Despite its name, perlite in potting soil is a non-organic additive used to aerate the medium. Vermiculite is another additive utilized for aeration, but the two are not always interchangeable as rooting medium.
It is also used as an abrasive in polishes, cleansers, and soaps, and for masonry construction, cement, and gypsum plasters, as well as loose-fill insulation.
In aggregate, perlite is a type of volcanic glass with a high percentage of water. Perlite is typically formed when obsidian gets wet, while perlite is a glass with a relatively low percentage of water. Amorphous carbon occurs naturally and expands greatly when heated. It is a useful industrial mineral as well as an industrial product due to its low density after processing.
Open-pit methods such as ripping or blasting are used in the extraction of perlite. Ripping is the most cost-effective method if the perlite is soft and friable, brecciated, or extensively jointed. There must be care taken to fragment perlite whilst avoiding the production of excess fines and oversized material by blasting when rippers cannot readily be used.
Whether perlite or vermiculite aids in water retention, the more porous perlite tends to drain water more readily than vermiculite. Because of this, it is better suited for soils used with plants that don’t require very moist media, like cactus soils, or for plants that do not require overly moist media.
Agricultural perlite is made by exposing perlite to heat, which causes the trace water to expand, expanding it by 13 times its original size, resulting in a remarkably light material. Although the final product weighs less than five pounds per cubic foot, it contains tiny air compartments contained within superheated perlite.
Microscopically, perlite is revealed to be covered with many tiny cells that absorb moisture on the outside of the particle, not inside, which makes it particularly useful as a humus for root irrigation. An extremely lightweight, white stone-like substance is created. Perlite is prized for its ability to keep moisture in and aerate. It is naturally sterile, having a neutral pH.
Hydroponic growing media, soilless soil mixes, or rooting mediums are all made with horticultural perlite. It is important to be aware that if you grow houseplants in perlite, that it can cause fluoride burn, which can appear as brown tips on houseplants.
According to regulatory agencies, perlite is regarded as a “nuisance dust” that should be controlled to reduce the amount of dust ingested. Employees should use protective eye and mouth shields to reduce the amount of dust inhaled. However, some commercial perlite products may also contain a very small amount of quartz, a substance listed as carcinogenic. Perlite does not cause cancer or other serious health problems.
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