Vermiculite vs perlite: What’s the difference?

Choosing the right soil amendment is crucial for a thriving garden, Vermiculite and Perlite stand out as popular options.

Let’s understand each key difference and when to use them.

Vermiculite – the moisture retainer

Derived from micaceous minerals, vermiculite is prized for its water-retaining abilities. It keeps the soil consistently moist, ideal for moisture-loving plants. This makes it a fantastic choice for seed starting and germination.

Perlite – the aerator

In contrast, perlite is a volcanic glass that undergoes heat expansion, creating a lightweight, porous structure. Its primary role is aeration – enhancing soil drainage and preventing compaction. This makes perlite excellent for succulents and plants that crave well-draining conditions.

Perlite 100 litre bagWhat is the difference between Vermiculite and Perlite?


  • Vermiculite: Mined from micaceous minerals, usually found in deposits across the globe.
  • Perlite: Formed from volcanic glass that expands due to heat, creating a lightweight and porous material.

Texture and appearance

  • Vermiculite: Soft, spongy texture that expands when heated, resembling mica flakes.
  • Perlite: Lightweight and airy, with a white, granular appearance.

Water retention

  • Vermiculite: Excellent water retention, making it ideal for moisture-loving plants and seed starting.
  • Perlite: Provides aeration and drainage, preventing soil compaction. It doesn’t retain water, making it suitable for plants that prefer drier conditions.

Aeration and drainage

  • Vermiculite: Aids in aeration but is more focused on water retention.
  • Perlite: Promotes excellent drainage and aeration, preventing root rot and enhancing overall soil structure.

pH level

  • Vermiculite: Slightly alkaline, which can impact the pH of the soil.
  • Perlite: pH neutral, ensuring it doesn’t significantly influence the soil’s acidity or alkalinity.

Best Suited for

  • Vermiculite: Ideal for plants that require consistent moisture and for seed starting.
  • Perlite: Suitable for plants that need well-draining soil, including succulents and those susceptible to root rot.


Vermiculite: Relatively heavier compared to perlite.

Perlite: Lightweight, contributing to the overall lightness of the growing medium.

Should I choose Vermiculite or Perlite?

By now you should have a better understanding of both.

Consider your plant’s water needs. If moisture retention is key, opt for vermiculite. For plants that demand well-draining soil, perlite is the go-to choice.

About David Charlton

David Charlton is a seasoned entrepreneur and business strategist with a passion for innovation and technology. With over three decades of experience in the startup ecosystem, David has been instrumental in launching and scaling numerous successful ventures across the agricultural and horticultural sectors.