Transferring Houseplants From LECA to Soil

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There are times in your life when it’s necessary to transfer a plant back from leca to soil.

It could be that a plant has gotten too big, and it’s difficult to flush it and change out nutrient water.

Perhaps, as it turns out, you and semi-hydro didn’t gel.

I’ve transferred a few plants back to soil from leca, all for the same reason. I had a plant in soil and took a cutting. I propagated that cutting in leca, and there it remained until I decided that it would better as one big, bushy plant, or I was trying to reduce the overall plant numbers by consolidating as many as I could.

I do know how to transfer from leca to soil properly. I have also never done it. I’ve simply whacked the leca plant back into soil and hoped it would be ok. And it has been! Every time!


  • We need a nice spot for the plant to recover in.

Change of any type of abhorrent to plants, but we need a premium spot for the plant to recuperate it – somewhere bright (direct/indirect depending on the plant), warm and humid.

Moving the plant after the transfer can induce shock, even if the spot is better than it was before, o to reduce the chance of this happening, move the plant into the new spot a couple of weeks before you transfer it over.

  • Reduce watering

If the plant has a reservoir, empty it a week before transplanting. If it gets showered, er, don’t the week before.

Dehydrating the roots a little makes them more likely to grow into the soil, and forces them to toughen up (literally, the outer sheath of the root will dry up and be a little sturdier)

Step 1 – Prepare the new pot and soil

I believe my success in putting the plant straight back into soil from leca and praying was helped by the fact that I, not wanting to find a spot in which to put my old leca, simply mixed all the potting mix together, so about a third of the potting mix was leca.

You can certainly add leca to your soil – it’s a great way to keep the soil aerated and stops you from potentially wasting old leca, but it’s not necessary.

What is important is making sure you have a very well-oxygenated soil mix. Plants that have been in leca are used to getting a lot of air to the roots, and they’re more susceptible to root rot in soil than soil plants.

This is especially important if you’re switching hydroponically grown plants (like from an Aerogarden). If you just whack them straight into conventional outside soil they’ll dry up before your very eyes. You need a very airy potting mix and a LOT of water.

Make sure you use a pot that’s only very slightly bigger than the root ball of the plant. You want the soil to dry out quickly, but then to make sure you wet it again pretty sharpish. It can seem like a lot of water at first, but as the roots transition, it’ll go back to normal.

A clear pot would be ideal, because you’ll be able to see the roots easily BUT I would keep it in an opaque cachepot because roots do prefer to be in dark. It probably makes very little difference, but every little helps.

Step 2 – Move the plant across

I don’t remove the leca that’s stuck to the roots. I try not to break up roots at all if I can help it. It reduces the chance of the plant going into shock and helps ease the transition from leca to soil.

The key is to be as gentle as possible.

Step 3 – Water it thoroughly

I tend to moisten the soil before I put the plant in and then use a pressure sprayer thing (I don’t know the real name – one of these) to thoroughly soak the top.

Not only does it moisten the soil without saturating it (we want it to dry out quickly to maximise oxygen) but it doesn’t blast soil and roots everywhere. I also feel like a professional gardener when I’m using it.

You need to keep on top of the watering. Let the soil dry out, and then moisten it again. Ideally, it’ll be drying out in under a week. This allows a lot oxygen to get to the roots, but you’re not letting the plant get too dry.

Step 4 – Put it in an optimal position

Make sure it’s in a warm, humid, bright spot. Don’t significantly increase the light if you don’t want the leaves to burn, but make sure it’s in a premium spot. The plant is going through a pretty shocking experience and we don’t want it to be shocked in any other way.

As I mentioned in the beginning, move the plant to this spot a couple of weeks before transplanting to allow it to acclimate a bit.

Step 5 – Keep a close eye on the roots

Or, the whole plant.

Some of the roots will die – that’s inevitable and pretty normal. You may also get a bit of leaf loss, but in my experience it’s not as bad as transferring from soil to leca.

Plants in shock are prime targets for pests, so check it everyday, just in case. Cleaning the leaves with a dry microfibre every day is also helpful – it not only reduces the chance of pests and keeps dust at bay BUT the main benefit is you spending time with the plant and noticing any small changes.

When is the best time to switch from leca to soil?

I think the best time to make any big changes like this is the spring, around May when it starts to warm up. Not only are conditions more favourable for growing, but the plant has the whole of the growing season to get established and recover from its ordeal.

Final thoughts

in my experience, plants are pretty happy to go back to soil from leca – Hoya, in particular, don’t seem to care at all. My Krinkle 8 isn’t putting out the same amount of growth as the one that was in soil all along, but it’s…fine.

I put it in a north-facing window because my other Hoya LOVE it there, and that seemed the best marker of where would suit it best.

I recently shifted my Philodendron Golden Dragon propagation back in with his dad, Smaug, and I did a POOR job of it. I just dumped the plant and the leca in the pot (there was a decent gap at the top) because I wanted to test my theory that plants are happy to go from leca to soil with no fuss. I’ll update when some new growth happens (or doesn’t, as the case may be).

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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