Perlite: A Lightweight and Versatile Gardening Companion

Perlite: A Lightweight and Versatile Gardening Companion

    Last time, we talked about peat, and this time, let's introduce its good friend—perlite.

What is perlite

  • Perlite is a non-metallic mineral product made from preheated and rapidly heated expanded perlite ore, which expands 10-30 times in volume and forms a white, granular material with a honeycomb-like structure.

Advantages of perlite

  • Water retention and aeration: Perlite can absorb water up to 2-3 times its weight and, when mixed with soil, creates gaps that enhance air permeability.
  • Lightweight, porous, and insulating: Its porous structure provides natural temperature control, mitigating temperature fluctuations' impact on plant roots. It also helps regulate nutrient efficiency and fertility.
  • Facilitates plant root growth: The high porosity of perlite greatly promotes the growth and development of plant roots, contributing to root stability.
  • Non-toxic and harmless: Chemically stable with a neutral pH, perlite does not harm plants. It lacks organic matter, is insoluble in water, and inhibits mold growth, acting as a barrier against diseases.

Disadvantages of perlite

  • Lightweight and fragile: Although perlite is a mineral product, it can be easily crushed, and excessive surface perlite in pots may float after watering or be blown away in outdoor environments.
  • Relatively short lifespan: Perlite tends to break down after about a year of use, contributing to soil clumping.

How to use perlite

  • In medium preparation and usage, perlite can be mixed in appropriate proportions to achieve loose, well-draining soil conditions. When mixing, consider the particle size of perlite; larger particles are generally more suitable for larger plants.
  • Besides being used as an additive for potted plants, perlite can also be used for propagation and breeding of some plants.

Precautions when using perlite

  • Perlite is prone to powdery breakdown, avoid kneading or squeezing during use. While the powder itself is non-toxic, it's advisable to avoid inhalation by user.
  • Due to its lightweight nature and the tendency to float after watering, measures like using plastic film can prevent perlite from being blown away by the wind.
  • Rinse newly purchased perlite to remove excess powder before use.
  • Perlite is not suitable for plants that prefer alkaline conditions and is best for drought-tolerant plants that do not thrive in waterlogged conditions.
  • Use perlite in moderation when mixing with other soils; a ratio of 4:1 soil to perlite is recommended.