LECA: An Easy Guide To Growing Plants In It

Sometimes, no matter what we do, our houseplants just seem to wilt and die.

Maybe the climate of your native region is too hot, maybe you just can’t get the watering right, or maybe no matter what you do flies, pests, and fungi seem to get into the soil and destroy all that you have worked hard for.

LECA: An Easy Guide To Growing Plants In It

It is a fine line and in some cases that line will be crossed and there is nothing that you can do to stop it.

However, there may be a way to help yourself out and to make it easier for you to grow houseplants without having to change the entire ecosystem of your home.

Growing houseplants in LECA may be the way forward, but what is LECA? And why should you use it for your plants?

In this article, we will give you the lowdown on this substance and why it could help you overcome your houseplant problems.

LECA: What Is It?

So, the word LECA is actually an acronym, and it means ‘Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate’. These are basically a kind of clay pebble that is a semi-hydroponic growing medium.

They are normally used to help grow houseplants that would otherwise use other vegetation as a construct to grow on in the wild, like orchids and various vines.

These plants would still need a type of soil or ground surface, but are normally not as attached to the traditional soils.

LECA pebbles are great for beginners to the houseplant gardening game, as they take away a lot of the problems normally associated with growing plants, especially when it comes to a watering schedule.

Due to their non-compactable nature, they provide a lot of aeration throughout the root system, however they are able to absorb quite a lot of moisture without it pooling, meaning that the plants can drink without the worry of them developing root rot.

LECA can be found in almost all garden centers, stores, or even online for a relatively cheap price.

Why Are LECA Pebbles So Good To Use?

While it may seem like an odd choice to go with pebbles over traditional soil, there are quite a number of reasons why they may be a better choice and help your houseplants thrive.

To start off with, plants that are grown with LECA pebbles instead of traditional soil tend to have a healthier start in life, as the better airflow provides more oxygen to the roots of the plant.

This makes them less susceptible to root rot, as bacteria are not able to congregate in the pools that can form in wet soil, as well as fungal infections.

It is also better for stopping insects and pests from gaining a foothold on the plant, as there is no soil to lay their eggs or to hide in.

The maintenance of plants grown in LECA is also quite a bit easier than those grown in soil itself.

This is because LECA is easier to remove plants from, and so you can replant them when they get too big and simply add more water to reinvigorate them in a new environment.

As stated earlier, they are perfect for those who may have less than perfect watering schedules.

They will not hold too much moisture, so root rot won’t be an issue, but they will still retain water within their husks and slowly leak it out, keeping the plant hydrated.

They can also be looked through and into with great ease, making them perfect for monitoring your plants and seeing if they need more water or less water and whether they are growing in a healthy manner.

LECA pebbles tend to have a very high rate at which struggling plants, that may have root-rot or some other condition, have been revived through the use of LECA pebbles.

The reason for this is mainly because the plant only has to react to one or two problems, rather than other problems like invasive pests.

Pests find it difficult to get a foothold when a plant is embedded in LECA, which can also save the person from using pest control measures.

The best part about LECA is that it is a stable growing method. When you buy a pre-made or mass-produced bag of compost or soil, there is always a chance that there is something wrong with it.

This could be that mold has taken a foothold in the soil or that pests have managed to breed within the bag.

This isn’t a problem with LECA at all, since it is sterile and very stable.

Once you have finished using LECA for a plant, you can actually reuse the LECA again for a different plant.

It will not need to be laid low or left to fallow like other soils, you can instead just pick it up and use it again, because the nutrients within it aren’t what makes it important to the plant.

Problems With Using LECA

Now, with all that said, LECA still has a few problems that you might find in other soils.

The big one is expense. LECA pebbles are very expensive and even when they aren’t, you are probably only getting a small bag for them.

In the end, you will probably be paying a lot more money over time for LECA when you could 5 times as much in soil.

The other big problem with LECA is the nutrients within it. We said earlier that this made it good, as it could be used over and over again.

The problem is that LECA has basically no nutrients within it whatsoever.

It is essentially what sweetener is to sugar, it resembles the taste and has none of the cons, but none of the benefits either.

As such, you will have to buy and use fertilizer fairly regularly if you place your plants in LECA instead of soil, if you do not want your plants to die.

LECA pebbles are also only really good for growing smaller plants and plant systems.

This may seem odd, but the thing about LECA pebbles is that the supplements can only guarantee a healthy plant for smaller plants, because they need watering and feeding less.

Bigger plants need feeding and watering constantly, which they can get from potting soil and the earth around them.

This is the same with specialized plants, like acidic soil loving plants, as they need special requirements that they cannot get from solely adding fertilizer and watering.

Best Plants To Use With LECA

With that said, there are still a great many plants that do grow in LECA and even thrive in it.

LECA An Easy Guide To Growing Plants In It (1)

The ones that love LECA the most are the ones that have a fast-growing root system, but there are quite a few others.

These plants are:

  • Aloe.
  • Bromeliads.
  • Coleus.
  • Ferns.
  • Hoyas.
  • Orchids.
  • Monsteras.
  • Snake Plants.
  • Spider plants.

We will go through a couple of these plants and discuss why they love LECA, so you can get a grasp about the types of plants that enjoy these clay pebbles.

Bromeliads have a very quick growing and moving root system that doesn’t require much watering.

Since LECA pebbles can be moved easily, have lots of airflow, and retain water but don’t let it pool, these fit the profile for Bromeliads well.

Orchids are similar to Bromeliads in this sense and actually can recover if they are suffering once placed into a pot with LECA pebbles.

Conversely, ferns are a plant that do well in any kind of damp or moist climate and soil. Since LECA pebbles can hold onto water without turning the pot into a quagmire, they are good for ferns.

However, it is advisable that you place LECA pebbles on the bottom of the pot, with soil taking up the top half for ferns.

It allows the pot to stay moist, without sacrificing the nutrients of the soil.

If you have plants that have delicate root systems or very short root systems, then it might be best to give LECA pebbles a miss.

The pebbles can cause damage or just not provide enough for these types of plants.

Preparing And Using LECA Pebbles

Before you use these types of pebbles for your houseplants, there are a few things that you must do first:

Wash The Pebbles

LECA pebbles come in a fairly dusty state and if you put them in as is you will find the pot blocked up with clay silt which can stop drainage and kill your plant.

Therefore, you should take them outside and thoroughly wash your pebbles.

You can do this by placing them in a pot with small drainage holes at the bottom, then rinsing them under a facet.

This will allow the silt to leave through the holes, and you can vigorously move them with your hands under the water.

Cleaning them will also get rid of any hardy bacteria that has managed to cling on to the pebbles. You should then soak the pebbles in a bucket of water for at least 6 hours before using them.

Choose A Double Pot

If you want to get the best benefit from the pebbles, you should place a nursery pot with drainage holes inside a cachepot without them.

The nursery pot should only go about two-thirds of the way down into the cachepot.

The drainage holes in the nursery pot are necessary for the plant to not become waterlogged, but the cachepot underneath stops water leaking all over your floor or wherever you put the pot in your house.

Put a layer of LECA into the pot, until it reaches halfway or up to two-thirds of the way up the pot.

Then place your chosen plant in the pot and fill in the gaps with more LECA, until it reaches the brim. Finally, water the plant to about a third of the way up the pot.

When doing this, make sure to monitor and maintain the pot regularly, as LECA can still become too dry or too wet, depending on your watering schedule.

Fertilize The Plant

As mentioned, LECA pebbles don’t have any of their own nutrients, and so it is extremely important to add your own fertilizer.

Do this at least once a month during fall and winter, and often in spring and summer (during the growing season).

If you do not do this, your plant may become stunted, start to wilt, and then eventually die as a result.

Soil And LECA Combined

Some plants struggle with LECA, while some struggle with soil. It may be best to go for a happy medium and create a layer of LECA on the bottom and a layer of soil on the top.

We mentioned this earlier for ferns, but it can be done with multiple different plants as well.

A good plant to do this with is an immature monstera.

They are a plant that like good aeration, lots of nutrients, and a constant flow of water, but they also don’t like being wet and are susceptible to root rot.


Therefore, having soil on the top providing nutrients and stability, with LECA pebbles on the bottom providing moisture and aeration is the perfect combination.

Length Of Time It Takes Plants To Grow In LECA

Normally, growing plants in LECA takes around the same time as growing plants in soil, between one and four months in total, though this can depend on the plant itself and the size of the plant you are growing, as well as the environment and climate around the plant as it is growing.

Climate, humidity, light, water, nutrients, pests, disease, all these factors can affect your plant’s growth and how quickly it will grow given the circumstances.

While we stressed that growing plants in LECA has many benefits, most of those benefits are in fact for the growers themselves, not the plant.

LECA basically makes it easier for you to monitor and control your plant’s growth, but it can still be affected by a great many things that you also have to keep an eye out for.

If you do not, then your plant will grow no better than it did in other growing mediums.


LECA is a great substitute for those who are new to growing houseplants or who want to monitor houseplants more closely.

However, it should not be seen as a growing medium to completely replace soil.

It should instead be seen as a growing medium alongside soil, that can be used to turn your house from a barren place to a beautiful menagerie of plant life.

Amy Enrich