Welcome to our guide to how to use leca for houseplants, as well as semi hydroponics information and propagation tips. We go into detail on all you need to know..
What Is Leca?
Leca or L.E.C.A stands for lightweight expanded clay aggregate. It is small clay pebbles, that are very useful for rooting and growing houseplants in, instead of using soil. They can wick up water from below, which gives most plants’ roots the moisture they need, but not too much, and with much less chance of root rot. It also lets more air get to the roots, and you get a lot less pests that with soil. It is know for being used in hydroponic gardening alongside nutrients and water, and it really useful for growing houseplants at home too.
Tip: we recommend Etsy for buying plants. Look for the best rated seller you can, and try to buy as close to your home as possible so the plant does not travel too far.
How To Use Leca For Houseplants
You need to prepare leca for use… Firstly you need to rinse the leca, then soak it in water for a day. This gets a lot of the clay powder off it and gets it wet through, it needs to be wet to wick water from the bottom of the pot up to the roots. You then plant a cutting in it, making sure you have plenty of leca, you do not want the roots to be at least and inch or two (5 cms) away from the bottom of the pot (this allows some space for water only at the bottom). You can then water the plant, making sure that the water line is below the roots. This way the roots will take water bit by bit from the damp leca, which in turn will wick up the water slowly from the bottom reservoir, giving the roots the water they need. All you need to do is top up the water level at the bottom regularly.
Transitioning Houseplants To Leca
Here is a step by step guide on how to transition a houseplant to leca. Be careful here as some plants go into shock and can die when moving from soil to a non-soil medium. We’ll cover all you need to do to reduce this risk, but I would strongly suggest that you take cuttings from the plant in advance so you have a back up (you can start these in leca), and on your first time use a plant that is easily replaceable, like a pothos for example (no offence to all the pothos out there!).
Follow these steps to transition your houseplant to leca:
- Rinse your leca, change the water, then let it soak for a day. You may well need a colander or sieve for this. If you want to be thorough, you can then repeat this process of rinse and soak to make sure you clean off as much clay as possible. Leca works best when wet, it needs to keep moist to give moisture to the roots.
- Take the plant out of it’s old pot.
- Remove ALL the soil you can from the roots: shake as much soil off as you can, then gently brush it off. When you’ve got rid of all you can, dunk the roots into room temperature water, and try to gently remove as much as possible, you can pour water over them too. Then then let the roots and soil dry out for a couple of hours and repeat the process a couple of times in a day to get rid of as much soil as possible.
- Then you can put the plant in leca in it’s new pot (a clear one is best so you can monitor root growth). Make sure there is enough leca at the bottom with space for an inch or a few centimeters of water below the roots. Try to not clump all the roots together in one spot, spread them out as best you can.
- Water the plant for the first time in leca: you can use tap water if the water is not too ‘hard’, I filter mine with a water filter then use that. It is also a good idea to add a product called Superthrive which helps with adding back some of the nutrients the plants would get from soil. Use the regular dilution of 1/4 teaspoon per gallon (1 ml per 3 liters). Water it so that there is a reservoir of water at the bottom of the pot but so that the water does not reach the roots.
- Keep the bottom inch or 2 cms topped up like this for 2 to 4 weeks with the Superthrive solution and keep an eye on your plant. If it looks like it is suffering or drooping you can empty the solution out, and fill the pot with room temperature water, then dump the water our again. Then water with the superthrive solution as above.
- Once the plant is growing roots and looks healthy you can treat it as an established plant with normal semi hydroponics nutrients.
Which Semi Hydroponics Nutrient To Use for Leca
You want to use a hydroponic feed for leca. The most popular fertilizer for leca for houseplants is the General Hydroponics set which is three feeds: floragro, floramicro, and florabloom. It seems complicated as there are 3 bottles, but they are really simple to use, you mix them in water. They come separately as they should not be allowed to mix with each other unless in water as it can upset the nutrient balance. You just need to mix them one by one into water and then you get a solution that you can feed your plants with.
It is recommended to test your pH of the mix after you’ve prepared it. But a lot of people do not test it and just mix their nutrients as above. You can probably can get away with this to be honest, as long as you are using filtered tap water. But since pH testing kits are so cheap, I would give it a go. General Hydroponics have a pH tester and liquids that will adjust the pH up or down to suit. You want to aim for pH 5.5 to 6.5 for houseplants like aroids.
How Much Superthrive to Add for Leca
The recommended dilution of superthirve for leca is 1/4 teaspoon per gallon, which is 1ml per 3 liters in metric units. This is a good solution to use while transitioning your plants to semi hydroponics, before you starting hydroponic nutrients.
Propagating In Leca
Propagating plants in leca is easy:
- Take a cutting of your plant, making sure to get at least one node that will go under the surface of the leca, and some leaves that will be above the surface.
- Let the cutting callous over for a couple of hours so the wound heals.
- Then get a jar or clear container and quarter fill it with pre-soaked and rinsed leca.
- Put the cutting in the container and fill it in with leca gently to bury it.
- Fill the container up higher than normal with filtered tap water, up to and just over the node. I do this to start the roots water propagating. The water will gradually be used up and evaporate to normal levels.
- When the water level has dropped down to an inch at the bottom of the pot, keep it topped up to that level with filtered tap water.
- You should see roots grow over the next few weeks and then the plants should become well established. Be careful that the cuttings do not come out, as without roots the cuttings can easily come out of the leca.
- If you are using a wide container and the water is evaporating fast causing the leca to dry out, you can spray the top of the leca with water daily until the roots are a bit more established.
Once the roots are established you can start using normal semi-hyrdo nutrients and treating the plant as normal semi-hyrod plant in leca.
Is Leca Better Than Soil?
The advantages of using leca over soil are that: you get much less root rot that with soil, it gives the roots the water they need so you are much less likely to over or underwater the plant (as long as you keep the reservoir level topped up), you can control the nutrients the plants get more precisely, the roots get more aeriated, you get a lot less pests as they tend to need soil to breed. Also it looks way cooler in my opinion! Semi hydro is the way to go!
How To Prepare Leca
To prepare leca for use you need to rinse and soak it, follow these steps:
- Use a colander to wash the leca under a tap or hose. You want to get rid of loose clay dust.
- Put the leca in a bowl, and fill it with water. I prefer a square container like a plastic storage box or square washing up bowl as you can drain off the water quickly (just tip it towards a corner and stop the leca falling out with your hand).
- Tip the water out.
- Repeat the above steps a couple of times until the water that comes out is clear.
- Fill the bowl up with water and leave the leca to soak for half a day or more.
- Then change the water and soak for another half day.
- After that, tip out any excess water, and the leca is ready to use.
Best Plants For Leca
Plants that do well in leca are those that tend to water propagate well and grow roots quickly.
Here are some great plants to grow in leca relatively easily:
- Philodendrons (like gloriosums).
- Snake Plants
- ZZ Plant
If you are looking to start off in leca and you have one of the above plants, take a cutting with a node and put it in a pot of leca with water to get going.
For more on these plants see our guides here: Alocasia Care, Hoya Heuschkeliana, Hoya Linearis, Monstera Pinnatipartita Care, Monstera Deliciosa Care, How To Care For An Orchid Indoors, Philodendron Mamei Care, Philodendron Sodiroi, Hawaiian Pothos, Jessenia Pothos, Snake Plant Care (Dracaena Trifasciata), Syngonium Rayii, Syngonium Mojito Care, Zz Plant Care.
Can You Mix Leca With Soil?
Generally you do not want to mix leca with soil, but some people do add it to soil to help keep the roots aerated. If you are transitioning a plant to leca from soil you want to get rid of all the soil to avoid the chance of rot.
Can You Transplant Hydroponic Plants To Soil?
You can move plants in leca to soil, this is common practice with a lot of sellers who propagate plants in leca but move them to soil for selling. Just take the plant out of the leca, gently pull off any of the clay balls, then pot it up into soil like normal.
What Is Leca Made Of?
Leca is made up of little balls of a clay, fired in a kiln.
How To Water Plants In Leca?
To water plants in leca you should fill up the space between the bottom of the pot and bottom of the roots with water, so there is a reservoir beneath the roots that can be wicked up by the clay as the roots need it. Check your plant once or twice a week and keep it topped up.
Why Does Leca Need To Be Soaked?
Leca is great as it gives just enough moisture to the roots that they need. To do this it needs a reservoir of water at the bottom which will wick up and keep all the leca moist. If the leca is not soaked and is dry it will not wick up the water as well and the roots may dry out. Also you want to rinse and soak the leca first to get rid of all that clay powder that you get from newly bought leca.
Are Leca Balls Reusable?
You can re-use leca over and over again. Just clean it after use, you can clean with hydrogen peroxide solution or by boiling it. Then you can soak it in water and re-use it.
Can Leca Be Used For Succulents?
You can grow some succulents in leca, plants that can root well in water, like snake plants, will do fine in leca.
When To Repot Leca?
Leca plants do need repotting to refresh the nutrients like some soil plants, as long as you feed them the right fertilizer. If the roots grow too big for the pot though, you can repot it up to a bigger pot. But before moving it up a pot you can take the plant out of it’s current pot and tuck the roots in if they’re growing out of the holes, and you can even trim the roots down with scissors (I know this is a scary thought!) to keep it in it’s current pot.
When To Flush Leca
Part of semi hydroponics is cleaning the clay balls every month or so, it is a really easy process. It is simple enough to flush leca, you just need to drain the liquid out of it, then fill it up with (preferably filtered) water, then drain that off. You can do this a couple of times to get rid of mineral build up. If you can see a lot of mineral build up on your leca you should flush it, or flush it once a month in any case.
Is Leca Environmentally Friendly?
Leca is produced from clay, and is sustainable, it is long lasting and can be re-used over and over again, making it environmentally friendly.
How To Water Plants In Leca?
When soaked, leca gives moisture to the roots when needed, and will wick up moisture at the pot of the pot. But if allowed to dry out it can take moisture out of the roots, which is not ideal. You want to soak it and keep it wet.
Other Articles You Might Like
Hope you found our guide to Leca helpful. You might also like our other articles: Water Propagation, Alocasia Care, Hoya Heuschkeliana, Hoya Linearis, Monstera Pinnatipartita Care, Monstera Deliciosa Care, How To Care For An Orchid Indoors, Philodendron Mamei Care, Philodendron Sodiroi, Hawaiian Pothos, Jessenia Pothos, Snake Plant Care (Dracaena Trifasciata), Syngonium Rayii, Syngonium Mojito Care, Zz Plant Care.