen on the ground. 

Potting Soil VS Topsoil Comparison Table

Potting SoilTopsoil
SterilityCan contain pathogens and pests. Specific types can be sterilized. Yet naturally, it is not sterile.Topsoil does not contain pathogens and pests. It is generally sterile. Yet, the downfall is that it does not have beneficial organisms, unlike potting soil. 
ComponentsContain dirt and compost manureMay not contain dirt. Has perlite or coconut coir in it. 
PriceCheaperMore expensive
Nutritional ValueContains natural compost and is rich in microorganisms. Does not contain compost. It may have slow-released fertilizer or additions such as worm casting, blood meal, or bone meal. 

Can Topsoil And Potting Soil Be Mixed? 

If you’re on a tight budget, you may combine topsoil with potting soil. This can be done in a large container. Additionally, it is recommended to put the potting soil at the base of the plant. So, it can get the fluffy and aerial mix to spread the roots.

The Bottom Line

Topsoil and potting soil are not the same things.

Topsoil refers to either imported soil used in this location in your yard or the top layer of the ground, which is rich in manure and minerals.

Potting soil is typically used for container gardening. An interesting fact is that potting soil may not contain dirt at all.

On the other hand, the topsoil is useful for garden beds and ground cover in the garden. 

Peride Beradze
Peride is an avid planter, Tour Manager and freelance writer. She is a plant collector who mainly focuses on succulents. She loves studying cultures, traveling and learning new languages.

Calculate the amount of soil you need for pots, raised beds or planter with the help of this easy to use Soil Calculator