Perlite is one of the most useful materials to use in gardening, and practically any soil or substrate welcomes the addition of this light volcanic mineral. It is a very common and easy to find element, which is also not expensive.
If you want to learn what perlite is for plant substrates, join us in this EcologíaVerde article where you will find a practical guide on what is perlite for plants, what is it for and how is it usedamong other useful details for gardening enthusiasts.
What is perlite for plants
when we wonder what is perlite for substrate, in the first place we must differentiate it from the perlite that was used a few years ago in construction, although it has already fallen into disuse. In fact, originally the material was not used in gardening, but it did not take long for hobbyists to discover the advantages of its application.
pearlite is a volcanic glass amorphous with a water content between 2% and 5%. Due to this moisture content, when it is heated to high temperatures it undergoes an expansion process in which it multiplies its size by up to 13 times, giving rise to the light-colored, porous and very light material used in gardening and horticulture.
It’s a plant substrate material which is cheap, light, with a neutral and inert pH, so it does not react with any element in the soil or alter its balance. In addition, perlite does not carry pests or diseases of any kind, making it an easily accessible element with great advantages in its use.
What is perlite for plants
The benefits of perlite for plants they are very numerous.
- Its porous texture and its light weight favor the aeration of the soil, making it difficult for it to cake and, therefore, facilitating the access to oxygen and its development for the roots of the plants.
- In addition, perlite helps retain a certain level of moisture in the substrate, favoring the slow release of water more gradually, as well as other elements such as fertilizers.
- Despite its ability to partially retain moisture, perlite also improves soil drainage, preventing waterlogging, which is so detrimental to practically any plant.
- Used as padding, it helps to insulate the floor from extreme temperatures in very hot climates, since its characteristics make it reflect a high amount of light. This also causes the plant to have greater access to it, and even helps to ward off pests, insects or fungi that need more shady and humid environments to develop. Here you can learn more about How to make a padding for plants or mulching.
How perlite is used for plants
The use of perlite for plants It is very simple. The most common is to use perlite substrate, that is, add perlite to the substrate in different proportions to achieve the desired effect depending on the crop to be planted and its needs. These are its main uses in gardening:
- It is often used as propagation substrate, added to mixtures with peat, earthworm humus and coconut fiber. These components give rise to a substrate with excellent conditions: very light, rich in nutrients, with great drainage and good aeration, making it ideal for providing an ideal environment for plants in the early stages of their growth.
- Perlite is also commonly used in hydroponic crops, since its porous texture helps retain nutrients, in addition to providing elements such as silicon. Here you can learn how to make a homemade hydroponic culture.
- In very caked outdoor soils, it is common to add perlite after stirring and aerating them well, to prevent them from becoming excessively compacted again.
- It is especially suitable for succulent plants, in which case we will mix it with the sand or gravel that is usually used with them, thus making the mixture lighter. In this other post you can learn how to make a substrate for cacti and succulents.
- It is also common to use perlite padding to protect the soil from excessive heat and prevent the proliferation of weeds in outdoor crops. In these cases, the ground around the plants to be protected is simply covered with a layer of one or two centimeters of perlite, so that it acts as an insulator.
It is important to moisten the perlite before handling it to work with it and mix it with the soil, since, being so light, it is common for dust to rise and we end up breathing it, something that is not convenient. Another option is simply to wear a mask.
What can be used as a substitute for perlite
Perlite is very commonly used in conjunction with other materials such as vermiculite or tepojal. These have very similar but slightly different properties, so some prefer to use one of the three, and some choose to mix them to get the good of each.
- vermiculite, for example, also aerates and lightens the soil, but it has a slightly higher moisture retention capacity than perlite, so it is commonly used in tropical plants or plants that require more moisture in the substrate. Here you can learn more about Vermiculite: what it is, uses and how to make it.
- tepojal It is somewhat heavier than perlite and offers somewhat less oxygenation and drainage, although it offers the advantage of mixing better with the substrate given its greater weight. In this link you will find information about Tepojal for plants: what it is, what it is for and how it is used.
- coconut fiber It also fulfills a similar role to these volcanic rocks, helping to lighten the substrate and improve its drainage and properties, which is why it is often combined with them. In this other post you will see more information about coconut fiber for plants: properties and how to make it.
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