Which plants can you grow in Leca?
Leca (Lightweight expanded clay aggregate) has it's advantages and disadvantages like any other growing medium. But even when you know what Leca means how you can use it, you might still need to ask yourself: "Can my plant grow in Leca?". In this post, we're going to find out which plants work well with Leca and which ones might not do too well with it. It's difficult to list every single plant that will do well with Leca, so let's list some characteristics of plants that do well in Leca instead. When you use this list, you can compare it to what your own plant and see if it'll do well in Leca or if you need to look for something else.
Plants that do well in Leca generally have these characteristics:
- Likes to dry out before watering
- Are able to grow a large root system quickly
- Don't mind being handled every once in a while
- Likes to be in oxygen rich soil
- Don't rely on soil to provide it with nutrients
Let's expand on each of these characteristics to see if your plant fits these requirements.
Plants that like to dry out before watering
If your plant likes to dry out before watering, it might be a good candidate to grow in Leca. Leca is great for regulation water throughout the pot, but it doesn't soak up water throughout the whole clay ball. The fact that it doesn't soak up water to be many times its own weight, means it's not able to give some moisture loving plants the moisture level they'd like. The clay balls only soak up around 30% of their own weight, which is great for more plants that like to dry out.
Plants that are able to grow a large root system quickly
Plants that grow a root system quickly are the most likely to succeed in Leca. These types of plants usually spread their root system to look for moisture to absorb, which they'll easily be able to find in the clay balls. Unlike soil, which holds on to moisture, Leca soaks up all the moisture it can hold and lets the excess water sink to the bottom of the pot. When your plant has absorbed all moisture that the clay balls have soaked up, it'll have to get moisture from different places.
If your plant is really thirsty, like a spider plant, it'll grow roots everywhere to absorb as much moisture as possible. However, if your plant loves to be dry, it won't spread out as much and it'll wait for the Leca to soak up more water to absorb. Slower growing plants can still grow in Leca, but they will have much less control over the amount of moisture they can absorb. If you have a slower growing plant that also loves to be dry, waiting for the Leca to soak up more water again is no problem at all. In fact, these plants love the drought and they thrive in it, like Sansevierias.
Plants that don't mind being handled every once in a while
When you're first converting your plant from soil to hydroponics, you have to clean your roots to get rid of any soil. It's very difficult to get this right at the first try, so it's likely that you'll have to do clean your plant again after planting it in Leca. After you've planted your plant in Leca, you can easily take it back out of the pot and check the roots, because the clean balls are loose around the roots. A month after you've first planted your plant in Leca, you'll have to clean the clay balls and the roots. Your plant needs to be able to handle this and not go into shock straight away. Some plants, like Calatheas, don't like to be handled too often, so be sure to check if your plant can handle this.
Plants that like to be in oxygen rich soil
As all hydroponics growing mediums have excellent drainage and have lots of space in between individual balls/rocks, they provide a lot of oxygen to your plant's roots. Some plants love to be in moisture soil all the time and have developed roots that can survive in this environment. These roots generally don't get a lot of oxygen to their roots, as the moist soil doesn't breathe as much as dry soil. If you have a plant that loves to be in moist, compact soil, it might not be the right plant for hydroponics. However, if your plant likes dry and/or porous soil, it will love hydroponics growing mediums including Leca.
Plants that don't rely on soil to provide it with nutrients
Hydroponics growing mediums are not live growing mediums and can't provide your plant with nutrients by itself. To feed your plants, you'll need to use hydroponics fertilizer. You add this fertilizer to the water when you water your plants. When your plant absorbs the moisture and fertilizer it should be able to store these in its stems and/or leaves, because most hydroponics growing mediums can't hold on to the fertilizer too well.
The plants that have the best chance to do well in Leca can live off the nutrients it stores in its stems and don't rely on the growing medium to provide it with nutrients. Some plants absorb most of the nutrients they need to grow directly from the soil and these plants won't do well in Leca. However, there are other growing mediums, like Vermiculite and Pumice, that can hold onto fertilizer to help your plant grow. Vermiculite and Pumice might be a better option if you still want to use a soil-less growing medium.
Leca is a very versatile growing medium for your houseplants, but whether or not you can grow your favorite houseplant in Leca depends on a few things. Your houseplant should be a plant that likes to dry out between waterings, it should be able to quickly grow its root system, it should be fine with being handled (and not go into shock), it should like plenty of oxygen to reach its roots, and last of all it should be able to store nutrients without relying on the growing medium to provide it with nutrients all the time. If your favorite plant checks all of these marks, Leca is a great growing medium for it.
If you'd like some sort of reference of which plants do well in Leca, here you go:
- ZZ Plant
- Spider plant
These are not all specific plants, but rather plant families. If you have a plant within one of the plant families that you can see here, it should do well in Leca. This is not a complete list, but these are the plants I've personally tested Leca with.
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.
Tags: lecaPosted on: December 19th, 2020 Last updated on: December 28th, 2020