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

What is Horticultural Sand

If you are enthusiastic about gardening, you may already know about the right tools and ingredients to keep your plants healthy. Since soil is essential for optimum growth, you need to add all the best constituents to provide nutrients and oxygen to the growing buds.

This is where horticultural sand comes in.  Unlike normal sand, it is much more beneficial to the plants by draining the soil’s excess water. 

So what is horticultural sand, and how is it different from normal sand? Can you substitute it with some other sand?

Keep reading this article to learn about this sand and its uses in horticulture. 

What Is Horticultural Sand?

Horticultural sand is a type of gritty, coarse sand, often known as sharp sand, coarse sand, or quartz sand. It is made from stones like crushed granite, sandstones, and, most importantly, quartz. 

When we talk about size, the sand particles can range from two to five mm in diameter, with the majority being on the larger end of the spectrum. As such, you get a mixture of both small and large particles for your plants.

Moreover, the sand’s color depends on the parent rock and the impurities embedded in the particles. If the sand is made majorly by crushing quartz, then it might be pure white. However, the sand can also be yellow or grayish, depending on the stone and impurities.

Due to its large size, horticultural sand improves the drainage of the soil. Since it will not stick together, the sand does not fill in air pockets, reducing water retention. As a result, the aeration around the soil will improve oxygen delivery to your plant’s roots. 

Besides, it is essential to note that horticultural sand is free of salts and lime. This improves the pH of your soil, allowing your plants to grow in an optimum medium. 

How Is It Different From Normal Sand?

To understand the apparent differences between horticulture sand and normal sand, let us compare both critical features. This will help us distinguish if the horticultural sand is worth buying for your plants. 


You see normal sand at beaches and rivers. If we talk about the structure, this water-worn sand has round and small grains. Due to the tiny grains, normal sand ends up filling the spaces between the clay and silt of the soil. 

On the other hand, horticultural sand has sharp-edged, larger grains, formed by crushed stones. If you use this sand in your soil, your plants will get more water and proper nutrients. Furthermore, they are similar to the grains used in mortar for concrete blocks and concrete. 


As mentioned above, normal sand is small enough to fit between the soil particles. It doesn’t let the water molecules to move. As a result, you will notice reduced drainage and increased water retention in the soil. 

Water sticks on the surface of each sand grain, resulting in increased water-holding capacity. Hence, you get poorly aerated soil with low oxygen content to support the young roots. 

Moreover, the sandy soil can even become brick-like over time. It is also quite hard to rehydrate the soil once it has become dry and sandy.

Compared to normal sand, the horticultural sand is the exact opposite. With large and coarse grains, it does not fill in space between soil particles. Air pockets can form between the clay and grit, allowing efficient water drainage throughout the soil.


Before adding any sand in your soil mixture, you have to be careful about its constituents. The sand grains can have many impurities or salts, and adding them to the soil can disrupt the medium for the plants.

For instance, fine sand from the rivers can have minerals and organic substances dissolved in them. On the other hand, horticultural sand is lime-free and made from pure silica sand.

 Isn’t it obvious which one is better? With little to no impurities, horticultural sand has a positive impact on the pH and constituents of the soil. 


Although the price might not seem crucial for dedicated gardeners, it can be difficult for others to afford horticultural sand.

Unlike normal sand, which is quite cheap, horticultural sand is much more expensive. Due to this, people often prefer buying the normal sand for their needs, even though it reduces drainage in your soil.

However, you don’t have to worry. If you want a cheaper substitute for horticultural sand with similar benefits and improvement in your soil, keep reading to find the alternatives.

Alternatives of Horticultural Sand

Even though horticultural sand has many benefits, it’s not always available in every region. Moreover, it is quite expensive too.

Since many seed-starting mix recipes require horticultural sand, you might have to look for alternatives. These include sharp sand, grit, and builder’s grit. 

Although they are almost the same thing, there are a few differences in their salt content. Unlike the horticultural sand, the alternates might have salt and lime embedded in them. 

For example, sharp sand from the river has water-soluble minerals, and the builder’s grit has different salt as well, depending on the parent rock. 

If you are using the grit, sharp sand, or builder’s grit, it is advised to wash them with water thoroughly to remove any salt from them. In this way, the salts will not affect the pH of the soil medium. 

Overall, the builder’s sand is the cheapest out of all the alternatives, with the sharp sand coming in second. 

Why Should You Use Horticultural Sand?

Since we have covered details regarding what is horticultural sand and how it is different from normal sand, let us see how and where it can prove useful.

Horticultural sand is widely used in the mixes for planting seeds as well as root cutting. It is added to peat or compost to form a soilless medium that drains well and prevents fungus from cultivating in the roots.

It is quite useful as a container growing potting mix too. As garden soil takes on a brick-like consistency over time, you should replace the soil with horticultural sand. It will keep the roots well-aerated and prevent them from drying out. 

If you live in rainy climates, your garden soil is more likely to become waterlogged, dry, and hard. In such instances, you can solve this issue by raking holes into the ground with a pitchfork or an aerator and adding the sand into them. 

Moreover, adding the horticultural sand to heavy clay soil can improve its drainage too. You have to add a few inches of horticultural sand over the top of the soil and dig it into the ground, at least ten inches below.


Whether 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 best ingredients for your soil if you want to keep it well-drained and aerated for your growing roots. By keeping your soil porous, it reduces water retention and improves oxygen supply to your plants. 

We hope you now have enough information regarding the significance of horticultural sand and its uses.