All about Perlite
Gardening is fun and therapeutic, especially when you are doing it on your own. It is a great responsibility to take care of your plants, it’s just like taking care of a baby who is entirely dependent on you.
Just like you have to feed a baby, change its clothes, and bathe it; similarly, taking care of your plants is equally important. Giving them the right fertilizer, pots, and watering them the right amount at the right time is extremely important.
There are several tools, plant foods, and gears available in the market to make your gardening experience worthwhile and to give you the best results.
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your plants happy, green, and producing fruits. It feels so good to see your hard work paying off.
Perlite is just another additive to keep your plants healthy and happy. Whenever you buy potted plants, you must have noticed some tiny white lumps in the soil that look much like Styrofoam. Those tiny white lumps are Perlite, which is added in the soil to improve its quality and structure.
Do you want to know all about Perlite? This article contains all the relevant information which you need to know about it. Give it a read to know the answers to all of your questions regarding Perlite.
What is Perlite?
Perlite is a product of a mined volcanic rock that is made from a type of volcanic glass. Generally It is heated to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit where it expands and turns white. It pops like popcorn and multiplies thirteen times to its original size. It is incredibly lightweight.
How Is Perlite formed?
The type of volcanic glass from which Perlite is formed is known as amorphous volcanic glass. It has high water content in it. Perlite is also known as the Volcanic Popcorn because it pops like popcorn when heated and is white in colour. When the obsidian gets in contact with water, Perlite starts to form. It is more substantial at that time because of all the water held in it.
The Volcanic popcorn is formed when that heavy substance is heated at a very high temperature. The water which is present in the volcanic glass starts to vaporize, which makes the glass expand. The vaporization of the water makes it lighter in weight, and it starts to pop up.
Perlite and its uses
Perlite is non-toxic in nature. It is clean and does not become a cause of diseases. It has various applications in the industrial sector as well as in gardens.
It is used as an insulator or mixed into different products like ceiling tiles and lightweight plasters. It is also used as a filtration agent in the production of beer to take out solids from it.
In gardening, it is one of the essential ingredients which keep the plants healthy and greener for a longer time.
Using Perlite in the Gardens
Perlite has a lot of uses in the gardens. Like we mentioned earlier, it is one of the essential ingredients in gardening. Because it is aseptic, it cannot harm the plants in any way. It has a neutral pH, and it can retain water in it at least thrice its size. Yet it will not become soggy or decay. The most common uses of Perlite in gardening are:
Drainage: Perlite has been bestowed by nature with a filtration system. It retains a little amount of water, which is required by the plants and drains the excess water, which can harm them. It hooks the nutrients which the plants need and helps them in growing. It can be used in pots, raised beds, and even on the ground as well.
Improvement of airflow: The roots of the plants need air to breathe. Water is not the only requirement for plants. They also need oxygen to stay fresh and grow better. When there is excess water in the plant, they don’t get the required oxygen. Perlite helps in improving the aeration of the soil and modifies the infrastructure. It keeps the soil fluffy and slows down the process of compaction.
Helpful for newly sowing seeds: It is also used to cover the top of the potting mix, which has newly sowing seeds in it. It helps in protecting them from birds and worms. The sprouting seeds easily make their way up to the surface through the layer of Perlite.
Healthy roots in pots: While the seedlings grow, the most important part is to provide them the environment which grows healthy roots. It helps in providing the right environment to the roots while the seedlings grow in the pot.
Perlite alone is sufficient for seeds: It’s absolutely fine to use Perlite alone for the growing plants. It is equally successful, like any pot mixes. Though it does not contain any nutrients, it is vital to add fertilizer as soon as a leaf sprout.
What does Perlite do for soil?
The primary purpose of using it in the soil is to improve the aeration and infrastructure of the soil. It helps the soil in keeping it loose, hydrated, resistant towards compaction, and well-drained.
Perlite contains cavities in it, which helps in holding the moisture. The perlite particles create channels for air and water to pass on to the roots easily. This helps in giving the right environs to the roots to grow freely and effectively. With the presence of Perlite in the soil, the roots get all the nutrition easily without compromising on the quality of the roots.
Is Perlite Toxic?
This is a ubiquitous question that occurs in everyone’s mind before getting their hands on Perlite. Perlite is all-natural and is not toxic. It does not have any harmful effects on the environment of our planet, and neither has it done any harm to the growing plants. It offers a lot of benefits to the plants, and it is used in various ways in the industrial sector as well.
Yes, it is not recommended for human consumption, but it does not have any health risks attached to it.
What should be the Perlite Ratio to the soil?
Using the right ratio of perlite matters a lot when you are gardening. The ratio differs according to how you are gardening, e.g., in a pot, tray, raised bed, or on the ground. Let’s have a look at the different ratios of Perlite to the soil.
If you have planted a seed and want it to start growing, you need to take a 50-50 ratio of Perlite to the soil. You can use Perlite with other soilless mixes as well using the same ratio.
For cuttings of roots, the above ratio can be used. You can also use 100% perlite, and it’s equally effective.
For garden beds, if the soil is around 6-12” in-depth, you should apply a two inches layer of Perlite along with other soil amendments. Using one layer of Perlite will help you go through years of light and fluffy soil.
For plants put in containers and pots, you should fill up one-third of the pot with Perlite. The ratio of Perlite can be increased according to the species of the plants.
For the lawn, there isn’t any specific ratio of Perlite, which should be used. You can spread it all over the garden, and the Perlite will make its way to the roots over time.
Using Perlite in Hydroponics
Hydroponic gardening is a technique of growing plants without using soil. This soilless technique takes mineral nutrient solutions in water solvents to grow plants. This process has been more efficient in taking up the nutrients to the plants as compared to using soil.
Perlite is the most useful and reliable medium in hydroponic gardening. Cuttings is one of the most widely used methods of propagating plants in hydroponics. Cuttings develop a better roots system in a soil less pot.
In this case, it is the best option to help them proliferate by providing them a well-drained environment. Coarse Perlite has tiny pockets in it that contain moisture and nutrients, and it ensures that the cuttings are well-drained and the roots are not rotting.
It is a widely used medium in hydroponics because its price is very low. It is easily available in the market, and it’s very easy to move it from one place to another because of its lightweight.
Tip: Perlite can also be used in hydroponics for many years if it is properly sterilized at the end of the season. I have been maximizing my use for over 6 years now.
Perlite is the best option available in the market for maintaining your garden and growing it healthier and greener. It is easy to use, and you can re-use it multiple times. It is incredibly pocket-friendly and light in weight so you can have as much of it as you want.
It is undoubtedly the best additive to your plant media. It has a lot of benefits to offer. If you are planning to start a garden of your own, grow plants in your patio, or in your backyard shed, Perlite is the best option to get your hands on. This volcanic popcorn is a must to buy for your garden. Happy gardening!