What is LECA – Lightweight Expanding Clay Aggregate

The idea of collecting and keeping houseplants in your home has been gaining popularity in recent years. They not only beautify our living spaces, but they also cleanse the air and create a tranquil atmosphere, and improve our mood.

For both new (and older) plant owners taking care of the needs of your plants can be difficult. From understanding why leaves are turning brown to determining the most suitable lighting options for the plant, there’s plenty to consider. This is where the growing mediums can be useful.

It’s true that the most popular trend among people who love houseplants has become the term LECA (lightweight expanding clay aggregate). What exactly is this latest trend and how can we make use of it?

This guide will explain what exactly is LECA and how to use it as a growing medium for plants. In addition, there are plants that grow within LECA.

What Exactly is LECA?

LECA is an abbreviation for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate. It may sound complex, but it’s actually quite simple to understand.

LECA is a type of inorganic clay pellets for plants, which means it is not rotten or break into pieces. The baked clay balls absorb a bit of water, and then expand little. The water that’s absorbed in the clay balls will slowly supply the plants with water.

It was invented around 1917, in Kansas City, Missouri by baking clay at 2,190oF (1,200oC) in the rotary kiln. The shape of the round comes from the constant rotation during baking.

The gas expands as it heats up during the process, creating tiny honeycomb-like holes into the clay balls, which causes it to become lighter.

Since LECA has a porous structure, inorganic clay particles absorb moisture, which causes them to expand. This assists in providing the root system of the plant with water.

In contrast to other mediums for growing like peat moss, bark, and soil, there aren’t any minerals in these clay balls that can nourish your plants. So, whatever nutrients your plants require, you’ll have to add them into the water.

pink light green leaves

What Does Semi-Hydroponics Mean?

Semi-hydroponics, sometimes referred to by the name of hydroculture or semi-hydro is a technique that allows plants to be grown in an organic medium that is not decomposable.

The term “semi” comes due to the usage of non biodegradable materials (often the term is LECA) to keep the root system of the plant intact. It’s distinct in comparison to hydroponics in which roots are submerged in water, and there is nothing else.

Semi-hydroponics, also referred to as passive hydroponics, is accomplished through a wicking action’ to provide the plants with water.

The growing medium pulls water upwards, and supplies the root system of the plant with an ongoing flow of nutrients and water.

What Makes LECA the Perfect Growing Medium?

After having an knowledge of LECA You may be thinking about the benefits for your plants is?

LECA is a great cultivating medium for indoor plants. It’s also odorless and environmentally friendly.

For many homeowners, excessive watering is a frequent issue. The plant is exposed to excessive amounts of water, which makes the soil spongy and frequently result in root decay. LECA On contrary, can solve this problem that plants face regularly.

Benefits of Growing Plants in LECA

Check out the benefits of making use of LECA as a medium for growth:

  • Reduces the chance of root Rot
  • Extremely porous
  • In the long run, cost-effective
  • Eco-friendly
  • Gives the correct quantity of water for plants
  • Uses less storage space
  • Less messier
  • Reusable
  • Can encourage drainage
  • Helps keep pests away
  • It’s much easier to keep your plants hydrated

Drawbacks of Using LECA

It’s not fair to discuss the advantages from LECA without mentioning the possible disadvantages to using this medium also.

Look over the potential drawbacks to using LECA:

  • It can be costly to make the transition
  • Not suitable for cold climates.
  • Doesn’t have enough capacity to hold water.
  • You must purchase (liquid) fertilizer
  • Costly in huge quantities
  • It is possible that you will need to purchase new pots or other equipment (compared to the typical equipment for growing)

How to Use LECA Clay Aggregate for Plants?

If you’re curious about what plants can grow in LECA It’s really easy. Let’s look more deeply at the ways to utilize LECA as well as what else you’ll require to set up.

How Do You Grow Plants In LECA?

LECA is a method of cultivating your plants without soil. It is necessary to make an artificial bottom inside your pot, and then raise the roots of your plant above the base in the container.

Space between roots of the plant as well as the base of the inner pot is called a false bottom.

Then, you can add the water until it is just below the roots. The clay balls will begin to absorb the water that is in the pot, while keeping the roots of the plant away from the water.

The plants in LECA absorb the amount of water they want from the clay balls that are saturated. If they’re really hungry, the roots will expand towards the bottom of the pot to get water of the pot, and then absorb directly from it.

How To Set Up A Semi-Hydroponic System

There are a variety of kinds of hydroponics setups consider the most basic approach. You’ll need:

Step by Step: How To Convert Plants To LECA (Hydroponic Balls)

While LECA is a relatively basic material, there are there are a few points to be considered when using LECA clay balls to plant and when making the transition between soil and LECA.

Check out this step-by-step guide to learn how to transform your home plant from soil to semi-hydroponic clay balls.

Step 1: Soak & Rinse the Leca

  • The initial step of the process is to wash your LECA clay pebbles to be used for plants in water that flows, by placing the clay balls placed in a colander. Keep flushing until the water flowing through is clear.
  • Then take the clay balls and soak them until completely submerged.
  • After that, let them sit in the water for several hours, or for a night, until they are completely submerged in water. This will open their pores, allowing the balls to grow.

Step 2 Step 2: Change between Soil to LECA

When your balls are in place then you can prepare your plant to change between soil and LECA.

  • Remove the plant carefully from the pot in which it is currently placed and scrub the root ball.
  • Remove dead or damaged roots, and then untangle the rest of them.
  • Make sure that all that soil has been removed prior to planting your container in semi-hydro LECA The soil that remains will be constantly damp. This can cause mold or root decay.

Tips: Younger plants have smaller and less established root systems, making removal and transitioning to semi-hydroponics easier. It is more challenging and riskier that your plants experience shocks if it’s bigger or has a mature. I suggest you use cuttings of larger plants to grow within LECA. Plants such as Philodendron Birkins and monsteras are likely to be much more straightforward to transform, even though they are bigger in dimensions. It is because of their more dense and more sturdy root systems.

Step 3: Plant in LECA

It’s time to put your precious plant in the new clay-based medium for growth.

  • Clean the appropriate amount of pre-soaked LECA under water running to get rid of any dirt or other residue.
  • Then fill the pot, including drainage holes, until about two-thirds full of LECA and shake it around until the balls have set.
  • Put the plants in the container, and make sure your roots are equally distributed.
  • The pot should be filled to the edge with additional LECA clay ball. Then gently shake the pot but do not push the balls down. Make sure the media has found its way to the ball at its root.
  • Place your pot inside an outer cache or a deep saucer that has the drainage hole closed (it’s likely to become your reservoir for nutrients).

Be aware that your plants’ roots could grow through the LECA and drainage holes over time, and eventually to the bottom of your saucer. It is best to not let your plants get to this stage. To control excessive growth of the roots You can take the plant, cut the roots back, or transfer it to a bigger pot to ensure that the roots are not above the waterline.

Step 4: Mix & Add a Nutrient Solution

In contrast to soil and other growth media, LECA is an inorganic medium, which means there aren’t any nutrients in the contents of it by itself. It is necessary to include a rich source of nutrients to mix with the water of your plant.

Therefore, you’ll have to reduce the amount of hydro fertilizer you use with water until you have enough to meet the needs of your plants.

Tips: Make sure to be aware that the ratios recommended that are listed on labels for the fertilizers you use for hydroponics are usually designed to grow vegetables. If you are growing houseplants, think about using lower concentrations of nutrients when you calculate your ratios.

Step 5: Check the pH Levels

After your hydro fertilizer has been dilute by water and is ready to be sprayed, it is important to test the pH of the solution with an instrument for measuring pH or a pH test kit.

The pH scale can indicate the degree of acidity or alkalinity the situation is, based on a scale of 14 to 0 with 7 being neutral. If the pH is lower than 7 the solution will be more acidic. The ideal range for the pH of your houseplants is between 5.5 to 6.5.

Step 6: Add Hydro Fertilizer to Nutrient Reservoir

After your plant has set and has been placed in its new pot you can then put the plastic pot inside your deep cache or saucer. Pour the solution over into the upper part of the inner pot until it reaches about one-third to two-thirds of height of the pot.

It is necessary to pour the water enriched with nutrients over the clay balls that have been expanded inside the pot along with your plant. Be aware that you must only pour it until it is at the roots of your plant.

Step 7: Flush the Pot

In time, you might start to see the appearance of a white salt crust appearing on the surface of the LECA. If this salt crust gets too large, it’s time for your plant to undergo an clean. This is usually done every one and a half to two weeks.

  • Take off the saucer’s outer layer and place the pot on the plant submerged to let water flow through the drainage holes in the pot. This will let you “flush” away any build-up of salt.
  • It is also possible to clean the cache and then add new nutrient solution.

Be aware that LECA is not recommended to completely dry out. In the absence of water the clay, the hydro clay balls will not be able to provide your plants with water.

Where Do You Buy LECA?

This amazing, lightweight medium for growing is available in the majority of local nurseries like Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe’s. The best option is to buy the natural clay pebbles on the internet.

The most well-known brands from LECA are GROW!T and Hydroton. Both of these bags have an almost identical dimensions and shapes.

LECA Nutrients and Watering

As we’ve mentioned, LECA does not provide plants with the nutrients they require to flourish.

The clay balls are focused in keeping plants well-hydrated and growing. So, you’ll have to supplement the water of your plants.

There are a lot of choices to pick from when it comes to choosing a fertilizer for hydroponics, and, generally the majority of them function similar.

There are other types of fertilizers that can help your plants, for instance growth hormones.

Watering the Plant & LECA Balls

The only time to be watering plants would be when LECA is not connected to the reservoir.

It is recommended to check your plant regularly and keep track of the levels. The amount of water your plant needs will also be contingent on the dimensions that the container is, as well as the level of humidity of the home, as well as the kind of plant.

The frequency you will have to water your homeplant will differ and is dependent on a variety of aspects.

For instance, the typical time to water a 6 inch tree in the soil takes approximately two weeks. In hydroculture, you can expect that the duration of your irrigation routine is usually three times more frequent.

Hydroponics Fertilizer (Nutrients)

The hydroponics fertilizer has specific ingredients that conventional fertilizers do not contain. This is required in the absence of soil that can provide nutrients to your plant.

Plants in LECA

You’re probably thinking: “Can my plant grow in LECA?” It’s not the case for every plant. every plant thrives in LECA There are some characteristics to be looking at in the plant you are considering.

Plants That Prefer to Dry Out Before Watering

If your plant likes to dry out prior to being watered again then it could be an ideal plant to grow in LECA. One of the advantages of this type of growing medium is the control of water throughout the plant’s pot.

Remember that the clay balls are able to absorb around 30 percent of their weight, which means they’re not able to provide enough water to moist plants as they would like.

Plants That Can Grow a Root System Quickly

LECA is a great choice for plants that have the ability to develop roots quickly. The plants of this type can expand their roots to find any water that is nearby. This allows them to hold onto the clay balls, which soaks up the water.

Plants that are thirsty, such as Spider plants, will develop roots that extend outwards to soak up as much water as they can.

But, if your plant prefers soil that is dry it will not extend its roots in the same way, and will prefer to use the LECA to absorb the water.

Plants That Prefer Oxygen-Rich Soil

Certain, but not all, hydroponics-growing mediums offer excellent drainage between clay balls, that also provide the roots of your plant with plenty of oxygen.

Certain plants thrive in moist soil , and have developed roots that are capable of surviving in these conditions. The tangled, twined roots typically don’t supply a lot of oxygen to their roots.

If you’ve got plants that like compact, moist soil, LECA may not be an ideal choice to start introducing hydroponics.

If your plant prefers soil that is dry and porous, it’ll love semi-hydroponics mediums like LECA.

Hydroponic Plants Rely on Nutrients

Hydroponics growing mediums can’t supply your plants with nutrients by themselves since they are not live growing mediums. To feed your plants, you’d require the fertilizer for hydroponics.

It is possible to dilute this fertilizer using water prior to apply water to your plant. The plant will then absorb the fertilizer and water as it stores the nutrients in their stems, and consequently won’t have to depend on soil for supply with nutrients.

Plants That Don’t Mind Being Handled Every-So-Often

If you’re converting your plant from hydroponics to soil, you must clean your roots of any soil.

It’s not easy to wash your plant and eliminate any soil after the first attempt, and it’s likely that you’ll need to wash your plant once more.

Once you have planted your plant in LECA the next step is to be required to examine the roots of the plant out of the pot.

After about one month of your plant being LECA You should wash the clay balls as well as your plant’s roots.

It is important to ensure that your plant can cope with being handled frequently. Certain plants, such as those of Calathea plant are, unfortunately, not like being handled and therefore wouldn’t be the perfect LECA plant.

Tips to Get Started With LECA

After you’ve gained a better understanding of LECA and what is to be expected then take a look at these tips to help you get going.

  • Select plants with smaller root systems that are less dense: After you’ve chosen your new plant to move between LECA and soil, it’s beneficial to begin with younger plants that have less compact root systems, or cuttings from plants that have been propagated in water.
  • Utilize tools: To begin using tools, you must use them like an PH test kit, auto-watering containers scissors or shears and so on. To isolate your plant away from soil.
  • Choose a hydroponics fertilizer Since LECA gives plants water and nutrients, it is essential to apply a hydroponics fertilizer every time you water.
  • Plants That Thrive in LECA

    The great thing regarding LECA is that the majority of house plants thrive in this kind of medium. Some of these families comprise:

    If you own an herb from one of these plant family (there are many more) If you do, then it is likely they’ll be content in LECA.

LECA Frequently Asked Questions:

If you’re still interested in this growing field, take a an overview of the most frequently asked questions about it below.

What Plants Grow Best In LECA?

There are many species of plants that flourish in LECA. They are usually plants that like to dry out between watering, and do not like their roots being constantly wet.

The most common species of plants that are suited to LECA include:

  • Pileas
  • Peperomia
  • Anthuriums
  • ZZ Plants
  • The Pathos (all of them)
  • Alocostias
  • Hoyas
  • Philodendrons
  • Orchids
  • Monsteras

Do I Need To Clean My LECA?

Every now and then you’ll notice your LECA beads turning white due to the build-up of salt (calcium) within the drinking water that you’re using. It is recommended to flush the water by gently washing the water under a faucet.

LECA vs Soil: Is LECA Better Than Soil?

LECA is very different from soil. However, there are numerous advantages to using LECA. For instance, if you use LECA instead of soil, you’ll be less susceptible to pests.

How Often Do I Have To Replace The Water?

The only time to be watering your plant is when LECA is not connected to the reservoir of water. It is recommended to regularly check your plant and keep track of its water levels. In general, you should replace the water once every 2 to 3 weeks.

Is LECA More Expensive Than Potting Soil?

It will be contingent on the soil you’ll be measuring LECA against. But, one advantage of LECA is that, once you’ve purchased it, you won’t need to purchase more as, unlike soil, it won’t break down.

The cost is for the setup of your semi-hydroponic system. From purchasing the pH testing kit, to making use of both pots.

Do I Need Fertilizer When Using LECA?

If you wish for your plants to flourish and flourish it is essential to feed the plants food, as LECA doesn’t do this.

The most effective fertilizers are ones designed for hydroponics. Flora Grow is fantastic, and so is SUPER thrive.

What Is The Best Brand Of LECA Growing Medium To Buy?

There’s no better version of LECA. In general, Hydroton is very good as well as IKEA could be a less expensive alternative.

A Footnote on The Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate – LECA

LECA is a remarkably adaptable cultivar for houseplants. The degree to which your favourite houseplant believes so is dependent on a few factors.

As if the plant could quickly develop roots, when it’s content getting handled occasionally or needs lots of oxygen.

After we’ve taken an in-depth look at the basics of LECA and how you can use it to cultivate plants, and the plants that grow in LECA. Now is the time to give it a go and tell me your thoughts.

Stephanie

Stephanie

Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)