What is Leca and why is it useful for plants?
Have you had trouble with watering your plants before? If not, you're a true plant guru and I'd love to learn from you! Most plant owners have killed a few plants due to overwatering before learning what overwatering was and why their plants were dying.
Luckily, there is a "cure" for overwatering your plants and that cure is called Leca. Leca won't prevent you from overwatering your plant, but it'll make it a lot easier to water your plants properly. So if you're a little heavy-handed when it comes to watering your plants or if you just want an easier time watering your plants, Leca is right for you!
In this plant care guide, we're going to look at everything you might want to know when it comes to Leca and taking care of your plants in Leca. We'll look at these topics together:
Let's get started and learn more about using Leca to grow our plants more easily! I love using Leca and I want to tell you all about it!
What exactly is Leca?
Leca is an acronym and it stands for: Lightweight expanded clay aggregate. It sounds very complicated, but when you break it down, it's a good and descriptive name. Essentially, Leca is a growing medium, like soil, in which you can grow your plants.
In simple terms, Leca is a collection of baked clay balls that expand when you soak them in water. The water that's soaked up in the clay balls can be used to water plants. However, unlike soil, Leca is just a collection of clay balls and doesn't contain any nutrients. All they do is soak up a little water and expand. Your plant will still need nutrients, so you'll need to add these nutrients to the water.
At this point, you might be wondering: why would you even consider using this for growing your plants? This growing medium can't feed my plants on its own...why would I use this? These are excellent questions and they're the exact questions we're going to look at in this post. Leca can't feed your plants for you, but it brings a lot of fantastic benefits that make it a great growing medium for a lot of different plants and plant owners of any skill level!
Let's see why Leca is so useful for keeping your plants healthy and thriving!
Why is Leca useful for growing your plants?
Now that you know Leca is just a collection of expanding clay balls, you might be wondering how this helps you to keep your plants healthy and thriving.
These are the biggest benefits of using Leca to grow your plants:
- It's easier to water your plants
- Less risk of root rot
- The risks of getting pests are reduced
- You can easily "check in" on your plants
Let's go over each of these benefits to see how they can help you to take care of your houseplants.
Leca makes it easier to water your plants
If you've taken care of plants in soil before, you'll know that it's quite easy to overwater some plants. You can overwater your plants when the soil is wet and the roots are sitting in soaked soil. This will develop root rot quickly, which will most likely kill your plant.
To avoid overwatering your plants in soil, you have to pay close attention to how dry/wet the soil is. This is not at all the case for Leca, which is why it's so much easier to properly water your plants. We'll look at exactly how Leca helps you do this in the next section where we look at how Leca works.
If you're looking for other ways to avoid overwatering your plants, have a look at "How to avoid overwatering your plants".
Less risk of root rot
When you're using soil, you're watering when the soil feels dry or the plant looks a certain way. Watering is much simpler when you're using Leca because you're watering when the water in the pot is gone. When all the water is gone from the bottom of the pot, your plant has absorbed it all or the clay balls have soaked it up. Adding extra water, even if the clay balls are still full of water, won't cause the plant to be overwatered. Your plant won't be overwatered, because the plant absorbs the moisture as it needs it. If you were growing your plant in soil and you were to add more water when the soil is still soaked, you might kill the plant by overwatering it.
There is also less risk of root rot because the Leca leaves a lot of air gaps between the clay balls. This helps to get the needed oxygen to your plant's roots. A very common cause of root rot is a lack of oxygen at the roots of your plants. Leca solves this problem and worrying about root rot is a thing of the past.
The risks of getting pests are reduced
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you water your plants in Leca where there is no more water in the bottom of the pot. The Leca lets the plant absorb moisture when it needs it and this helps to avoid overwatering. Because it's very difficult to overwater plants in this case, the chances of getting root rot are low.
One of the toughest side effects of root rot is that it attracts bugs and pests. Luckily, when you can avoid root rot altogether, you're also lowering the risk of attracting bugs to one or more plants. So indirectly, Leca also helps to reduce pests on your plants. This doesn't mean you won't have pests on your plants, but you'll have a lower risk of attracting them.
Another reason why using Leca reduces pests is because, unlike soil, Leca is not a "live" growing medium. Soil is organic and contains nutrients. These nutrients, unfortunately, aren't just a great place for your plant, but also insects. Insects usually carry and cause diseases for your plants, so by avoiding those insects, Leca helps you to reduce the chances of dealing with a sick plant.
Two of my Alocasias, the Zebrina, and Polly, were sick and their roots were rotting. This attracted insects and almost killed both of the plants. After switching them to Leca and cleaning them carefully every single week, they've recovered and are now growing again like before. It's safe to say that those plants will never touch any soil again.
You can easily "check-in" on your plants
When you're growing your plants in soil, the only time you'll really see the roots is when you're in the process of repotting the plant. In between planting and repotting them, you won't really know what the roots look like and how they're doing.
However, when you're growing your plants in Leca, you can look at the roots every single day if you choose to do so. This is not something you should actually do though, because many plants don't like to be handled that often. I clean most of my plants, which grow in Leca, at least once every 6 months. During this process, I also make sure to clean, or at least rinse, the Leca. By cleaning the Leca, I can have a look at how the roots of the plant are doing. The picture at the top of this post is an example of this. I can look at the progress of the roots and adjust the placement of the plant in the pot accordingly.
The fact that you can "check in" on your plant so easily is what helped me to save my Alocasias from certain death. It helped me to cut off rotting roots as soon as I saw them and prevent the root rot from spreading to healthy roots. This took a lot of effort, but my plants are rewarding me by growing again.
Now that we've seen some of the greatest benefits Leca can give you and your plants, let's look at how it works! It's always helpful to know how the growing medium you use works, because this tells you if you need to change your plant care routine to best help a plant.
How does Leca work?
Leca has a lot of great benefits, but how does it work? Let's look at how you can grow a large variety of plants in Leca and why it works so well.
The most important part of growing your plants in Leca is that the roots are not allowed to sit in (standing) water. When you use Leca, you can create a raised or false bottom and raise your plant's roots from the bottom of the pot. Then you can add your water until it's sitting just below the roots of the plant. The clay balls will start to soak up the water at the bottom of the pot while keeping the roots away from the water.
Your plant's roots aren't sitting in water, so they'll absorb the moisture from the clay balls. Since your plants aren't sitting in water all the time, like often the case with soil, they're not at risk of overwatering, they're just in a moist and oxygen-rich environment. If you're growing thirsty plants in Leca, they will start to grow their roots towards the water that's at the bottom of the pot and absorb moisture directly from there. This makes Leca perfect for a large variety of plants, from drought-loving cacti to moisture-loving Alocasias.
How do you fertilize your plants in Leca?
Earlier in this plant care guide, I mentioned that Leca doesn't provide your plants with the nutrients they need to grow properly. Leca only takes care of watering your plants. As such, you'll need to add nutrients to water yourself. These nutrients are slightly different from the fertilizer you would give to plants growing in soil. But what are the key differences?
What are hydroponics nutrients (fertilizer)?
Hydroponics nutrients (or fertilizer) contain special ingredients that your normal plant fertilizer doesn't have. Normal plant fertilizers don't need these ingredients, because the soil provides your plant with these nutrients. Since Leca doesn't contain any nutrients, the hydroponics fertilizer needs to add these missing ingredients to keep your plant healthy. This is why you can't use normal fertilizer for your plants in Leca: it's missing key ingredients.
How do you use the hydroponic fertilizer with Leca?
When you're ready to water your plant that's growing in Leca, you'll need to prepare the water first. You'll need to add the hydroponic fertilizer to the water you use to water your plant and mix it well. This will help to dilute the fertilizer with the water and turn your plain old water into a hydroponic nutrient solution. You can water any of your Leca-growing plants with this nutrient solution and you're done! It's a little bit of preparation before you water your plant, but that's all you'll need to do to take care of a plant that's growing in Leca.
Leca is a great way to water your plants without overdoing it. Your plants will be healthy and thriving without the effort it takes to do the same for plants in the soil! In this plant care guide, we've looked at what Leca is, how you can use it, and what its benefits are for you and your plants. I hope I've convinced you of its ease of use! Be sure to share this guide with your friends and family so they can learn how to take care of their plants too.
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 to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.
Tags: leca, water, pests, growing-mediumPosted on: Apr 13, 2020 Last updated on: Oct 27, 2022