leca for plants

How to Use leca for Plants – Complete Beginners Guide

Using leca for plants has gained popularity as a growing medium among fans of indoor plants and those who require a more practical approach to plant maintenance due to a hectic lifestyle. Leca is constructed of inorganic material.

Therefore pests cannot survive there. The absorbent clay pebbles don’t require as much watering as the soil does and don’t need to be watered regularly.

Most plants will thrive in it, especially those with solid roots like monstera, philodendron, and spider plants. It’s a fascinating way to care for and interact with your house plants actively.

leca for plants

Knowing how it functions will help you determine if trying to grow indoor plants in Leca is the best option for your home.

What exactly is LECA?

Leca, which stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate, is an abbreviation. Leca was first developed in Missouri in 1917 and has since been applied to various industries, including agriculture, construction, water treatment, and landscaping, to enhance soil drainage and aeration.

The porous clay pellets have found their way into homes as a growing medium for indoor plants. Leca is a passive hydroponic or semi-hydroponic system, which means that no pumps are involved, and the plant utilizes water to absorb nutrients. The Leca pebbles, which take in and store moisture from a pool of water at the bottom of the pot, distribute water to the plants.

Where Can You Buy LECA Balls?

Most home and garden stores, including Home Depot, carry LECA. These clay pebbles are also available from online retailers like Amazon.

leca for plants

How does Leca work, and how is it made?

Clay is heated in a rotary kiln to create leca, which breaks and molds the material into numerous tiny balls. As they heat up, they expand and burst, leaving tiny air bubbles all over the pellets. Round and porous, the resulting clay pebbles have a surface. Because of these qualities, it is an excellent choice for growing plants because it supplies moisture to the roots without the risk of overwatering.

By using a wick system, often referred to as capillary action, water is drawn upward via the Leca balls. The liquid sticks to the material in the voids and is driven upward through the porous network by the water’s surface tension. Typically, the porous substance can suck water up to roughly 6 inches. There is more than enough space for plants to grow roots among the clay balls and absorb moisture from them.

How does Leca interact with plant roots?

Using Leca for plants offers the structural support needed for the roots to develop and support the plant that soil would not. To locate water sources they may collect through their root hairs, a plant’s root system will spread out, extending into and around the leca pebbles.

Plant roots inhale nutrient molecules from the water and disperse them throughout the plant in all varieties of hydroponic systems. Liquid semi-hydroponics fertilizer is necessary when using Leca as a growing medium to give the plant the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Why is fertilizer necessary when using Leca?

Leca is an inorganic substance, unlike soil, which does not produce any nutrients. The only way for the developing plants to get the nutrients they require to survive is by adding fertilizer to the water reservoir.

The proper balance of macro- and micronutrients will be present in a liquid nutrient solution for indoor plants. The microbiota in the soil generally breaks these down and makes them accessible, but the fertilizers include the proper nutrients, which are isolated and readily available in the water.

In a Leca system, you must check the waters ph before watering your plants. Because many vitamins and minerals are only accessible to plants within a specific pH range, the pH level is crucial. Based on your test findings, you can buy a pH-balancing solution for hydroponic systems that will change the water’s acidity. For the most significant results, always closely adhere to these instructions.

Why is LECA for plants such a hot topic?

Leca has grown in favor of a growing medium for plants because of its advantages. It’s not necessarily preferable to the soil, but it’s an alternative if you could gain from any of its qualities or if you enjoy the way it looks.

Leca facilitates watering by gradually distributing water to the plant’s roots through the wicking action of the clay pebbles. One of the most frequent issues with indoor plants is overwatering. When used properly, a Leca watering system will keep your indoor plants hydrated. It begins to run out in proportion to how quickly or slowly the plant takes the water. As a result, when using Leca, you can water your plants less frequently.

You can find fungus, microorganisms, spider mites, and fungus gnats in moist soil. There is little probability that Leca balls could survive on the inorganic material without anything to eat.

Leca is simple to reuse because it doesn’t deteriorate or run out over time.

With the help of clay balls, which offer an open-air structure, the root system can receive a lot of oxygen while staying hydrated. An oxygen shortage primarily causes root rot, typically resulting from water-saturated soils from inadequate drainage or overwatering.

Leca needs less upkeep than organic material. Expanded clay is less filthy than soil, so indoor plants must be watered less frequently. You will always fill the pot to a certain level because of how the clay pebbles and roots are organized, eliminating any uncertainty over how much water the plant needs.

Prepare your LECA for plants.

You will probably find your LECA bag dusty when you first open it. Everyone tends to have a favorite way to prepare leca. Most of us wash it, but other people boil it on the stove or put it in the oven.

Give your LECA a preliminary soak because you don’t want all that dust covering your plant’s roots. To accomplish this, put the clay balls in a bucket and pour warm water. Repeat this three to five times. 

It’s crucial to AVOID washing your leca over the sink. The clay dust can significantly damage your plumbing system.

I drain mine in a strainer and wash it with the garden hose outdoors. I use the sink during the winter when it’s too gloomy to go outside, but I ensure the dirty water is caught in a big bowl and tossed out. 

Leca won’t be damaged if you boil it (or pour boiling water over it) to eliminate any bugs if you’re reusing it if you feel the need to do so. 

Keep in Mind.

There are no nutrients in it. Pests will either perish or relocate to another plant. Without a plant, spider mites won’t begin colonizing leca. An occasional egg may fall onto the leca. Thus, giving it an excellent rinse and then running it under boiling water MIGHT be a helpful extra step.

Leca is not nearly as friendly an environment for bugs as the soil is, despite the modest possibility that they could survive there.

How to transfer your plants from soil to LECA

Transferring plants from soil to Leca is not difficult when done correctly, but it must be done carefully to prevent injuring the root system. Avoid stressful conditions like too much light, too low, or too high temperatures at this time since plants can succumb to transfer shock when they can’t acclimate to the new growing environment. For this translocation, younger plants are typically preferable. These steps can be used to move a new plant from its old pot once the Leca is ready to receive one:

Rinse any organic materials after gently removing the plant from the soil (it’s better to do this while the soil is dry to prevent it from sticking to the roots). Microbes in the soil have the potential to cause root rot. Be careful not to damage the roots, but be rough enough to remove any dirt.

Give the roots up to an hour to dry. When the plant is put in the Leca, the roots will be sufficiently dehydrated to allow the thirsty plants to absorb water eagerly. This will also dry out and release any dirt that may have remained on the plant.

Keep the roots out of the water and avoid root rot. Make sure the buffer of a third of a container is maintained. Transitional submerged roots will be more brittle and vulnerable than usual until they adapt to their new environment.

For this transitional stage, apply a hydroponics fertilizer that promotes root growth to assist the plant escape transfer shock. Compared to roots that grow in water, soil-based roots have fewer root hairs, so they must stretch and adapt to their new environment and means of nutrient supply.

Leca for plants

How to propagate plants using LECA

The first step in LECA propagation is to soak and rinse your LECA balls. Add the LECA after that to the pot or container. When developing plant cuttings, as opposed to mature plants with existing root systems, LECA must be poured into the container until it is about halfway full.

After placing the plant cutting, add more LECA to the container. At this stage, there’s a strong likelihood the plant cutting won’t be very stable, but as the new plant’s roots grow, that will alter.

If the pH of your water is between 5.5 and 6.5, you can add it to your container after testing it. The container should only be half-filled with water.

Typically, you don’t need to add any liquid nutrition at this time. Wait and observe; after most of the water in the container has either been consumed or evaporated, add more water.

Should I clean the LECA?

Expanded clay requires monthly cleaning. Because nutrients from the fertilizer will accumulate in the pellets’ pores and interfere with their capacity to transport and hold water, cleaning, also known as flushing, is crucial. When a plant is inside the clay balls, it shouldn’t be allowed to dry up because the root system would then be exposed to dry air.

Additionally, flushing the Leca and washing the plant will keep accumulation off of the roots. Any substances left over from dried fertilizers on the roots may eventually harm them. For plants transplanted from the soil, giving them a good rinse when flushing the Leca is especially beneficial because it can take several rinse sessions to thoroughly rid the roots of all the organic materials from their previous habitat.

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