Can You Grow Cacti And Succulents In LECA

Growing Cacti In LECA
How To Grow Cacti In LECA

Growing cacti or succulents in LECA or semi hydroponically seems counterproductive. Considering overwatering of these plants is a common occurrence in a plant collectors life. Initially when I thought about using LECA with cacti and succulents I assumed it would not work. However, after only a few months I am completely astounded by the results.

The short answer to growing cacti and succulents in LECA is an absolute YES.

The idea of growing cacti semi hydroponically was completely born out of desperation. I have a friend that is notorious for overwatering but deeply in love with cacti. This was the fifth time in the past year where she had caused root rot in her cacti. 

Number One Way To Stop Root Rot

We had tried everything to prevent overwatering. Including a shallow smaller dish, less soil, more pumice and the list goes on. LECA was my last ditch effort for trying to help her keep cacti. Oddly enough it not only worked, but even caused the cacti to thrive. 

Over the period of a few months the cacti not only has a record-breaking number of roots. The rot that was eventually working its way up the stem had stopped completely stopped. And we have gained a total of 4 inches in completely new growth. 

So let’s go over exactly what we did to help Sheryl’s cacti come back to life and thrive. 

How To Transfer a Cacti To LECA

Initially when looking at the cacti I did notice that not only the roots were rotten but there was rot starting to work its way up the stem. This means I had to remove all the roots, and also cut off the rot. This rot went up to approximately 3 inches into the stem so I cut off a grand total of 4 inches. This allowed a small buffer where the rot was completely gone.

We then allowed the cacti to dry it out for approximately two weeks. I applied a small mixture of cinnamon to the base of the plant to help prevent any infection. Overall the healing process caused a scab which is what we want to see.

After that we put approximately 1 inch of water in the bottom of an orchid pot which consisted of a ton of drainage holes. Then we placed the cacti into the pot and filled up the remainder of the sides of the pot with the LECA. This only went approximately 2 inches in height. 

Cacti In LECA
Cacti In LECA

Weight Is Important

Help keep the cacti in place and prevent it from tipping over we then put aquarium rock around the surrounding area of the cacti. This insured that as roots came in they would not be ripped due to movement in the plant. Ripping is common with smaller roots such as root hairs.

After this point we only watered to the height of the 1st inch. You can see from the photos that there is a blue line that is the maximum water height we went for. You can also see the enormous amount of root that has formed over the past few months. 

Fertilizer For Cacti In LECA

She’s been watering with just regular tap water this entire time. And adding a ¼ strength all purpose fertilizer to the mix. However fertilizer probably is not always necessary. Especially in the winter months when the plant isn’t growing as quickly.

Overall Sheryl does feel as though this is the easy solution for her cacti. She no longer has to worry about root rot or rotting the stem of the plant. So long as she keeps the fill line at the blue line indicated on the orchid pot the plant will be happy.

Downfalls Of Using LECA With Cacti

I think it’s important to note the downfalls of this method. Things such as stress colouring won’t come out with this set up. This is because it is in an environment of all excess nutrients and excess water. This excess does not trigger the stress colour response and therefore you may not have as vibrant of a plant. This isn’t so much a concern in the world of cacti. However it can be a concern for those succulent lovers. 

Personally I think it is the perfect solution for anyone who overwaters and is looking for a green plant. If you love the look of cacti and aren’t particular about stress colouring then this is a solution for you. 

You’ll have to let me know down in the comments below if you like this method or if you have tried it and what results you have seen.