Consumers Beware Potting Mix Choices

            By Carl Wilson, Extension Horticulturist


There's nothing more frustrating then potting a container plant only to experience poor plant growth.  In many cases your lack of a green thumb may not be at fault.


A lot of your chance for success is determined by choice of a potting media that allows you to water effectively.


This is where research-based Cooperative Extension information will help.  As the only Colorado University with horticulture, entomology and plant pathology departments, Colorado State University is your source for accurate plant growing information.


A two-year research project examined the major potting media sold by garden center, nurseries and mass merchandisers.  This replicated research indeed showed that potting mixes produce different plant growth result.  Done with geraniums and impatiens, the following results are likely transferable to growing many other flowering and foliage plants in containers.


First, choose a true potting media and not something labeled compost.  Composts are best used as organic amendments for outdoor soils.  The tow composts tried Great Plains compost and Mushroom Compost, produced poor results.


Second, Hyponex All Purpose Potting Soil and Green Charm resulted in poor plant growth.  Both of these media contain sedge peat, a fine particle material that tests to a low porosity.  There simply isnt enough space within these media for the water and air that plant roots need to grow successfully.  Black Gold All Organic Potting Mix resulted in significantly less plant growth in one out of two years.


There are definite benefits to growing annual plants in media that may be more costly but result in better plant growth.  Choose a media from any of the following.  The study showed no significant differences in plant growth among these products:


●  Home & Garden Showplace Professional Mix

●  Fertilome Potting Mix

●  Natures Yield Potting Soil

●  Southland Potting & Plant Mix

●  Black Gold All Purpose Mix

●  Permagreen General Purpose Potting Soil

●  Schultzs Instant Potting Soil Plus

●  Sunshine All Purpose


Research conducted by Professor James E. Klett, Department of Horticulture and Landscape