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How to mix Perlite?

Hi everyone, I am new to gardening so please pardon me if any of my questions sound silly!

The soil in my balcony planter is a bit clay-ish and I read that mixing perlite into the soil will help aeration and drainage. Problem is, I already have a big 2.4m ficus lyrata, licuala palm and giant bird's nest ferns planted in the planter. It's impossible to remove the plants/trees to mix in the perlite. How do I introduce perlite into the soil and will it upset the plants?

Thanks in advance for any advice!


  • paulk2paulk2 Posts: 184

    You normally mix perlite with compost/soil beforehand and then plant into the resulting mix, rather than adding it at a later stage. If you put perlite on top of the planter soil, it will just blow away!

  • My plants don't seem to be suffering. Well, it's only about 2 months since the nursery planted them so I can't really tell. I was just concerned that when the rainy season comes, the planters won't drain well since the soil is a bit clayish. I read online about how perlite is great for plant roots and improving drainage. Is there any other way to improve the soil drainage without perlite? 
    Thanks everyone!

  • LynLyn Posts: 23,047

    I would think if the nursery planted them in containers, they wouldn't have planted them in clay, I would do as Edd says, just mulch in the Autumn.

    So many places telling you you need this that and the other,buy this, buy that, use this food, put that on your soil, it makes me cross really.

    Wait  and see how your plants do, make sure they will over winter outside, or make provisions for a frost free place for them in the winter.


    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Would it be the same if I buy some earthworms and add them to the current soil I have?

  • Hi Lyn, I have a suspicion the nursery gave me a poor quality soil, compared to the ones I bought in packs recently. I ordered a ficus lyrata and they sent one covered with mealy bugs and scale insects. I was so upset I got them to change it to a healthier one. We don't have winters here, it's warm and humid all year round so my only concern is the rainy season when rainwater pours into my balcony where my planters are. I can't move them, they're heavy and too big.

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Perhaps the nursery has planted your plants in the equivalent of a John Innes number 3 soil as your plants are so big. This may make you think it is clay-ish compared to a multi purpose compost with which you are more familiar. Multi purpose composts are much lighter than JI no. 3 but that is a good thing as far as JI goes and your plants. The John Innes soil has more nutrients and will hold on to them longer than a multi-purpose. All to the good for big plants. I would do nothing and wait and see how things go.  

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Hi hogweed, I'll check with the nursery to see what kind of soil they gave me. Yup, I guess I'll do nothing for the moment and hope I don't kill my new plants with too much love! Thanks for your advice!

  • LynLyn Posts: 23,047

    When Edd said about mulch and let the worms do it, he meant that natural worms, in the mulch, would take the mulch  down through the soil your plants are in. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

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