Best Soil for Growing Plants

What Kind of Soil is Best for Growing Plants?

In Gardening, Lawn & Garden, Tips by Jamie

 If you grow many different types of plants in your garden, it can be hard to remember which soil works best with each plant. It can also be costly as you buy specific soils for just one or two plants. What if we told you there was a soil that would work for almost every plant you could want to grow?

Loam soil is the best soil option for growing plants. Not only is it more environmentally friendly than soils like peat, due to it being a mixture of sand, silt, and clay, it is easy to adjust the soil to the needs of your individual plants.

Keep reading to find out more about loam soil including what plants grow well in it, and what makes it the best option for all your gardening needs.

What is Loam Soil?

Loam soil is a mixture of sand, clay, and silt/organic matter. It can be an even amount of all three soils, but it is more common that sand and silt each make up roughly 40% of the composition, while clay makes up the remaining 20%.

Why is Loam Soil Best for Growing Plants?

Loam soil is best for growing plants because it allows for good moisture content in your soil. A composition of mostly clay leads to a lack of drainage, while too much said won’t allow for enough water to stay when you are watering.

Loam Soil is Best for Growing Plants

Silt is a great medium between sand and clay as it holds a good amount of moisture while allowing for proper drainage. However, silt and clay both tend to become compact and not allow for aeration. Having a mixture of all three provides proper moisture retention, and keeps a good amount of aeration in the soil.

RELATED: What is Soil Permeability? (All You Need to Know)

What Makes Loamy Soil Different than Other Soils?

There are 6 main classifications of soil. These are: chalky, clay, peaty, silty, sandy, and loamy.

  Chalk Clay Peat Silt Sand Loam
Drainage holds minimal moisture holds a lot of moisture has a lot of moisture holds good moisture doesn’t hold moisture holds a good amount of moisture
Aeration good aeration easily compacted good aeration easily compacted very aerated fair amount of aeration
Fertility nutrients drain quickly pretty fertile very fertile very fertile not very fertile fair amount of fertility
Plants that do well in the soil
  • corn
  • cabbage
  • beets
  • lilac
  • geranium
  •  snowdrops
  • hosta
  • aster
  • dogwood
  • birch
  • hawthorn
  • azaleas
  • heather
  • rhododendron
  • lettuce
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • yellow iris
  • Japanese iris
  • willow
  • cypress
  • red chokeberry
  • butterfly weed
  • columbine
  • lavender
  • collard greens
  • radishes
  • tomatoes
  • wisteria
  • black bamboo
  • blueberries
  • green beans
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
Key feature usually has a pH level above 7 smallest particle size has detrimental impacts on the environment due to mining from delicate ecosystems and destruction of carbon sinks silt is usually naturally found near bodies of water and is one of the most fertile soil types Has the biggest particles out of all the soils, due to the formation of weathering rocks It is a mixture of silt, sand, and clay, to get the best features from all three

Chalky

Chalky soil is characterized by limestone that is likely covered with just a thin layer of topsoil. It is usually free draining and not very fertile. Plants such as cabbage, beets, and lilacs do best in chalky soil

Clay

Clay holds the most moisture due to its small particle size. However, it tends to become very compact when dry, making it difficult for most plants’ roots to burrow through. Plants such as hosta, aster, and birch do best in this kind of soil.

Peaty

Peat soil was once considered one of the best soils to use. However, peat soil grows in very delicate ecosystems and acts as an important carbon sink. For this reason, farming for peat soil is detrimental to the environment and is not used often by conscientious farmers. Plants like heather, lettuce, and onions do well in peat soils.

Silty

Silt forms in bodies of water. It is incredibly fertile, but has a small particle size, and can grow compact like clay. Plants like the red chokeberry, Japanese iris, and willow do well in very silty soil.

Sandy

Sand has the largest particles of all the soils, as it is formed from weathering rocks. Because of this, there is little to no water retention. It is good for desert plants like cactus, collard greens, and radishes.

Loamy

Loamy is the best of all soil types. Where peat has a chance to have too much water and is bad for the environment, loamy soil has a good amount of water retention for most plants, stays aerated, and has an average amount of nutrients in the soil. Plants such as blueberries, wisteria, cucumbers, and eggplant do well in this soil mixture.

What Are Some Examples of Plants that Grow Great in Loam Soil?

Crops:

  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Corn
  • Okra

Flowers:

  • Snowdrops
  • Lilies
  • Daffodils
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Blood Sage

Trees:

  • Willow
  • Douglas firs
  • Cottonwood
  • Soft Maple

Bushes:

  • Roses
  • Juniper
  • Sumac
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hazel

Herbs and spices:

  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme

These are just a few examples of the numerous types of plants that grow well in loamy soils.

Are there Different Types of Loam Soil?

Since loam is made up of three different types of soil, it makes sense that there can be different types of loam. The type of loam depends on the dominating soil or soils in the mixture. For example, a clay loam is going to have a higher percentage of clay than silt or sand.

Other types of loam soil include:

  • Sandy loam
    • A loam with sand as the dominant soil
    • These can be useful if you need dryer soil for some plant
  • Silty loam
    • A loam with silt as the dominant soil
    • This is good to increase the fertilization and water retention
  • Silty clay loam
    • This is where silt and clay are your dominant soils, generally being around 40% of the mixture each
    • This will increase how compact your soil is, and the water retention
  • Sandy clay loam
    • A mixture of loam where sand and clay are the most dominant soils, composing 40% or so of the mixture each.
    • This can be good for a lot of crops
  • Silty sandy loam
    • This is often just referred to as loam. It is the most common form of loam, composed of only about 20% clay and the rest are equal parts silt and sand.
    • This reduces water retention while also increasing fertilization

loamy wet soil for gardening

What Can You Add to Soil to Help Plants Grow?

When it comes to loam, the most likely addition you will need to your soil is organic matter (humus). While loam might have a lot of nutrients, over time, growing plants in the soil may drain it. This is why you can add compost or decomposing matter into your soil to increase the amount of nutrients in the mix.

Do Trees Grow Best in Loam Soil?

Each plant is different, so it is hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution. However, by composing different types of loam, many trees should grow particularly well in loam. Trees like spruce, poplars, maples, oaks, and ash do great in loam. Fruit trees tend to do well in this soil mixture as well.

The only time that trees would struggle in loamy soil is if they were made for an extreme type of soil. For example, ginkgos and silk trees do well in very sandy soils with high drainage. Crab apples and Alders do best in clay-heavy soils that have a lot of water retention.

This is where the different types of loam come into play. By adjusting the soil percentages in your loam, you can add more clay or sand to allow even these plants to thrive in your garden.

Where Can You Get Loam Soil? Can You Buy it?

Yes, loam is available in many gardening stores, and even online. However, it is also possible to make it. By buying silt, sand, and clay in bulk and mixing it yourself, you can tailor your soil to suit your needs best. Buying the mixture online gives you pre-made percentages that may make it hard for some plants to grow. You also are unable to pick specific types of sand, silt, and clay if there are certain brands or types you like best.

If your plants aren’t super picky, or you are new to gardening, buying premade loam soil isn’t a bad idea. However, as you get into more difficult plants, it may be best to make the loam yourself, so you can get the exact composition you want with every plant.

Final Thoughts

Loam soil is composed of three different types of soil into one: silt, sand, and clay. This allows the best of each soil to allow for good aeration, moisture retention, and fertility. By creating your own loam mixture, you can even adjust your soil as needed. Almost any plant can grow in loam soil, from herbs, to berries, to trees.

Try out loam soil for yourself, and see if it makes a difference for you!