What Is Horticultural Sand, and How Is It Different From Regular Sand

What Is Horticultural Sand, and How Is It Different From Regular Sand?

If you are a garden lover, you might even be familiar with the equipment and ingredients necessary to keep your plants safe. Due to the fact that soil is essential for optimal development, you must include all of the right constituents to provide nutrients and oxygen to the developing buds.

This is where horticultural sand is advantageous. Unlike ordinary sand, it benefits plants much more by draining extra water from the soil.

Thus, what is horticultural sand and how is it distinguished from regular sand? Is it possible to replace some form of sand?

Continue reading this post to learn more about this sand and its horticultural applications.

How Is Horticultural Sand Defined?

Horticultural sand is a hard, rough sand that is often referred to as sharp sand, coarse sand, or quartz sand. It is composed of crushed granite, sandstones, and, perhaps most significantly, quartz.

Where it comes to scale, sand particles vary in diameter from two to five millimeters, with the bulk being on the greater end. As a result, the plants receive a combination of tiny and big particles.

Additionally, the colour of the sand is determined by the parent rock and the impurities present in the particles. If the sand is mostly composed of crushed quartz, it may be pure white. However, depending on the stone and impurities, the sand may be yellow or grayish.

Due to its massive scale, horticultural sand aids in soil draining. Since the sand does not adhere to one another, it does not fill in air pockets, thus decreasing water concentration. As a consequence, aeration across the soil improves oxygen supply to the roots of the plant.

Additionally, it is important to remember that horticultural sand is salt and lime free. This raises the pH of your soil, enabling your plants to thrive in an ideal setting.

How Is Horticultural Sand Defined?

How Is It Distinct From Ordinary Sand?

To comprehend the obvious distinctions between horticulture sand and regular sand, let us equate these two essential characteristics. This will assist us in determining whether or not the horticultural sand is worth purchasing for your plants.


Standard sand is found on beaches and waterways. In terms of composition, this water-worn sand is composed of circular and tiny grains. Due to the small grain size, ordinary sand ends up occupying the gaps between the soil’s clay and silt.

By contrast, horticultural sand is composed of sharp-edged, larger grains created by crushed stones. If you incorporate this sand into your soil, your plants can receive additional water and nutrients. Additionally, they resemble the grains used in concrete block and concrete mortar.


As previously said, ordinary sand is fine enough to blend into soil particles. It prevents the water molecules from moving. As a consequence, you’ll find that the land has less runoff and more water accumulation.

Water adheres to the surface of each sand grain, increasing its ability to retain water. As a result, you end up with a soil that is partially aerated and deficient in oxygen to sustain the young roots.

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Additionally, the sandy soil may develop a brick-like texture over time. Additionally, it is very difficult to rehydrate the soil after it has become dried and sand-like.

In comparison to ordinary sand, horticultural sand is the polar opposite. It does not fill in gap between soil particles with broad and coarse grains. Between the clay and grit, air pockets may develop, allowing for effective water drainage in the soil.


Before you incorporate some sand into your soil mixture, you must be cautious about its constituents. Sand grains can contain a variety of impurities or salts, and their addition to the soil may disturb the growing medium for the plants.

For starters, fine sand from rivers can contain minerals and organic substances. By contrast, horticultural sand is lime-free and composed entirely of silica sand.

Isn’t it self-evident which one is superior? Horticultural sand, which has few or no impurities, has a beneficial effect on the pH and constituents of the soil.


Though price does not seem important to devoted gardeners, others may struggle to afford horticultural sand.

In comparison to ordinary sand, which is very affordable, horticultural sand is significantly more costly. As a result, people often opt to purchase regular sand for their purposes, despite the fact that it decreases runoff in the soil.

However, you should not be concerned. If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to horticultural sand that provides comparable benefits and soil enhancement, continue reading to learn about your options.

Horticultural Sand Alternatives

Although horticultural sand has a number of advantages, it is not always abundant in all regions. Additionally, it is very costly.

Due to the fact that many seed-starting mix recipes call for horticultural sand, you will need to search for substitutes. There are many types of grit available, including sharp sand, grit, and builder’s grit.

While they are almost identical, they vary somewhat in terms of salt quality. Unlike horticultural sand, the alternatives can contain salt and lime.

For eg, river sand contains water-soluble minerals, and builder’s grit contains varying amounts of salt based on the parent rock.

If you are using gravel, sharp powder, or builder’s grit, it is recommended that you completely rinse them with water to prevent some salt. Salts would have little effect on the pH of the soil medium in this manner.

In general, builder’s sand is the least expensive of the alternatives, followed by sharp sand.

What Are the Benefits of Using Horticultural Sand?

After discussing what horticultural sand is and how it differs from regular sand, let us examine how and where it can be beneficial.

Horticultural sand is often used in seed planting and root cutting blends. It is combined with peat or manure to provide a soilless medium that drains well and inhibits the growth of fungi in the roots.

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It’s also very good as a potting mix for container gardening. As garden soil deteriorates and develops a brick-like quality over time, it is essential to substitute it with horticultural sand. It will maintain proper root aeration and avoid them from drying out.

If you live in a rainy environment, you run the risk of your garden soil being waterlogged, dusty, and hard. In such cases, you will resolve the problem by raking holes into the earth with a pitchfork or an aerator and filling them with sand.

Additionally, applying horticultural sand to hard clay soil will help with drainage. Over the top of the dirt, apply a couple layers of horticultural sand and plunge it into the earth at least ten inches below.

When Is It Appropriate to Use Horticultural Sand?

When do you use horticultural sand and why? Consider the following suggestions:

Planting seeds and cuttings: Horticultural sand is often combined with compost or peat to produce a well-draining soilless rooting medium. The mixture’s loose form is advantageous for germination and rooting cuttings.

Potting mix for container gardening: Garden soil is unsuitable for container gardening due to its rapid compacting and brick-like formation. When water cannot drain away from the roots, the plant perishes. A combination of manure or peat moss and horticultural sand is suitable. Although many plants thrive on a blend of one part horticultural sand to two parts peat or manure, cactus and succulents favor a grittier 50-50 mix. Additionally, often plants benefit from a thin layer of sand on top of the potting mix.

Loosening hard soil: Improving heavy clay soil is tough, but sand will increase the soil’s porosity, allowing for better drainage and root penetration. If the soil is mostly clay, scatter several inches of horticultural sand on top and then dig it into the top nine to ten inches (23-25 cm.) of soil. This is a challenging mission. To create a noticeable difference, you will need to add enough sand to represent about half of the overall amount of soil.

Improving lawn health: In poorly drained soil, lawn grass may become hard and waterlogged, especially in rainy climates. Raking horticultural sand into holes drilled into the lawn with an aerator is one way to alleviate this issue. If your lawn is thin, you can use a pitchfork or rake to make gaps.

How to Make a Horticultural Sand Substitute for Seed Mixes

A Sand of a Different Name

Horticultural sand is synonymous with sharp sand which is identical to builders sand and horticultural grit. Although these are not identical, and regional differences abound, they both serve the same purpose: to boost drainage, especially in clay-like soils. Gritty sand improves the stability of the soil, provides tiny gaps for air and water to circulate, and makes it simpler for roots to spread across the medium in a seedling or potting mix.

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Grit and sharp sand for agriculture are produced from crushed rock, such as limestone or granite. Since various forms of stone have varying pH values, it’s important to determine the form of stone used in the grit or sand to determine its acidity or alkalinity. Of course, builders sand is often derived from rock, although the provider is unlikely to recognize the source.

Prices for these materials vary according to availability in your region, but builders sand is typically the least expensive, followed by sharp sand.

Selecting Builder Sand

Since builders sand is a popular building commodity, it is the most readily accessible rough or coarse sand. It is a component of concrete and certain mortar blends. Builders sand is distinct from play sand or sandbox sand, which are composed of smaller, rounder grains and resemble beach sand. Through incorporating fine sand into your starting mix, you can convert it to cement. It will not drain properly, resulting in the opposite of the desired outcome.

Coarse builders sand is distributed in the masonry section of major home centers and by masonry and landscaping supplies suppliers. It has a much wider and coarser grain than play sand, rendering it suitable for drainage. Builders sand does include silica, a lung irritant that is related to cancer, so if you’re dealing with a ton of sand—shoveling a large pile into your yard, for example—a it’s smart idea to carry a fine dust mask.

Other Options

If you can’t locate the right sand, you can always use a different seed starting mix that doesn’t force you to use horticultural sand. Only make sure the formula contains something for drainage, such as perlite or vermiculite. You may also easily exchange the horticultural sand for completed compost or vermicompost, which provide the added advantage of adding rich nutrients into what would be an otherwise inert combination. Many soilless seed starting mixes use don’t horticultural sand, and drainage isn’t a concern.


If you are looking forward to planting trees in your garden or composting food, you need to find the best soil medium for a healthy start.

As such, horticultural sand is one of the strongest additives for your soil if you want to keep it well-drained and aerated for your rising roots. By holding the soil porous, it decreases water retention and increases oxygen delivery to your plants.

We hope you now have ample knowledge about the importance of horticultural sand and its uses.

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