Perlite is a porous substance as it offers excellent water retention and drainage capabilities both important in hydroponic gardening. Perlite is an inert and sterile medium which means it’s safe to use without the fear of tracking in pests, and which is always the risk with soil. Perlite has a neutral pH but will take on the acidity or alkalinity of the nutrient solution it’s placed in. Perlite can be washed and dried to be restored back to its 7.0 pH range.
While perlite is the perfect substrate to re-use by washing, it is also a medium that will not decompose so it’s guaranteed to last for years. In terms of plant health, perlite as a grow medium strengthens root growth and acts as a terrific insulator to protect plants from temperature changes.
The coarse, porous texture of perlite allows it to hold air very well and the large size of the particles provides natural air pockets while preventing compaction. This helps to reduce anaerobic conditions in the growing system and a lack of oxygen in the growing medium, whether it is water or soil that can allow the growth of anaerobic bacteria.
Like other hydroponic growing mediums, perlite can be reused. As it doesn’t hold on to nutrients, perlite can be cleaned in just a few moments; and it can be shaken away from the root balls and rinsed until the runoff has less than 150 ppm of particles.
If the perlite has been infected by diseased plans, it is relatively easy to sterilize. It could be rinsed with a hydrogen peroxide solution or a bleach solution; remember to rinse well with water if you’ve used bleach. Perlite doesn’t hold onto nutrients the same way as soil, rock wool, coco coir, or clay pebbles. When removing root balls, the medium falls away with a shake.
The biggest cons of using perlite are that it can’t be used with fish and dust can be dangerous if inhaled. Finally, perlite is more coarse than a substrate like sand, it is still granular enough that solids loading and even plant roots can cause clogging.
Plants are grown hydroponics perlite growing medium
Common plants grown hydroponically with perlite consist of;
- Tomatoes are less prone to splitting when grown hydroponically with perlite than if tomatoes are grown in soil.
- Lettuce is grown hydroponically with perlite results in larger and better-shaped heads and nearly always in a lower incidence of tip burn.
- Strawberries need a large amount of oxygen in the root zone, and perlite’s high porosity helps maintain that ideal environment.
Using perlite in hydroponics
Perlite is equally useful in the hydroponics system and soil-less horticulture;
The fact that perlite doesn’t hold water is why it is so useful in hydroponics, as the air held within its pores helps keep the system oxygenated. Perlite has a neutral pH level, so it won’t affect or interact with the water or liquid nutrients used within the system. You will, though, need to occasionally replace the perlite used for hydroponics because the pores can become clogged with nutrients, algae, and plant roots, reducing its effectiveness.
Because perlite doesn’t hold water, it is important to use it within a hydroponic system in which the plant roots continually stay wet. If you use perlite as the sole growing medium, drip systems and bucket systems will work better than ebb-and-flow systems. Never use perlite in aquaponics, as the fish can breathe in the small particles, leading to clogged gills.
Perlite will absorb water and nutrients and keep them in the soil, which makes it perfect for seed starting blends or for plants that prefer lots of water. In conjunction with perlite, the vermiculite will absorb water and nutrients to feed plants, while the perlite will help drain the excess water away.
Propagation of plant cuttings – Perlite stimulates root growth and prevents drowning by helping drain excess water away from the plant cuttings. It could be used with rooting compounds.
Standalone Growing Media – Perlite is a decent selection in some instances as a hydroponic medium. But it is not suitable for high water settings, such as deep water culture, or ebb and flow systems.
In mixture with other growing media – Perlite is mixed with vermiculite in equal amounts (50-50). This greatly solves the water-retaining issue of Perlite as improving the water-holding capacity of vermiculite, making it able to use in the water-rich systems stated above.
Dutch bucket or Bato bucket systems –
A series of buckets can be filled with perlite and assembled along an irrigation system line then that nutrient solution can be circulated by a pump from a reservoir located below the level of the buckets and added to the bucket with a drip emitter. Each bucket is attached to the return line, allowing the solution to return to the reservoir after use.
Propagating plants by cuttings –
A well-draining medium that is perlite provokes cutting to root rapidly as they search out the small pockets of nutrients and moisture within the medium; it prevents root rot.
Combining mediums –
Perlite can be a stand-alone growing medium, in high-water settings such as deep water culture or ebb-and-flow hydroponic systems, the small size and low density of perlite means that it tends to float. It does, combine well with many other hydroponic substrates which are larger, heavier, or denser. It is mixed with vermiculite or coco coir to prevent it from shifting.
Perlite culture is easily managed, increases the overall plant yield, and has the fastest growth rate of any hydroponic technique. In fact, tomatoes grown in perlite have produced plant yields that are 7% higher than crops grown in rock wool.
Use of Perlite in growing seeds and nodes
Fine Perlite can be used alone as a seed- starting medium or can be mixed half-and-half with shredded sphagnum moss or shredded peat moss. Several seeds have limited” pushing- up” power. Perlite alone or Perlite mixes are ideal for seed starting as they are light in weight. Moisten the medium thoroughly, and then sow the seeds on top. Very fine seeds could be atomized and left to settle into crevices be sure the medium does not dry.
Advantages of using Perlite in growing seeds
- To provide the needs of plant seeds of water and fertilizers.
- Balances between water and air so it gives a fast and strong growth.
- Perlite is easy to be penetrated by the roots of the plant when it emerges until it becomes a strong root so as to give strong seedlings that assure obtaining high productivity.
Significance of perlite for gardening
There are many reasons why perlite is such a useful additive to gardens and hydroponic system setups. They mainly stem from their unique physical properties and chemical properties:
- It is physically stable and retains its shape even when pressed into the soil.
- It has a neutral pH level.
- It contains no toxic chemicals and is made from naturally occurring compounds that are found in soil.
- It is incredibly porous and having pockets of space inside for air.
- It can retain some amount of water as allowing the rest to drain away.
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