Growing Orchids in LECA: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you looking to experiment with a different potting medium for your Phalaenopsis orchids? If you want to try something other than traditional orchid bark or sphagnum moss, converting your orchids to LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) can be a fun and rewarding project.

This method, known as semi-hydroponics, uses LECA clay pellets as a growing medium, making it easier to manage your orchid’s moisture needs while preventing root rot.

In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of converting your orchids to LECA, providing alternative setups and additional considerations along the way.

Materials You’ll Need

Before we dive into the conversion process, let’s gather the necessary materials. The following list includes the items used in this guide, but feel free to get creative and make modifications based on your preferences:

  • Self-Watering Capillary Wick Cord: This synthetic cord will wick water from the reservoir to the LECA pellets.
  • Lechuza Cube Self-Watering Planter: This self-watering planter serves as the main container for your orchid.
  • 6-inch Azalea Pot: This plastic pot will fit inside the Lechuza Cube planter, holding the LECA and your orchid.
  • Hydroton Original Expanded Clay Pebbles (LECA): These lightweight clay balls will be the primary growing medium for your orchids.
  • Dyna-Gro Grow Fertilizer: A reliable fertilizer for promoting healthy growth in your orchids.
  • Scissors and a lighter: These tools will be used to cut and seal the wick cord.

Preparing the LECA

The first step in converting your orchids to LECA is to prepare the clay pellets. Start by rinsing the LECA in a colander to remove any dust or impurities.

Once rinsed, soak the LECA in a plastic bucket or bowl of water for 1-2 days. This process helps remove impurities and hydrate the pellets, ensuring they are ready for your orchids.

Preparing Your Orchid

Choose an orchid that you’d like to convert to LECA. If your orchid is currently growing in sphagnum moss or orchid bark, give it a thorough watering before proceeding.

This will make it easier to remove the existing potting medium. Gently remove the orchid from its pot, taking care not to damage the roots. Remove any dead or decaying roots, leaving behind a healthy root system.

Preparing the Self-Watering Wick

Cut four separate pieces of the self-watering wick cord, ensuring they are long enough to reach the water reservoir in the self-watering pot.

Use a lighter to seal the ends of the cords, preventing fraying. Pass the flame over each end of the cords, melting them together and creating a secure seal.

Insert the wicks through the drainage holes in the pot, leaving a few inches sticking out at the bottom. These wicks will transport water from the reservoir to the LECA.

Planting Your Orchid

Begin by adding a layer of LECA to the pot, ensuring it reaches the desired level for your orchid. Carefully place your orchid in the pot, adjusting the wick sections as needed.

Leave a couple of inches of the wicks sticking out through the drainage holes. Add more LECA to cover the wicks, ensuring they are no longer visible. The bottom of the pot should resemble a well-layered LECA bed.

Transferring to the Self-Watering Planter

Place the pot containing your orchid and LECA into the Lechuza Cube Self-Watering Planter. The nursery pot should rest on the black platform, while the wicks hang into the water reservoir.

This setup ensures that your orchid’s roots are never sitting in water, mimicking their natural epiphytic growth habits.

Maintaining and Monitoring Your Orchid

With your orchid successfully converted to LECA, it’s crucial to establish a routine care and monitoring schedule. Check the water level regularly, ensuring that the reservoir doesn’t go completely dry or allow the LECA and wicks to become completely dry.

If the water level drops too low, remove the pot from the planter, soak the LECA and wicks in a sink, and return them to the self-watering pot.

When topping off the water, consider using a nutrient solution like Dyna-Gro Grow Fertilizer to promote healthy growth.

Alternative Setups

If you prefer a more DIY approach, you can create a custom setup using readily available materials. For example, you can use a glass container and a clear plastic drink container, as demonstrated by melelina_cattleya on Instagram. This versatile setup allows for creativity and customization while still utilizing LECA as the growing medium.

Routine Care Tips

  • Avoid letting the water reservoir go completely empty or the LECA and wicks dry out. This can lead to stress and dehydration in your orchid.
  • If you notice white crusty build-up on the LECA balls, remove the pot from the planter and flush the LECA with fresh water to remove accumulated salts.
  • Consider adjusting the pH of the water if necessary. While many orchids can thrive in LECA without pH adjustments, it’s important to monitor the plant’s health and explore pH effects on growth and development.


Converting your orchids to LECA can be a rewarding journey that simplifies their care while providing optimal moisture and air circulation to the roots. By following the step-by-step guide outlined above, you can create a semi-hydroponic system that promotes healthy orchid growth.

Remember to monitor your orchids closely, provide routine care, and make adjustments as needed. With time and experimentation, you may discover the perfect setup for your orchids in LECA.

Additional Information:

  • It is recommended to read through the entire article before deciding on your setup, as you may want to make modifications based on your preferences and available materials.
  • Start by converting one or two plants and monitor them over time before converting your entire orchid collection.
  • pH adjustments are not discussed in this article, but they can play a role in nutrient availability for plants. Experimentation with pH levels can be done, but many orchids thrive in LECA without pH adjustments.

Disclaimer: This article is based on an experiment and the author’s personal experiences with orchids in LECA. Results may vary, and it is recommended to gather additional information and insights from reputable orchid resources.

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