Leca Vs Soil
Leca and Semi Hydroponics,  Leca Propagation,  Soil Propagation

Leca Vs Soil – Pros And Cons For Growing Houseplants

Welcome to our leca vs soil guide, we cover the pros and cons and all you need to know…

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I have quite a few plants in leca and loads in soil at the moment. I love leca for quick and easy propagations and for smaller plants, but when they grow bigger I trend to move them to soil, I run down all you need to know…

Can You Mix Leca With Soil?

You can mix soil and leca to aid drainage. Leca and soil go well together and will stop soil clogging when overwatered. I sell plants in containers with no drainage holes and I add a layer of leca at the bottom of each cup to avoid over watering. Personally though I prefer to use all leca or all soil. I like a well draining soil mix but I use perlite and orchid bark mixed with soil for drainage.

For more on mixing soil see our guides: Best Soil For Syngonium Plants, Philodendron Soil, Anthurium Soil.

using leca for drainage at the bottom of a plastic cup
Using leca for drainage at the bottom of a plastic cup

Leca Vs Soil For Monsteras

The bigger the plant the more you want to use soil A big monstera deliciosa wants a large pot of soil to bury it’s roots in. But for younger, smaller plants you can use leca. I have a some monstera pinnatipartita in leca.

Leca Vs Soil For Hoyas

Hoyas do really well in leca, they are epiphytes and hate to be overwatered. It wicks up the moisture they need without soggy soil

A hoya in leca
One of my hoyas in leca – you can see white build up from hard water.

Is Leca Better Than Soil?

Leca is great as it’s cheap, quick to use, clean and re-usable. I love using clay pebbles for cuttings. I grow and propagate a lot of plants and leca is really easy to use and re-use. I water propagate the cuttings for a month then move them to leca and they take really well. They are much easier to send in the mail in leca too.

The thing is they grow slower than if you use soil, as soil has all the nutrient the plant needs to thrive. You can use a good semi hydroponic fertilizer to give the plants nutrients if you are using leca on going.

For larger plants and mature plants I prefer to move them to soil, which will give them a sturdy base for their roots.

A philodendron well rooted in leca

Can You Use Leca With Soil?

I do not mix leca and soil mixed, but as mentioned earlier I often use leca at the bottom of a pot when I use soil to stop a plant getting water logged if I water it too much. I use some pots without drainage and leca in the bottom really helps.

straining leca

You can also put leca on top of the soil to help to deter fungus gnats laying eggs in the soil, as seen below…

Using leca on top of the soil to protect the soil from fungus gnats

Transitioning From Leca To Soil

Most of my plants that are in leca were started as a water propagation and then moved to leca. I get a high success rate this way. If you take a plant that is already rooted in soil and want to move it to leca there are a few things you need to consider and some potential problems. The main issue is that the plant can die of shock if you are not careful. It works better for some plants than others. I personally would take a cutting root it in water then, move that to leca, but if you want to move it from soil, follow these steps:

  1. Rinse and soak the leca
  2. Take the plant out of it’s soil and get rid of all the soil from it’s roots. This is really important to avoid rot. You can use a brush, and dunk the plant in water too to help.
  3. Plant the plant in leca, in a pot with no drainage holes. And make sure the roots do not reach the bottom of the pot where there will be a reservoir of water. The roots do not want to touch this. Use a bigger pot if needed.
  4. You want to water the plant with a nutrient solution that replaces the nutrient is would have got from soil. the best way to do this at the start is to use Superthrive (diluted at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon or 1 ml per 3 liters – you do not want it too strong). The water/superthrive solution should not be touching the roots, the leca will wick up what it needs.
  5. Keep the plant watered like this for a month or two until the plant is settled and is putting out new growth from the top, then you can use a semi-hydro feed for it.

We cover this in more detail in our guide: How To Use Leca For Houseplants.

What Are The Advantages Of Leca Over Soil?

Leca is cheap, quick and easy to use, clean and re-usable. You get less pests that lay their eggs in soil, and less rot when propagating. It’s cleaner and easier to that soil too.

planting up rooted neon pothos in leca

What Are The Disadvantages Of Leca Over Soil?

Soil is a one stop solution or nutrients, you won’t need fertilizer, you can plant your plants in it and they’ll normally grow really well.

Plants tend to grow quicker in soil too, and as they mature a good big base of soil is much better that leca, especially for larger plant that need root support.

Can You Keep Plants In Leca Forever?

You can keep plants in leca, I have some that have been in leca for years. Every couple of years I take them out of the pot and change as many of the leca pebbles as I can (some will be stuck to the roots), and I move it to a bigger container if needed.

a neon pothos that has been in leca for a year or two
A neon pothos that has been in leca for a year or two

Do Plants Rot In Leca?

They can get root rot, less than they can in soil but they still get bacteria to the roots. You can occasionally use hydrogen peroxide to the clean the leca, then flush it with water. I use one part of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 4 parts water.

Does Leca Hold Bacteria?

They hold less than soil does but it can still hold bacteria.

Is Leca Better Than Just Water?

Leca is better than just water as it holds the roots well and will support bigger plants. It also regulates the water to the root better, as the clay balls wick up what they need.

a mother box of philodendrons planted in leca

Leca Vs Perlite

They are fairly similar growing mediums, leca is bigger and will allow more air to the roots. So perlite can be slightly better for propagations as it allows more moisture touching the nodes, but leca is better in the long term.

Leca Vs Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss is slightly better for rooting cuttings as more of it will touch the nodes and so it is a bit better for encourage rooting (although they are both good for this). But ongoing leca is easier due to it’s wicking nates of watering the roots better and allowing more air to the roots.

How Is Leca Made?

It’s made of clay and fired in a kiln.

How Often To Water Leca?

I keep a level of water in the bottom of the pot, I check it once a week in winter and twice a week the rest of the year.

For more on soil and leca propagation see our soil propagation and leca propagation categories.

Other Articles You Might Like

You might also like our other soil guides: Alocasia Soil, Succulent Soil, Monstera Soil, Hoya Soil, Anthurium Soil, Philodendron Soil, Best Soil For Syngonium Plants.

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