Perlite Vs. Vermiculite: What Is The Difference?

The world of horticulture is a very exciting and complex place as it involves plants and its welfare. A lot of people nowadays are into gardening since plants and the activities involving them can reduce stress.

Perlite and vermiculite are most commonly heard. But what exactly do these words mean, especially to those who are not familiar with the gardening stuffs?

Perlite and vermiculite are used for many years now to correct the usual practice which is professional potting soils that is made from peat moss. These have also been used in turfgrass, outdoor plantings, outdoor mixes, for gardens and for exclusively 100% perlite or vermiculite growing applications. Nowadays, they are being used for amateur and commercial hydroponic growing and conservation of water like in gardening and landscaping.

For decades now, perlite and vermiculite are being utilized by gardeners, dedicated amateurs and professionals because aside from their given capabilities, they also are free from diseases, sterile, non-toxic, convenient to find, safe to use and inexpensive.

How Do They Differ?

Perlite vs vermiculite

To improve retention of moisture and aeration in soil, both perlite and vermiculite are used in the process. They cannot be interchangeable but both can be used in the same way. They do not have the same composition and they both have different ways on how to improve your soil. To know which one to use, whether perlite or vermiculite, it will mainly depend on the plants that you have and their requirements. Here are the few areas wherein the two of them differ.

Physical Description

Perlite looks like white granules, resembles a pumice and it is porous. Like I stated previously, they look like Styrofoam balls.

Vermiculite is dark brown to golden brown in color and is spongy. When it is dry, it is usually shaped like flakes.

Perlite vs Vermiculite: Chemical Composition

Vermiculite which is created from mica is an aluminium-iron-magnesium silicate. The particles have to be expanded by heating especially when it is used for potting purposes enabling it to absorb moisture. It can soak up to 3 to 4 times its volume in the water. Aside from that, it also has the ability to attracts the plant nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Perlite is very rich in silicon since it is an amorphous volcanic rock. When it is extracted to be use for potting purposes, it is heated and crushed so that the particles will expand. These microscopic bubbles in the granules of perlite hold and absorb both air and water.

Water Retention Capacity

Perlite is good in retaining water because it has a surface area that is large with corners and cracks ready for storage of water. Its porous ability allows more draining of excess water therefore improving the aeration in the soil.

Vermiculite is equally good in retaining water. However, it is spongier in nature therefore holding much more water compared to perlite. The downside of this is that, it gives less aeration for the roots of the plants.

Usage For Horticulture

Usage for Horticulture

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Vermiculite are ideal for plants that would require a lot of water, examples of this are irises and forget-me-nots. In cases of cacti or rhododendrons, the amount of water that a vermiculite will hold is not suitable for them, since these plants needs a soil that is well-drained. The amount of water and moisture that a vermiculite will hold would lead to the rotting of the plant roots and eventually make it die.

Perlite would dry out too fast for plants that loves water.


Perlite and vermiculite are both used in gardening to avoid the hardening of the soil, moisture retention and improve aeration. They have been used for decades now because of their given capabilities. Both are also used in the circulation of new plants and cultivations of seeds. Aside from that, it can also be used in the indoor container composting, growing and also on lawns.

However, when comparing perlite vs vermiculite, you have to take note that even if they have the same usage, they have different qualities. In order for you to know as to which one you should use, whether perlite or vermiculite, you have to know the plants and its requirements to avoid rotting or drying the roots.

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

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1 comment
Nik says Dec. 2017

Dear Sir/Madam,
Hello my friend!
This Nik from Shijiazhuang Kedahua IMP&EXP Trade CO.,LTD. I found your website from internet and know you are in business of perlite. Our factory produces all specifications of perlite and perlite filter aid, if you are interested in this, please contact me.
Sincerely yours,

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