The pros and cons of using Leca to grow your plants
Leca is a growing medium that allows you to grow plants without using any soil whatsoever. That sounds strange if you've never heard of it before, because how can plants grow without soil? Don't they nutrients? You're right, plants definitely need nutrients to grow big and strong, but they don't need soil for this. In a previous post, What is Leca and why is it useful for plants?, we went over what Leca is and why you can use it to grow your plants. We quickly brushed over a downside of using Leca, but it's put the advantages and disadvantages next to each other and help you figure out if Leca is right for you and your plants.
In this guide we'll go over these pros and cons:
- Reduced risk of pests
- Easier plant care
- Less week-to-week maintenance
- Reusable growing medium
- Higher initial cost to get started
- More work to get started
- More restricted pot choices
- You need to get special fertilizer
As you can see from the two lists above, the pros and cons paint a perfect picture of Leca: It takes a bit more money and effort to get started in the beginning, but after that initial investment, it's smooth sailing and low maintenance from there on out. Let's break down the pros and cons to see what this means for you.
Pros of using Leca to grow your plants
Leca is an alternative way to grow your plants, not using any soil. It's a growing medium that's getting more attention recently and people are interested to find out what it's all about. Does it work for any plant? Is it difficult? Is it better than soil? These are great questions to ask. Let's go over the pros of using leca and answer those questions.
Reduced risk of pests
When you're using Leca, rather than soil, you'll be much less likely to have to deal with pests. This is because of the simple fact that roots are less prone to root rot in Leca than they are in the soil. When soil is too wet for too long, it'll start to rot and it'll take the roots of your plant with it. This attracts bugs and other kinds of pests. Leca doesn't contain any live organisms, which means it won't start to rot when it's wet for too long. The roots of your plant get their moisture in small doses from the clay balls, so they're also not overwatered. This combination means that root rot is much less likely and this also keeps pests away.
There are also pests that thrive in dry environments, like spider mites. Soil is really good at absorbing moisture and containing it. When the moisture can't escape easily, the humidity doesn't benefit the rest of the plant. Because of this, you might have to mist your plant to make sure its environment is humid enough. The humidity is needed to keep spider mites and other pests away and don't give them a chance to settle. Leca, because of the large gaps in between the clay balls, has plenty of opportunities to evaporate some of the moisture it contains. This helps the immediate environment of the plant to stay humid, even without misting.
Easier plant care
Leca is great at regulating moisture, this helps you to consistently water your plant without overwatering it. This alone takes one of the biggest challenges of taking care of plants away from you. The Leca will water your plant for you and all you have to do is make sure there is always water in the pot that the Leca can soak up.
Your biggest challenge is now to give your plant the proper amount of sunlight. If you notice that your plant starts to change color in some way, you now know that this is due to sunlight exposure. When you're using soil, it could be a combination of watering problems and improper sunlight exposure, but one of the variables is now taken away. This makes even the toughest plants easier to take care of.
Less week-to-week maintenance
As we've gone over in the last section, Leca regulates the moisture in your pot and the plant absorbs this moisture at its own pace. The only time you have to add water to the pot is when the Leca is no longer able to absorb any water or all of the water has been absorbed. This could take weeks depending on the time of year.
With soil, you might have to water your plant every week. If you do this as I recommend, letter the excess water escape from the soil to avoid watering problems, your plant will dry out again within a week or two in the summer. Leca follows the pace of your plant, so you might have to water just once per month for some plants.
In essence, Leca extends the amount of time between two maintenance moments.
Reusable growing medium
When you're using Leca and you find yourself wanting to reuse Leca you have already used for another plant, you're in luck. You can reuse Leca over and over again if you maintain and clean it properly. You can't, or rather shouldn't, reuse soil for your plants. Soil contains nutrients and if you reuse this soil and the previous plant has already absorbed all of the nutrients, there is nothing left for the new plant. If you don't use fertilizer, reusing soil is not possible, because there is nothing for your plant to eat. If you do use fertilizer, you might be able to reuse the soil, but what if a previous plant had some kind of pest and this is now in the soil? Your new plant will now also be affected. You can't really clean soil as you can with Leca unless you take some more extreme measures.
Leca can be reused forever, but only if you wash it throroughly before planting another plant in it.
Cons of using Leca to grow your plants
When there are pros, there will always be cons. If that wasn't the case, everyone would already use Leca. There are plenty of great reasons not to use Leca and instead use soil to grow all of your plants. If you've mastered the art of properly watering and fertilizing when using soil, there really isn't a reason for you to switch to Leca. Let's go over some of the cons and why you might stay with soil rather than switching to Leca.
Higher initial cost to get started
It's true, Leca is more expensive than soil. In fact, Leca is 3-4 times more expensive than soil and that can be quite a shock to some people. When you want to get started and have to get the supplies, it can feel like quite the investment and you might be wondering if this is all going to be worth it in the end. Earlier on we mentioned that you can reuse Leca, so it does get cheaper if you start to reuse it more. But it'll only be cheaper after you've reused it 3 or 4 times. Of course, you might want to do the investment, because it makes taking care of plants much easier. The monetary investment isn't always the only cost in this scenario. Maybe the easier plant care is worth the 3-4 times higher price. This is something that's up to you to decide.
More work to get started
When you're using soil, you can open your bag, grab the soil, and put it in a pot. This ease of use is very nice and definitely not something Leca is able to match. When you get a new bag of Leca and you want to use it for your plant, you have to wash all of the dust off the clay balls first. This process could take up to 30 minutes. That's quite a bit of extra work just to get a plant in a pot. If you're always very excited to get a plant home, get it in a pot, and place it in the perfect spot, this could be a drag to do. If you don't enjoy the cleaning process, it might feel like wasted time. Time that you could've spend admiring your new plant.
More restricted pot choices
When you've used soil for a while, chances are that you have at least a few pots with a draining hole in the bottom. These pots are great for use with soil, as the excess moisture can escape and the soil will never be too wet for your plant. You can't use these types of pots with Leca. Leca requires a pot that can contain water without it dripping out the bottom. If you're in a situation where all of your pots have draining holes and you're looking into converting your soil-based plants to Leca, you will have to invest in a few new pots. It could be a tough choice not to be able to use a specific pot anymore. This is something you might have to think about before making the choice to convert to Leca.
You need to get special fertilizer
We've gone over the fact that Leca doesn't contain any live nutrients and it's just clay balls. This means you have to add nutrients to the water you're using to soak your Leca with. If you have used fertilizer on your soil-based plants before and you still have a lot of it left, you might want to use that fertilizer for use with Leca as well. However, this is a bad idea. When you're using Leca, you need to get special hydroponics fertilizer instead of normal plant fertilizer. Normal plant fertilizer is meant to be used with soil-based plants and not hydroponics. Your gardening center or plant shop might not have any hydroponics fertilizer, so you have to go to other stores or order from the internet. This might feel like a waste of perfectly good fertilizer and could also be a valid choice not to switch from soil to Leca.
Together, we went over some pros and cons of using Leca rather than soil. There are great reasons to switch to Leca, including the reduced risk of pests, caring for your plant becomes easier, less maintenance, and you can reuse your growing medium. However, like always, there are also cons to using Leca, including the initial cost of Leca is much higher than using soil, it's more work to use Leca for the first time, you have more restricted pot choices, and you need to get special hydroponics fertilizer. All of these are valid reasons to use and not use Leca over soil and in the end, it's up to you to decide what matters to you. Hopefully, this guide has taught you something about using Leca.
Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide or donate a plant in order to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.Posted on: June 20th, 2020 Last updated on: July 12th, 2020