Which Soil Is Best for Plant Growth?

Susan Patterson
Planting tomatoes requires the right soil.

There are three main types of soil: sand, silt, and clay. The best soil for most plants for optimum growth is a rich, sandy loam. Loam is an even mixture of the three main types of soil. In most cases, you will need to amend your soil with compost. Depending on how compact your soil is, you may also want to add peat moss and sand. However, there are many plants that are well adapted to growing in particular types of soil.

Different Plants for Different Soils

Soil is generally described by the amount of sand, clay, and silt it contains. This is known as texture. Soil texture is directly related to nutrient quality and drainage capabilities.

Sandy Soil

Sand is the largest particle in soil and does not hold nutrients well. The following plants are well-adapted to sandy soil.

  • Blanket Flower
  • Adam's Needle
  • Wormwood
  • Aster
  • Echinacea
  • Carrot

Clay Soil

Soil with a large amount of clay are heavy and do not drain well. The following plants are well-adapted to clay soil.

  • Aster
  • Bee Balm
  • Butterfly weed
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Goldenrod
  • Hollyhock
  • Geranium

Silt Soil

Silty soil is powdery with high fertility. Unfortunately, soils that are high in silt can become waterlogged very easily. The following plants are well-adapted to silty soil.

  • Swamp milkweed
  • Yellow iris
  • Japanese iris

Soil for Indoor Plants

Types of Soil Slideshow

If you're growing houseplants, you might think it's a good idea to simply scoop some soil from your yard to grow your plants in. This is actually a bad idea. Garden soil actually contains bacteria, which can be harmful to your houseplants. There are a two options if you don't want to use commercial potting soil.

Sterilize the Outside Soil

If you opt for your outdoor soil to grow your indoor plants, you'll first need to pasteurize it in order to eliminate any diseases, as well as insects and weeds. Spread it on a cookie sheet and bake it in a 180 degree oven for 30 minutes. Although this process does not smell too good, it does take care of the bacteria.

After the soil is sterilized, you will likely need to amend it with peat moss and sand. These are things that will allow proper drainage and air flow while still retaining the right amount of moisture. Commercial potting soils are similar in that they include peat moss and vermiculite along with a slow-release fertilizer. Together these things create a soil mix that holds nutrients, retains moisture, and provides ventilation for the roots of the plant.

Create Your Own Mix

Another option is to make your own potting soil. When you create your own mix, you can control the quality of the soil. This recipe is for a lightweight soilless planting medium.


  • 1/2 cubic yard peat moss
  • 1/2 cubic yard perlite
  • 10 pounds bone meal
  • 5 pounds blood meal
  • 5 pounds limestone


Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

Beautiful Garden

One of the keys to a beautiful garden, whether it is outside or a container garden inside, is understanding the soil requirements of particular plants. Always take a soil sample if you are unsure about which kind of soil you have. Since most soil is a combination of sand, clay and silt, it is sometimes difficult to know just what your soil needs in order for your plants to thrive.

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Which Soil Is Best for Plant Growth?