Are Vermiculite and Perlite the Same?

By drdawg
January 25, 2015

It seems that many people believe that vermiculite and perlite are similar products used for similar purposes. This is not true.

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Avatar for Dutchlady1
Jan 24, 2015 6:47 PM CST

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Great to have this explained so clearly. Thumbs up
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Jan 24, 2015 6:54 PM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
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Thank You! Hetty.
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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Jan 24, 2015 7:19 PM CST
Name: Jonna
Mérida, Yucatán, México (Zone 13a)
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I was always confused between the two, buying it online (which I need to do here) made it more important that I figure it out. One of the things I need to know about any soil additive is whether it floats or not, many of my potted plants are pond plants and it is a major pain to have a bunch of stuff floating out of the pots. Perlite floats - it will work its way out of the deepest pot. Vermiculite doesn't float if it is well soaked before putting in the pond. Mostly I just remember that the white stuff floats, the beige not so much.
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Jan 24, 2015 7:57 PM CST
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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Thanks for a thoughtful comparison of these two.
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Jan 24, 2015 8:16 PM CST
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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drdawg, that was a fantastic article. Great explanation. Clearly explained. Thumbs up
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Jan 24, 2015 9:08 PM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
Region: Mississippi Master Gardener: Mississippi Hummingbirder Cat Lover Composter Seller of Garden Stuff
Jonna, I don't think I would ever use perlite under water. Heck, 90% of what I use for my tropical plants (orchids in particular) would not be suitable in a situation as you describe. Why would you want to even use perlite or vermiculite under water?
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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Jan 25, 2015 1:25 AM CST
Name: Marilyn
Kentucky (Zone 6a)
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Dutchlady1 said:Great to have this explained so clearly. Thumbs up


I agree Thumbs up
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Jan 25, 2015 4:59 AM CST
Name: Jean
Fleming Island, FL (Zone 9a)
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Ken - great article. I knew which did which but never the "why". Not even 6AM & I learned something today
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Jan 25, 2015 6:26 AM CST
Name: Vickie
southern Indiana (Zone 6b)
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Really enjoyed reading the difference between the two. I will have to star this. Six months from now I will be questioning which did what Smiling Thank you for explaining why vermiculite is good for seed starting and perlite is good for cuttings. Thumbs up
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Jan 25, 2015 6:54 AM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
Region: Mississippi Master Gardener: Mississippi Hummingbirder Cat Lover Composter Seller of Garden Stuff
I tip my hat to you.

Thanks to all of you for your nice comments.
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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Jan 25, 2015 9:36 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
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Thanks you for the clear explanation! I wish the employees at the garden centers knew as much.
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Jan 25, 2015 9:43 AM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
Region: Mississippi Master Gardener: Mississippi Hummingbirder Cat Lover Composter Seller of Garden Stuff
They only sell them, Mary, not grow them. Whistling

I tip my hat to you. for your kind comments.
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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Jan 25, 2015 1:53 PM CST
Name: Jane
Tobyhanna, PA (Zone 5a)
The "Garden" is my Happy Place!
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Wonderful article. I've heard of both, but really didn't know much about them. To me, perlite looks like little pieces of stryofoam. Big Grin
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Jan 25, 2015 2:37 PM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
Region: Mississippi Master Gardener: Mississippi Hummingbirder Cat Lover Composter Seller of Garden Stuff
It is white and is very light, but it is hard rather than soft. Perlite is a natural, though heated, material. Styrofoam is completely man-made, expanded polystyrene, a plastic. Styrofoam will quickly make its way to the surface if used in potting soil (its 98% air), and though perlite can do the same, it doesn't do it rapidly, particularly if it is wetted before being incorporated into the soil. Some commercial growers (and I guess we hobbyists as well) might use Styrofoam in their orchid media, and the large, fir, pine, or cypress chunks keep the Styrofoam in place.
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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Jan 25, 2015 4:30 PM CST
Name: Jonna
Mérida, Yucatán, México (Zone 13a)
The WITWIT Badge Region: Mexico Garden Procrastinator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ponds Tropicals
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plumerias Plays in the sandbox Dog Lover Cat Lover
Ken, I am always using old potting soil mainly because I'm cheap I guess. What I discovered the hard way is that I can use it if it has vermiculite in it but not if it has perlite. I've found my pond too many times with a layer of white floating perlite that worked its way out of the soil. It is a pain to scoop it out with a strainer, but that's the only way I've found to get it out of the pond.
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
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Jan 25, 2015 4:55 PM CST
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Bromeliad Vegetable Grower Region: United States of America Tropicals Plumerias Orchids
Region: Mississippi Master Gardener: Mississippi Hummingbirder Cat Lover Composter Seller of Garden Stuff
Yep, I would expect that. When I lived on the Mississippi Gulf coast I had a really wonderful koi pond, waterfall and all. It was next to my swimming pool deck and the whole area was pretty tropical (though it wasn't even a sub-tropical area. I just used soil, plain and simple garden soil in my pots that grew water-plants.
drdawg (Dr. Kenneth Ramsey)

I don't have gray hair, I have a lot of wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
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