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vermiculite/perlite
#82413 February 24th, 2007 at 12:48 PM
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Hi everyone. I am a complete newbie at practical gardening (but I read a book - LOL). Can anyone tell me the difference in properties between vermiculite and perlite please? I am growing my own palms from seed and was told to use vermiculite not perlite as a propagating medium but when I started on sarracenia and insectivores the 'in' thing seems to be perlite. It is sending me nuts wondering why in that they are both absolutely neutral. Thanks if any one can help.

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82414 February 24th, 2007 at 01:33 PM
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those are totally different things.

vermiculite is also called worm dirt, worm castings, or worm manure. it is the end product from when worms digest their food, frequently what ever we put in there bins. worm composting is fun, economical, and easy, once you get set up. BUT, vermiculite is very rich and nutricious, and holds moisture well, but isn't like clay in that it doesnt get "hard" when it dries.

perlite is an absorbant substance (what escapes me right now) that is added to soil to increase water retention and porous-ness. great to make soil "lighter" but from what i can tell, has no significant nutrients for plants.

vermiculite is usually brown or black, and perlite is usually white.

hope this helps.

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82415 February 24th, 2007 at 02:33 PM
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Thanks Jiffymouse. I'm really pleased I took up gardening as a hobby. As I said on my new members' intro, I took it up to give myself some physical exercise in retirement. Looks like there is so much to learn that I won't be allowed to stagnate mentally either.

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82416 February 25th, 2007 at 04:07 AM
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nope, you sure won't. i find that i am constantly learning. and finding myself enjoying it! and i find that i just want to know more. it kind of awakens a thirst, if you know what i mean.

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82417 February 25th, 2007 at 09:12 PM
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Webwise, perlite and vermiculite are used to amend potting soils made from peat moss. You will usually find it in those "soilless" mixes or artificial soils (which actually contain no soil) because they both provide good aeration and drainage. wink They will hold ample amounts of water and release it whenever it is needed. smile A BIG plus is that they are sterile and disease-free; thumbup however, perlite is stronger and seems to last longer, so it is much better suited for use in outdoor gardens and hydroponics. wink Perlite also has a more neutral pH than vermiculite.

You can buy perlite or vermiculite in small bags at places like Home Depot, Lowes, or Wal-Mart, but if you want the larger bags (e.g. 4 cubic foot) you will probably have to go to a nursery or garden center. It's not very expensive (unless you buy lots of the little bags) frown eek , both are it's non-toxic and safe to use. wink

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82418 February 25th, 2007 at 10:31 PM
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I though vermiculite was just expanded mica...is that the white stuff?

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82419 February 25th, 2007 at 11:09 PM
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Yes, it is the white stuff!!! wink

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82420 February 26th, 2007 at 07:19 AM
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Thanks everyone. It seems from your info that there really is not a great deal of difference in their affect on mixes and are, in practical terms, interchangeable if you can't get one of them (I live in a small town and don't always want to travel to the city for small things). My local Wilko's (equivalent to the US Home Depot) only carries them in early spring and I bought a couple of bags of each two weeks ago, intending to get some more later (I am putting in a small bog garden). But when I went in 2 days later the shelf had been emptied of perlite (but not vermiculite). As there had been dozens of gallons of it just 2 days before, and I could not see people fighting to get at it, I asked a staff member what had happened. It appears that a local nurseryman had gone in and bought the lot. Presumably because it costs about 3 times as much to have it delivered than Wilko was charging. Since our mail service started charging by volume as well as by weight the shipping is more than the perlite - LOL

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82421 March 6th, 2007 at 09:32 AM
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I just came across this topic & want to jump in.
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Originally posted by Jiffymouse:
vermiculite is also called worm dirt, worm castings, or worm manure.
Pssst... Jiffy [Linked Image] I think you got "vermiculite" confused with "vermiculture".
It's easy to get the 2 names confused, cuz the word "vermiculite" is derived from the Latin 'vermiculare' (*to breed worms).
"Vermiculture" is just a fancy name for worm dirt, worm castings or worm manure.

Vermiculite is a mineral which is mined in only a few places on the planet. (Kenny was close... it's actually hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-ironsilicate!) It resembles mica when it comes out of the ground, but when it's heated it expands into pieces that look like small worms. The extreme heat from the "exfoliation" process causes it to be sterile, which makes it perfect for use in soil amendment mixtures. Used in gardening in its expanded form, vermiculite aids aeration, improves moisture retention & helps the steady release of added fertilizers while providing potassium & magnesium of its own.

Perlite isn't a trade name but a generic term for a natural siliceous rock. The characteristic that sets perlite apart from other volcanic glasses is that when heated to a certain point, it expands from 4 to 20 times its original volume. The expansion process is what gives Perlite its white color. (As Jiffy mentioned, vermiculite is usually brown or black.)

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Originally posted by patches1414:
Perlite also has a more neutral pH than vermiculite.
It's my understanding that perlite is classified as chemically inert (since it is a form of a natural glass), & its pH is 7 (neutral). According to The Schundler Company (one of the largest U.S. distributors of perlite & vermiculite), the pH of vermiculite ranges from 6 to above 9.5, depending on the mine it originated from.


Vermiculite has been a point of research & a topic for discussion at our house for many years, & this is why I know some things about it...
My husband was born & raised in Libby, Montana, & I lived there for many years after we were married. Vermiculite mining began in Libby in 1924, & the community health hazard from the dust of vermiculite became too apparent for the W.R. Grace company to continue their operation after 1990. (Lawsuits are numerous & ongoing, as the company allegedly knew the danger but kept it to themselves.)
  • Before we knew there was a health risk, we would drive over to the vermiculite transfer site & they'd dump a load into the back of our pickup, so we could take it home & till it into our gardens. Since it was "raw" & hadn't gone through the exfoliation process, it took a lot more of it to aerate our heavy clay soil than it would have if we'd have purchased the processed product... but it was limitless & "FREE"!
  • Ignorant of the asbestos danger in vermiculite dust, we allowed our kids to enjoy the piles of vermiculite as they would sandboxes, until we got around to working it into the gardens!
  • The house my husband grew up in had been insulated with raw vermiculite (as were many of the homes built in the 40's - 60's), which was handed out to the locals at the transfer site!
  • Before my mother-in-law died of complications from Asbestosis (a respiratory disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers), she sold the house... but she had to have the vermiculite "insulation" evacuated from the attic & walls by a Hazmat team, before her buyer could secure a lender.

It's my understanding that the manufacture of vermiculite products which have the ability to create a dust have been discontinued. (In the gardening world, vermiculite is being replaced with perlite, which many of us don't care a lot for, cuz it floats to the top of potting soil!) But... getting lose, processed vermiculite away from the public isn't happening fast enough for my liking (as well as the other people who have suffered losses from the mining operation). I still see vacuum bag "air freshener" (which is made up of 100% expanded vermiculite with perfume added) on store shelves... which is one of the worst ways to use such a product, as the airborne dust is where the danger is! frown

BTW Webwise, I like your Eeyore signature button! clp
Good luck with your gardening... it's the best stay-at-home adventure you'll ever find & I'm glad you joined us!

Re: vermiculite/perlite
#82422 March 9th, 2007 at 11:12 AM
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Well Patty, what do I say about all that info except WOW! and thank you. It certainly appears that I (and more importantly my grand-kids) are safer around perlite than vermiculite.


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