Planning to try indoor gardening but having a hard time deciding on your plant's growing medium? Apart from using soil, there are a few other growing mediums such as perlite and clay pellets that are suitable for plants. We have covered about perlite in our previous article. To summarize, perlite is a great potting mix amendment that improves drainage and aeration in your soil. Mixing 50% of soil and 50% of perlite will be a perfect environment for growing cactus plants as cactus needs soil that drains quickly. Perlite is more suitable to be used together with soil or potting mix rather than being used alone as a growing medium, unlike clay pellets. We will be covering clay pellets with its amazing usage for plants.
What Are Clay Pellets?
Clay pellets are small pieces of clay that are industrially produced at extremely high temperatures (2200°F / 1200°C). The high-heat popping during the manufacturing process gives the medium its large, airy macro-pores (spaces between each piece of expanded clay) and micro-pores (air contained within each piece of expanded clay). Clay pellets can be used as a standalone growing medium or as a soil amendment to improve plant growth. As a growing medium, it provides plants with oxygen for fast-growing roots and holds enough moisture within its micro-pores for water and nutrient retention from the roots. This spacing also allows excellent drainage, allowing roots to draw water out of the clay’s pores. These pellets are strong and durable, less likely to break due to its non-deformable structure. They are fire-resistant and safe with a neutral ph. They can be reused if cleaned and sterilized after each usage unless there is a huge build-up of salt. A huge build-up of salt could lead to phytotoxicity, which chokes out and starves your plants of water or nutrients. It is strongly recommended to check on your plants regularly to look out for salt build-up and change the clay pellets if necessary.
Clay Pellets Usage Tips
Before using these pellets, it's recommended to rinse them to remove debris and dust. After rinsing, soak them in water for 12 to 24 hours. This allows the pellets to absorb the water and oxygen, storing them inside. It's essential to make sure that your clay pellets are at least 3 inches saturated with water in your pots. Since these pellets do not retain much water for long, it will dry out fast, causing wilting of roots. Do not use the pellets in place of soil for outdoors as it will dry out the plants too. Please check on the water level of your plants regularly and water them if needed.
Clay pellets can be used as a growing medium in hydroponic gardening, as a mulch for your plants' protection and as a soil amendment for growth improvement. In hydroponic gardening, they work well with good control of the chemical compounds and values of fertilized water, maintaining a neutral environment for optimized plant growth. It can act as mulching to protect your plant soil from weed growth and moisture loss from extreme temperature changes. It also provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance as a gardening decoration that is ideal for planter boxes, plants in pots and roof gardens. For plants that are starting to look dull, you can mix some clay pellets into your potting mix for better air ventilation, water drainage, and water retention. For seedlings or young plants, crushing clay pellets into smaller pieces will reduce the size of macro-pores and increase moisture retention which is really important for them to grow.