Perlite is an amorphous glass-like mineral with a relatively high water content, a hydrated version of obsidian. The mineral is entirely natural but has the intriguing property of expanding dramatically when heated to its melting point (850 – 900 degrees). It is widely used in industry as a lightweight, refractory material and also as an additive in ceramics.

In horticulture, it is used for cuttings as a sterile and neutral medium. In soil, it is primarily used as a lightweight, draining material. It holds very little water while allowing excess water to pass through easily.

There are two disadvantages: 1. It floats. 2. It appears white in the soil, which may not be aesthetically pleasing in the finished bonsai. However, during the developmental stages, it can be a beneficial addition to the soil mix.

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