Which Is Better Perlite or Vermiculite?

Which is better perlite or vermiculite?

Despite its advantages and disadvantages, a comparison of perlite against vermiculite would have to be judged as a rough tie. 

Do you need to drain? Choose perlite. 

Do you want to retain water? Choose vermiculite.

Since perlite and vermiculite have complementary properties, they are often used together. 

A thick version of the pearlite creates more “non-circulating air” space. 

This makes it slightly better for use as an insulator in non-horticultural uses.


The drainage characteristics and capillary action is appropriate for hydroponics.

Vermiculite retains water and nutrients, which helps support seed growth.


Perlite consists of white particles that float to the top of the pot during watering causing an unpleasant appearance. 

Vermiculite has fine particles that could be problematic for people with allergies and respiratory problems.

All you need to know about pearlite:

It is a crystal of natural origin that is quite abundant on the planet. 

It has a structure that contains 5% water inside and that is why it has the ability to expand when subjected to higher temperatures.

When the perlite expands due to the higher temperatures, it acquires a more porous and lighter texture.

In order to acquire the pearlite we must measure it in volume since its weight varies depending on the size of the particles and their moisture content.

They are white balls with high capacity to retain water and at the same time retain high porosity.

It is extremely consistent and therefore very resistant to erosion. 

When the roots grow, they erode the perlite. 

However, it is quite resistant. Mixed with the substrate it is used to aerate the mixture and give it lightness.

What do we use perlite for?

Well, the pelite has various uses in orchards and gardening. To begin with, perlite is ideal as a propagation substrate for all types of plants due to its neutrality.

It also works in hydroponic crops and can be mixed with growing sand for the propagation of cacti and succulent plants.

It is also used for those plants that spend more time in the bags or in the planters and that must be moved.

It is very useful in these cases since it has a great capacity for moisture retention, porosity, and lightweight.

Among the characteristics of perlite we find:

It is very light, weighing 125 kg per cubic meter.

It has a neutral pH.

Free of pests, diseases, and weeds.

Incorporated in substrates it is ideal because it favors good aeration and absorbs large amounts of water.

It is not flammable.

Its white color reduces the temperature of the substrate and increases the reflection of light, which is important in greenhouses and shading.

In addition, perlite offers quite a few options to solve some problems in the construction field, making it more economical. 

This is because it is a material product of the expansion of a crude mineral and its structure is made up of air cells. 

It makes it an excellent thermal and acoustic insulator for construction.

Its use is quite simple. It must be mixed with lime cement, plaster, and/or any other binder, being its application like that of traditional mortar, achieving a fine finish.

Its use is very easy. It is mixed with cement. Used as a light aggregate or as a substitute for traditional materials, it allows a notable reduction in the calculation of structures thanks to its low specific weight, achieving savings of up to 30% in its construction costs.

In addition, perlite has a wide range of applications for use, not only in gardens.

Here we list the main sectors in which they use it:

-Ceramic and glass industry

-Production of explosives

-Manufacture of filters

-Manufacture of electrodes

-Production of cements and concrete

-Zeolite industry

-Mining industries

-Manufacture of mineral fibers

-Metallurgical operations

All you need to know about Vermiculite

Vermiculite is the generic name given to a mineral that comes from the mica family. 

It is composed of aluminum, magnesium and iron silicates. 

It has similar properties to perlite since with its lamellar structure it can contain some water inside.

When the temperature of the vermiculite rises rapidly, it expands and is called exfoliation.

When this phenomenon occurs, the result is a product with metallic reflections, brown in color, with low bulk density and high porosity.

Among its characteristics we find:

It is very light, weighing between 60 and 140 kilos per cubic meter, according to grain sizes.

It has a neutral pH (7.2).

Free of pests, diseases and weeds.

Incorporated in substrates favors good aeration and absorbs large amounts of water.

Its metallic shine increases the reflection of light, which is important in greenhouses.

We can use vermiculite as a cultivation substrate to promote the propagation of all kinds of plants, provided there are good aeration thanks to its high capacity to retain water.

It is also used to carry out seed germination tests for their health. 

It is useful for hydroponic crops as well as perlite. 

It is capable of retaining more water than perlite and helps plants retain nutrients so that they can assimilate them well.

Vermiculite can contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, and ammonium necessary for growing plants. 

It is light, easy to handle and mixes well with other ingredients, such as peat, coconut fiber, earthworm humus and perlite, for seedlings and potting.

What is vermiculite used for?

It can be used as a growing substrate to promote the propagation of all kinds of plants, provided there is good aeration. 

It also serves to carry out seed germination tests. It is even capable of retaining large amounts of water, helping to maintain nutrients so that they can be assimilated in the best way.

Vermiculite in gardening.

When mixed with other substances such as coconut fiber or peat, vermiculite makes very good plant substrates, especially if ingredients such as worm castings or perlite are added.

As it is a light, cheap and beneficial material, it is very practical when preparing mixtures for especially delicate plant substrates, as is the case with seedlings, although it can also be used in larger quantities in pots.

Its water-holding capacity helps absorb excess moisture from the soil and gradually releases it later, when the substrate is drying, making it an excellent humidity regulator, which also helps keep the substrate aerated.

Its mineral content is also very beneficial for plants, which absorb the components they need from it.

Since it is an inert substance both chemically and biologically, you can add vermiculite to any substrate without fear of causing contamination of any kind.

It also stands out for its use in hydroponic crops, which are those carried out without soil, in plants that are simply kept in water. 

The vermiculite, which floats, helps provide them with a point to hold on to, also nourishing them with its mineral components.

Finally, another of its common uses is to be added to plants that are going to have to be transported in bags or closed containers, since its ability to maintain humidity helps the plant to suffer less.

What Is the difference between perlite and vermiculite

Here I share FAQ. 

Can perlite be reused?

Yes. Perlite, in addition to being an economic material and with great benefits for plants, is a material that you can reuse as many times as you want.

You just have to remove the perlite from the previous substrate, and! Done! You already have a pearl to reuse.

Something very important to emphasize is that if the plant where the perlite was previously, suffered from some kind of fungus or pest, it is important that you perfectly disinfect the perlite before using it in the new plant, to avoid any contagion of diseases.

To disinfect the pearlite you just have to rinse them well to remove excess water. 

Then immerse the pearlite in chlorinated water (80% water, 20% chlorine) for about 1 hour. And so your pearl will be free of bacteria.

If you want a more ecological option, you can do the same process, only that instead of using chlorine you will use a mixture of: 70% water, 30% vinegar and 3 or 4 tablespoons of baking soda depending on the amount of mixture.

Can plants grow only with perlite?

Yes. Many plants can be grown only with this material. 

You just have to make sure that your plant is optimal to be sown with perlite, and also add fertilizers to the plant so that they receive the necessary nutrients to grow healthy.

Can you mix perlite with vermiculite?

Although it is not a hundred percent necessary, you can do it. If you want to get the benefits of these two incredible materials, you can mix them without any problem.

You just have to make sure what are the needs of the plant you want to plant and provide an adequate amount of each of these ingredients. 

Since both have different characteristics and are used for different purposes.

Does the perlite decompose?

No. Perlite is a material that if you add it to your substrate you will not have to periodically change it like other materials. 

So you don’t have to worry about having to replace the perlite every so often in your plants.

Is perlite a type of Styrofoam?

No. Although the pearlite may look like Styrofoam, it isn’t. 

Perlite is a volcanic rock that contains 2 to 5 percent bound water, which is heated and crushed until it changes color and texture.

Can you use perlite to improve clay soil?

Modifying the characteristics of this type of soil is very simple. 

The first thing I recommend you do is that you pass the walking tractor (or rake) through your garden, to soften the ground and that can facilitate the next step.

The more crumbled the soil is, the easier it is for you to mix it with compost.

Once you have it, make a thick layer (about 20 cm) of organic fertilizer, such as earthworm humus or horse manure, and perlite (or similar substrates, such as clay, or volcanic clay).

Go back to the rototiller, or if you prefer a rake to mix your clay soil with these elements with which your plants will be able to grow and develop without problems.

Is perlite good for growing succulents?

Yes. Perlite is one of the best ingredients you can use to create the substrate for succulents, thanks to the characteristics of perlite. 

This material provides aeration and drainage to the substrate, it also absorbs moisture and then releases it little by little.

Is perlite an organic material?

Yes. Perlite is an organic material because as we mentioned earlier, perlite is crushed and heated volcanic stones.

Is vermiculite an organic material?

Vermiculite is not always organic. Although it is a natural mineral that is extracted, heated and packaged for later use in our gardens.

Sometimes the process changes and turns it into a non-organic material.

So if it is important for you that the vermiculite is organic, you have to look carefully at the packaging and say “organic”.

Is vermiculite a safe material for gardening?

Yes. Vermiculite is a fairly safe material to use, because as we mentioned earlier, this is a natural mineral. 

So you have nothing to worry about, both you and your plants are at no risk like vermiculite.

Is it good to add vermiculite to the substrate?

Thanks to its characteristics, vermiculite is an excellent material to add to the substrate of your plants, both to already mature plants or to seedlings.

Does vermiculite decompose?

No. This is one of the great advantages of this material, it does not require to be replaced, but remains almost forever.

Does vermiculite help to drain the substrate?

Vermiculite is not an ideal material to improve the drainage of the substrate, what it does is retain soil moisture.

How to make the mixture of substrate with vermiculite

One of the most used mixtures for large pots of urban or outdoor gardens is the one that is composed, mainly, of coconut fiber and earthworm humus, to which vermiculite is then added.

The good thing about using coconut fiber and earthworm humus is that both are very ecological and natural materials, and hummus is also one of the best fertilizers.

Follow these instructions to make a substrate with vermiculite correctly:


The proportions of these components should be 55% coconut fiber, 35% earthworm humus and 10% vermiculite.

Steps to make substrate with vermiculite:

If you buy coconut fiber in plates, which is its most common form of marketing, you should bear in mind that it comes very compacted.

As soon as you start adding water and separating it with the help of a rake or other tool, you will see that it multiplies its size several times, so start adding little.

Then add the earthworm humus, mixing it well with the coconut fiber and making sure to equalize and aerate the substrate.

Once the two components have been completely mixed, you can add the vermiculite, and also perlite if you have it. 

Spread them on the upper layer of the substrate and mix them with your hands for the first few centimeters of it.

If you follow all these steps, you will have a universal substrate suitable for the vast majority of plants, which will ensure ideal conditions for them.

I hope this article helps you and that you have learned everything about perlite and vermiculite.