LECA, or lightweight expanded clay aggregate, is a widely used growing medium for hydroponic and semi-hydroponic systems. It’s composed of clay and brick dust processed through a rotary kiln at 2,190 degrees Fahrenheit to create air pockets.
LECA encourages plants to grow much more rapidly, and they only absorb water when necessary. This makes them better equipped to resist root rot and other ailments.
LECA balls offer a convenient self-watering system by absorbing water as needed by plants such as succulents or Alocasias that thrive in humid climates.
LECA clay retains moisture, making it easy for plants to draw it up when necessary. Furthermore, the ball allows them to control when they drink – preventing overwatering – thus maintaining their lush green appearance.
LECA is not only an excellent option for self-watering, but can also be used as an amendment to traditional potting soil. This increases airflow and oxygen to the roots while decreasing fungus growth. Furthermore, this saves money since LECA lasts long, so there’s no need to continuously replace soil when growing plants.
Before beginning with LECA, it is essential to prepare the soil and roots for transition. This involves digging away dirt from the roots of your plant and cleaning them thoroughly; leaving any dirt on them could lead to root rot in the new medium.
Once your plant has been prepped for transition, it’s time to insert your LECA balls. Make sure the pot has a tight-fitting bottom; otherwise, tapping it firmly on something may be necessary in order to release any large air pockets inside before filling with water.
To begin, fill your net/nursery pot with leca, filling it up to a third full. This will provide plenty of room for roots to develop in the pot.
Superthrive, an organic solution designed to promote growth, can be added to your leca water reservoir. However, keep in mind that this does not replace actual hydroponic nutrients since the leca ball won’t absorb them the same way soil roots do.
Once your leca ball has absorbed all water, it’s time to add your preferred plant fertilizer or mixture of nutrients. You can either add them directly into the water reservoir, or mix them in with your water before adding them. When using a mixture of nutrients, be sure to adjust their pH according to what your plants require; generally speaking, most houseplants prefer slightly acidic conditions (6.0-7.0).
Leca, or lightweight expanded clay aggregate, is a hydroponic medium that allows plants to thrive without soil. These balls absorb water through capillary action while providing essential hydration.
Contrary to soil, clay balls are inorganic and don’t break down or rot easily. Furthermore, it lacks any living organisms that could attract pests or bacteria. While fungus, microbes, and spider mites can thrive in wet soil conditions, they cannot survive on inorganic materials like clay balls.
One important benefit is that clay balls don’t provide food for pests or microbes, so you don’t have to worry about them coming into contact with the plants you’re growing.
Once your clay balls have been prepared, insert them into your plant’s pot and top off with some nutrient-enriched water. This provides your plants with essential nutrients while also avoiding overwatering.
You can either use a liquid or hydroponic fertilizer for this step. Make sure you purchase quality fertilizer specifically designed for hydroponic use. Additionally, test the pH level of your enriched water; incorrect pH can affect nutrient uptake by plants.
When watering your plant, fill the pot with enough nutrient-enriched water so it almost touches its roots. Be sure not to overwater as this could lead to root rot.
Moisture will then be drawn up by the capillary action of the clay balls and distributed evenly across your plant’s root system. This method of watering is much more effective than simply spraying water from above, as it ensures uniform distribution across the whole root system.
Finally, make sure you thoroughly rinse your clay balls before using them again to eliminate any dust particles. You can do this by running water or placing them in a strainer.
Keeping the Roots Clean
Maintaining the health of your plants’ roots is one of the most essential tasks you can do to ensure their flourishing. They play a critical role in plant growth, transporting water and essential nutrients to their leaves while storing energy as carbohydrates.
Maintaining clean roots makes them more susceptible to disease and pests, especially fungus gnats and spider mites that feed off of decaying organic matter in potting soil. If you don’t keep the roots healthy, they will become prime breeding grounds for these insects.
Rotted or damaged roots can absorb any extra moisture, so it’s essential to keep them dry between waterings. Although LECA does a great job at wicking away moisture, it still accumulates over time – so changing the water regularly is essential.
Before each use, make sure to flush your LECA thoroughly by soaking it in cold water and then rinsing away any dust or residue that has settled on its surface.
Once again, place it into a pot of water to boil before use. This helps sterilize the balls and eliminates any potential bacterial contamination that could have been transferred onto your plants.
This step is especially crucial if you plan to wick water from the LECA system. Utilizing tap or rainwater for this step increases the risk of mineral burn, which could cause significant damage to your plants.
Similarly, hard water can draw out minerals from your LECA and damage your plant’s root system. For best results, use filtered or distilled water if possible; it’s preferable.
Once your water is clear, submerge your LECA balls in it and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain the water and discard it as any sediment left behind could be hazardous to your plant.
Once your water is clear again, you can begin potting LECA balls into a nutrient solution. Make sure to use a hydroponic formula specifically tailored to each plant’s individual requirements; this will guarantee that your plants get enough nutrition without overdosing on minerals or causing mineral burn.
Keeping the Plant Healthy
When creating leca balls, it’s essential to ensure the plant is in top condition. This includes watering regularly and inspecting its roots for signs of pests or root rot; you don’t want any unnecessary damage from these issues.
Overwatering is a frequent issue for indoor plants, especially those in soil with heavy organic matter. Excess watering can smother the roots and invite pests such as fungus gnats to take hold.
Additionally, water stress can cause plants to grow slowly and even lose their leaves. If your plant is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you may need to alter its water source.
When using rain water for your LECA set-up, it’s especially critical to be mindful of mineral burn risks. Tap water also poses an increased risk since it might contain sodium or potassium.
Keep your plants happy by placing the water reservoir at the bottom of the pot (under the roots), rather than filling up the entire container with it. This way, they can draw up water only when necessary.
As your plant grows, it will naturally absorb more and more water from the LECA. If the LECA appears dry, you can add more water for replenishment but do not overdo it.
The plant will quickly adjust to the new watering method and won’t struggle too much with adaptation. You may need to repot for the first few weeks, but that should be an easy step and soon you’ll have a healthier plant in no time!
Some plants are more resistant to changes in watering methods than others, so be patient and ensure the plant doesn’t become stressed out. Your plant may experience some growth loss, turn yellow, or lose leaves during this transition period.
When transitioning your plant from regular potting soil to LECA, be sure to thoroughly rinse its roots. Doing so will prevent soil residue from adhering onto the roots and causing them to dry out.