Perlite VS Sand: Which One Is Better For Your Garden?

In gardening, the type of soil we use for our plants is a very important part. The soil gives the plants the necessary nutrients and supports them in growth. As well as it protects its roots from any damage.

That being said, choosing suitable soil for your garden is a hard decision. There are various types of soil that can be used in gardening. Perlite and horticultural sand are some good choices.

But you might think which one would be the best in perlite vs sand?

In short, perlite and sand both are different materials. Perlite is a type of soil derived from volcanic obsidian. Whereas, horticultural sand is made from various coarse materials. Both are good soils that can be used in gardening. But they have different characteristics which we have explained.

Loving the preview? Then let’s dive into the details to learn more about it!

Perlite Vs Sand: Quick Comparison

Here’s a quick comparison between Perlite and Sand. These pieces of information will help you to choose the best for your garden.

Features Perlite Sand 
Prevent Soil Compaction  Yes No
Improve Drainage Yes Yes 
Hold Onto Nutrients NoNo
PH level 7 to 7.5 7

Detailed Comparison Between Perlite and Sand

Perlite VS Sand

Perlite is just a volcanic glass that is primarily formed by hydrating obsidian. Seventy to seventy-five percent of the chemical is silica or silicon dioxide.

On the other hand, sand is made out of various materials, including quartz, crushed sandstone, and crushed granite. This composition implies it’s lime-free. It won’t mess with your soil’s pH balance but can really help it.

Now let’s have a look at what perlite and sand have to offer for your gardening.


Perlite use on plant potting

Perlite may be used in soilless mixes to help with drainage and aeration, giving plant roots more oxygen. It’s also used as a soil addition in gardens to enhance soil structure. Sand and perlite mix is a good combination for this.

Perlite also aids in the decomposition of clay soils. It is used as a stand-alone product in hydroponic gardening installations to germinate plants, root cuts, and anchor/support root systems.

Now for its sharp edges, sand doesn’t really clump together and will not cover holes in the soil. This makes it helpful in enhancing drainage and ensuring proper airflow all-around roots of your indoor or outdoor plants.

Pros: Perlite Vs Sand

Because of its sterility, perlite is ideal for seed beginning. Root rot and damping-off are unlikely to occur. Minerals required for plant development are naturally present.

It is a non-toxic chemical that does not require washing before use, as some other growth mediums do. When blended with other components, its neutral pH does not need to be changed, nor will it change the total pH.

It could be used alone in potting mixes with other materials. The particles allow plants to be taken out from perlite without damaging their root systems.

However, it is ideal for seed germination or plant multiplication. Also, it does not degrade. It can be used year after year.

The gritty composition of sand can make the soil more receptive to your outdoor and indoor plants. Some plants thrive in soil pH. You can handle your soil’s pH levels by hand-mixing or purchasing horticulture sand with specified additives.

You can increase the pH of soil by using sand that contains alkaline materials like lime. Or you can reduce the pH by using sand that includes acidic ingredients. It’s like grit treated with tiny quantities of ammonium sulfate.

Also sand can be an excellent addition to composting. Particularly composting the mixture for your garden. Because it dries rapidly and stimulates aeration of the soil.

Using sand in conjunction with your landscape soil allows rain and other water to flow more freely. Composting organic materials that would otherwise rot due to insufficient ventilation requires well-drained and aerated soil.

This also prevents water from sitting upright around roots. It can also help houseplants drain better.

Rainstorms can cause soil to become saturated and compacted. Leaving little room for strong root systems or helpful bacteria to flourish.

Gardeners can aerate the soil by puncturing it with a brush or another sort of aerator instrument. The sand prevents clumping and allows moisture to drain or evaporate. Plants and microbes will be more attracted to the oxygen-rich soil.

Cons: Perlite Vs Sand

Water can be swiftly drained. Perlite absorbs water in the nooks on its huge surface area, but it doesn’t hold it tightly because it’s comprised of amorphous volcanic glass.

Perlite can sometimes be blown away and floats in extra water due to it being lightweight.

This is a nonrenewable resource. Although more widely available than peat moss and sand mixture. Here are some recommended brands that have good quality peat moss.

Using these peat moss will give you a good quality mixture. As well as the healthy growth of your plants.

Dust can irritate the eyes and cause breathing difficulties. When dealing with perlite, make sure to protect your eyes and face by wearing goggles and a mask.

Sandy soil can’t hold water, and it can’t contain many nutrients, so any fertilizer you add will be washed away rapidly.

Because of the free-draining nature of this soil, sand doesn’t take enough of a dry spell. This is why it becomes completely empty of moisture during summer. 

So if you choose drought-tolerant plants, you’ll need to use the water and sprinkler frequently during the summer. 


Perlite is a low-cost solution that costs around $4 to $5 each cubic foot less than sand. Easily accessible and simple to produce. On the flip side, the average cost of sand in the USA was around $9.90 per metric ton.

A Final Verdict

Going through the benefits and demerits, this is a preferred choice. Depending on what plants you will have in your garden, you should decide on this matter. Both materials are good for their own different work.

It is better if you first decide what kind of garden you want. Only after then, per your gardening requirements, decide and use one of the types of soil.

That is all we have to say about this topic.


What is an alternative to perlite?

Peat moss, sand, carbonized clay, and vermiculite are used as perlite substitutes. Depending on the mix ratios, constituent qualities, and desired effects. Vermiculite, a mineral component similar to perlite, is used in the replacement of perlite.

Are sand and perlite the same?

Sand has a lower particle size than perlite which allows roots to breathe better. Perlite may hold water. Its primary function is to improve soil quality rather than to keep it hydrated. 

Is perlite toxic to humans?

Perlite is a non-toxic siliceous rock that occurs naturally. Perlite has applications in horticulture, construction, and industry. Ingesting perlite-containing items can induce disease and lasting injury or death in large enough doses.

Is perlite the same as horticultural sand?

No, perlite and horticultural sand are not the same.

Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that has been heated to create a lightweight, porous material. It is often used in gardening as a soil amendment to improve drainage and aeration.

Horticultural sand is a type of washed sand that is commonly used in gardening and landscaping. It is often added to soil mixes to improve drainage and to create a more well-draining soil.

While both perlite and horticultural sand can be used to improve drainage in soil, they are not interchangeable. Perlite is a more lightweight material and can provide more aeration than sand. Horticultural sand is heavier and can provide more stability to a soil mix.


We hope we have given you a clear view of perlite vs sand. In the end, this is totally upon your own preference. And also what is best for your garden plants.

If you have confusion in deciding, we would recommend you consult an expert on this matter.

Happy Gardening!

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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