Does Potting Soil Go Bad?

by | Last updated Jun 16, 2022

Does Potting Soil Go Bad? Even if it's Bagged?

Whether you are new to this whole gardening gig or just another curious fellow gardener, you are well aware of the importance of quality potting soil for your plants. But there is always this nagging question: will the potting soil go bad if you don’t use it right away? Well, no, not really. 

Usually, potting soil doesn’t have an expiry date; however, you can notice a certain decline in its quality when kept in storage for a long time in unfavorable conditions. To give you more insight, in this article, we will walk you through all the aspects of the lifetime of a bagged potting soil mix and more. 

With that being said, let’s get into it!

potting soil go bad
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Benefits of Potting Soil For Your Plants

Getting good quality potting soil is a no-brainer, especially when you want your plant to develop and flourish throughout all seasons. Any ideal bagged soil has the following features: 

  • The last thing you want is to suffocate your plant, so make sure you use lightweight potting soil that can efficiently circulate air, water, and other necessary elements. Also, this soil prevents compacting when compressed or when you water your plant, giving its roots the space to grow and get all the nutrients. 

It is advised to look for elements like perlite and bark in your bagged potting mix as these make the soil light and restrain it from getting viscous. 

  • Next up is the ability of the potting soil to retain moisture. Okay, first, let’s make a few things clear, excess watering of plants can lead to several problems. This is why your soil needs excellent draining capabilities; it should drain excess water from the plant and only keep a sufficient amount so that your plant is healthy and hydrated. 
  • Lastly, your potting soil needs to be packed with vital constituents that ensure your plant’s growth. It should contain ingredients with moisture content, nutrients, and more. Peat moss is one of the most critical constituents as it stimulates overall plant growth. 

How Long Does Potting Soil Last Before it Goes Bad? 

Bag Of Potting Soil
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The truth is, potting soil doesn’t come with an expiration date, but with time you might notice the quality deteriorating due to a variety of factors. There is a good chance that you will see some changes in the consistency, nutrient concentration, and even moisture-holding capacity of your stored potting soil. 

In addition, the organic matter present in the potting mix degrades the longer it sits. This might cause the soil to have a dustier texture and a denser consistency. Furthermore, the natural or fertilizer-based nutrients added to the soil also will degrade throughout time. 

If you keep the potting soil on a shelf, whether outdoors or indoors, it is more likely to become wet in the rain or dry out, causing it to change in texture and other components. Of course, you can still use this soil, but it won’t support the plant’s needs or growth. 

Along with this, another important factor that can affect the quality of the potting soil is whether the bag is opened or not. An unsealed bag of potting mix will usually keep its best quality for at least 6 to 12 months. On the other hand, potting soil bags that haven’t been opened keep their moisture content for 1-2 years. 

Generally, an opened pack of potting soil decays and compresses more quickly by air and moisture than a locked soil pack. You must remember that these unopened bags consist of organic components like peat moss which actively decompose.

How to Know if My Potting Soil Has Gone Bad? 

Although potting soil comes with no expiry date, keeping it in bad condition or stored away for a very long time can make it unfit for any use. Here are a few signs that your potting soil might be going bad: 

The Smell 

If your potting soil has been resting in the water or purged away in a damp place for too long, then it can develop a foul odor because of bacteria. Also, if you have been storing it for way too long, then it is more likely to have a bad smell which cancels out the air space for the good bacteria, and the new bacteria that grew in the damp will be harmful to your plant as well as have an unpleasant smell. 

Insects & Bugs 

Almost all gardeners dislike the unwanted insects or bugs that spoil the soil and the plant. The most common organism present in the soil is fungus gnats; this creature degrades the nutrients present in the potting soil. 

In addition, these gnats usually use soil as their breeding ground. Undoubtedly, these bugs are annoying to have around in your garden as they can cause severe damage, especially to the roots of a young plant. 

Mold Starts to Appear 

If you find dusty-looking green, yellow, or white mold on the potting soil, it’s a sign of infestation. Mold is more likely to grow in soggy or moist potting soil, and the easiest approach to get rid of it is by settling the mix in a well-ventilated area or under the sun.

When potting soil becomes excessively musty and cannot be used, the best alternative is to discard it. On the other hand, antifungal therapy can help avoid root rot in plants when the mold infection is not severe. 

Tips to Keep Your Bagged Potting Soil Good 

If you just brought a stock of potting soil for your new garden, then there are a few things you can do to avoid it from going bad: 

  • Flushing your potting soil every once in a while is a great way to maintain it. All you need to do is lay the pot in a sink or take it outside and fill it with water directly from a hose or tap.
  • After you are done with the flushing, it is best to allow the water to drain from the bottom of the pot before replacing the plant. This helps remove all mineral deposits and fertilizer salts that could have built up in the soil.
  • Most potting soils contain perlite, a small white substance that prevents it from getting overly packed. Adding a bit more of it allows peat moss present in the soil to decompose slowly. 
  • Storing the potting soil correctly can make a big difference in how long it retains its moisture and nutrients. For example, a new potting mix should be stored in a clean and dry container in the winter, such as a fresh garbage bag or a clean trash can.
  • Before storing the old potting soil, make sure it’s totally dry. Unopened potting soil bags can be stored in a dry spot in a storage container. Many gardeners prefer to add some vermiculite to their mix. 

The Verdict 

All in all, bagged potting soil can last you for a long time when taken care of properly. Opened bags can last you up to 6-12 months, while an unopened bag is suitable for 1-2 years. Although potting soil can last longer than this, it will lose its nutrients, freshness, and texture over time. 

To ensure your bagged soil lasts for an extended period, you can follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and store it accordingly. Moreover, you can avoid wasting the old soil and use it for other purposes in your garden but a word of warning, keep rotten or moldy soil away from your plants as it is not worth the struggle. 

I hope this article was helpful to you in this quest and answered all your questions about bagged potting soil. 

Shelbi Clifford

Shelbi Clifford

Hi, I'm Shelbi! I am the founder of Houseplant Advisor - a blog for all things houseplants. Whether you are looking to add some green to your home or want to learn about how plants can help improve air quality in your space, Houseplant Advisor is here with the answers. Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach out and ask me anything!

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