plant care soil types

Comprehensive Guide to the 6 Soil Types

The 6 Different Soil Types: Explained

Once a new plant has been watered and has adjusted to its new home, it needs to be repotted. You’ll need a good container and soil. However, soil is not a one-size fits all kind of deal; there are actually 6 different types! I have compiled a list to help you determine the right type of soil for your new (or old) plant.

Soil Types

1. Clay soils

  • Description: comprised of over ¼ clay; holds a high amount of water and drains slowly; slightly sticky when wet; takes longer to warm in the spring than sandy soils; easily compacted while wet; can bake in the summer
    • known as a heavy soil, which is a potentially fertile soil because of the amount of nutrients that are present
  • Conditioning: yearly tilling and aeration are the best ways to reduce compaction
  • Problems: low drainage capacity
2. Sandy soils
  • Description: comprised of a ratio of mostly sand to little clay; warm more quickly in the spring than clay soils; dry out quickly and low in plant nutrients
    • known as a light soil, which drain quickly and is easy to cultivate and work
  • Identification: gritty texture; fall through fingers; do not clump and stick together
  • Conditioning: add fertilizer in small, frequent applications for best results since sandy soils tend to leach nutrients that are added
  • Problems: low water retention; low in nutrients
3. Silty soils
  • Description: fertile; relatively well-draining; hold more moisture than sandy soils
    • Pure silt soils are rare, especially in gardens
  • Conditioning: yearly tilling and aeration are the best ways to reduce compaction
  • Problems: easily compacted
4. Loamy soils
  • Description: mixture of clay, sand, and silt soils; as a result of this mixture, this soil avoids the extremes of either clay or sandy soils; fertile, well-draining, and easily worked
  • Conditioning: little to no need to condition
  • Problems: little to no problems depending on the concentration of the loam mixture – clay, sand, or silt
5. Chalky soils
  • Description: largely comprised of calcium carbonate (chalk); lime-rich; may contain chunks of chalky white stone
    • can be a heavy or light soil, depending on its composition
  • Conditioning: little to no conditioning is possible; this soil can’t be acidified
  • Problems: low fertility levels 
6. Peat soils
  • Description: comprised of mainly organic matter; usually extremely fertile; holds a high amount of water; typically, extremely acidic
    • Very rarely found naturally in gardens

If you don’t know what type of soil you have in your yard, you can try these two simple tests – adapted from The Spruce – to identify your soil and its qualities. You can also  use “The Jar Test” from Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center to determine what soil type you have.


Soil Test 1  how to determine your soil type based on its composition.

  1. Take a handful of moist soil.
    1. Can you roll the soil into a log? Is it somewhat shiny? You have clay soil.
    2. Does the soil feel gritty? Does it slip through your fingers? You have sandy soil.
    3. Does the soil feel slightly slippery? You have silty soil.
    4. Squeeze the soil. Does it hold its shape? Now poke the soil. Does it crumble? You have loamy soil.

Soil Test 2  how to determine your soil’s drainage capacity.

  1. Dig a hole about 6in (15cm) wide and 1ft (30cm) deep.
  2. Fill the hole with water. Let it drain completely.
    1. Keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain!
  3. Fill it with water again.
    1. Make sure to keep track of how long it takes again.
  4. If the water takes more than four hours to drain, your soil has poor drainage capacity.

Now that you know what type of soil you have and its drainage capacities, you can amend it in order to create the optimal environment for your plants. 

If you have any more questions about soil types, tests, or soil conditionings, comment below or email me!