The Beginner’s Guide To LECA: Pros & Cons + FAQs

Wanting to convert to growing houseplants in LECA, but not sure whether it’s worth your while? Here’s my handy beginner’s guide! I’ll show you everything from prep to maintenance. Affiliate links in post.

Hello, beautiful people, and welcome back to my corner of the web. I hope you are all feeling fabulous today – you sure look it, you wondrous creature! Why, yes, I am in a fantastic mood today. And it’s all down to LECA. Today, is part one of my beginner’s guide to LECA where we cover the pros and cons of using it over soil.

Have you ever struggled to keep houseplants alive? Chronically overwatering or underwatering them? Or are you just bloody sick of fungus gnats? I have just the thing.

It’s no secret that I love plants. I’ve talked about my passion many times on this blog. Shared plant tours, DIY-ed greenhouses and even painted plant pots with you all.

However, today’s post is less about the aesthetics and more about the mechanics. Because, while growing plants is a rewarding and relaxing hobby, nobody said it was an easy one!

That being said, I have recently tried a growing medium that makes caring for my houseplants a ton easier . . . so, without further ado, let me share a beginner’s guide to LECA with you all!

WHAT IS LECA?

LECA is an acronym for lightweight expanded clay aggregate. Essentially, it’s a medium for growing plants hydroponically. LECA comes in little clay balls that retain moisture and slowly release it to your plant’s roots.

It’s important to note that LECA is literally just clay; it holds no nutritional value for your plants. This means, if you use it, you need to manually supplement the nutrients your plants need.

WHY IS LECA USEFUL FOR PLANTS?

There are so many benefits to using LECA for your houseplants!

  • Less/no fungus gnats. Fungas gnats are typically attracted to rotting and moist soil – well, with LECA your roots shouldn’t be rotting and there’s no soil! Great for reducing the annoying gnats in your home – and for the health of your plants. In fact, this goes for pests of most kinds! No soil = no home.
  • It’s easier to avoid over-watering – so root rot be gone! My biggest struggle with plants is over and under watering. Using moisture meters is handy (especially with established plants)
  • Higher cutting success rate. You guys know that my partner and I propagate rare plants as a little side hustle. The transition from cutting to plant can be so tricky. Largely because the root developed in moss (which is a water root) needs to convert to soil. With LECA, there’s none of this hassle. The water root just . . . keeps developing. It’s fabulous.
  • You can keep an eye on your roots. One of the things that truly breaks my heart with plants is that sometimes . . . you just don’t know that there’s an issue until there’s an issue. And it’s pretty much always root rot. With LECA, your plant’s roots are always clearly visible, so you can monitor their health and make any condition changes necessary.

SHOULD I USE LECA OR SOIL?

Honestly, it’s all up to your personal preference! For plants I’ve grown from cuttings, I now solely use LECA. However, when I buy plants from nurseries and online, I’m happy to keep them in soil rather than transitioning.

I personally find LECA easier to manage than soil (more in that in a second!) so high-value plants I tend to use LECA for. But remember: use whatever growing medium you find the easiest.

IS LECA EASIER THAN SOIL?

This is tricky to answer because it really depends on the person.

For me personally, it’s definitely easier. Like I mentioned, we propagate and sell rare plants so my biggest challenge has always been the conversion of cuttings from sphagnum moss to soil. LECA has totally fixed that.

Plus, it takes all the guess work out of watering and cuts down maintenance time pretty significantly. You definitely don’t have to top up the water for plants in LECA too frequently!

That being said, there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to mastering LECA – and a few drawbacks to be aware of.

THE CONS OF LECA

  • The start-up costs. When growing plants in soil, typically you have no costs other than the plant itself! With LECA, you need the medium itself, special hydroponic fertiliser and tubs for cleaning/soaking if you don’t already have any.
  • Setting it up can be a chore. I’ll cover this more in another post, but the set-up process for LECA is by no means quick. I cleanse and soak LECA balls for days before using them.
  • You need special hydroponic fertiliser. I touched on this above, but LECA balls have none of the nutrients soil does. This means you need to supplement it – and not just with your standard fertiliser. Again, this is a cost and an extra bit of effort that goes into growing plants in the medium.

WHAT DO I NEED TO START WITH LECA?

Has reading this post left you with a niggle of excitement? Awesome. To get started with LECA, all you need is:

  • LECA balls
  • Hydroponic fertiliser
  • Pots without drainiage holes
  • (Optional) Mesh bags for cleaning the balls
  • (If you don’t already have something suitable at home) A small tub you can use to soak the balls in water

CAN I TRANSITION PLANTS FROM SOIL TO LECA?

You absolutely can! Personally, I don’t bother with transitioning plants to LECA unless I’m having issues with them in soil, but you definitely can. Here’s a handy tutorial on the process.

Alright, my loves, we shall end at the end! I realise this post is pushing the 1,000 wordcount mark – so I will let you all get back to your lives. Go outside, feel the sun on your face.

Oh – while you’re here, make sure to check out my latest Youtube video!

I hope you found this post helpful. If you’re intrigued by LECA, remember that this is the first part of a series . . . . so I will be sharing more tips soon! Would you give this a crack yourself? Have you ever grown houseplants in LECA before? Let me know your thoughts down below,

Peace,

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23 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide To LECA: Pros & Cons + FAQs”

  1. Hey Mia, this has got to be one of the most comprehensive guides to Leca I have ever seen! You already know that I’m a major plant nerd, and I mix my own potting media as well. I’ve never tried Leca before, but it’s one of the more controversial choices over here because of how water retaining it is. What you’ve shared here interests me, and I just might give it a go!

    Also, I heard about the earthquake in Melbourne this morning. Hope you and your loved ones are safe!

    1. Hey Ming, thanks for reading! I hope you’re keeping well. It’s always lovely to see your name pop up! 🙂 & I never considered that aspect of LECA before – I’ve not noticed my LECA going through too much water (other than the initial soak, definitely less than weekly watering). Let me know if you ever try it, I would love to know your thoughts!

      I appreciate that! We’re all good over here – a brief power loss, but it gave me a few hours off work so I’m not complaining! 😀

  2. I’ve never heard of LECA but to be fair we don’t have many houseplants, our focus is all on our garden and orchard. This was such an interesting read though, and definitely useful for friends who struggle with gnats and root rot – thank you, Mia, really helpful! x

  3. Hello Mia! First of, I am so sorry about the earthquake that happened in Melbourne. I hope you and all your loved ones are safe. This is my first time hearing of LECA but this was an interesting post. At the moment, I don’t have any houseplant (that’s terrible I know lol) but I’ll definitely put this into consideration when I get some.

    1. Thank you so much, Ruthie 🙂 Don’t worry – we’re all good over here, but I really appreciate the check in! I’m glad you found this interesting – if you do ever try LECA, feel free to shoot me any questions!

  4. This is such an informative post! I love plants but often struggle with keeping them alive and worrying about pests. I definitely want to try LECA since it’s so much easier to manage. I really appreciate the list of cons. Knowing these things beforehand is super helpful and it doesn’t discourage you from trying something new. Thanks for sharing Mia!

  5. This was so interesting! I’d never heard of LECA before this. I am just starting a little plant collection as I’ve moved to a brighter rental and feel they might have a chance at survival. Though I’m horrible at keeping plants alive because I forget to water them…then I over water to compensate. This clay alternative sounds like it might help me with that. I’m interested in reading the other posts you make about them 🙂

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