Lettuce Try —>> Semi Hydroponic Pots
It's bug season, y'all!
The more houseplants you get, the more bugs you get. It makes sense. If you keep on bringing the jungle inside, eventually you're going to get the bugs that make the jungle so abundant. But if you manage your plants with a little human intervention, you can ditch the soil for a soilless medium.
Bugs like soil.
Ditch the soil.
Ditch the bugs. Cool, right?
As summer approaches and I prepare to fend off ants, let's talk about soilless mediums for a moment. Are you ready to make the switch?!
How many plants to do you grow in soil vs soilless? New to plants? You're not the only one wondering ...
What even is a soilless medium? Wait ... What even is SOIL?
You're asking about switching houseplants to a substrate, so we're chatting about semi hydroponic pots.
What are Semi Hydroponic Pots?
Semi Hydroponic Pots are the vessel you keep your passive hydro plant babies in. The place you put your soilless medium. You'll either have a reservoir, like our purpose-built semi hydroponic pots, or you can DIY your own for use in a cache pot.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a system of growing plants where the essential components of plant life normally found in a garden must be delivered. The plant's roots could be touching only a liquid solution, or a soilless medium as the growing substrate.
Active Hydroponics requires some sort of pump or aerator and a timer to make the system work. Nutrient Film Technique, Deep Water Culture, Drip System, Aeroponics, and Ebb andFlow are all active hydro techniques that may not make sense for a modern plant mom like you. Plant parenthood is full of decisions.
Passive Hydroponics relies on the plant's ability to suck up water and nutrients. Known as the Kratky method, passive hydro can be built from mason jars, reused plastic, or a thrifted propagation jar.
What is the alternative to Hydroponics?
Growing plants in the ground is the alternative to hydroponics. Planting your plants in soil, loam, potting mix, or digging up some earth from the yard is all alternative to hydroponics.
What is a Soilless Medium?
A soilless medium is a bed of materials to grow plants in that is not just water and is not soil.
What is Soil?
Soil is the loose surface material, often called "Earth" that serves as a growing medium for land plants. It is the "ground", the thing we must touch to "feel grounded". It differs from "dirt" by being a part of the living food web. Living soil contains organisms in vast quantities. They live entire lives feeding on a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, and liquids found in the surface material of the earth. Take the soil out of the rainforest? Most of the organisms die. We call that "dirt". Soil, taken out of context is dirt.
As per Penny Pawl in the Napa Master Gardner Column, "dirt is what you get on your hands while working in the soil".
And everything else we're talking about today is "not-dirt" —>> a soilless medium.
Types of Soilless Mediums:
Leca stands for "Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate". (Too sexy for the shirt, we'll go with the acronym.). LECA is small, mostly round, porous clay pellets. It' sorta like pop-corn, except wiht clay. LECA pellets are formed by heating natural clay pellets, makng them hot-hot-hot until the *poof* out and expand quickly which makes them lightweight in comparison to clay and porous. The air pockets allow LECA to hold air and water together. LECA helps provide plants with consistent oxygen and moisture and has excellent drainage, which helps prevent root rot from overwatering.
LECA is reusable, which makes it an environmentally friendly and cost-effective option for semi hydro. You'll just wash between plants! LECA is a manufactured product that is free from pests, diseases, and weed seeds that can be present in soil. LECA is chemically inert which means it will not react with nutrients or alter the pH of the growing environment.
Pon refers specifically to Lechuza-Pon. A plant substrate that is a pure mineral alternative to soil. Pon gives roots places to grow while holding space for water and air. Zeolite is included to maintain the ideal pH balance in your planter. Macro and micronutrients remain permanently available. PON absorbs excess fertilizer which prevents burning the roots from over fertilizing.
PON is curated to be suitable for all plant types. While you can plant your foliage or flowering plants in a pot full of PON, you don't need to be so meticulous about cleaning the roots like with other soilless mediums. A little soil in your Pon will be okay. Pon prevents bugs like fungus gnats that typically only nest in soil.
PON is also commonly used in plant groups as a loose term for semi-hyroPONics. It's lazy. Here's a video on PON on about using semi hydroponic pots full of the soilless medium of your choice.
Coconut Coir is harvested from the coconut. Coco coir has great water retention. It is eco-friendly and renewable. Although Coco coir is a natural substance, it is chemically inert. Coco Coir does not provide or react with nutrients.
Perlite is a volcanic rock. Like LECA, it has been heated to extremely high temperatures, making it pop out like pop corn! Perlite offers excellent aeration and improves drainage when mixed with other growing mediums. Perlite works really well for plants that require well-draining soil like Cacti and Succulents.
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring silicate mineral. The vast majority of the minerals that make up the Earth's crust are silicate minerals. Mica and Quartz are likely the most well-known. Feldspar Is very abundant, and other silicate minerals are: olivine, pyroxene, amphibole and a variety of clay materials.
Vermiculite rapidly expands when heated. It creates a lightweight, easy to handle, accordion-shaped granule with numerous laters of thin plates. Horticultural vermiculite improves soil aeration and retains moisture with nutrients to feed roots, seeds, and cuttings for faster growth.
Germinating seeds in Vermiculite is very common. It help should moisture in the soil. Seeds don't have roots to attract water. Vermiculite has cation exchange properties which means it can hold ammonium, potassium, calcium and magnesium that is available as the plant requires. Why use semi hydroponic pots?
Vermiculite is sterile, odorless, non-toxic, and permanent. It will not turn moldy, rot, or deteriorate. The pH, color, and chemical composition of vermiculite will vary depending on the source from deposits around the world.
What houseplants grow in semi hydroponic pots?
Lettuce call these species "semi hydroponic plants". Any plants the do well in semi hydro pots! Lots of tropical plants do well in one of the above soilless mediums.
Sweet Potato Vine
Most tropical pants seem to enjoy a semi hydroponic pots system with a water reservoir.
Any cache pot that doesn't have a hole can be used as a semi hydroponic pot. It can be as simple as using a nursery pot filled with a semi hydroponic substrate or you can purchase purpose-built semi hydroponic pots.
Where is there more info on semi Hydroponic Pots?
Semi Hydro on Social
@inrootedlove grows her houseplants in semi hydro.
Semi Hydro on Youtube
Good Growing has a lovely video on PON. She speaks of both Lechuza PON and the watered-down internet version of "pon" which is often used to describe any semi-hydroponic substrate, rather than the brand-name.
Pros of semi hydroponic pots:
- Makes it easier to have a lot of plants
- Makes it easier to go on vacation
- Repotting is easier
- There are less bugs
Semi Hydroponics Information on Reddit
If reddit is your idea of a fun time, here's the link to the semi hydro subreddit.
Passive Hydroponics on Podcasts
Kay and Maria chat about LECA puffed clay balls on Growing Joy Podcast.
Semi Hydro in Books
Fan of an actual book? I heard Bill Nye call books a "plant-based information system" on the Ologies podcast recently.
Check out this user-friendly book on passive hydroponics with LED lights —>> Grow Lettuce in Your Living Room
What was the first plant you put into a soilless medium for passive hydroponics using semi hydroponic pots?