Perlite Propagation Made Easy and Foolproof

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Looking for a foolproof technique for houseplant perlite propagation? You’ll find it here!

Soil, water, sphagnum moss, and perlite. These are the most common mediums used to propagate houseplants, with each having their own strengths and weaknesses. In a previous post, we’ve covered how to make the best aroid propagation soil. In this post, we will go over the benefits of perlite propagation, and how to do it successfully.

What Is Perlite?

Commonly found in soil used for vegetable and flower gardens, local nursery/garden section plants, or in bags of potting mix, you’ve probably seen and used perlite many times in the past without taking notice. Perlite is a natural type of volcanic glass. Mined perlite is hyper-heated, causing it to “pop”. This forms those familiar Styrofoam-looking bits you often see in your favorite plant’s soil. The process is similar to how a heated popcorn kernel pops into a fluffy piece of popcorn. Essentially, perlite = volcanic popcorn. Yum. As a bonus, perlite is certified for use in organic agriculture.

When To Use Perlite Propagation

Technically, you can use perlite for any of your houseplant propagations; however, there are situations where perlite excels over other methods. Perlite propagation works very well when propagating leafless nodes. We use perlite exclusively for all our Monstera node propagations. When we have a Monstera albo on the line, we don’t take any chances. With that said, perlite can easily be used for any houseplant you want to propagate, as well.

Why Use Perlite For Propagating?

Perlite works well for propagating due to its amazing physical properties. It’s light and fluffy, allowing newly forming roots to move and grow easily.

Furthermore, perlite maintains its shape and provides excellent support for your propagation. How many times have you propagated in water or soil only to have the plant constantly flopping over? Frustrating, isn’t it?

Also, the medium you place your propagation in needs the appropriate ratio of water and air for it to survive and be healthy. Luckily, perlite contains many air pockets which retains the correct amount of water while allowing for proper aeration. This improves your success by avoiding unhealthy, rotting nodes or cuttings.

In addition, perlite propagated roots are strong and easily transplanted directly into soil. This is not always the case with water propagation. In fact, you would need to carefully acclimate plants grown in water to soil conditions.

Lastly, perlite is easy to work with, easy to clean, and affordable.

How To Use Perlite For Propagating Cuttings

First, gather up all the materials you need. You will need your plant cuttings, perlite, nursery pot, and plant saucer. You will also need something to increase humidity for your propagation. such as a large zip-lock bag or a humidity dome. Gloves and a small scoop or trowel may come in handy, but are purely optional.

Second, fill your nursery pot about 1/4th of the way up with perlite. You’ll need that amount of perlite at the bottom of your nursery pot to make space for the water to pool up so that water doesn’t rot your cutting. To specify, fill the perlite to a level that is slightly higher than the height of your plant saucer to ensure your cutting does not sit in water.

Third, place your cutting in the center of the pot and fill your nursery pot with perlite until it is 3/4ths full. With perlite, you can easily adjust the position of your propagation if you’re unhappy with how it looks.

Fourth, place your nursery pot on top of your saucer and water the perlite thoroughly. Above all, make sure that there is a constant supply of water available in your saucer for bottom watering. Never let your propagation dry up.

Lastly, place everything in a container to maintain a high relative humidity. If it is small enough, you may be able to place your propagation inside a large zip-lock bag. Otherwise, a humidity dome works amazingly. You also have the option of placing plastic clingwrap over the top portion of your nursery pot, allowing the stem to stick out. The goal is to maintain humidity inside the perlite. Make sure to open the humidity container every other day to let in fresh air and avoid mold growth.

How To Use Perlite For Propagating Nodes

Propagating nodes in perlite mostly follows the same directions as propagating cuttings, just with a couple differences.

First, you will need to gather your plant nodes, perlite, nursery pot, plant saucer, and something to increase humidity like a large zip-lock bag or humidity dome. Gloves and a small scoop or trowel are purely optional.

Second, fill your nursery pot about 3/4th of the way up with perlite. You’ll need that amount of perlite at the bottom of your nursery pot to make space for the water to pool up so that water doesn’t rot the new roots that will grow. In short, ensure there is enough room in the perlite to accommodate your node and its new roots so that they don not sit in water.

Third, gently nestle your node in the center of the pot, right on top of the perlite.

Fourth, place your nursery pot on top of your saucer and water the perlite thoroughly. Above all, make sure that there is a constant supply of water available in your saucer for bottom watering. Never let your propagation dry up.

Perlite propagation cutting inside humidity dome

Lastly, place everything in a container to maintain a high relative humidity. You can do this by placing your propagation pot inside a large zip-lock bag. If it won’t fit inside a zip-lock try out making a humidity dome. You also have the option of placing plastic clingwrap over the top portion of your nursery pot. The goal is to maintain humidity inside the perlite. Make sure to open the humidity container every other day to let in fresh air and avoid mold growth.

Perlite Propagation Success Tips

You’ve setup your propagation in perlite, but might be asking “what do I do now?” Here are some key tips to ensure propagation success.

Place the propagation in a warm place with bright indirect light. A nice bright windowsill works wonders. North or East facing windows work well. Avoid direct sunlight at all costs. It will burn the delicate propagation and excessively increase the temperature inside the humidity container. If a bright windowsill is not an option, grow lights and a plant heating mat works, as well.

Successful perlite propagations that were transplanted in soil

Don’t forget to check on your propagations often. If you’re propagating a cutting, check on the root development weekly. Once you have a nice set of roots, remove it from the humidity container and replant in soil. If you are propagating nodes, remove it from the humidity container once there is new stem and leaf growth. You can then plant the propagation in soil.

Distilled water is not necessary, but you can use a diluted mix of your favorite plant nutrient if you’d like. We personally use HB-101, but have seen others have success with SuperThrive.

Don’t be disappointed if your propagation doesn’t make it. You can do all the right things, and still have a failed propagation. However, if you follow these tips, I guarantee you’ll have more wins than losses.

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