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Leca is the acronym for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate and consists of clay balls that can be used instead of potting soil for certain indoor plants. Plants that thrive in Leca are those prone to root rot when overwatered, but it also depends on the rooting system.
The best plants for Leca are Monstera, orchids, Sansevieria, Alocasia, Spider plant, begonias, ZZ plants, Anthuriums, Peace Lily, Bromeliads, Peperomias, Burro’s tail, philodendrons, pineapple plants, Hoyas, syngoniums, Haworthia, and Ficus. Pitcher Plants and String of Pearls won’t do as well.
Leca doesn’t provide any nutrients, unlike soil, so you have to use liquid hydroponic fertilizers to feed your plants if they are growing in Leca.
Best Plants For Leca – Plants To Grow in Leca
It is a different way of growing plants and may take some practice. This article looks at some common indoor plants that thrive in Leca and some that may not.
Monstera is a large-leaved, indoor plant often recommended for beginners. It hates wet feet and gets root rot if the soil is waterlogged all the time.
Monstera thrives in Leca because:
- Water doesn’t accumulate around the plant’s roots, blocking them from getting the air they need
- Leca significantly diminishes the risk of overwatering and your Monstera contracting root rot because the clay balls swell as they absorb the moisture, leaving the roots relatively dry
- Monstera in leca, allows the roots to sip the water as they need it rather than being in constant contact with it
- Leca drains much better than soil and doesn’t get as wet
The water must be at the correct pH, so you need a test kit to ensure it is between 5.5 and 6.5. The roots should sit well above the lower third of the pot for best results because the lower third acts as the water reservoir.
Around seventy percent of orchids are epiphytes which means they grow on other plants, such as trees.
They absorb water from the moisture that collects in the forks of branches and the tree’s rough bark. Their roots are therefore exposed to the air above ground.
The orchid family is large and varied and includes Oncidiums, Phalaenopsis, Dendrobiums, and Cattleyas, and they can be sensitive to changes in pH.
While Leca is marketed as pH neutral, some orchid growers have observed that Leca significantly raises the pH in water, making it too alkaline.
Orchids in Leca – Orchids can be grown successfully in Leca because:
- The roots of epiphytic orchids are accustomed to being exposed to air and don’t like sitting in water, and the Leca allows air to circulate around them
- The roots are adapted to absorb moisture from the surfaces they grow on
- overwatering is much less likely with Leca
- Leca stores moisture for a while, so water will still be available even if you forget to water occasionally
Sansevieria – Snake Plant in Leca
Sansevieria, commonly known as snake plant, is a hardy indoor plant that must be judiciously watered.
It is great indoors as it tolerates all lighting conditions but does not like consistent overwatering as it is adapted for dry, drought conditions. This makes Leca ideal for Sansevieria.
Leca is an excellent growing medium for Sansevieria because:
- It keeps the roots away from the water while providing a ready and consistent supply as they need it
- It distributes the water evenly around the pot
- It allows air to circulate through the roots more freely, preventing root rot
- It provides excellent drainage, so the roots don’t stand in water
Alocasias have small rhizomes from which the roots protrude and sometimes also have tiny bulbs. The rhizomes and bulbs store water, so the plant does not respond well to overwatering because the Alocasia has its own reserves.
Alocasias in Leca – Alocasias are good in Leca because:
- Cleaning soil from the roots is easy when transferring them to Leca as they don’t have an extensive root system
- They are prone to spider mites but removing them is more straightforward when they are in Leca because you can rinse the entire plant thoroughly before applying neem oil to the leaves
- It is easier to monitor their roots for pests and diseases
- It is easier to avoid overwatering because you can just pour out the excess water
One Leca user reported that her Zebrina and Polly Alocasias were sick and had root rot which attracted insects.
She switched them to Leca, cleaned them every week to remove dead and unhealthy roots, and they made a full recovery and became typical healthy plants again.
Spider plants are hardy, fast-growing, thirsty, and easy to take care of. Their roots readily absorb water, so they can’t tolerate soggy soil for long periods and rot quickly.
They can be grown in just water, so they will also do well in the semi-hydroponic environment that Leca provides.
Spider plants in Leca – Spider plants grow well in Leca because:
- They don’t need much water, and the clay balls keep the water from making direct contact with the roots
- They like dry and porous soil, so Leca fits the bill
- they live mainly on the nutrients stored in their roots, so they don’t need a rich substrate full of nutrients to grow
- They like their substrate to dry out between waterings and will die if it is consistently waterlogged. Since the clay balls in Leca absorb water, they will keep the spider plants’ roots dry
- It is harder to underwater a spider plant with Leca because the balls store water longer than soil
Begonias do exceptionally well in Leca because it helps to ensure consistent access to water. Their succulent stems and rhizomes are susceptible to rot in soggy soil. They are frequently killed by overwatering, and the substrate must be allowed to dry out between watering.
Begonias that make the best houseplants have fibrous or rhizomatous root systems. They like humidity but are susceptible to fungi that thrive in wet environments.
Begonias in Leca – Begonias grow well in Leca because:
- The Leca keeps their roots moist but not wet
- Healthy air circulation around the roots significantly reduces the chances of root rot
- Leca takes longer to dry out than soil ensuring the plant has access to water when it needs it
- It reduces the risk of overwatering
- The base layer of Leca prevents the roots from sitting in water
Some people say that Pothos won’t do well in Leca because they will still be prone to root rot. Others say they do just fine in Leca, but you must still be careful about how much water you give them.
If the Leca doesn’t absorb enough water, Pothos may not thrive either, so it’s important not to locate the roots too far from the nutrient-laden water.
Pothos in Leca – Pothos may do well in Leca because:
- The clay balls allow a lot of oxygen to reach the roots, which is what Pothos needs
- Water drains away quickly from around the roots while still being available in the soaked clay balls
- Pothos is less likely to get root-rot in Leca
- Pothos are semi-epiphytes, so their roots need space to grow, and Leca provides this
- Transferring a pothos propagated in water to Leca is more manageable and causes less stress than planting it in soil
- There is no risk of the growing medium becoming too compacted
ZZ plants are slow-growing and have bulbs and thick roots that store water for the dry season.
This is, therefore, one plant that you absolutely must not overwater if it is to survive. It’s recommended for beginners because it does very well when somewhat neglected as it is more self-sufficient than other indoor plants.
ZZ plants in Leca – ZZ plants will grow well in Leca because:
- Their roots are susceptible to moisture levels and prefer a dry substrate. The Leca wicks the water away from the roots and contains it in the clay
- It is easier to avoid overwatering ZZ plants in Leca because you can see the water levels in the reservoir
- The roots are exposed to more air in Leca than in soil, which means root rot is less likely
Anthuriums are vulnerable to the risks posed by overwatering. Their natural environment is the trunks of trees that generally do not have standing water or soil.
They are adapted to fulfill their water needs by obtaining moisture from the air and the rainwater that runs down the tree.
Anthuriums in Leca – Anthuriums will grow well in Leca because:
- There is much more air circulation in Leca than in soil, and Anthurium naturally grows aerial roots
- The roots do not become drenched when grown in Leca as opposed to soil
- The dangers of overwatering are much lower as long as the roots are not in the reservoir because the plant can sip the water when it chooses
Peace Lilies don’t store much water and will rapidly inform you that they are thirsty as their leaves droop and wilt. They need to be kept moist, which can be tricky for a busy indoor gardener since constant monitoring is necessary.
To transfer a Peace Lily from soil to Leca, you will need to remove the dirt altogether and cut away some of the roots to do this if necessary.
Peace Lilies in Leca – Peace Lilies grow well in Leca because:
- It keeps the roots moist for longer without exposing them to excessive amounts of water
- The plant regulates its water uptake itself by drawing on the moisture in the clay balls only when it needs it
- It prevents overwatering
- It prevents the plant from drying out and wilting between waterings
Bromeliads are usually epiphytes and grow on tree trunks in the wild. They do well in shallow pots and low soil substrates such as orchid mix, a blend of sphagnum moss and bark, and are sometimes grown on logs or in moss only.
This makes Leca an ideal growing medium for Bromeliads since they are adapted to grow outside the soil.
When transplanted into Leca, their roots have to adjust and anchor themselves in the clay balls, so they can take some time to settle.
Bromeliads in Leca – Leca is suitable for Bromeliads because:
- It improves the humidity around their roots without drowning them in water.
- It allows air to circulate more freely through the roots.
- It doesn’t contain any nutrients, so a hydroponic fertilizer can be used to control nutrients better.
- Bromeliads are accustomed to growing in soil-less substrates
Peperomias don’t have large and complicated root systems, so it’s easy to overwater them in soil.
Their roots need air to breathe and absorb oxygen, and too much water prevents this, so they effectively drown. The roots quickly turn to mush if they are overwatered and are vulnerable to bacterial infection.
Peperomias in Leca grows well because:
- It doesn’t harbor harmful micro-organisms that can attach the roots
- Leca doesn’t decay or rot
- It allows air to circulate so the roots can absorb all the oxygen they need
- Their stems and broad leaves store water, so the plant doesn’t need a lot of it
- You don’t have to water them that often and are better positioned to gauge how much water to give them.
Burro’s Donkey Tail
Burro’s tail or donkey tail is a succulent that stores water in its thick fleshy leaves. It likes gritty, well-drained soil and warm temperatures to thrive. It needs a moist, not wet substrate, and overwatering will kill it.
Donkey tail in Leca – Leca works well for Burro’s Tail because:
- It keeps the roots moist for longer without saturating them with water
- It isn’t nutrient-rich, and feeding can therefore be better controlled
- Burro’s tail needs plenty of air around its roots which Leca readily provides
- Leca prevents overwatering to a significant degree
- The clay balls wick excess moisture away
Branching Philodendrons adapt better to Leca than the trailing ones. Examples of branching Philodendrons are Prince of Orange, Pink Princess, and Jungle Boogie. Examples of trailing Philodendrons are Rio, Brazil, Heartleaf, and Philodendron Micans.
Philodendrons like well-draining substrates, and their leaves droop if they get too much or too little water.
Philodendrons in Leca – Philodendrons do well in Leca because:
- The water is kept below the level of the roots
- The clay balls offer structure and help the roots access plenty of oxygen
- Access to water is more consistent in Leca than in soil
- Leca eliminates fungus gnats that can harm the plant
Pineapple plants do well in hydroponic systems and semi-hydroponics such as Leca. They require well-drained soil and are drought-tolerant, so they don’t do well when waterlogged.
Their substrate must be kept moist, and they need nitrogen for proper fruit development.
Pineapple plants in Leca – Pineapple plants grow well in Leca because:
- It keeps the roots moist but not waterlogged
- It allows for more controlled feeding so you can ensure the plant gets all the nutrients it needs by using a water-soluble fertilizer
- The nutrients are more easily accessible to the roots than in soil
- The plant develops faster
Syngoniums, also known as arrow-head vines, require more frequent watering but need well-draining soil. The substrate must dry out between waterings, but if it stays too dry for too long, the leaves start turning brown, so they require a consistent, balanced water supply.
Syngoniums are epiphytes which means their roots need good air circulation.
These characteristics of Syngoniums make them ideal plants for Leca because:
- Leca doesn’t dry out as fast as soil but still provides steady, consistent access to water
- Leca prevents the roots from standing in water for extended periods, diminishing the risk of root rot
- Leca balls allow much more air to circulate around the rootball than soil does
- You can more easily monitor the water level when watering a Syngonium in Leca
Hoyas are also epiphytes which means that in the wild, they grow on trees. Their roots require a lot of oxygen but not too many nutrients.
Hoyas grow faster the higher the humidity, but they don’t need high humidity when planted in Leca.
Hoya in Leca – The advantages of planting Hoya in Leca are:
- Leca allows the plant to regulate its water supply by only absorbing water when it needs to
- You don’t have to keep monitoring the moisture levels in the substrate and water only when it has dried out because Leca balls hold water better than soil
- You can safely water the plant according to your own routine rather than trying to follow the plant’s routine because the Leca acts as a barrier between the roots and excess water
- You can quickly examine the Hoya’s roots for root rot and clip off the sick ones
- Hoya quickly grows water roots if you cut off the roots that grew in the potting soil
- It maintains a better balance between oxygen and water than soil
Haworthia is a drought-tolerant succulent that stores water in its leaves. It therefore needs very little water, and the potting soil must be allowed to dry out between waterings.
If the leaves start to yellow, this is a sign of overwatering and root rot, while if the leaf tips are red or brown, this is a sign of underwatering.
Leca is ideal for Haworthia because:
- It keeps the roots away from the water while wicking it from the reservoir up towards them
- It promotes airflow to the roots making them grow faster and healthier
- It reduces the risk of overwatering and root rot
- It eliminates plant stress due to nutrient and water imbalances
When growing Haworthia in Leca, the pot should have drainage holes on the sides, two or three centimetres from the base, so the reservoir can’t rise too high.
You will have to flush the clay pellets with clean water to remove any accumulated salts every month before adding liquid fertilizer.
There’s a vast range of plants in the Euphorbia family ranging from the size of small weeds to shrubs and trees.
There are around two thousand species, some of which are succulents or have sharp spines and resemble cacti. As houseplants, Euphorbias need well-drained soil and plenty of light.
Crown of Thorns is often grown indoors and produces beautiful flowers. When growing succulent euphorbias in Leca, you water them the same way you would if they grow in soil rather than topping up the reservoir.
Some types of euphorbia may grow well in Leca because:
- It reduces the risk of being overwatered
- They need a well-draining substrate
- They need a good amount of air circulation around their roots
- They don’t like wet feet
- Leca reduces plant pests
Ficus plants are sensitive to overwatering and underwatering, so Leca is an ideal growth medium for them.
Ficus in Leca – Leca is suitable for ficus because:
- It allows the plant to effectively self-regulate, only using water when it needs it
- Ensures easy access to water without saturating the roots
- Eliminates the risk of root rot and decay
- Makes it easy to water them because you can use a water gauge
Acts as a barrier between the roots and the water reservoir
Senecio plants, commonly known as ‘String or Pearls’ or ‘String of Bananas’, depending on which type you have, grow on the ground in their natural environment.
They need very little water, and some say that you shouldn’t grow Senecio plants in Leca because their growth will be slowed right down, and the plant may even become dormant.
Because the delicate leaves and stems hold on to water, they dispense it throughout the plant as and when needed, so the plant has its own tiny water reservoirs.
It doesn’t need the water reservoir provided by Leca, and it would be better to grow them in healthy potting soil.
Pitcher plants, or Nepenthes, are carnivorous and get most of their nutrients from insects.
These plants typically grow in wetlands, so they are accustomed to bog-like conditions. If you grow Pitcher plants in Leca, you shouldn’t add any rich hydroponic fertilizer solutions such as you would for other plants because Pitcher plants don’t grow in nutrient-rich media.
Pitcher plants can grow in Leca, but you take your chances. People have reported mixed results, saying some Nepenthes seem to thrive while others don’t.
The clay balls may wick away too much moisture from the roots and root hairs, or people kill them with hydroponic fertilizers that are too rich.
Leca For Plants Conclusion
Most indoor plants do well in Leca, but a few such as Pothos, Pitcher plants, and String of Pearls may not.
Plants in Leca significantly eliminates problems with overwatering, insect pests, and underwatering and stays moist longer than soil, making watering easier.