sub. for expanded clay pellets?

seneca_s(6-7 Idaho)January 29, 2007

I'm wanting to try hydroculture and don't want to spend a lot of money, and would have to order and pay shipping on the clay stuff. Is there something else that would be easy to get that would work or should I just suck it up and order some?

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There are many materials that can be used. All that is important is to understand what the clay pellets do.

They are inert meaning they don't chemically react with anything so you don't have to worry about pH or various minerals dissolving into the water.

They wick water to the roots.

They are substantial enough that the roots grow into them and anchor.

That's it.

The LECA materials are very popular because they fit all the criteria and can be found at any hydroponic store.

Depending on where you live small lava rock might be OK. Small pumice would also work, but is hard to find in the eastern half of the country.

Even small gravel can work, but wicks terribly so water levels have to be closer to the roots.

I would suggest finding the closest hydro store to you (the nearest large/medium city) and buy a 50 liter bag of hydroton or whatever they have.

If you *must* pay shipping get the 50L bag and bite the bullet. A 50L bag will fill many containers (it will fill roughly 2.25 5 gallon buckets) and the LECA is reusable indefinitely.

I currently have 10 plants in hydroculture and haven't used more than 1/3rd of a 50L bag. Just waiting for the spring growth season to transfer some larger, older plants I don't want to risk by transferring them in winter when growth is slow.

If you intend to convert plants to hydroculture now, stick with succulents, pothos, lucky bamboo and philos. I realize it sounds quite counter intuitive to think that succulents would make the conversion at this time of year, but my best success at converting established plants to hydroculture in winter has been with succulents.

Be careful with Draceana though as some do better than others this time of year. A cheap, young plant is worth playing with, a large, old plant should wait until spring.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:40PM
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Seneca, itÂs worth visiting a hydroponics shop to pick up a product thatÂs best suited for hydroculture. There are a few different types of medium that will work. The price is not as much as you believe it to be because the product is permanent. If you choose something like Âhydroton clay pellets, you will buy them once and use them forever. Unlike soil, youÂll never need to replace them. ItÂs a one-time purchase.

I would also recommend doing some research on the internet about the hydroculture system and the products that go with it. This will help you to learn about items involved, the mechanics behind it and plants suited to it. The list of Âgreen possibilities is endless. YouÂd be surprised at what will convert from soil to hydroculture in a heartbeat.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 7:10AM
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I donÂt know where in Idaho youÂre living in. But, here is a link to hydroponics shops listed in the Yellow Book.

If you donÂt have any luck finding expanded clay from that link. Let me know and weÂll look around for you.

I would recommend using only Hydroton (made by Ãkotau of Germany). WeÂve tested all the other expanded clay available and have found Hydroton to be the better one of them all. BÂCuzz GroRocks would be the next option. Avoid the expanded clay which comes from China. Most hydroponics shops have the 10 -16mm/10mm-20mm Hydroton in 25l or 50l bags. Ask if they have 4-8mm or 8-16mm Hydroton.

As for nutrient. We recommend the slow release nutrient. If you canÂt find it. Let us know. WeÂll comp you some.

As for plants and GOOD advice. I highly recommend looking at There, youÂll find some of the best information youÂll find in the net about hydroculture. Another good web site to look at is

PurLec Hydroculture

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:55PM
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seneca_s(6-7 Idaho)

Wow, thanks for all that. Nothing less than 4 hrs of here. I'll think on this some more.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 9:05PM
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Hard fired clay is available under a number of titles, including Schultz Aquatic Soil, Schultz Clay Soil Conditioner, Espoma Soil Perfector, and Turface MVP. The last is probably your cheapest source; I buy 50 lbs for $15. The Clay Soil Conditioner, if you can find it(I can't), may run about $10-12 for 40 lbs. I haven't done hydroculture, so I don't know how well it will work for you, but I use the clay in my soil mixes, for aquarium gravel, and to fill in aeration holes in the lawn. There is an expanded shale product called Haydite, that you may want to experiment with as well, but I haven't used that yet as I have no local source for it.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 10:16AM
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I'm glad this "topic" isn't labeled as the "hydroponics" forum or I'd hesitate to say, I still find the idea puzzling, since as far as I know, there's no proof that hydroponics can grow healthier and larger plants than traditional methods in containers of various types of potting mixes, and it's in no way a cure for "black thumb" nor some magical type of labor saving method from all the tinkering etc., that I've read is required to keep it a healthy and efficient technique. I will admit , thinking a little further on the subject, that when we see so many discussions about overwatering , underwatering or just plain correct watering techniques, I guess the "watering" problem would be eliminated from the discussion entirely, and maybe that's very helpful for some folks. I've not done it, so I still reserve my final verdict on the topic. Being the eternal "skeptic" , I'd guess the greatest experts and proponents of hydroponics would be folks selling the somewhat expensive equipment etc, and they have a financial interest in their claims. I'd be curious how many folks using hydroponics were former traditional growers and what they think the advantages and benefits have been, but often suspect that previously non-gardening folks have gone straight into the hydroponics without even trying traditional growing techiniques first?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 8:02AM
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We're all allowed our opinion birdinthepalm, so there's no reason you shouldn't express yours. I grew houseplants in soil for almost twenty years and now - for the past three - I am growing them only in hydroculture. So I guess I qualify as having done both and can compare the two. I also have years of outdoor gardening under my belt; no house anymore, so gardening is put on hold.

For those who grow houseplants in soil, I say 'good for you, have fun!'. But I personally would never go back to soil-grown plants in my home, only the outdoors. Yes, I've seen quite a difference, a tremendous difference, between growing in hydroculture and growing in soil in just about every way. The hydroculture plants are much healthier, happier and easier to care for.

Expensive? Hardly. Hydroculture, albeit related to hydroponics, does not carry all the heavy-duty equipment that hydroponics does. In hydroculture, all you need is a couple of containers, some pellets, fertilizer and a plant. Sounds very much like soil-growing, no? Minus the soil...

I'm sure I'm not alone in this. You'll probably find that a lot of people growing plants in hydroculture were once growing them in soil. Since hydroculture has not hit the market in a big way over here, people most likely stumble across it accidently - after they've been growing plants in soil for a long time.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 9:35AM
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Check out the site that Purlec posted, if you want a view from a person who is not selling anything. It's quite interesting. It's

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 11:08AM
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I agree with nature lover. I have nothing to sell and I enjoy growing in hydro culture.

Give it a try, it really isn't difficult.

As you noted watering becomes a non issue. Aeration of the roots is a non issue. Rots are more or less a non issue. Soil pests a non issue.

What's really nice is going on vacation. While hydroculture is not growing plants in water, they develop water roots and can be grown in water without harm. Therefore if you are going to be gone awhile, just fill the container with enough water to last until you return and forget about it.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 6:45PM
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I must say , reading the pevious couple of posts and their positive endorsements of the process, I should try it myself, and reserve any comments for sometime perhaps in the distant future. I do believe in trying new things and techniques, and it sounds worth at least a try! I will admit also that I should read posts more carefully, and was thinking more in terms of traditional "hydroponics" and hadn't considered the term "hydroculture" , which does indeed sound like a much easier and cheaper alternative!
Seems to me someone I know very well locally however was having difficulty finding any cheap source for the clay pellets, and the sites I looked at were mostly in Europe, which would require some hefty shipping charges etc.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 8:55AM
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seneca_s(6-7 Idaho)

I for one have a watering problem, as in I don't, so that prompted me to switch. I stopped having houseplants for a while due to the watering, well, I still have cacti that I never water and they suck up bathroom moisture. Now I want to try again because plants are one air purifier that I can afford, so I'm wanting to try hydro. So far I have got myself a bag of black lava rock and it's wicking better than I thought it would. Too early to tell. I'm not trying any great established plants here, everything is expendable at this point. I've located a hydro shop in Montana, I get over there once a year for some tax free shopping so I will plan on picking up some hydroton then. I agree, just try it. I'm having fun playing if nothing else.

Oh yeah, I'm doing the glass container thing so I can see my water levels. Am I gonna have ugly water marks?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 11:29AM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

I've purchased authentic LECA (lg & sm.),& aside from the shipping, it's great. I have also used lava rock (not my favorite), permatill (expanded shale, good, but small size), & Espoma soil perfector (probably the closest to LECA)-alot of plants do really well in hydroculture, my biggest success was growing a number of phragmepediums ouside in a 'popup' pond, submersed in constantly circulating water (in lava rock, permatill, & LECA), which were moved inside in October, watered not NEARLY as frequently, but most (except some small seedlings) are still thriving-I'm ready to move them back out this summer....

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 5:42PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Depending on just how much of a rush your in, is there anything else in those "distant" cities that would be worth making the trip for .... like an orchid or garden show, museum, concert, etc? If so you could then go more with the mind set of a fun all day [or perhaps overnight] outing.

Birdinthepalm, in large part it comes down to whatever works best for you. I have tried hydroponics but for me it was a complete failure. On the other hand I have known folks that, like several of the folks on this thread, have found it to be a wonderful way to grow their plants.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2007 at 5:31PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Remember: think about all of the things that plants must have in order to survive, thrive. All of those essential 'ingredients' can be provided to the plant without the need for soil at all.

Sunlight (or other similar)
dissolved nutrients in elemental form
air (CO2 and O2)

It's just learning to figure out the balancing act, is all. ;-)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 11:19AM
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