What Is Leca and Its Benefits?

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Having a green thumb is not easy, especially if you’re new to gardening. Learning about plant care can be overwhelming. To aid with making your plant grow, it’s important to use essential planning mediums such as Leca. 

If you want to grow beautiful flowers, add some Leca into the dirt around them. Not only does it improve the quality of your dirt, but it also helps break down organic matter into nutrients for plant roots. Just remember to keep adding this product every year so that your garden stays healthy throughout all seasons of the year. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Leca. Let’s get started!

What is Leca?

Leca stands for lightweight expanded clay aggregate. To put it simply, Leca comes in baked clay balls that soak up a little water, after which they expand slightly. It’s a growing medium like soil, used to grow plants.  Unlike soil, Leca is a collection of clay soils and doesn’t contain any nutrients, making the plant grow without the nutrients. Plant owners also know it as expanded clay or exclay.

What is Leca?
Image credit: https://plantcareforbeginners.com/

Leca makes for a superlative growing medium for most house plants. It’s odorless, eco-friendly and reusable for starters. These little clay pebbles can hold up to 4 times their weight in water. And they allow air and water to move freely throughout the growing medium so that your plants can breathe. Growing plants in leca eliminate common plant care mistakes.

What are the Benefits of Using Leca?

It’s an Extremely Porous Medium

Leca’s porous nature makes it an excellent drainage material for your growing medium. Clay pebbles are designed to wick up water and drain it out into the bottom of the pot while allowing air to move freely throughout the soil mixture. This ensures that roots get enough air to stay healthy while remaining fully saturated with water.

Less Risk of Root Rot

Leca is a porous material that absorbs water and air into its internal structure. This helps promote healthy root development by allowing the roots to easily breathe even as they sit in a constantly moist environment. Roots tend to rot when oxygen isn’t able to circulate throughout the growing medium. Leca helps prevent this from happening by keeping the soil aerated and allowing the roots to fully exchange CO2 for O2.

There is also less risk of root rot because the leca leaves a lot of air gaps between the leca balls. This helps to get the needed oxygen to your plant’s roots. Lack of oxygen is the main cause of root rot, and Leca solves this problem once and for all.

Growing Plants in Semi Hydroponics Saves Water

One of the most common problems hydroponic gardeners have is that their plants are drying out. This usually happens because the water being fed to the roots is evaporating into thin air through the drainage hole. Leca can help prevent this from happening by keeping moisture trapped near the roots, where it belongs.

The Leca Balls can be Recycled

What makes Leca a good investment is its sustainable use. After growing a consumable plant like a vegetable, you can use the clay balls to grow another one in another pot using a passive hydroponic system. However, Leca’s long term usage is dependent on how they are maintained. Make sure you wash these leca balls before putting them in another pot.

Inexpensive Grow Media

One of the factors that make hydroponics so expensive is the media used to hold your plants’ roots for support and nutrient uptake. Leca is very inexpensive compared to other media. A lot of commercial growers will go through 100 pounds or more of growing media in a week, so this can add up quickly.

Leca’s porous structure enables it to hold onto nutrient solution and support your plants with its few large air pockets instead of many small air pockets like most crushed rock has. It is about the size of marbles, perfectly smooth spheres made to withstand the weight of heavy baskets without breaking.

Leca is Environmentally Friendly

When you compare Leca with potting mix, there is one aspect that Leca will always win. Leca is reusable and durable. Even without considering the environmental impact of peat moss, the fact that you can reuse leca makes it a more ecological sound medium than potting soil.

Unlike potting mix, which breaks down over time, you can use leca over and over again. You can reuse potting mix, but you need to bake it in the oven to ensure all the nasty beasts are dead, but leca needs to be rinsed thoroughly with boiling water.

Leca is Less Messy than Soil

Unlike soil, leca requires much less water than potting mix and doesn’t become a grimy mess while you’re repotting your plants. Leca is also easier to spill, thanks to its lightweight properties.

Despite its appearance, leca is more lightweight than either soil or potting mix, which means that you can use less to fill your containers no matter how large they are.

The Risks of Getting Pests are Reduced

One of the most common problems with soil-based potting mix is that it’s so easy for pests to become established in it. The warmth and moisture present in the soil make it perfect breeding conditions, while the organic matter provides lots of nutrients for pests to thrive on. In leca, the plant also chooses when to drink water and avoid being overwatered. This means that bugs won’t be attracted to the rotting roots and soil.

Leca doesn’t provide these same benefits, making it a much less attractive place for pests to live. It’s also easy to get rid of insects such as gnats, spider mites and thrips by taking the plant out of the cachepot and blasting the insects off with the showerhead.

Fertilizing is More Cost-Effective and Environmentally Responsible

When using a soil-based potting mix and fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer, it’s easy to overwater and overdo your fertilization. Liquid fertilizers are also more difficult to calculate the exact amount you need for the size of the container you’re using.

Hydroponic fertilizer can hold water as the soil does, but it’s also soluble so that you can get better uptake by your plants. Because hydroponics use flood and drain systems, the salt concentration is maintained at very low levels, reducing the risk of plant burn.

Cons of Using Leca

Requires Fertilizer

Besides the high initial investment, you’ll need to buy hydroponic or liquid fertilizer tailored to your indoor plants. Leca’s only role is to water your plants because it doesn’t have nutrients.

New Pots

If your trove of trays has drainage holes, they may not work well with leca because it’s too draining. You’ll probably have to buy new pots designed for hydroponics use to grow with Leca.

Leca pots
Image credit: https://plantcareforbeginners.com/

Requires Maintenance

You need to check your trays and pump stations regularly to ensure there are no clogging issues. Plants will die if they don’t get enough water because you can’t provide it through the drain holes with leca.

Leca has no nutrient value and can’t be called a soil substitute because it’s not as good as the real thing. But with a week to week maintenance, you should have an easier time growing hydroponically if you choose to use Leca.

Poor Water Holding Capacity

These clay pebbles drain wonderfully, but they can cause plants to wilt without a consistent watering system. Leca has no nutrient value, so you will need to provide all the nutrients through your fertilizer system.

When draining becomes your watering system, plants can often become wilted because there is not enough time for them to absorb water back into the pebbles. This will leave them exposed and make them an easy target for insects and fungus to attack.

Where Do You Buy Leca?

This lightweight growing medium has become so popular that it can be easily found in most local garden centers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart. You can buy leca pebbles in any garden center you walk in.

Frequently Asked Questions on Leca and its Benefits

Is leca more expensive than potting soil?

Yes, because the expense is in the set-up of hydroponic systems, where you’ll need net pots and catch pots. This can be pricey, especially if you’re repotting large plants.

What plants benefit from leca?

Plants such as monstera, begonia, spider plants and alocasia are the best examples of the plants that grow well in Leca.

Can you put leca on top of the soil?

Yes, you can put leca on top of the soil to protect indoor plants. By adding a layer of aqua clay balls on top of your potting mix, you can also reduce the risk of indoor plant pests, especially fungus gnats.

How do you fertilize your plants in leca?

As mentioned earlier, leca doesn’t provide you with nutrients. Therefore, you’ll need additional nutrients to water yourself. Hydroponics fertilizer is fine but there are also specific types of fertilizer you can use to help your plants. But if you don’t have experience with such fertilizers, better stick with hydroponics fertilizer.

How often should you water plants in leca?

When leca no longer touches water beneath it, you should water your plants. You should water plants after every two weeks to a month.

Final Thought on Leca and its Benefits

Leca pebbles are a great growing medium for plants because of their porous nature and ability to reduce moisture. Leca pebbles are also ideal for indoor plants because they are free from fungi and bacteria harmful to your pets.

It is important that you get only the best quality leca for growing plants since there are a lot of cheap ones in the market offering Leca at dirt cheap prices. Don’t be fooled by the prices because if these are not made with high-quality clay, they might not be of any benefit to your plants or pets. It is better that you purchase Leca at higher prices but get a safe and legit growing medium.

 

 

Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is a stay-at-home-mom and an expert chef. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her writing about her favorite kitchen appliances on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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