Geological classification

Do I need to rinse zeolite before use?

On the pages of we have repeatedly mentioned such a component as zeolite in the composition of soils for indoor plants. Let’s take a closer look at what it is. Zeolites are a group of minerals, hydrous calcium and sodium aluminosilicates, capable of releasing and reabsorbing water depending on temperature and humidity. Their physical properties are characterized by glass or pearlescent luster. Zeolite is of natural origin – it is a product of volcanic lava and rock crushed by gas and steam, as well as ocean water. Zeolite has found very wide application: it is used in household water filters, in cat litter, as well as in medicine and construction.

Benefits of adding zeolite to the substrate

  • Zeolites are capable of ion and cation exchange, and therefore, when added to the composition of soil for flowers, they contribute to the preservation of Mg2+, Ca2+, K+ cations for 2-3 years.
  • Zeolite contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, silicon in a form accessible to the plant.
  • Zeolite granules mixed with soil increase its porosity, prevent particles from sticking together (cementing the soil), and therefore increase access to oxygen to the roots. Due to the high drainage of the soil, better root formation is ensured.
  • Zeolite in soil mixtures for cacti and succulents makes it possible to bring the soil structure as close as possible to the requirements of these plants.
  • Regulates the moisture capacity of the soil, reduces the frequency of watering and prevents drying out (to a certain extent).
  • The acidity of zeolite is optimal for plants, pH 5,5-5,6.

Why not vermiculite and sand?

Of course, we used to make do with other disintegrants, such as: coarse sand, fine gravel, fine expanded clay, broken red brick, agroperlite and vermiculite. But zeolite has advantages against them:

  • river sand is too fine, particles less than 2 mm cement the soil, reduce the respiration of roots, i.e. you need to sift it, select larger particles – actually small pebbles, 3-5 mm in size
  • vermiculite is more moisture-intensive, since it is very heterogeneous – there is a lot of dust, medium and large particles in one package, substrates based on it dry out longer, it is more advisable to use it only for sowing and picking seedlings, perlite is even worse – it is washed out to the soil surface over time
  • broken brick is good, but requires preparation: chop, sift, and as a result there is a lot of waste in the form of dust
  • fine gravel is difficult and time-consuming to collect and is heavier
  • the zeolite in the fillers is already the size we need, all that remains is to wash it – the least fuss

Coconut, peat and bark are components for a completely different purpose and cannot be compared with zeolite, but if you get good, large, calibrated vermiculite (without dust), it is no worse than zeolite, perhaps only more expensive.

Where to get zeolite for plants

Zeolite for plants can be purchased in the form of:

  • A ready-made substrate component, for example, ZeoFlora produces moisture-saving soil ZeoFlora as a natural soil improver and plant growth stimulator. Its advantage is that the zeolite, created on the basis of natural zeolites from the Khotynetskoe deposit (Oryol zeolites), is already prepared for planting – the particle sizes are calibrated, there is no debris, impurities, or dust. Price 2,5 kg for approximately 250 rubles (price 2016):
  • Filler for cat litter, for example, the most affordable and popular Barsik Standard and Barsik Effect. Their advantage is in price – a 4,5 liter package costs about 70 rubles (price in Auchan 2016). But toilet filler must be washed and the particle size in it can be from 1 mm to 5 mm:

Let’s say right away that when comparing zeolite granules, we give undoubted preference to Barsik! It will be discussed below.

What cat litter to use for flowers

The most common and inexpensive are Barsik Standard in green packaging and Barsik Effect in orange. Considering that there can be a lot of flowers at home, and the consumption of zeolite is 1/3-1/5 of the volume of soil, we may need more than one package, and in this regard, Barsik’s cost-effectiveness is captivating.

But if not Barsik, then which one? Buy any cat litter that clearly says “zeolite is a natural mineral of volcanic-sedimentary origin” and is non-clumping! There should be no more additives in the composition. But before you use it, make sure you buy exactly what you need. Let’s remember – volcanic zeolite has a shine, in a dry state it is covered with dust and the shine is not visible, but as soon as you wash it, the zeolite becomes like river pebbles, only sharp, faceted.

We need a volcanic zeolite that is not of oceanic origin (not marine) – it is not soluble in water. No matter how much you rub it under water, it does not get wet or dissolve. But there are similar fillers, for example, “White Friend” – it says sea filler, also non-clumping, and light granules are depicted on the packaging, but the word zeolite is missing, or ocean zeolite is mentioned. Upon closer inspection, such fillers look like small lumps of light clay; if you add water after 2-10 minutes, most of them will become mushy. Ocean zeolite is not suitable for plants – it dissolves. Therefore, if the packaging says volcanic mineral rock zeolite and also the word “Oceanic”, do not buy it for plants. The one that says “zeolite-containing clay – large granules” is also not suitable for us.

Therefore, if you have doubts about any filler, check for solubility: add water, wait 5-10 minutes, rub in your palms. If the granules continue to prick your hands, great; if they become saponified and become smooth, they cannot be used for plants.

Analogues of zeolite for plants


In addition to zeolite, you can see cat litter based on opoka. Opoka is an ancient sedimentary rock formed from the skeletal parts of organisms (diatoms, radiolarians and sponge spicules). Example: filler “Siberian cat” effect, “Kuzya”, etc. Opoka is also practically insoluble in water and differs from zeolite in color – lighter and usually of a larger fraction. The flask filling also needs to be washed. The price is about the same as for “Barsiki”.

Substrate Lechuza

The Lechuza production line specializes in the production of self-watering pots and soilless substrate for them. They have two soil options: Lechuza PON (LECHUZA-PON), consisting of: zeolite, purified pumice, volcanic rock + slow release fertilizers; Lechuza Terrapon (LECHUZA-TERRAPON), composed of: organic humus and mineral components (pumice and expanded clay). These substrates are of high quality, their flower pots are simply gorgeous, but the price is very high: Lechuza Pon 25 l – 2622 rubles, Lechuza Terrapon – 15 l – 1560 rubles.

For comparison, for 1 liter of Lechuza Pon zeolite it will cost you 105 rubles, and Barsik Standard – 15 rubles. For many, this difference is very significant, so let’s continue the story about zeolite for plants from Barsik.

How to prepare zeolite for planting

Zeolite from cat litter looks like regular crushed stones, only very dusty. There is quite a lot of sand in it, small particles the size of grains of sand – we don’t need them. Therefore, the filler needs to be washed. Caution is required here – the zeolite from the filler generates dust when poured. You don’t need to breathe it. To reduce spraying, take a large bowl or basin, fill it with water and pour the zeolite from the bag, tilting it as low as possible towards the water. In this case, a cloud of dust still rises, and a hissing (small) is heard, but the dust cloud is much smaller than when you fill dry filler with water.

So, we poured zeolite into the water, and now we pour it into a colander. All particles that are smaller than the colander opening must be thrown out. It’s practically cement dust. For the entire 2,5 liter package of filler, there will be a little bit of dusty fines, a maximum of half a glass. That is, there won’t be a lot of waste.

It is better to wash the zeolite until it brightens, leaving behind glossy, sharp-edged pebbles. Don’t worry, the roots are not injured by them, we throw away the sand from washing.

Method of using zeolite for plants

Zeolite can and should be added to the soil mixture for all indoor and garden plants, including for growing vegetable seedlings, as part of a substrate for sowing seeds, and can be added to containers or planting holes with fruit trees and shrubs. The only plants that do not need zeolite are epiphytes: orchids and bromeliads, which are grown not in a substrate, but in the bark or with an open root system (on a block). Terrestrial orchids and bromeliads grown in the ground (Vriesia, Aechmea, etc.) should also be sure to add zeolite.

But application rates depend on the type of plant, its needs for soil moisture and airiness. So, for succulents (Kalanchoe, aloe, adenium, sedum, etc.), as well as forest cacti (Decembrist), you need to add zeolite as part of 1/4 of the soil volume. For all other cacti, zeolite can be added in an amount of 1/3 of the volume of soil. For indoor plants and flowers, as well as in the soil for vegetable seedlings, zeolite should be added in an amount of 1/5 of the volume of the soil (pot).

Thus, if you plant monstera, dieffenbachia, dracaena, palm, ficus, ferns, gardenia, pomegranate, lemon, croton and other popular indoor plants, then you need to take 20% of zeolite and the remaining 80% is an earthen mixture, which can consist of turf or leaf soil (in various proportions), garden soil or store soil.

Zeolite completely replaces such a loosening component as river sand (or small pebbles, gravel chips). But zeolite and earth do not always remain the only components of the substrate: in addition to them, coconut substrate, pine bark, and humus can be added to the soil mixture.

For example, if you are planting an anthurium, then the soil mixture for it may have the following composition: 1 part zeolite, 1 part leaf humus (universal soil), 1 part pine bark.

Also, the composition of the soil mixture depends on what kind of soil will be at the base of the soil. So in store-bought soils the composition is almost always the same: high-moor and low-lying peat in a mixture, sometimes only high-moor peat. And garden soil can be sandy loam, loam, black soil or peat.

  • If the base is sandy loam soil, take 2 parts of it, you need to add a little zeolite, 1 part is enough, but be sure to add 1 part of leaf (or peat soil) and 1 part of humus.
  • If the base is loam, take 2 parts of it, zeolite can be added 1-2 parts by volume (the more clay component in the soil, the more zeolite added) and 1 part of leaf soil or coconut substrate.
  • If the base is peat soil, take 2 parts, add zeolite in the amount of 1 part and 1 part humus.

Using exotic fertilizers and substrates, we often forget about the unique natural resources of our region. Zeolite for plants is one of those underestimated additives by domestic and world manufacturers, not inferior in properties to the widely advertised perlite and vermiculite. The reserves of this mineral in Russia, especially in Buryatia and the Irkutsk region, are huge, but it is rarely found on sale.

Types of zeolites

Zeolites are a group of minerals, divided by origin into 2 large subgroups: sedimentary and volcanic. They are hydrous calcium and sodium aluminosilicates from the subclass of frame silicates, with a glassy or pearlescent luster. They are formed mainly in voids and cracks of effusive igneous rocks as a result of precipitation from post-volcanic thermal aqueous solutions. The group of zeolites is extensive, containing several dozen varieties of minerals.

Zeolite is translated from ancient Greek as “boiling stone”. This is a natural mineral (TUV) of volcanic-sedimentary origin, permeated with the finest cavities and channels, giving it the properties of a molecular sieve.

The most common representatives of the group:

  • Natrolite is colorless, white, red, yellowish or reddish radial aggregates and needle-shaped and columnar crystals.
  • Chabazite is white crystals in the form of rhombohedrons with a reddish or yellowish tint.
  • Heulandite is colorless, white, yellow, pink or brick-red radiant and scaly-grained aggregates, or tabular crystals.
  • Stilbite – white, colorless, red, pink, light yellow, light brown turning into dark brown, cream tabular or lamellar crystals, often in the form of twins and quadruples with a cruciform section.
  • Laumontite – white, gray, yellowish, brownish, golden brown, colorless turning into pink small prismatic crystals with a beveled end and a diamond-shaped cross-section.
  • Clinoptilolite is a white to reddish tabular monoclinic tectosilicate crystal.

Varieties are used in mixtures or separately. Preparation for use consists of crushing into fractions of different sizes from the smallest (sand) to coarse (crushed stone).

In addition to natural zeolites, there are also synthetic ones – obtained artificially as a result of complex technological processes. They are widely used in many areas of human activity, but their use for planting is not recommended.

Advantages of zeolite in crop production

Zeolite soil used in plant growing is a non-caking, non-flammable, loose, hygroscopic, non-toxic material, a natural absorbent that actively participates in ion exchange processes. Thanks to its rich chemical composition and unique porous structure, it perfectly copes with the role of mineral fertilizer and soil improver.

Zeolites are distinguished by two valuable properties: the ability to absorb and release water and the ability to ion exchange (exchange cations and selectively release and reabsorb various substances).

In terms of its properties, zeolite is similar and even in some ways superior to the more popular and more expensive vermiculite. It also helps optimize soil and has similar benefits:

  • increases the lightness, looseness, porosity and breathability of the soil;
  • prevents clumping, caking and crust formation on the soil surface;
  • accumulates and retains moisture, microelements, fertilizers in the soil and releases them to plants as needed;
  • absorbs excess nitrates and salts of heavy metals from the soil and neutralizes them;
  • prevents the development of fungi, mold, and root rot.

Plant roots in soil with the addition of zeolite are protected from external temperature changes and develop more evenly. Thanks to its increased moisture capacity, water losses from drainage and evaporation are reduced, and applied fertilizer solutions are not washed out. As a result, the amount of watering and fertilizing is reduced, and the risk of root rotting from excessive watering or stagnation of water is prevented.

Zeolite contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, silicon in a form accessible to the plant.

The use of zeolites in agriculture, vegetable growing and horticulture has great prospects. Zeolite increases not only the quantity, but the quality of the crop. Vegetables and fruits grown in soils with the addition of this mineral improve their amino acid composition, increase the amount of vitamin C, the level of total sugar and dry matter, and the amount of nitrate nitrogen and acidity decrease.

Why is zeolite used in crop production?

Using zeolite in plant growing can solve a number of problems. Moreover, it is universal and suitable for use both in growing crops on an industrial scale and for personal use in the garden, at the dacha and at home (indoor floriculture).

Application to the soil to improve its quality characteristics

The application rate of zeolite per 1 hectare of soil is from 0,5 to 1 ton. This allows you to increase productivity by 10-50% 2-3 years after adding the additive and is observed for 4-5 years. It can be applied either as a stand-alone additive or together with other fertilizers during planting and during the growing season.

Preparing tubers and bulbs

Tubers and bulbs are dusted with zeolite before planting. To do this, they are laid out in one layer on the ground. For 20 kg of planting material, take 200 g of fertilizer, leave it in this form for 2 hours, and then plant it in the ground. Excess “powder” is not shaken off from the planting material. The process can be carried out either manually or using a hand-held sprayer (OPM).

Preparing the seeds for planting

To distribute the seeds evenly over the soil surface, they are also mixed with zeolite before sowing. It is also useful to sprinkle already sown seeds with a thin layer of zeolite, and then with a thin layer of soil. This will increase their resistance to root rot, fungal infection and mold, and protect them from drying out and waterlogging.
If it is recommended to pre-germinate the seeds, it is also convenient to do this on zeolite. A thin layer of it is poured onto a damp cloth, and the seeds are laid out on top for germination. This technique protects them from drying out and waterlogging and from growing into the tissue.

Preparation of seedlings

Before planting seedlings of berries, vegetables and flowers, as well as fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs with an open root system, it is also recommended to sprinkle their roots with zeolite. This will also protect them from drying out and waterlogging, root rot, stress when transplanting into permanent soil and for the first time will enrich them with a supply of useful nutrients, strengthen their immunity and ensure better survival in new conditions and protect delicate young roots from damage.

Preparation of nutrient and mulch mixtures

There are several options for substrates with the addition of zeolite. Let’s look at the most common formulations for use at home.

To plant seedlings, mix zeolite, peat and humus in equal proportions.

For mulching, use zeolite and peat in a ratio of 1:2.

Advice from experienced flower growers

Zeolite can be purchased as a ready-made substrate and cat litter component. The latter are cheaper and can also be used for plants. But before use, toilet filler must be rinsed.

Zeolite of small and medium fractions is very convenient in hydroponics – a method of growing plants in artificial media. It is often used in indoor floriculture for succulents.

  • unlike gravel, it is porous and retains moisture;
  • unlike pumice, brick chips and lechuza, it does not crumble over time and does not dust (or silt) the bottom of the pot;
  • unlike vermiculite and perlite, it is not very light, so it does not spread from wind and draft and does not float when watering.

Leaf succulents and cacti feel great in zeolite and, under all other identical conditions, develop better than in organic matter.

Zeolite is an ideal substrate for orchids and violets. Moreover, it can be used in various ways:

  • as a mulching and decorative material;
  • as an additive to the base soil in volumes from 20 to 90%;
  • as the main substrate.

Reviews for orchids are only positive: the roots grow 2-3 times more intensely than on ordinary soil or bark, the frequency of watering is reduced, the plants almost do not get sick, since their resistance to stress increases due to the silicon present in the substrate. Opinions differ about growing violets on zeolite, but mainly due to the fact that some gardeners have a fundamentally negative attitude towards growing flowers on any gravel.

Watercress or bedbug can be grown on a windowsill without any hassle, using zeolite as a substrate. This healthy, micronutrient-rich, unpretentious green vegetable crop does not require feeding. To get a rich harvest of watercress, you only need to water it occasionally, and everything else will come from the substrate.

Ocean zeolite is not suitable for plants – it dissolves. Therefore, if the packaging says volcanic mineral rock zeolite, as well as the word “oceanic” or “zeolite-containing clay, large granules,” do not buy it for plants.

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