What Is Horticultural Sand?

Maintaining a healthy garden or lawn is a difficult task that requires a lot of knowledge, time, and effort. There are countless variables to consider, from soil type and moisture levels to pest control and plant nutrition.

And while there are many products and services available to help gardeners achieve their goals, one of the most important ingredients for success that is often overlooked is the sand.

Sand is a vital component in horticulture, whether it’s used for growing media, drainage, or as a top dressing.

It can serve so many purposes including improving drainage, aeration, and adjusting nutrient and water retention in the soil.

Gardener Mixing Sand with Soil

While sand is widely available, not all types are appropriate for horticultural purposes. Horticultural sand is a specific type of sand that should be used for gardening purposes.

What is horticultural sand?

Horticultural sand is a coarse, gritty type of sand that is used in gardening and horticulture. It has larger sand particles than standard builders’ sand, and it is also known as sharp sand, coarse sand, or quartz sand.

Horticultural sand can be used to improve drainage, aeration, and soil structure. It comes from a variety of sources, including riverbanks, streams, and beaches. It can also be produced artificially by crushing rock.

However, it should never be sourced from marine environments, and industrial sites as these sources have salt and contamination by default. For the optimal growth of plants, it’s important to use high-quality horticultural sand that is clean and free of any salts or impurities.

What are the uses of horticultural sand in gardening?

There are many uses for horticultural sand in gardening, and it can be used in a variety of ways to improve plant growth and health. Here are some of the most common uses:

Improving drainage

Sand is often used in gardens that have heavy clay soils. The coarse particles of sand help to break up the clay, improve drainage, and make it easier for roots to spread through the soil.

Aerating potted plants

Aeration is important for potted plants as it allows the roots to breathe and takes in water and nutrients. Horticultural sand can be used to aerate potted plants by mixing it with the potting mix.


Topdressing is a method of adding a thin layer of material to the surface of the soil. This can help to level out the surface, improve drainage, and discourage weed growth. Horticultural sand can be used as a top dressing, either on its own or mixed with compost.

Improving soil structure

The large particles in horticultural sand help to improve the structure of soils. This can be beneficial in sandy soils that are prone to compaction, as well as clay soils that need help with drainage.

Adding horticultural sand to heavy clay soils can help improve them. The best method is to spread a few inches of sand over the soil and dig it into a depth of about 15cm (6in). Add enough sand to equal roughly half of the total soil volume to make a noticeable difference.

If you’re unsure whether your soil would benefit from horticultural sand, it’s best to get a soil test done first. This will help you to identify any problems with the soil and recommend the best course of action.

Improving lawn health

Lawn grass can become hard and soggy in poorly drained soil, especially in wet climates. Raking horticultural sand into holes punched into the lawn with an aerator is one solution to this problem. If you have a small lawn, you can make holes using a pitchfork or rake.

As a rooting medium for some plants

Some plants, such as cacti and succulents, prefer a sandy rooting medium. Horticultural sand can be used to create the perfect environment for these plants to thrive.

A way to add weight to containers

If you’re growing plants in containers that are prone to blowing over in the wind, adding horticultural sand can help to weigh them down. In general, adding sand to a potting mix will make it heavier and less likely to blow away in the wind.

Things to consider when using horticultural sand

There are a few things to keep in mind when using horticultural sand:

Don’t use it on its own

Although some plants can thrive in horticultural sand rooting medium, it’s not suitable for all plants. And, even if a plant can tolerate sand, it’s important to mix it with other materials to create a well-rounded growing environment.

Therefore, consider using horticultural sand as part of a potting mix or soil amendment, rather than on its own.

Don’t overdo it

It’s important not to use too much horticultural sand in your gardening. If there’s too much sand in the soil, it can improve drainage to the point where water and nutrients can’t be retained. This can lead to plant stress and, eventually, death.

To avoid this, only use horticultural sand in small amounts and mix it with other materials, such as compost or peat moss.

Choose the right type

There are different types of horticultural sand, and not all of them are created equal. Horticultural sand is generally classified by particle size, with the three main types being fine, medium, and coarse.

The type of horticultural sand you use will depend on the plants you’re growing and the purpose you’re using it for. For example, fine horticultural sand is often used to aerate potted plants, while coarse sand is better suited for improving drainage in heavy clay soils.

Knowing the different types of horticultural sand and when to use them will help you get the most out of this gardening tool.

Buy from a reputable source

When purchasing horticultural sand, it’s important to buy from a reputable source. This will help to ensure that you’re getting a high-quality product that is suitable for your gardening needs.

Certain types of sand, such as construction sand, can contain harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to plant growth. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re buying horticultural sand from a trusted source.

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