When to Use Perlite — and When to Avoid It
If you’re like many other homeowners and apartment dwellers, you’ve probably jumped on the plant and gardening bandwagon.
Becoming a plant parent has numerous benefits. Owning plants not only improves air quality but also boosts emotional well-being and fills your living space with beauty and life. And don’t get us started on the benefits of having your own garden (fresh produce, anyone?).
One part of starting your plant parent journey is understanding all of the different plant terms and materials. One word you’ve probably come across is perlite. But what is perlite? And when should you use it, if at all?
What Is Perlite?
Have you ever looked closely at dirt and seen hundreds of small white rocks scattered in the mix? Those rocks are called perlite.
Perlite is a naturally occurring amorphous volcanic glass with a wide range of uses. It’s small, lightweight, granular, and porous. Perlite is often used as an additive to garden soil.
When Is Perlite Good to Use?
Perlite is a great substance that many home gardeners like to use to ensure their plants are healthy and have superior growth.
Because perlite is made up of small, porous balls, using it in your soil increases aeration, prevents soil compaction, and allows your roots to thrive. All in all, perlite lightens soil and empowers roots to more fully access nutrients and resist drowning.
Perlite is especially effective in small soil spaces as it prevents soil and roots from being too compact. Additionally, if you have indoor plants that require excessive moisture and humidity, perlite can help balance out that humidity.
This versatile tool is also good to use in outdoor gardens, especially with young plants that require more nutrients and are more susceptible to root rot.
When Should You Stay Away from Perlite?
Since perlite is non-toxic, it’s generally safe to use in both an indoor and an outdoor setting — especially if you have curious cats and snooping dogs. However, using perlite in excess creates large dust clouds, so it might not be the best choice for those with asthma.
Additionally, perlite contains fluoride. Because some plants seem to be sensitive to fluoride, you might prefer to use a different material if you are caring for the following plants:
- Spider plants
- Easter lilies
- Peace lilies
- Parlor palm
- Prayer plants
If you have these plants and have noticed that they don’t do well with fluoride, it might be better to avoid using perlite.
Perlite or Not Perlite?
Perlite is a wonderful soil additive that can help with drainage, prevent root rot, and cause your indoor and outdoor plants to thrive.
While some people believe perlite can harm sensitive plants due to its fluoride content, there isn’t much data to support such a claim. If you have no problem giving your plants tap water (which contains fluoride), then perlite should be fine.
If you're looking for another perlite alternative, we recommend using pumice because it is a heavier, more dense soil. Because perlite has a tendency to float to the surface of the pot, utilizing pumice will help keep the nutrients immersed in the soil and won't float up to the top.
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