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How To Use Perlite To Create Better Soil & Grow Healthier Plants!

So just how can you use all-natural perlite to create better soil and grow better plants? Actually, in a whole slew of ways!

Perlite is the white, lightweight, grain-like material that you often find in commercial potting soil and mixes. Although many confuse its lightness and texture as being a type of styrofoam or plastic, it is actually a 100 percent organic substance.

Perlite in its all-natural form is volcanic glass. But when the glass is heated to temperatures in excess of 1500° Fahrenheit, it explodes like popcorn into ultra-light white bits and pieces.

perlite - volcanic glass, how to use perlite to create better soil.
Many think the white, lightweight grains of perlite are made from styrofoam. The substance is actually one hundred percent natural. It comes from volcanic glass that is simply heated to ultra high temperatures to make it explode into feather-light kernels.

Once perlite bursts open, it takes on a completely different profile. And can it ever be beneficial to both the soil, and the plants that grow near it! In fact, so much so, that it can make a huge difference in the overall health and well-being of container plants, hanging baskets, and even the vegetable flower plants growing in your garden.

With that in mind, here is a look at the many benefits of this popcorn-like material, and how to best use it to power your plants like never before.

How To Use Perlite To Create Better Soil & Plants

A Long List of Benefits

So how does perlite help improve your soil and help your plants grow better? Well, first and foremost, it is one of the best ways to lighten your soil.

Perlite is extremely lightweight. In fact, a large, two cubic foot bag usually weighs only 2 pounds. When mixed in with soil, especially heavy soils, it can create a much less dense structure.

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That is exactly why it is perfect for using in container and hanging basket soil mixes. By adding in generous amounts, you don’t end up with baskets that fall from their hooks, or containers that can only be moved with a small forklift!

But perlite is also added to potting soil for a few additional but very important reasons. The first has to do with improved root growth. When added to heavier soil, the light and airy white kernels keep it from clumping together.

The puffy granules are incredibly adept at keeping dirt from compacting. Because of that looseness, it makes it easier for roots to expand and grow.

Better Drainage And Water Absorption

Not only does perlite make root growth easier, but it also opens up channels in the soil for water to reach the roots of plants at a quicker pace.

Hard, compact soil will keep water at the surface. But with the open channels perlite provides, water can filter down easily to the roots. That means when you water or it rains, the roots get the moisture they need.

how to use perlite to create better soil
When mixed with compost, regular potting soil and other additives such as worm castings, perlite can help create an incredible potting soil that is perfect for growing flowers, vegetables, herbs and more.

Obviously, that is tremendously important for keeping plants hydrated. If a plant’s roots are unable to find moisture, they will struggle to survive. But those open channels are also important for allowing liquid fertilizer and other applications to the reach the roots as well.

If all of that wasn’t enough, there is one more major benefit perlite brings to the soil, and it just might be the most important of all. That advantage? Water absorption!

Perlite can actually absorb three to four times its own weight in water. That can be an incredible help to plants, especially during the hot summer months when soaring temperatures and drought can often dry plants out quickly.

When, How & Where To Use Perlite To Power Your Soil & Plants

Although most commonly found in potting soil, perlite has a wide range of uses in gardens, flowerbeds, raised beds and more.

how to use perlite to create better soil
Make sure you purchase horticultural grade perlite. This grade is completely organic and all-natural. More importantly, it will not break down over time in the soil.

You can find perlite in bags at most nurseries, plant stores and Home & Garden centers. When purchasing, always make sure you are buying pure perlite and not a mix of other fillers.

Look for a horticultural grade of perlite. The horticultural grade is made entirely from volcanic glass and is both pure and stable. This type will never break down over time, meaning it stays helpful in your soil forever. Product Link: XGarden Horticultural Grad Perlite – 8 Cubic Ft. Bag

Now that you know about its benefits, here is a look at some of the best areas to use perlite to help your soil and plants:

Seed Starting Soil

Adding perlite to your seed starting soil allows tender seedlings to expand roots quickly. In addition, the moisture retention qualities help to draw water in near the roots of plants to keep water near. See: Our Best Seed Starting Soil Recipe

seed starting soil
Adding in perlite to your seed starting soil can help young seedlings have an easier time expanding their roots.

Raised Bed Soil

One of the best and most underutilized ways to use perlite is in raised beds. Raised bed soil needs to be light and airy, and mixing in perlite is the perfect way to make that happen!

Whether building new or refreshing existing raised beds, adding in perlite can help to bring new life. A good rule of thumb is for every 5 gallon bucket of soil, add in a cup of perlite. And if you really want to recharge your beds, add in an equal amount of compost too!

Potting Soil

Working in generous amounts of perlite to your potting soil can pay big dividends for your container plants and hanging baskets.

Although many commercial potting mixes already contain perlite, you can add an additional cup to every six to eight quarts of potting soil to help lighten the soil even more. Even better, save big and create your own homemade potting soil!

Transplanting In Garden & Flowerbeds – How To Use Perlite To Create Better Soil

When planting your tomato, cucumber, pepper and other transplants into the garden, mix in a bit of perlite to each planting hole.

Adding this in with other amendments such as compost and worm castings can help plants get off to a great start. It helps loosen the soil around plants and keep the roots from compacting over time. Just one more reason having a bag of perlite on hand is always a good idea!

Here is to using perlite this year to lighten up your soil, improve drainage, and help plants absorb the moisture and nutrients they need to thrive!

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