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What is the difference between vermiculite and perlite?

Vermiculiet en perlietWritten by Tom de Haas | Last update 06-11-2020

The difference between perlite and vermiculite is their function. Perlite acts as an aerating agent and helps the soil shed water. Vermiculite acts as a sponge, allowing the soil to retain moisture. They work together to give the soil the right balance of drainage and water retention. Vermiculite and perlite are becoming increasingly popular for use in horticulture. Sowing, cutting and propagation businesses increasingly add these substances to the (potting) compost to ensure a better, more airy structure. Our specialist will explain more about vermiculite and perlite in this article.

What is vermiculite?

Vermiculite is a mineral that exfoliates (expands) like a harmonica when heated. This creates a very light grain with a large capacity to retain water and moist. Because of this property, vermiculite is a popular choice as (an additive to) a substrate in sowing, cutting and propagation businesses in the horticultural sector. This water and moist retaining capacity ensures that, on the one hand, irrigation water is retained, thus significantly reducing the drainage of nutrients in the process and, on the other, that the soil structure remains airy and oxygen-rich, so that plants can easily grow roots. Furthermore, vermiculite is often used as a cover layer to allow seeds to germinate, or as a propagation medium for bulbs. That is vermiculite, but what is the difference between vermiculite and perlite.

Vermiculite is available in different grain sizes:
Vermiculite 1: 0 - 1.5 mm
Vermiculite 2: 0 - 3 mm This is used for covering flower seed, to promote the germination of the seeds.
Vermiculite 3: 0 - 5 mm This is used for covering vegetable seeds and for mixing in potting compost.
Vermiculite 4: 0 - 10 mm This is used in bulb propagation during packaging.


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What is perlite?

Perlite is an inorganic rock which expands into a porous, airy and lightweight grain when heated. It is widely used as an additive in potting composts, cutting soils, sowing soils and plugs. As an additive in potting compost, perlite provides a lighter substrate and improved water drainage and is, therefore, often used in combination with plants that need soil that is not too moist, such as the poinsettia. Perlite is also available in different grain sizes:
Perlite 1: 0 - 1.0 mm Generally not used in horticulture.
Perlite 2: 0 - 3.0 mm Used in sowing and cutting soils, purely as a substrate and, in some cases, as a light reflecting agent for carnation and lathyrus.
Perlite 3: 0 - 6.5 mm Used to mix with potting compost for a more airy structure. 

In addition, perlite is available in substrate mats, which can be used as a substrate in various greenhouse crops. Because perlite is well-suited for steaming, the substrate mats can be used for several years.


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Questions difference between vermiculite and perlite.

Do you have questions of the difference between vermiculite and perlite, or would you like advice? Contact product specialist Tom de Haas, or fill in the form below. On business days we will contact you within 24 hours.

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