how much perlite?

Lamora(4)February 13, 2012

Good Monday Morning to all!! (sorta? maybe?:))

I went out and got some perlite for some of my plants that do not seem to be drying out at all, some of the baby spiders(that one i do not understand, same soil and everything) and that includes my new Hindu Rope Hoya, the soil is still very wet after not quite a week, almost soggy, and yes, I am getting a bit concerned. My DH also bought some more soil, but it is for seeds and starters, he got it cuz it did have perlite in it already. He also got me some wood chips too.

Anyway, my question is how much perlite should I put in the soil? How much wood chips should I put in it? How big should the chips be? I cant seem to find the informaton on-line of the ratio of it. When I put it in my Rope Hoya, should I take off a lot of the wet soil? or just put it in and let it soak up.

I know, more questions. But I am getting real worried about the hoya not drying at all.

any help would be very appreciated, and thanks in advance :)

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

The particles mentioned provide excellent drainage if they are in the range of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

If you are mixing potting soil and Perlite, you want to use about 75 - 80 percent Perlite.

If the bark is appropriate, 5 parts bark, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part potting soil works well.

For the soggy containers, you can add a wick to the drainhole, allow it to dangle freely,
and this will help drain the excess moisture in the lower layers of soil. This is just a trick
to deal with water-retentive soils until a proper mix can be achieved. Nothing beats a proper mix.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 12:48PM
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Hey Josh, how ya doing?

Lamora, I almost agree with Josh's ratios. :)

Ingredients for Hoyas. (Small portions, 4-6" pot)

1 cup potting soil
1 cup bark..small-medium size..large is too big.
1/4 cup coarse Sand
1/4 cup Sphagnum Peat (optional)
1 cup tiny stones/pea gravel
1 cup Perlite
Timed-release fertilizer

Here's the clencher. I toss in a handful of black soil like Hyponex. A handful equals approximately 1/4-1/2 cup.

Josh's recipe will work, fine, too. It'll certainly dry between waterings.

Lamora, just so you know, the ingredients I use may sound like a lot, but I mix large portions. Enough for several pottings. After everything is mix together, when a plant needs repotting it's ready to go. Toni

BTW, Seedling Starter has nowhere enough Perlite.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:25PM
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hopefulauthor-- thanks-- I didnt think it was enough, that is why I got more. This will really help. I just have the one plant that I am concerned about. (Rope Hoya)

The spider babies are doing good enough for now, but I will be re-soiling them her before too long too. I have 4 containers of them, all the same size and soil, but for some reason, they dont dry out the same. 2 dry out real fast and the others stay wet. But they are all doing well. Would like to see them do better tho.

This is really good info-- thanks to all of you. :)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:38PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Lamora,

Since you seem new & I seem to be seeing you in several different forums (forae) these days, please note the following:

You got excellent advice on mix from Josh (Greenman28), go w/ that & try to keep things on the simpler side.

Kindly ignore the subsequent post's suggestion to use these other ingredients & pls. pls. pls. DO NOT USE SAND, at all, EVER, of any kind, it's likely to be a problem for a newcomer (which the person suggesting is not & should have known better than to recommend to you).

Since I've seen you at Sans. & Hoyas along w/ here, I stand by my suggesting that if these are what you're growing ignore sand & peat completely. Peat can really spell trouble for succulents & cause many of the drainage problems which we commonly see come up here time & again.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:40PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You can take 3 ingredients and combine them in a manner that results in an excellent soil; or you can take the same 3 ingredients and combine them in such a way that the resultant soil is very poor.

For instance, if you start with a short list of ingredients that includes pine bark, sphagnum peat, and perlite, and combine them in a 5:1:1 ratio so peat is the largest fraction, you're going to end up with a water-retentive soil that supports a lot of perched water. Perched water is the water YOUR soil is retaining that makes it soggy. From the plant's perspective, perched water is ALWAYS undesirable, because it inhibits root function, or worse, causes root rot.

If, however, you make pine bark the largest fraction and combine it at a 5:1:1 ratio of pine bark:peat:perlite, you'll have a soil that, because it is very well aerated and drains well, provides a very healthy environment for roots. This is simply how the science works, and if a few won't recognize the facts, it doesn't change them.

You may have seen the example I often use to illustrate this principle. If you start with a pint of pudding, you can't add a little bit of pine bark and perlite to increase its aeration or get it to drain better. It's only when the pine bark + perlite becomes a very large fraction of the whole (75-80% or more), that you begin to realize the benefits associated with better aeration and most importantly, a perched water table reduced in height.

In soils made primarily of pine bark, perlite increases aeration and drainage significantly, because it gets wedged between the flat pieces of bark, creating large macro-pores and channels that water flows through quickly. Perlite mixed into predominantly peat soils, simply becomes surrounded by fine peat particles (just like the pudding), so aeration and drainage remains very much the same, unless the larger particles of perlite and other larger material are 75-80% or more of the whole.

'Wood chips' may not be appropriate for container soils. Conifer bark is usually chosen as the coarse part of container mixes because it doesn't have the several negative issues associated with it that chips of sapwood and heartwood, or hardwood bark have. I would also generally stay away from soils that list 'forest products' as a fraction of the soil. There is no way to determine what that might be .... it could be forest floor debris or even ground up pallets or treated lumber.

I'll leave you a picture of the type of bark I usually use in my soils. The bark at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock look much alike, but they are from 3 different suppliers. The bark at the top is fir bark that comes pre-screened, and is what I use in what has been dubbed the 'gritty mix'.

The dry soil in the center is a 5:1:1 mix of pine bark:peat:perlite and would serve you very well.

Your choice of soil probably has more potential to influence your ability to keep plants happy than any other decision involving aspects of growing you have any significant control over. There is effort involved in finding appropriate ingredients, but that effort is often offset by the fact that maintaining plants with healthy root systems results in far fewer problems down the road - with insects, disease, or spoiled foliage. A perfect example is your reason for being here today. You recognize there is something amiss, but if you had known how to choose or make a better soil, you wouldn't be here and wouldn't need the help.

If you have questions or wish to learn more - just ask. Josh has also given you good advice, and may have more to add based on what I said or on any input from you.

Take care.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, Al, I think I shall add more ;-)

Sorry for the brevity of my initial post, Lamora.
Indeed, when I wrote "If the bark is appropriate..." I meant - if the product you find is bark,
rather than sapwood. Sometimes, "wood chips" are not bark, and so I'll wait for your reply to
recommend further.

Also, I recommended 2 parts Perlite in your mix to err on the side of caution - the extra Perlite
will reduce the overall water-holding capacity of the mix, and will also hold the mix "open" as Al

Please give it a try and I think you'll be very pleased. Plus, there's tons of support here
for those who are new to implementing these bark-based mixes.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:59PM
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There is so much helpful information here. (I have long been a lurker in the house plants forum, but let me get to the point!)

I am going out to purchase a bark to mix in and I plan to use a 5-1-1 mix for the future. It sounds like fir, pine and conifer are being recommended. How often should a mix like this be watered? (I currently water once a week, maybe less.) Should I re-pot my current hoya in this mix(details below)? What about moisture loving hoya such as callistophylla? Or the others which 'prefer not to get dry' (I wouldn't know from experience!)

I have had my hoya cuttings in a mix of hydrotone, perlite, sand and potting soil (often unsifted orchid mix from miracle grow, or their regular mix). It drys within a few days and they have put on new growth, signaling their survival. I water when they look extremely dry and the mix soaks in a decent amount. I have heard over and over that we want a mix that the water runs right through. It is so easy to be miss-led because my plants appear to be doing well (I err on the side of dryness.)

p.s. I grow only indoors (as I fear for the survival of my young plants.) I'm in a coastal city in Washington, our summer has had 1:1 of cloudy 70F/sunny 80F. Central heating leaves our house at a constant 72, not to mention the sun heating us up.

Any information is greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:11PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How often a planting needs watering will vary widely. Some of the factors that affect the interval are the ratio of the plant size to pot size, type of plant, weather or indoor conditions, where the plant is in its growth cycle, how the soil is constructed. IOW, it's hard to say. A lot depends on the size of the bark you end up using. The closer you can get to having most of the particles in that 1/8-1/4" size, the more water the soil will hold w/o holding a significant volume of perched water, which is what you want most to avoid.

All else being equal except the soils, I'd guess that if you're growing in something like MG potting soil and watering once per week, you'll probably end up watering every 3-5 days, depending on how you make the soil.

You don't want your soil to get too dry before you water, because it can become hydrophobic (difficult to rewet). I'd suggest using the wooden skewer technique to test the soil deep in the pot as your default until you get used to the soil. Hefting the pots when they're small/light enough is very effective, too.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:49PM
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Oh, ok Lamora, I see here you speak of your spiders! When I start my baby spiders my mix is about 1/2 perlite. This has worked for me for years. But I am learning so much by hanging out on this forum. I've changed my mix now especially for my cc and ec (thanks to help from the experts at GW). My cc and ec are so much happier and it's only been a short time. I'm going to keep following their

Speaking of spiders I took about 40 big babies from the mother plants today. The temp. today was 111. The stems or legs or stalks were drying out. I was afraid I would end up with lil crispy off shoots. The mothers are doing fine.
Guess what I'm going to do with the babies!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:45PM
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Enterotoxigenic00~~What, pray tell, are you going to do with all the babies?
Not sure what I would do with that many. Go out of my mind for one! lol.

btw, congrats on getting so many babies, my Mamma Spider isn't producing any, not even new shoots/stems. But she is healthy and for now I am not going to worry about it much. She's been thru a lot these past few months. She needs time. :)

Ren_Flowers-- all my plants are outside in the shade, it is getting up to 100F here (in the shade) and so far they don't seem to mind, the only one I bring in is my baby Thanksgiving cactus,(over 90F) they dont like the heat much. But I was like you, indoors all the time, but once I put them outside? I could not believe how they all loved it and started showing it! Maybe just a few hours a day would do your plants some good... but it is up to you, of course. I am just wondering where I am going to put them all this winter! haha Sorry, we were talking soil.. my bad.

As far as soil goes, I have a hard time with the 5-1-1 mix. I have tried it many times, but for some reason I can't work with that much bark. I do use it as a base, but it seems to come out more of a 2-2-1 mix, more or less. (bark,perlite,soil) and so far I haven't had any real issues with it. Some plants have more bark than others, but I don't think any have the 5-1-1 mix. They all drain well, seem to dry up fast enough, and it works for me.
(by the way, I use fir bark from pet stores for reptiles)

If nothing else, I have learned from this forum, is nothing is written in stone. Find what works for you and go from there. Yes, I am still learning. Trying different things and not being afraid to do so. This place has been great for me. And my plants thank you. ;)


    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:25AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The 5:1:1 'recipe' is just a guideline; not carved in stone, as mentioned. If your bark is larger than ideal, you'll need to increase the peat fraction until you get the water retention you need. It would probably still be much better for plants if you had a larger fraction of bark that was smaller, but you need to work with what you have and adjust. I don't actually follow a recipe, I just go by feel (appearance, actually), and that's pretty much based on the bark size I use for each batch.

Word of caution: Spider plants are known to be sensitive to high fertility and to fluoride, Perlite can contain enough fluoride to cause foliage problems for spiders, PLs, and other fluoride-sensitive plants, so keep that in mind. It's a good idea to rinse thoroughly, any perlite you're using in soils for these plants before incorporating it into the soils.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:47AM
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Thanks Al, I need to remember that, as they grow I do change the mix. As I mentioned this works for me I realize it may not work for everyone.

Lamora, most of my spiders that give so many babies are several years old. Some give more than others.
Lately the solid green crank out more babies/pups after trimming. That's not why I take them off though, the stems were drying out in the heat. I love to have the plants with lots of hanging plantlets. After cutting the plantlets I can't throw them away! Sometimes I'll plant several in a pot and give as gifts...others just stay home. Several stay out in the front yard in partial shade and survive the freeze and even snow to come back in the spring.
I have been known to forget to fertilize... among other things.
I wish I had as much luck with creeping charlies. Maybe
someone can suggest a good propagation method. The stores here don't sell them.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:56AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Entero,

If by Creeping Charlie you mean Swedish Ivy or Plectranthus, I have found them to root readily in water, then I potted them up when the roots were a good 1/2" to 1" long.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:48AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Entero, now that you have a good grip on creating a good potting mix, Swedish Ivy is soooo easy to propagate by rooting it in the medium.

Take about 5 to 6 inch cuttings, removing them just below a node. That's 5 inches for each cutting, not 5 cuttings of one inch, lol. Remove most of the lower leaves on your cutting, exposing the bare stem. Prepare a small pot with your mix, water it well, then pre-drill three or four holes for your cuttings. You want the cuttings to be deep enough to be fairly secure but don't stick the whole stem in. Water again, gently, to settle the soil around the stem. No tamping with your fingers.

Place in a warmish location out of any direct sun and be patient. No pulling on the cutting to peek (I think that's why people like to root in water)! Keep the mix fairly moist, but not sodden. Some people go to the trouble of placing a baggie over the top to help keep the cuttings humid, but I have never bothered with that.

If you use your potting medium in the pot, you won't have to repot once they are rooted! Three or four cuttings will make a nice little pot of swedish ivy.

You should have 100 % success with Swedish's a good candidate to get some practice on! I've used plain perlite, good potting medium, sand, vermiculite, and others for leaf and stem propagation.

That's how I do it...hopefully, others will post and EACH will have his or own favorite method, you just watch. Mine is the lazy method.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 2:30PM
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I have 2 sets of Swedish Ivy, one potted and one in a jar of water, both are coming along great! (Just 2 little vines tho, but still) I always loved plants in water, think I will keep it.

I do have one question tho, how would I feed the one in the water? I don't know if I am doing it right. I mix the feed in a gallon of water, dump out the old water and fill it up with new water/feed. I have only done this once, I was afraid I would over feed it. Plus the food makes the water green, don't care for that much.

Can someone please advise me on this? I plan on having at least 2 more "water" plants and I haven't read anywhere how to feed them. Or should I worry about it?

Anyway I love the Swedish Ivy, very pretty, can't wait till they get bigger.. but that is what this is, isnt it.. a waiting game.. /sigh (can't wait for a lot of my plants to get big- grow into cats-- lol)


    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Thanks pirate_girl and rhizo_1. Swedish ivy many years ago did not look like the creeping charlie, now I realize how many different ones there are! Swedish ivy from days gone by leaned more towards the traditional ivy, but the leaves were more elongated and jagged. Those I can kill without any help.
I did take a few cutting from my creeping charlie...I'm afraid I'll lose one in this heat, 113 today. That's a record for us. Right now I have them in water but I'm going
to split them up and put half in a good potting mix, that is after I rinse the perlite!

You have a good question Lamora I never thought about 'feeding' the water plants.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:49PM
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