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It doesn’t seem like that long ago that everyone was leaving soil in the dirt (geddit? Dirt/soil?) and moving onto leca.
Leca was LIFE CHANGING. No pests! No overwatering! Yay!
As it turns out, it’s not *quite* that simple. I have an article on soil vs leca here and it’s very much a matter of preference rather than one being better than the other. Leca is more set it and forget it, but the whole ‘setting it’ part can be a fucking nightmare.
Then pon turned up. Pon is a product made by Lechuza, designed to be used with their pots.
I have a big bag of Pon at my feet, which I’d show you a picture of but my phone can’t see my computer (IT’S RIGHT HERE)
OOO I fixed it (turned the Bluetooth on and off again)
Here we go:
I’m obsessed with the lies on the bag of the bag:
Ok, they don’t lie, but there’s definitely a bit of omission here. Sure, perhaps pon is the perfect alternative to conventional soil, but also it’s used in an entirely different way (read this article about leca if you’re not sure how, because it’s v similar).
Should you simply water pon like you do soil, you’d just end up wasting a tonne of water.
I suppose it’s the same as the shower method of leca, but if you’ve been here a while you’ll already know my thoughts on the shower method (i.e. that it’s a ballache and poops all over a lot of the advantages of using leca in the first place).
What’s the difference between leca and Pon?
Leca is cheaper
This isn’t a ‘they’re the same but one is cheaper thing’. They’re pretty different. Pon is worth the price for some people, but if budget is a concern, go for leca. I got 6l of pon for about £15, I’d probably get three times as much leca for the same amount.
They have different structures
Pon tends to be smaller and more irregular in shape, though you can get micro leca if you have, for example, a decent hydroponics store nearby.
Smaller particles can help roots establish stronger roots systems.
Pon has built-in fertiliser
Probs one of the reasons it’s more expensive. This is great for the majority of people because it’s one less thing to think about, but if you have a fertilising regime you prefer or water with aquarium water, it might be better considering something more inert.
Advantages of LECA
- Leca is cheap
It’s also easily available. You can get smallish (5l) bags from Ikea, but you can also get it from Amazon. Prices vary a lot, so it’s worth checking a few sellers. There can be a bit of variation between colour and size. Very round, red balls are the norm, but I got some grey, really irregular stuff that my Pothos LOVE.
There are various advantages/disadvantages with regards to size and shape but they’re not significant enough to influence my decision – I always just pick the cheapest!
- There’s a lot of info out there
Semi-hydro is one of those things that seems incredibly overwhelming (and expensive) when you first start reading up on it.
At first, you’re like ‘no bugs? No overwatering? SIGN ME UP.’
And then, when you realise that there’s all the gumph like nutrients and super thrive (which both is and isn’t a nutrient depending on who you ask – I consider it a multi-vitamin; helpful but also not the same as food) and pH levels.
And THEN you realise that whoever told you that leca means no bugs or overwatering was a LIAR.
SO you consider giving up. And then you realise that it’s been six months since you gave your plants any nutrients and they’re thriving.
I like to watch a tonne of videos, freak out, and then pick my battles (I do nutrients, but ignore pH). It works for me!
- It’s inert
There is no nutritional content in leca (I feel like the grammar there is atrocious, but you know what I mean), meaning you can add whatever fertiliser you like.
This is great for people who love to micromanage things like blooming OR for people that want to set a schedule (like fertilising every six weeks) and not have to worry about organic matter (especially after repotting) causing an influx of nutrition and causing problems.
Advantages of Pon
- It’s better at regulating water than leca
Pon is made of pumice and zeolite, both of which are fancy alternatives to perlite (which is another option if you cba with leca or pon). They’re really good at absorbing and releasing water.
According to the back of the packet pon ‘perfectly controls the water supply’. Feels like a lie, but sure.
- Pon is heavier than leca
I’m sure there’s sciencey reason for this being better for plants, but personally, I find leca a bit of nightmare when it comes to flying everywhere.
The fact it’s round and likes to roll under the sofa is another issue. Pon is more like fine gravel, and is less likely to fly around and roll off under things.
It also sounds less horrific when you vacuum it up.
Yes, I have tried vacuuming up leca. The vacuum cleaner overreacted a LOT and sounded like it was dying. I still on insist on hoovering up errant leca balls.
In the same vein, leca will help to weigh down outdoor pots. Leca will not, and will make a mess when the pot inevitably falls over.
- Plants transition better into pon then leca
I’ve never had an issue transferring plants to leca (and I’m not great at removing soil from roots) BUT a lot of people say that you don’t even need to really clean the roots off when you’re converting to pon.
You can just shake off the excess soil and get on with it.
There isn’t a lot of info on this topic (I’ve just been trawling Facebook groups and subreddits) BUT a lot of people are saying that it depends on how you care for your plants.
Leca suits me, because I like to use a water reservoir, Pon apparently is better for the shower method.
Interesting, considering pon was developed for self-watering pots BUT remember that pon is usually sold as a layer to separate the soil and the water reservoir, rather than a substrate in it’s own right.
I have some pon and it’s…fine. But I’m not blown away by it particularly.
To be honest, I feel the same way about leca. I had planned to transition all my plants to leca, but have kind of abandoned that. Not because leca is bad, but because soil is…fine.
The risk of transitioning isn’t outweighed by the benefits of semi-hydro, so it seems a bit pointless. I may change my mind yet, but currently, I’m happy with soil.
I think it’s one of those things that you should try if you fancy giving something different a go BUT, like leca, it’s not going to instantly make plant care 1000 times easier.