Which Houseplants Like LECA?

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THEORETICALLY there’s no reason that all plants couldn’t be kept in leca. But of course, anything house plant-related is rarely that straight forward…

Can you put succulents and cacti in leca?

Before I learned how growing plants in a semi-hydroponic system worked, I assumed that you couldn’t grow succulents that way. They’d rot, surely?

Buuuut, if you do it correctly, there’s no reason that you couldn’t sucessfully transition succulents to leca.

I’m not saying it’ll be easy. It probably won’t. I wouldn’t recommend starting with a succulent – maybe something that can handle a little more moisture, like Syngoniums (I only say that because I think they’re pretty easy when it comes to cleaning the roots and mine are THRIVING in leca.

You may wonder how you can possibly grow succulents in leca. Surely the roots would end up taking too much moisture and would rot.

There are essentially two different methods of keeping plants in leca. There’s the regular method, where you have a water reesrvoir in the bottom of a cachepot, and the shower method.

What on earth is the shower method?

There’s a lot of confusion about the famous shower method, but basically, you don’t have water reservoir for your plants. Instead, you wait until they start showing signs of thirst, and water them as required. And you just water them as normal – until water starts coming out of the bottom, so go slowly, so that the leca has a chance to absorb the water.

Can you grow snake plants and Hoya in leca?

If you eventually want to transfer all your plants to leca, then Hoya and snake plants can be a good place to practice before going onto your succulents.

They’re still plants that like to completely dry out BUT they’re pretty good at getting wrinkly leaves so you can tell when they’re thirsty pretty easily.

I believe that it’s perfectly possible to use the water reservoir method when it comes to growing hoya and snake plants in leca, but it’s recommended that you don’t put a reservoir in (and therefore use the shower method) until you’re sure the plant is growing its water roots well.

Can you grow Calathea and ferns in leca?

You’d think that plants that like to be damp would LOVE to live in leca, where they can get a drink whenever they like, but they can actually be a bit of pain to transfer. Many of these plants have very fine roots which are hard to clean without doing a lot of damage.

I would avoid transitioning these plants until you have a few less challenging plants under your belt.

That being said, I’ve had *fairly* good results with marantas in leca. I can’t really post a picture (mainly because it’s 16.25 in November in the UK so it’s super dark) because both currently look like hell. One of them doesn’t actually have any leaves.

I was bullied into transferring my marantas because they had terrible thrips, and they’re so much easier to shower (my preferred method of pest removal) when they’re in leca.

They’re actually looking better than they were in soil (and are growing new, albeit teeny, leaves. So yes, they look like crap now, but not nearly as bad as they did before.

If you’re struggling to care for your Calathea, then moving them to leca can make this a LOT easier, though transition can be a pain. I have a whole guide to caring for Calathea in leca here.

Can you grow Pothos in leca?

The first plant I ever transferred into leca was a Marble Queen pothos and it is LOVING life. It truly is. But the reason I singled out pothos is that there’s an AMAZING channel on YouTube (Pretty in Plants – check out here) and the lady that runs that channel has terrible trouble with switching over pothos.

I also have my Philodendron hastatum, golden dragon, and Rhapidophora tetrasperma cuttings in leca and they’re doing great. I actually have a little shoot on my Golden Dragon, which is VERY exciting.

philodendron golden dragon cutting in leca

How can you tell if a plant would thrive in leca?

You can’t really.

In general, plants with more sturdy roots are easier to transition. The roots are easier to clean, which means they can absorb more oxygen, which reduces the chance of them getting root rot.

It’s probably worth bearing in mind that most of the plants I’ve switched to leca (if not all of them) were in a pretty airy soil mix before I took them out (there’s a recipe for it here) so it was quite easy for me to wash the roots.

Which is great, because I’m NOT the most patient person when it comes to delicate tasks like washing roots. I don’t like the phrase ‘if I can do it, you can too’, but I really do believe it’s the case in this instance.

Can you put large plants with moss poles in leca?

Yes you can, but it’s not as straightforward as putting them in soil. Leca isn’t as sturdy, so it’s pretty difficult to keep the moss pole straight.

I haven’t tried putting any of my be-moss poled plants into leca, but i think my Monstera will be making the switch next year.

One way to overcome this problem is to attach your moss pole to the bottom/side of the planter. The downside is that it’ll mean getting a new pole when it’s time to increase the size of the pot, BUT you don’t need to repot as often with leca, since you can just rearrange the roots.

If your plant is able to live without a pole, you could let it get established, and then insert the moss pole. The roots of the plant will help keep the moss pole straight. I’m not convinced that this would result in a perfectly straight moss pole, so I think I’ll be going with attaching the moss pole to the planter.

I suppose another option would be to grow the plant up a trellis attached to the wall (or freestanding). As I’m writing this I become more and more excited about making a living wall using a trellis. Hmm, watch this space.

Final thoughts

If you persevere I think there are any plants that live in soil that can’t live in a semi hydroponic system. However, because I’m lazy/get stressed when my plants die I’m currently sticking to the easier ones (i.e. the ones that like to be moist but don’t mind drying out every now and again and are generally easy to manage).

If you read my previous post you’ll remember that I have a dead fiddle-leaf fig awaiting a miracle in leca. It’s still dead. I haven’t thrown it out yet. I have hope!

Also, if there’s a plant you struggle with, try it in semi-hydro. I MUCH prefer keeping orchids either bareroot or in leca, and they seem to prefer it too!

Caroline Cocker

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

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