Perlite vs Vermiculite: The Differences Revealed

December, 2023
Darren Spalding

Perlite and vermiculite are both mineral products that provide excellent air flow in soil. They have different properties, however, so it's important to understand which one you need for your particular garden. This article will discuss the key differences between perlite and vermiculite so you can make an informed decision about what type of product to use.

Perlite is a mined mineral made up mostly of silica and water. It's formed when heated, so it has an almost-spherical particle shape that provides excellent air flow in soil. Perlite does not contain pesticides or fertilizers, making it safe for use by organic gardeners.

Vermiculite often contains vermiculite sand along with vermiculate clay minerals, which have different properties than perlite. Vermiculite is typically found near hot springs during volcanic eruptions and can't be replicated artificially like perlite because vermiculate has to cool before being processed into vermiculite sand.

Which one should you use in your Garden?

There is a large debate in the gardening community about which to use in the garden. Here’s what you need to know: they both have their own purposes for using them.

Use Perlite If…

  1. You have plants that must be dried out before watering again
  2. When transplanting seedlings
  3. You need to break up soil in your garden

Perlite can soak up water to keep your garden soil dry, improves drainage in heavy clay soil, and reduces temperature fluctuations. Higher quality perlite absorbs less water when watered into the ground than lower quality perlite so be sure you are buying good stuff.

Use Vermiculite If…

  1. You need to keep your plants moist
  2. You want your seed trays to produce healthy seedlings.

Vermiculite is a type of expanded vermiculite and they are different from perlite. This material can be made to hold more moisture than other vermiculites so it can keep your plant roots moist longer in drought conditions, preventing wilting or drooping which means healthier plants quicker.

To summarise both are great but it all depends on your needs!

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