If you are new to gardening and still learning then you have probably heard the terms vermiculite and perlite being thrown around.  Most gardeners will have one or both of these items on hand but if you are wonder what is the difference between perlite and vermiculite then let us try and explain for you.


Let’s start with Perlite and how it is used in the garden. Perlite is used primarily to help improve the aeration of your soil, especially where it is very compacted.  It helps to bring oxygen to the roots and allow for drainage to occur.  Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that is added to potting soil it is the little white balls that you see in your potting soil.  It is odorless, clean and super easy to use.  Perlite is often used with plants that don’t require a lot of water or can’t handle standing water.


Vermiculite is used completely differently in the garden, rather it is used to bring acidic soil to a more neutral pH.  It interacts with the minerals  in the soil like potassium, calcium and magnesium to elevate the pH.  Vermiculite is made up of a silicate like material and it absorbs water and it’s kind of spongy.  You often can’t tell it apart from regular potting soil as it is the same color and texture.  It is only when you add water that you can see the vermiculite changing shape.

Vermiculite is typically used in plants that require a bit more water, you add a scoop of vermiculite to your potting soil and it will help it to retain water.  Be careful you don’t add too much or your soil won’t get oxygen.  You also run the risk of getting root rot if you add to much so use vermiculite fairly conservatively.

There are huge difference between vermiculate and perlite one will help your plants absorb water while the other one help keep your soil aerated.  You would use perlite to dry out plants between waterings or if you are transplanting them to new pots.  Perlite works well with clay soil to help loosen it and make it easier for roots to get the oxygen they need.  On the other hand vermiculite does pretty much the opposite, it helps your soil to retain water.  As you continue to garden and learn more you will eventually use one or both of them.