Have you ever been curious about those plants you see that are in some weird balls instead of soil? If yes, then this is the article that can answer some questions. 👍
Keep in mind that plant parents’ have different opinions on some of the details regarding the leca process. The process shared in this article is based on my experience and tips that plant friends have given me.
COMMON LECA QUESTIONS
Before we go into how to convert your medium from soil to leca here are a few common questions that people ask me about leca:
- What is leca? Leca stands for lightweight expanded clay aggregate, which is basically airy clay balls.
- Why did you switch to leca? I switched to leca, because I once had a really bad gnat infestation that I did not want to go through again. 😅 As for the standard reasons why people switch, here is a short list:
- Less risk for pests – pests like to hide and breed inside the soil your plant is growing in and usually love low humidity. Since leca uses water, there is no possible breeding ground and the water increases humidity around the plant.
- Less maintenance – Since the plant only absorbs however much water it needs compared to having water be absorbed by soil instead, the water in the pot lasts longer. If the water lasts longer, you get to have a few extra days before you would normally have to water again.
- More efficient medium – unlike soil, you can reuse leca balls by properly cleaning them and you don’t have to worry about pests or lack of nutrients. BONUS: You save money in the long run since leca is reusable!
- Is it expensive? You have to look at leca as an investment. The initial process will cost some money as you will need to buy some pots, saucers and tools, BUT you could try and make some money back selling the pots and soil that you won’t be using again.
WHAT WILL I NEED
WHAT WE’VE TRIED
Nursery pots the plants come with
No drainage holes pots. Preferably plastic or sealed pots that won’t absorb the water.
Leca balls from your local nursery.
PH Testing Kit
HOW TO CONVERT
Now let’s talk about the tips on how to transfer to leca!
1. Prep leca
Soak, rinse, and soak the leca balls. Soak the leca balls for one hour, rinse the leca balls in a colander to let the excess dust and residue fall through, then soak the leca in water for 6 hours. Rinse the leca balls through a colander once more prior to using the leca with your plants.
2. Test it
Before you convert your entire collection try it out with a cutting or a plant that you won’t mind dying. I know, sounds mean, but there is a chance that the transfer will fail and that your plant could die on your first attempt. So test it first 👍.
3. Clean roots:
Remove as much soil as you can from the roots. Gently wash the soil off of the roots and remove/trim any damaged roots or leaves. (TIP: loosening the soil and removing it is easier when the soil is dry)
4. Water roots:
Before placing the plant in leca, I like to keep the plant in water until “water roots” start growing as well as observe how the plant reacts to living in water. I find that plants that have established roots in water have an easier time transitioning to leca since the leca roots will also be living in water.
This step is something that is normally not mentioned as a step for this process, but I do it because it has helped me with some plants that were having trouble transitioning to leca.
5. Time to leca
You can leca your plant! Fill ⅓ of your pot with the presoaked leca balls. Add the plant and fill with the rest of the leca securing the plant. Finally place the inner pot in the outer pot or deep saucer if you are using a nursery pot where you will be watering the plant. For nutrients, follow the directions on the product you have chosen for your plants.
TIP: As you fill the inner pot with leca balls, shake the pot every now and then to let the leca balls settle into the empty spaces.
TIP: Add water level tip
6. Check-in and observe
The beauty of using leca is that you can see the roots. Sad news, but also good news is that you can see if the roots are rotting and you can fix it before it’s too late. So as you check-in with your plants when you check the water level, go observe the roots and leaves for any signs of good growth or damage.
7. Rotting roots
If you notice roots rotting then try the following steps:
- Rotten roots: trim the rotten roots and place the plant in just water. Observe for root growth and/or new water roots.
- Rotten bulbs: trim the rotten roots and rotten bulb parts. Let the bulb and roots complete dry. Re-plant and keep the water level right below the bulb to keep it from rotting again.
TIP: A way to avoid root rot or plant damage is by regularly “flushing the pot”. You will notice that as time passes the leca balls will start turning white on top. (The white stuff is salt from the water evaporation residue that deposits on leca. The “risk” is that the salt increases the PH level of the water which slows down the plant nutrient absorption). Flushing the pot is grabbing the inner pot with the plant and running water through it to flush out all the residue.
If it’s been a week or two of your plant living in leca with new plant growth, then CONGRATULATIONS! You have successfully converted your plant from soil to leca! 👍
This is just a bit of information, but let us know if you would like articles that dive even deeper into the world of semi-hydro plants as there is lots more to share.