Gossip in the Garden

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Pumice versus Perlite – Q & A

IMG_1543I was recently introduced to the dynamic brother/sister team, Lexi and Austin Petelski, who own General Pumice Products.  These young and dynamic gardeners have recently acquired ownership of two California pumice mines and are here to help explain the differences between pumice and perlite.

Those of us who garden in El Nino’s predicted path will find this information particularly useful, as pumice not only helps absorb and slowly release water, but it helps aerate the soil at the same time. Pumice is a fantastic way to help prevent your succulent containers and water-sensitive plants (ie: leucadendrons, euphorbias, proteas, grevilleas) from sitting and drowning in pooled water.  In fact, I recently added a hefty dose of their pumice to my own garden’s soil, hoping my newly planted leucadendrons will have a fighting chance in surviving this year’s predicted rainfall.

And, since it’s the holiday season, we thought it would be fun to offer everyone an opportunity to win your own 15-pound bag of pumice.  All you need to do is leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Okay, on with the interview!GreenBar
Pumice_annotated1.  You’re both so young!  When did you realize you wanted to own and operate a pumice mine?

Truthfully, we never in our wildest dreams would have guessed this was going to be our future. My brother and I were never involved in the horticulture world before acquiring the pumice mines. What essentially started our debut in the gardening world or “attracted” us to the pumice business in general was actually the mining portion of pumice.

Our family has been involved in heavy machinery and construction for the last 40 years and one day, seemingly out of nowhere, we heard about 2 pumice mines in California that needed to be reclaimed. Our dad, being the entrepreneurial wizard he is, saw them as a great asset so we purchased them, reclaimed, and extensively renovated both mines.

After purchasing the mines we started researching the markets and uses for pumice, other than the common “thing you scrub your feet with”, and were overwhelmed with the massive opportunities that pumice offers. We discovered that pumice, amazingly, is used in over 30 markets, from gardening to lightweight concrete, makeup and cosmetic scrubs, and even pencil erasers!

Originally we started pursuing lightweight concrete and stone companies (because pumice is used as an aggregate), oil absorbent markets, kitty litter companies, because these were the most common and popular markets for it. After quite a bit of researching however, we found article after article on how pumice seems to be the healthiest and supreme soil amendment/conditioner on the market for serious gardeners. We saw an extreme demand for pumice in horticulture, yet no supply for horticulture customers locally because the conditions of the mines before we purchased them.

At that point we then started pursuing nurseries and the gardening market full time, and absolutely fell in love with the industry. We started selling to wholesale growers, soil companies, farms etc. and the business just started exploding.

Out of all the industries we’ve pursued since owning the mines the horticulture industry has by far been the most fun – the people are wonderful, warm and kind and genuinely love our product. We love that we can provide an amazing product for people who had a great need for it and many even a strong passion for it, yet weren’t able to get access to it for a long time.

I’d have to say, the best part of working in the gardening realm is that we now have an abundant love for succulents and have gotten to see some of the coolest most beautiful nurseries in the world! Our newest goal is working on our own green thumbs, though we are new to the actual growing portion of the industry, we have had a ridiculously fun time learning!”

GreenBar
IMG_66142.  So, what’s the difference between pumice and perlite (and other similar products on the market)?

Oh boy, where to even begin!  Pumice is an all-natural,100% ORGANIC growing media that provides an ideal balance of moisture retention, gas exchange, and draining capabilities. Perlite, Peat Moss, Coco Coir, and Vermiculite are what most growers default to using in their soils and all those products, and though may have some benefits, in comparison, they’re nothing like our pumice. Pumice is its own category, honestly, and I’m not just saying that because I sell it! None of the similar products are 100% ORGANIC, nor do they offer all the health benefits and water conservation aspects our pumice has scientifically proven to possess.

Our pumice has been scientifically tested and proven to have over 70 different trace vitamins and minerals, that help detoxify and vitalize your plants. Succulents, produce and flowers require daily nutrients, just like our bodies.  Our pumice is packed full of these minerals, such as Zeolite, Fulvic Acid, Iron, Sodium, Humic Acid, Calcium, Nitrogen, Potassium and many more. Your plants need these nutrients to be healthy and thrive, because just like ‘you are what you eat’, your plants can only be as healthy as what they eat, or what you feed them. Just like people, plants need a balanced diet with beneficial microbes, minerals, and nutrition, and none of our competitive products can offer such things.

Another major difference and benefit of amending your soil with our pumice is its water-conserving capabilities. Each individual pumice stone has countless microscopic pores that each act as little sponges, storing the nutrient-rich water, later releasing it when the soil needs hydrating. Using pumice in your soil brings oxygen to the root zone, allows carbon dioxide to escape, enables air circulation, and makes food and water consistently available for root uptake. No other soil amendment or conditioner can do this.

Pumice is heavier than its leading competitor Perlite, which forces it to stay mixed into your soil so it won’t float to the top of your containers and blow away.

Lastly, pumice will never decompose, so it never needs replacing (unlike Coco Coir and Peat Moss that tends to rot and must be removed.)

GreenBar
IMG_1658_2 copy3.  With El Nino lurking around the corner, what’s the best way for home gardeners to use pumice in their garden or containers?

Great question! Well, When it comes to growing vibrant plants, it’s all about the quality of the soil. The roots must have a continual supply of oxygen, the root-level carbon dioxide must be able to easily leave the root zone, the soil must also be able to retain water and hold nutrients while not drowning your succulents and plants.

Pumice is supreme for water-sensitive plants, because the microscopic pores of the pumice act as tiny sponges. So in the event of over-watering (or the lurking rainfall of El Nino), the pumice will soak up any access water and will lock it within its pores until the soil needs re-hydrating.

The simplest and most effective soil blend we’ve received from our larger clients and in-in home growers is a mixture of half soil and half pumice. Debra Lee Baldwin, succulent author and expert with whom we work closely, with has numerous articles and YouTube videos on how to mix the perfect soil blends for specific breeds of succulents and plants. For a large garden mix Debra recommends mixing equal parts garden soil, pumice, gritty sand (like decomposed granite) and compost.

GreenBar
IMG_16904.  Would you consider pumice and pumice mining, an environmentally friendly alternative to other similar garden products?

Absolutely, 100% YES – Pumice is the most environmentally friendly gardening product you can use! Not only does it come directly from the earth, it stays in its raw form.  All we do is screen it to make it the desired sizes, bag it, and ship it out. There is no chemicals added to our pumice, no heating process, our product comes straight out of the earth and into your garden! There are no harmful chemical or hazardous fumes or dust that comes from our product, unlike the similar products. What could be better than that?

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IMG_1696_25.  Where can gardeners find your product?

Gardeners can buy our product online General Pumice Products, available in 15lb. bags, which will be delivered to their front door (free shipping, too!)

Or, if they need a larger quantity or would like to buy it bulk/wholesale they can send an email to [email protected] for more information on our wholesale specials (pallets of  25lb. or 50lb. bags).

 

*And, for those of you who will be attending the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show this year (March 16-20, 2016) they’ll not only have a booth but will also be speaking!  Stay tuned for more info.

GreenBar

………………………………………………………….Giveaway (sorry, this giveaway is over) ……………………………………………………………..

UPDATE:  Congratulations Colleen – you won!  (I’ve already sent you an email asking for your home address so we can ship the pumice).  Thanks everyone for participating, and may you all have a beautiful holiday season!

Lexi and Austin have generously agreed to give one lucky reader a chance to win a 15-pound bag of pumice to add to your garden!

In addition, for everyone else who doesn’t win, they’re also offering a holiday promotion through the month of December: buy 6 bags of pumice and you get a 7th bag free!

How to enter:  For a chance to win, leave a comment below about how you’d like to use pumice in your garden and then head over to their Facebook page here, and ‘like’ them.  How easy is that?

A few more details:  A random winner will be chosen by midnight Dec. 24th and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by Jan. 31st, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. Please provide your first and last name to enter this contest so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway.

This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. No purchase necessary to win. This sweepstakes is also void where prohibited by law (wherever that is, I’d sure hate to live there!) By entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions.

GreenBar

104 Responses to Pumice versus Perlite – Q & A

  1. I would very much like to win a bag. Am looking for something that is much better for my plants & the environment. Would love to use this product. Have used many products for several years. This has to be better.

  2. Dear friends. It is nice to find you on Facebook. I have been involved in the bonsai world for many years. The subject of soil and soil mixes has always been a subject of intense interest. Many products have come in and out of favor. In recent years, thanks to writings of several young “masters” pumice has moved at or near the top of popularity. Many still favor Japanese materials such as akadama.. Many advocate mixes including granite grit, crashed lava, etc. I am just recovering from a heart attack and it is the dormant season here in New England but I look forward to trying your materials in the future. I wish you success in your endeavors. Happy new year.

  3. Yes I would love to try pumice,it would be wonderful to help promote your business and get the word out. I would love to win this. Thank you for the opportunity and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  4. I have never used pumice before but really looking forward to use it for my adeniums, aeoniums and succulents. I was reading about pumice a lot recently and it looks interesting product.

  5. Wow! I love learning about new, naturally occurring things! Can’t wait to try some pumice in my garden. I have a once a week watering schedule and this would be perfect to help air out some of my plants that stay a little moist!

  6. Okay, I’m quite intrigued by this product. In the UK, they are always using “horticultural grit,” but I’ve never been able to find anything like that here. This sounds like a potential alternative. They use it for aeration and for covering seed trays. I think I’ll have to give this a try!

  7. Great article. I teach a class of exceptional children and we have a small aquaponics and greenhouse. We are focusing on ground cover and succulents this year – yes, ground cover and sedum are growing even in aquaponics! We would use the pumice for planting up our succulents for sale. All monies goes to the students.

  8. Most years we get plenty of rain here in east Tennessee. Using pumice would greatly reduce “death by water” for all my succulents, agave and cactus.
    Thank you for the giveaway and I enjoyed the article Lexi and Austin Petelski.

  9. I recently purchased several bags of this pumice and am truly amazed at how much better it is from ANY other pumice I have bought on the web! It really has helped out my Haworthia collection from what I was using. Thanks.

  10. I need it to build raised beds for my hardy [7b] cacti and succulents, and some other easily over-watered plants that need great drainage. I also plan on using it in my 4 greenhouses ………….. I hope I win !!!! Merry Christmas !!!! [p.s. ~ Facebook will NOT let me “LIKE” your page but DOES let me sign up for notifications [all] and events !!! So, I can keep track of your company !!! 🙂

  11. What perfect timing Rebecca! I have been worried about the upcoming rains, especially around my fruit trees. I’ll have to do some research to see if pumice can help them balance out the water. But I will definitely be trying pumice with my succulents and other parts of my garden. Thanks so much for the info!

    • Cheryl, glad we could be of some help! We actually do sell currently to several wholesale fruit, avocado, and citrus nurseries and they swear by our product! So it is working for them, but we’ll be doing some more research on that specific topic along with you!

  12. I have been planting succulants for over a year, slowly my grass is getting smaller and smaller. I cut water bill over 50%.
    I have been also making hypertufa pots that are using perlite to be made, I will love to use pumice instead and see how that would work.
    Thank you for creating organic products.

  13. what an exciting adventure your dad created for his family. Thank you for bringing your pumice to the garden industry. I, too, have had little experience with pumice and look eagerly to mixing pumice into my garden soil. My succulent garden will have a Christmas treat!
    Happy Holidays,
    Rochelle

  14. Great article on pumice. I worked for years for an orchid /bedding plant nursery. They used it straight for the orchids and mixed it in their soil for geraniums and bedding plants. Plants thrived’

  15. My husband and I have finally found a hobby we both love to do together! Succulents fascinate us and we are constantly trying to expand our knowledge and preparing for our So Cal water wise front yard. I would love to use pumice in my containers and even in the mix of things in our front xeriscape / desert creation we are working on for this spring….post El Nino. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this information and for this opportunity!

  16. I garden in Iowa zone 5 and have used and purchased perlite and chicken grit. Pumice is not a product seen in our garden shops. I am a long time Master Gardener and a greenhouse worker and always open and eager to learn and pass my knowledge on to others. I plan to do more research on this product.

  17. I had my pool filled in and Urban Artichokes did my landscaping. I am fascinated by how I can take a cutting and a new succulent will grow. I have never heard of pumice except for foot care. I enjoyed your article and would love to win a bag for my new landscaped succulents.

  18. Hi, I have been a pumice fan since I was three years old, now 56, living in Southern and later in Northern California. How you may ask? My dad was a pool contractor and did a lot of projects at home in soft- and hardscaping. I would help in my own childish ways and in specific chores. Pumice was always at the house. Back then, it wasn’t all screened perfectly, there were rocks of various sizes and shapes, even small boulders. Plus, he would bring materials home from job sites. FUN! I would sift through the bags and piles for specimens to keep in my collections. We would use pumice in our planting soils. I used it as litter for my guinea pigs and rabbits (I had to clean the cages!). We decorated the ground with it and used larger pieces for paths. As I grew and became a plant nut and then later additionally a succulent and cactus nut, it was part of DNA to use pumice and lava rock as an aerator and substrate and thing of beauty! I never used sand in my rose pots –PUMICE! Ferns and azaleas? PUMICE! Succies? PUMICE! The perfect culmination of aesthetics and efficacy. Yay!

  19. I have been growing succulents by cuttings and also planting seeds. I would love a chance to win a free bag of pumice to add to my soil for healthier plants.

  20. I have a lot of succulents and have been using “chicken grit” as an additive. I would love to try your pumice!” Thaks,

  21. What a great article. I always wondered about pumice and have read where people are using it for potting soil. I was planning on trying it this summer. A free bag would be AWESOME!!!

  22. You don’t have to sell me on the benefits of pumice!!! I have used it for years here in Arizona. I used perlite back East because at the time pumice was not available. Pumice is the best!

  23. I received a large aloe dichotoma pup (30″ tall), in a not so prime planting time. I put the aloe in a 5 gallon bucket of pure pumice for 3 months. It thrived in the bucket until planted Subsequently, the aloe dichotoma was planted in the yard and it is doing well. I have mixed the pumice from the bucket with my Uni-Grow cactus mix for potting and repotting my cactus and succulents. I also use pure pumice to root succulent cuttings.

    • Thom, so interesting that it was so successful in straight pumice. We love hearing when people are bold enough to do that! We do that with a lot of our personal plants at home and love it! Good luck in the giveaway and Merry Christmas!

  24. Great article, thanks for the info. I love using pumice to plant my cactus and succulents in pots or in the ground. I mix pure pumice with any cheap regular potting soil and viola, I have a wonderfully super draining medium! I also mix it into the ground soil, when planting cacti in the ground, gives me peace of mind, knowing that they will not be overwatered by nature. Like a little insurance protection!

    • Jan, sounds perfect! We love hearing about people’s personal pumice/soil mixes. Isn’t pumice just a miracle worker? You can never have too much insurance protection on your beautiful succulents and cactus!

  25. I’d love to try this pumice since gravel and other amendments mentioned in your post have proved unreliable for drainage. Organic but never breaks down is a great point.

    • Shirley, we’d love for you to try it too! We hope our pumice is much more reliable and nourishing to your plants! Yes, the fact is never decomposes and is heavy enough it stays IN your soil mix and won’t blow away is the greatest quality about pumice. Good luck in the giveaway and Merry Christmas!

  26. I am an avid gardener growing everything from vegetables and fruits to succulents and fairy gardens. I love to experiment with new things. I would love to try the pumice in my gardens and would definitely share the benefits with my friends!

    • Jan, that is wonderful! That’s my brother and I’s goal as well! We’d love to grow all our own produce and have a beautiful garden! Keep up the wonderful work! And absolutely keep up the sharing with friends, that’s the best part of growing! Good luck in the giveaway and Merry Christmas!

  27. I have just recently bought a 40lb bag, and am anxious to use it. My plants all need new soil made up, so I will use pumice in all my replanting. I believe after reading your article, which by the way was quite interesting, I will put some pumice in an area when it rains the water sits, this should help the succulents that are planted in this area when we get hit with large amounts of rain. I hope it will help the plants not to die because of water sitting.

  28. Pumice Pumice Pumice!!! For my garden and indoor plants.
    So excited to learn about something more to amend my garden.

  29. I live in San Diego and we are expected to get pounded with El Nino this winter. I just had my yard zeroscaped and could really use the pumice to ensure my new succulents survive. In addition, I have been growing a spiral aloe for almost 2 years
    In a pot. They typically can’t survive in this neck of the woods. As a matter of fact in the past 2 yrs since I aquired it, I have yet to find a garden shop or succulent dealer in all of San Diego that sells them, so I am EXTREMELY careful with it’s care. I think adding pumice to the soil is just the safeguard I need.

  30. I’d like to add it to the soil in my native plant butterfly garden, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The soil right now is over-weighted with bark etc. from old Monterey Pines that I cut down.

  31. I learned some very important & informative information. I now realize the need for pumice instead of perlite & intend to use it. Of course, I would love to win a bag so I can take it for a test drive.

  32. As a geologist, I am aware that pumice not only provides drainage but, unlike most other materials, also provides some ability to slowly release water(due to each grain having pores) and as it very slowly breaks down it releases trace minerals to the plants. In short, it is an ideal soil additive for succulents!

  33. I would love to use pumice to amend my succulent soil. I live in central Florida and while temperatures allow me to grow many succulents in the ground, sufficient drainage is always a concern. I currently use mostly perilite because that is what is readily available but don’t like that it floats and would love to try making the switch to pumice.

    • Jill, that is the most frustrating thing right?! That’s what we try to emphasize to our customers the most, Perlite may be less costly however it rises almost immediately when you water your soil thoroughly, and then you have to replace it consistently. Pumice is heavy and more dense so it will not float to the top and blow away! Not to mention all the other benefits, like the minerals, the water detoxifying, the oxygenation, and aeration. We would love for you to switch to pumice too!

  34. I have been using Dry Stall for years ever since I read about it in Debra Baldwin’s books. I buy it at my local feed store. Is the General Pumice Product different?

    • Bernie, Funny you should mention that, Dry Stall actually IS made with our pumice! It just has a different brand name since it is for horses. It just is not screened and sized like our horticulture product is.

  35. I have been in the garden over too many years. But I still crave the feel of the earth. But I have never used pumice. It is time.

  36. It would be great to win a bag of pumice. Although I love succulents, growing them in Florida’s rainy summers can be tricky. The pumice sounds like a great product for amending the soil.

  37. Who knew that pumice has so many uses, and that as a soil amendment it is wonderful for potted plants. I have an all pot garden that has suffered substantial in the drought and with excessive rain. I love the water-retention properties of the pumice and would replant everything that has so far managed to survive. Are there any plants that don’t need what pumice has to offer?

    • Faith, isn’t it amazing how many uses it has other than scrubbing your bunions?! 😉
      From all the research we’ve done, every plant could benefit from pumice! Even if they are not water-sensitive plants they can benefit from it’s vitamins and minerals, or its water detoxifying properties and its oxygenation and aeration of the soil. I mean, we’re obviously biased but we think all horticulture projects should involve pumice!

  38. Oops — just realized that I need to add my last name also. Sorry about that. I certainly battle with the rain and humidity here in Florida and I will definitely be looking to add more pumice to my “mix”. I’ve been growing succulents for quite a few years and I do lose some. I thoroughly loved the article –and as far as I’m concerned — every little bit of advice and knowledge helps. It’s so frustrating (and sad) when I find another succulent that’s bitten the dust; but through wet feet.

  39. What a great article! Pumice seems to be a great resource material for our Succulents in containers and in the ground along with other plants that need good drainage without using something not natural or breaks down to fast or floats away.

  40. This is very informative; I live in Berkeley and with our clay soils, succulents and Leucadendrons just rot. I will be adding pumice to my pots and soil and start specifying this for landscape projects with my clients!

    • David, one of our main clients, who is basically a succulent mad scientist SWEARS by our pumice for his Leucadendrons and his more troublesome or picky plants! We’re glad to hear you’ll be trying it! And absolutely recommend it for your clients especially! thanks for your support and merry Christmas!

  41. It sounds like a wonderful organic solution for all my succulents, and also I have wanted to plant some I my clay soils so sounds like a great solution. Free shipping sounds like an ideal way to get it to our home.

    • Susan, it 100% is a wonderful organic solution! And we’re glad you appreciate the Free Shipping! We want to do all we can to get the most high-quality yet affordable product to our customers! Good luck in the giveaway and Merry Christmas!

  42. I’d love to try pumice in my succulent containers and to augment the soil in the new succulent bed I started this year.

  43. I have a blood orange tree that needs to be re potted this spring. I had trouble keeping it watered properly this year (and did not want to add those plastic gels to the soil) so I am looking forward to using this porduct here and on all my potted plants and leucadenrons. Thanks for the informative article!

  44. i have a garden full of succulents, proteas, palms and… wood chips. can i sprinkle the pumice around the plants or does it have to be tilled into the soil, under the wood chips? i do as little soil intervention as possible. thanks! sara jorgensen

  45. I would love to win and try it out in my terracing ànd other places in my garden. Sounds wonderful. I do use the other products you listed but have to replace then all the time. I really enjoyed your article and learned a lot about your pumice. Thank you.

  46. I’ve been so worried about all my drought tolerant plants (especially the succulents) with all this rain so I would definitely love to add some pumice to my clay soil and keep everyone from getting waterlogged this winter. How fast can the bag get here? LOL

    • Joan, we are all equally worried, but where there is lots of rain there should be even more pumice! LOL Our bags our typically delivered right to your front door in 3-7 business days from the time you order them! Not too shabby of a wait time!

  47. I’d bring the bg of pumice to pot up plants with fellow Master Gardeners for our annual plant sale. It is our largest fundraiser and provides us an opportunity to share unique plants and information with our community.

  48. My garden has been ignored for years and needs amendments desperately–water stands on it and runs off rather than percolating down. I do have some succulents and hope to redesign everything by converting to drip lines and primarily native plants. Pumice is most likely the answer to making for a wonderful garden!

  49. We recently replaced our thirsty lawn with drought-tolerant plants. Given the expected El Nino rainstorms, I wish I’d known about pumice sooner! I would definitely like to mix some into our planting beds, if it’s not too late.

    • Melodye, it’s never too late! We would love to get some pumice to you, upon ordering it only takes 3-7 days to ship right to your front door.

  50. I would like to use pumice to amend the soil in my garden planters that border my backyard. My goal is to use Debra Baldwin’s recipe and then plant waterwise plants and beautiful succulents. Currently my soil is claylike and drains poorly. Thank you for the opportunity!

  51. I’ve been using perlite, but I’m ready to try pumice. I’m in Missouri and I want to see if my succulents will be happier with your pumice