Rooting cuttings in leca clay balls is a quick, soil-less, and easy method to grow your semi-hydroponic plant collection.
How to take the plant cuttings for rooting in leca
Against the advice of others, I recommend leaving as many leaves as possible on your cutting. This is because the plant cutting can use the remaining water and nutrients in those leaves as energy to push out new roots. The leaves of the cutting will also add additional humidity to the plant and the cutting can be kept damp during the rooting process by misting. This keeps the leaves from drying out so quickly as the plant cutting rushes to put down roots by sucking up energy from every part of the plant it has access to…including the leaves.
Place the plant cutting into the leca medium
This can be done by either using the “wiggle” method, i.e. adding the leca to the semi-hydroponic (no drainage hole) planter, then pushing the plant cutting in gently.
Hold the plant cutting so that at least two of the nodes will sit in the leca clay balls and then pour the leca into your planter or jar. Shaking the planter gently to allow the leca balls to settle into place and hold the plant cutting so that it remains upright.
Add water to your semi-hydroponic, leca planter
Place your rooting cutting in a place with medium light
Plants need light to photosynthesize and grow roots…but not too much of it as heavy sunlight at this delicate (rootless) stage could dry out your plant cutting before it can become a plant.
Keeping the humidity high on your plant cutting
Why are we keeping the humidity high? Because cuttings don’t have any roots to draw up water to keep it alive and hydrated. Therefore you must keep the humidity high to keep the cutting alive long enough for it to produce roots.
You can do this by placing a clear, plastic bag over your cutting and leca jar, sitting your cutting and jar in a clear plastic bag and tying it loosely closed, sitting it in a window with low light (since windows are “closer” to the outdoors, the humidity is usually higher than the rest of the room), or placing your humidifier so that it is near your cutting in its leca jar or planter.
I find the humidifier method to work very well as it keeps the air flowing freely around the cutting while it is setting down roots.
Fertilize your plant cutting while it is rooting in the leca
As leca is a soil-less medium for growing plants, it contains no nutrients. During my own experiments with rooting cuttings, I have found that rooting cuttings where nutrients are readily available to the future plant had far more success than simply using un-fertilized water.
You can check to see if the plant cutting has started rooting in the leca after a couple weeks by giving it a little tug
Be gentle! It’s still a little cutting and not a plant so any new roots will be tender, possibly thin, and fairly weak. With some cuttings, you can see new growth in the form of leaves or buds which tells you that your cutting is still alive and working very hard to become a lovely new plant for you.
Keep plant roots moist until they can grow into the leca clay balls
Though leca semi-hydroponic plant-keeping is more suited to drought tolerant plants, even the tender, new roots on something like a snake plant or a pothos will dry out if they are still too small to support the cutting they are attached to.
While your new plant cuttings are rooting in their leca, get inspired by these lovely leca planter ideas and leca semi-hydroponic plant tips for extending your urban jungle the soil-less way.
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