The most exciting thing about plant care is experimenting with different mediums to grow your plant family. We’ve been exploring different ways to grow plants in water—one of those ways is utilizing LECA.
The plant community uses the terms “leca” and/or “hydroton” to refer to all types of expanded clay. LECA, specifically, stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate - a collection of baked clay pebbles that expand when you soak them in water. You can use LECA for propagation, or you can have your plants live in it!
In non-gardening lingo, leca are baked clay balls that soak up water and expand. The water that Is in the leca balls can be used to water plants! Unlike soil, leca does not have any nutrients, which means liquid fertilizer is a helpful addition to keep your plants healthy.
LECA has become the newest trend in plant growing mediums for several reasons. Here is a list of some of the benefits of using LECA:
LECA can vary depending on the brand based on size, size variation, smoothness, and porosity. Each of these qualities influences your plants’ growing characteristics, so it’s essential to understand the differences and how they may affect your plants. Let’s go through them one at a time.
The size of the individual clay balls directly affects how much room your plant has to grow its roots. Larger clay balls allow more room for root growth, allowing for better oxygen delivery but less structural support for the plant.
Size variation focuses on the range of sizes within a LECA mix. We find that a LECA mix between small and large pebbles creates an excellent medium for your plant because the growing medium ends up being a bit denser. This allows for good oxygen delivery while also offering good structural support.
Smoother LECA packs loose, so it gives the plant more room for root development and oxygen delivery. The downside is that smooth LECA, much like larger LECA, offers less structural support.
Rougher LECA, on the other hand, packs denser and provides enough space for roots to latch onto the rocks. This is good, but it comes at the cost of less oxygen delivery. In addition, if or when you decide to repot the plant, it might be more complex and disruptive when using rougher clay balls. For this reason, rougher LECA is more suitable for vegetables and plants you don’t plan on repotting. One thing to also consider is that rougher LECA is harder to clean, so you’ll need to make sure to clean them between every reuse.
Now, let’s talk about porosity—or how much water each of the balls can absorb. The more porous the LECA, the more absorbent they are and the better the water moisture. This is great for most non-agricultural styles of hydroponic growing.
Consistent Water Supply
Leca is a hydroponics system does the hard work for you. You won't need to water plants as frequently, because the open spaces within the leca pebbles naturally draw water up to the plant.
Soil loses it's nutrients over time, and should either be discarded and replaced or replenished. Leca just needs to be cleaned between uses, and a couple of drops of liquid fertilizer tailored to your indoor plants goes a long way.
Leca balls allow for more aeration as the air pockets between the clay balls allow more oxygen to reach the plant's roots. This prevents a well-known gardening disaster: root rot.
Leca pebbles can be used for almost every kind of plant. Many gardeners know the proper plant mix is hard to create!
Simply put, soil can make a mess. Especially when you want to bring in more house plants, fertilizer and soil may not be fun to deal with. The most mess you can expect with leca is the dust from the porous material. Indoor plants without the mess is any gardeners dream!
There are still some cons when gardening with these little clay pebbles. Although the benefits may outweigh the cons when thinking about soil vs. leca... is there an even better alternative out there? Hint: stay tuned - the answer is YES.
Leca can cost up to for times the amount of your usual potting mix, its not a cheap transition. However, you won't have to keep venturing to garden centers to replace soil, leca does last longer than traditional soil. When reusing leca, make sure to rince off any organic matter, replenish water and fertilizer and transfer plants.
Fertilizers or necessary nutrients are usually included in indoor potting soil. However, with leca, you'll need hydroponics fertilizer for your plants.
Throw out the notion that you need drainage holes for your plants. Leca balls need a container that is closed bottom. The water is absorbed by the pebbles!
Once you understand their needs, succulents are one of the easiest to maintain plants you can
bring into your home! They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and almost any color to suit
your design preferences.
If growing in usual soil, you can lightly water them every few weeks. If you’re growing them in
water (our preferred choice) they can pretty much take care of themselves!
They key to growing succulents in water is preparation. Be sure to choose the right plant (not all
thrive in water), like the a jade plant. Succulents should be transplanted after about 6 months of
growing in just water
Leca solves many problems that traditional soil can create:
Leca balls protect plant roots, and get rid of messy soil. But what if there was an even simpler solution for plant owners? If you want to growing plants - it just got easier. Hydroponic gardening allows for indoor gardeners to have more plants with even less hassle.
Modern Botanical plant frames and propagation stations allow green thumbs and black thumbs alike to bring more plants into their home. When growing plants with just water, the only thing you have to worry about is good lighting and replacing the water at least once per month.
This growing medium has so many fantastic benefits beyond being the new fad in plant care. Of course, LECA may work differently for everyone (what works for us may not work for you) based on different environments and care routines. Nonetheless, it’s a really fun medium to work with and to learn more interesting things about plants.
We would love to hear about your experiences with LECA! Follow us on Instagram or Tik Tok @modernbotanicalshop for more growing tips and tricks!