What is the difference between Perlite and Vermiculite?
What You Should Know More about Perlite and Vermiculite
You need a healthy soil to ensure the productive growth of your plants. There are certainly a lot of ways to improve the richness of your soil. Soil additives have been proven to be effective for gardening or growing healthy crops. If you are one of those who wanted to try this option, you probably have heard about Perlite and Vermiculite.
Perlite and Vermiculite are soil additives which are both used to enrich your soil and improve moisture retention. But before you use any of these additives, you must first determine the texture and quality of your soil and what your plants need. They may look quite similar on physical aspects and texture, but you cannot just use any of these. If you apply a wrong additive, it will cause a massive damage to your soil. The growth of your plants might get dormant.
So, if you are planning to apply one these to your soil, how would you know which to use? How do they differ from each other? Before we proceed on with the definitions of both parties, we should determine first the pH of the soil and what the optimal level is.
What is the pH of soil?
Before anything else, identifying the pH of soil first is important. This abbreviation stands for “potentiometric hydrogen” which refers to the acidity and alkalinity level of the soil. It usually ranges between 5.5 and 7.0 pH, but the optimal level of soil needed for most gardens is about 6.5 pH. Why do we need to know this factor? Does it affect the growth of the plants?
Yes, definitely. It massively affects the growth of your plants. If your soil is at the optimum level, it makes it easier for the plants to absorb the nutrients they need from the soil. Hence, healthy soil defines healthy plants. That is, then, the role of these soil additives, Perlite and Vermiculite.
If your soil cannot reach the preferred pH level, proper and precise application of Perlite or Vermiculite will enrich you soil until it reaches the optimum level.
The Difference between Perlite and Vermiculite
To know more about the physical and substantial characteristics of Perlite and Vermiculite, you can refer to the comparison table below.
Has pH level of 6.6 to 7.5
Can slightly raise the pH level of soil even if it is at the neutral level of 7.0
Looks like white granules or glassy volcanic rocks with a bit of pearly shine and grayish shades
It is softer and could be dark or golden brown which also resembles the mica mineral
It is rich in silicon which is from a type of unclassifiable volcanic rock
It comes from micaceous minerals and ores that contain silica, iron oxides, magnesium oxide and silica
Lightweight, clean and odorless
It enhances the aeration of the soil which allows more oxygen to reach the plant’s roots
Improves soil aeration but provides less oxygen for the plants
It quickly drains excess water acquired by the soil
It acts like a sponge which absorbs more water than perlite
They turn into little white balls when heated
The vermiculite flakes turn into worm-like shapes when added with water
Expands up to 15 times its volume
Expands up to 20 times its volume
Which Soil Additive Should You Use for Your Garden?
Perlite and Vermiculite both have the ability to retain water but if your plants need more absorptive soil, vermiculite is the best option. On the other hand, if your plants require a good drainage, you should apply perlite to your soil.
We can put it much easier this way. Perlite offers more aeration for the plant roots but drains more water while vermiculite offers less aeration but holds much more water. So, now that you’ve known the distinct differences between these additives, which should you use for your garden?
When to Use Vermiculite:
- This is preferred for water-loving plants such as forget-me-nots, irises, cattails, pickerelweeds and many other plants of this type.
- If your plants require constant moisture
- If you have tropical plants at home
- You can use vermiculite for grass growing or on your lawn
- If your plants have heavy clay or overly sandy soils
If you want to know how to use vermiculite or how to mix it with your soil, you can watch the following video.
When to Use Perlite:
- If you have plants at home, such as cacti, Aloe Vera or other succulent plants, that need a better drainage.
- It is also preferred for plants which need to dry out in certain conditions.
- You can use perlite if you have seedlings and you need to move them from one container to another. It is also more recommended if you place them into separated pots. This allows them to drain water more easily.
- If you grow your plants inside the containers and indoorsWhen you cultivate plants and seeds.
- You can also use perlite for composting.
The video below is an example of using perlite for starting seeds. You can watch it for reference.
To top it all off, perlite and vermiculite both enhance and stabilize the quality of the soil. These soil additives can suffice your plant’s needs as long as you know which is suitable for your plant and how you are going to use it.
You just have to take note that you cannot just use any of these soil additives without determining the proper needs of your plants. If vermiculite is recommended, but you applied perlite, it can affect your plant’s growth. It may delay the process or worse, might even kill it.
If you want to know more about soil building or soil amendments, our previous article will give you the information you need to know.
Hope this article helps you! Should you have any concerns and questions, share them in the comment box below.