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Beginner Houseplants: Using perlite as drainage material

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Forum: Beginner HouseplantsReplies: 4, Views: 44
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mariakc
North Decatur, GA

January 6, 2013
1:55 PM

Post #9377398

Hi all,
Brought home a peace lilly yesterday. It was in a plastic pot, with a white decorative pot around it, which had some space for drainage (i.e. the plastic pot sat a bit higher in the white pot.) I checked it to see if it was root bound when I got home. It appeared to have very little soil and mostly roots. However, it's winter, and I know it can shock a plant...so I decided to leave it alone.

Today, I bought some little rocks and thought...maybe I should just give it an extra drainage layer and add some perlite for moisture (our house is very dry!). So I took it out of the pot, pressed on the root ball to loosen the roots, and filled the bottom of the pot with perlite and rocks and placed it back in. I put a bit of perlite on the top as well.

My main concerns is that the plant won't have enough soil now, or the perlite on the bottom will cause too much moisture. Has anyone else placed perlite on the bottom of their containers?

I really don't want to do a complete repot until spring. So I'm hoping I didn't totally shock the plant and will have to get some potting mix/new pot/etc. to save it...

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 6, 2013
6:15 PM

Post #9377655

"Drainage layers" aren't effective unless they are carefully constructed and meet some pretty specific requirements; and perlite actually does very little to increase drainage or aeration. Perlite's primary benefit comes from the fact that it takes up space in container media that would otherwise be filled with water, and by doing so reduces o/a water retention. Read more about the basics of water retention in container soils here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

It would have been much more effective to have used a wick or other methods that reduce water retention.

Al
mariakc
North Decatur, GA

January 6, 2013
7:20 PM

Post #9377685

Thank you for this link. I have always used that layering technique for better drainage. In my defense, It's worked well on all my plants. I mostly do it in order to provide a free flowing area between the soil and the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot--often times, it's become clogged if I do not have this layer. But the article is very convincing--I had no idea.
When I repot this year though, I will definitely see if I can get wicks to work. What type of material for the wicks should I buy...does it matter? Is cotton cord okay? Or an old rag? Do I just push it through the drainage hole and tuck it around the back of the pot?
Thank you!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 7, 2013
12:17 PM

Post #9378273

The perception that what you've been doing in the way of drainage layers is working well, might be attributable to factors other than the drainage layers. I'm not saying that to be difficult or disagreeable (I truly want to see you get all you can from your growing experience, and I'm willing to help you do that), but since science doesn't support any advantage provided by drainage layers in drainage, we have to consider that perhaps your plants have done well in spite of the drainage layers, rather than because of them ... and it's not just science that doesn't support the use of drainage layers - my own considerable experience growing in containers shows that a well-aerated, free-draining soil from the drain hole to (near) the top of the container, provides the best opportunity for maximizing root health. Roots are the heart of the plant, and a healthy plant is not possible w/o a healthy root system.

Cotton rots quickly. I use strands from rayon mop heads as my wicks. You can also use those rayon man made chamois cut into strips. and the woven nylon ties that are used as closures on some citrus and onion bags work very well & last indefinitely. I don't know how, but I lost some pictures of how I use wicks in my pots, so I'll link you to another thread. Scroll down to my post on Jan 1, '13: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg1221344425812.html?25#post

Al

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 7, 2013
12:29 PM

Post #9378293

I meant to mention that the sticky thread at the top of this forum should also provide you with information that should help you avoid most of the most common pitfalls that bring growers to the forums searching for remediation.

The object is to get you working smarter instead of harder. ;-)

Al

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