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What is the Difference Between Perlite and Vermiculite? (2022)

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Perlite and vermiculite are two preferred potting ingredients that both serve to improve water retention and water drainage nonetheless, they are not the same. Perlite, a volcanic rock, is much better at giving water drainage while vermiculite, a mineral compound, is better at water retention.

Understanding their similarities, it is simple to understand why people usually confuse these two items. The manner in which they are packaged and marketed likewise does not assist.

To do your plants a support as well as to aid stop you from coming residence with the incorrect bag, we have placed with each other this simple overview. After reading this, you will certainly have a much clearer concept of the differences between perlite as well as vermiculite and also just how to use them.

What Is Perlite?

Perlite is a particular kind of volcanic glass with a very high water web content. Nonetheless, by the time that it obtains to customers, perlite looks absolutely nothing like rock glass.

The perlite that you get in shops has actually been treated with high heat which causes the volcanic glass to ‘pop’. After this treatment, it looks like white puffy spheres which is why some individuals may call it ‘volcanic popcorn’.

Its appearance is also why some people make the blunder that it has comparable residential or commercial properties to styrofoam. To be clear, styrofoam has no place in your potting dirt as well as is not a safe replacement for perlite

The framework of perlite is extremely porous, which is why it enhances the drain of potting soil. Regrettably, it is so porous that in some scenarios the water will go through as well promptly.

Like snacks, it occupies rather some room for how lightweight it is. This has 2 advantages; increased oxygen circulation via the dirt as well as relaxing dense compressed soil.

One of the benefits of perlite is that it has a nearly neutral pH. Simply put, it will not adversely impact the nutrient level of the dirt it is in.

An additional benefit is that considering that it is a rock, it does not rot as well as it does not end up being moldy either. You can securely touch perlite with your hands because it is non-toxic and does not leave any type of negative smells.


What Is Perlite Good For?

There are several reasons why you might intend to add perlite to your potting dirt:

  • Improving dirt oxygenation
  • Quickening water drain
  • Making compressed dirt lighter
  • Slightly much longer water retention

With these properties in mind, perlite is a prominent addition to potting soil for plants that do better with a little drier soil in between waterings. Instances consists of:

  • Succulents
  • Cacti
  • Lavender

Perlite may also be valuable for plants that expand rapidly and also therefore require to be repotted fairly commonly. This is because perlite doesn’t rot as well as can retain nutrients well.

What Is Vermiculite?

Vermiculite is a mineral substance of iron, magnesium as well as aluminium silicate minerals. That is quite a mouthful, however it suffices to recognize that this mineral substance responds with several of the nutrients in the soil to make it slightly extra acidic.

Strangely, vermiculite itself is pH neutral so it is secure to touch with your hands. These brown flakes really feel extremely completely dry but once it comes right into call with water vermiculite acts like a sponge.

This mineral has whole lots of layers which broaden when it comes to be wet, rather similar to the sponge that you make use of in the kitchen area. Like a sponge, it will additionally hold the dampness for a very long time.

This is a benefit for plants that require regularly damp dirt. As the moisture level of the potting soil lowers, the vermiculite will begin to slowly launch the water it is holding– similar to in osmosis.

Vermiculite is available in various granular dimensions and it deserves to take into consideration that one is best for your dirt. Usually, the finer vermiculite grades are made use of in horticulture.

Much like perlite, vermiculite does not rot, grow mold and mildew or biodegrade which indicates that it will stay in the soil permanently. Therefore, some people might also choose to change their garden compost with it.

vermiculite potting plant

What Is Vermiculite Used For?

Vermiculite can be made use of for many of the same objectives as perlite however with various results:

  • Aerating soil
  • Maintaining dirt moist for longer
  • Making compressed dirt lighter

Due to the fact that it does incredibly well in preserving dirt moisture, vermiculite is best added to potting dirt of dampness loving plants. Examples consist of:

  • Ferns
  • Lily ranges
  • Herbs
  • Tropical plants that prefer humid conditions

Vermiculite is also typically contributed to the dirt of seedlings. It does well in preserving nutrients, as well, which will aid in the onset of plant growth.

Regularly Asked Questions

Can you substitute vermiculite for perlite

Regardless of numerous people perplexing the two product, you can not replace vermiculite for perlite This is since vermiculite will certainly retain dampness for a lot longer while perlite boosts soil water drainage.

What is an excellent replacement for perlite

Rice hulls are a prominent natural alternative for perlite since it has a lot of the very same properties. If soil aeration is your concern, you can take into consideration including sand however it does make the dirt larger.

Is vermiculite secure for natural horticulture?

Yes, vermiculite is secure for organic horticulture. However, you might wish to examine exactly how the certain brand name processes its vermiculite to be 100% certain. Fortunately, asbestos contamination is no more a problem with vermiculite.


Perlite as well as vermiculite are usually added to potting soil to boost its conditions. While perlite is the best selection for enhancing water drain, vermiculite is the best choice for improving water retention.

Thus perlite and vermiculite, despite having lots of various other similar benefits, lead to various results in the dirt. That is why these two items are bad substitutes of each other.

For the same reason, you would add these items to various type of plants. Include perlite to plants that are susceptible to root rot and also need to dry out extra in between watering sessions. Include vermiculite to plants that call for a whole lot of soil dampness and succeed in humid conditions.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.