Hydroculture: The Future of Indoor Plants?
Recently, there have been advances in the ways that people can grow plants in mediums besides soil and other standard potting mixes. Hydroponic growing, or growing plants in a liquid without any soil, has become a common and rather well-known alternative method, especially in the growing of vegetables, herbs, and edibles. However, there is another method that has become popular recently – hydroculture.
Hydroculture is similar to hydroponics in some ways, but instead of using a solution or water as the growing medium, it uses an inorganic solid. These inorganic solids are typically rock-based and called “expanded clay aggregates.” This is sometimes called “passive hydroponics,” meaning that the plants are grown without the use of bark, soil, or peat. The clay aggregates, often called LECA (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregates), are typically small pieces of clay that have been heated to extremely high temperatures in a kiln. Similar to what happens to popcorn in the microwave, the clay expands, loses density, and then develops air pockets. As a growing medium, LECA is extremely porous, which provides space for air and oxygen in the rootzone. It also absorbs and wicks water upwards to help the plant and will not decay or compact in time.
Hydroculture has three main advantages over traditional growing mediums:
- Easier and more effective watering – Watering indoor plants and office plants can be a tricky process. If you water them too much or too often, they will develop root rot and die. If they are not watered enough, they will dry out and die. The LECA growing medium is much more forgiving than traditional soil, as it allows for an abundant amount of air to reach the roots. While overwatering is still a possibility, this is a much more forgiving medium.
- Longer watering periods – The average amount of time that a 6-inch indoor plant could go between being watered is approximately 2 weeks. Hydroculture nearly triples that number.
- Plants last longer – Hydroculture can actually help plants keep their roots healthier to support longer-lasting plants.
While many other countries have been growing plants this way for many years, hydroculture is beginning to become popular with plant enthusiasts in the U.S.