Perlite, why, what & how

Perlite, why, what & how

Perlite! The popcorn of the soil additives. It is not only a staple in most potting soils, this volcanic rock has many more applications. 

Zoomed in shot of perlite

Why use perlite?
Perlite has many advantages and is a great additive to soil mixes. It is used in most of the SYBASoil mixes, and for a reason. 

  • It improves drainage & aeration in the soil, allowing oxygen into the roots and preventing root rot
  • It retains a bit of water while allowing the rest to drain away
  • Useful both as an additive and in soilless mediums. 
  • It is light-weight
  • It is PH-Neutral
  • It is strong and retains it shape when pressed in the soil
  • It is inorganic, inert and sterile
  • It does not decompose

While it is a great medium, there are some less-then-ideal things about perlite.

  • Regular perlite is dusty and dangerous to inhale (ours is already cleaned)
  • For some plants the drainage is too much (Like Alocasia), use vermiculite instead. 

What is perlite?
Perlite is a light-weight medium that feels comparable to styrofoam. Perlite is a mineral that is mined in a hard glass form, it is then heated to pop & expand into the perlite you can buy (just like popcorn!). 

How to use perlite
Perlite as a rooting medium for cuttings
Perlite is a great rooting medium that can both be used as a standalone and in combination with a coco coir & worm castings base. 

Perlite as a soilless medium
Perlite is great to use as a hydroculture medium. Fill a cup with perlite and fill 1/3th with water. The water will evaporate and be pulled up towards the roots of the plant. It is important to add nutrients as perlite contains none. 

Perlite to sow seeds
Use a 1:1 mix of perlite & coco coir to sow seeds in. The perlite speeds up germination and improves seedling growth as it allows water to be released slowly to the seeds. 

Perlite as a soil additive
As discussed previously, perlite improves drainage and aeration and is a great addition for most plants. 

Perlite v.s. vermiculite
While both are inorganic, inert and lightweight. There are a couple differences to the two. Simply put, vermiculite holds more water and has a slightly higher lower PH than perlite. For most plants perlite will be the best option, but for water-loving plants like alocasia vermiculite is better. More on vermiculite can be read here. 

Is perlite harmful? 
Perlite is very dusty, be careful not to inhale the dust. There is a trick to prevent this:

  • Add water to the bag of perlite (about 10% of the volume)
  • Shake the bag
  • Let it sit for an hour
  • Shake the bag again

Our perlite is cleaned from dust, as we do the above process for you. Beware that there might be a small bit left, but nowhere near regular perlite. 

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