Advantages and disadvantages of clay granules as water storage

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Advantages and disadvantages of clay granules as water storage: water

More and more often plants are placed in clay granules. The advantages of this substrate are obvious, because it is visually appealing, largely germ-free and uncomplicated in the care. The most important property of expanded clay is of course the ability to store water in large quantities. The granules slowly release the moisture back to the roots, protecting the plant from both drying out and over-pouring. The granules have little disadvantages, some aspects are to be considered in the care.

Why is clay granulate a strong water reservoir?

To understand why expanded clay can store large amounts of water, it is worth taking a quick look at the production of clay granules. This material is produced at extremely high temperatures in the oven. At about 1000° C, the surface of clay granules is sintered, i. tighter. At the same time gases escape from the interior of the granules - combustion products of organic components of the clay.
The gases do not destroy the surface but form microscopically fine pores and inflate the clay grains. The result is granules with a solid but porous surface - an ideal water reservoir. When watering, the pores fill with water, which can only slowly escape. Clay granules therefore create favorable conditions for the successful plant culture.

Benefits of clay granules

Expanded clay is not so popular with hobby gardeners because its advantages as a water reservoir are obvious. Here are the most important ones.
  • Water storage of extra class. The granules of expanded clay are lightweights, but a granule can store up to 300 times its volume of water. The water is well secured in clay granules and is returned to the roots only in smaller portions.
  • Tong granules enable large casting intervals, and this is where the greatest strength comes from this substrate. Even if some days e.g. Because of a holiday or business trip was not poured, it does not matter to a plant.
  • Waterlogging is no longer a danger. The common mistake of a hobby gardener is generous casting. Most plants do not like having "wet feet," let alone swimming in the water. If too much water is poured or irrigated before a longer absence "in stock" threatens dangerous Wurzelelfäulnis. In the worst case, the roots die and with them the plant. Thanks to the clay granules, the danger of waterlogging is largely averted, because water that can not be absorbed by the roots immediately is stored in the granulate.
Tip: Also clay granules do not protect 100% against waterlogging, because its capacities are large, but ultimately limited. The water level indicator should therefore always be observed!
  • Germ-free and pest-free. Tongranulat is an inorganic substance and thus contains no nutrients. This means that this substrate also does not form a breeding ground for germs or pests. Mold is also rare on expanded clay. Thus, clay granules are healthy for the plant and see i.d.R. cared and sympathetic.

Disadvantages and problems in dealing with clay granules

clay granules

As already mentioned, this substrate has little negative for the plant culture, but some aspects are not taken into account, threatens to enter a plant.

Water level gauge is required.

Without this compact measuring device, it can never be said with certainty whether the plant needs water or has enough. The granules usually look deceptively dry, especially on the surface. It can easily give the impression that the plant is thirsty. So always take a look at the ad before pouring.
Tip: Only add water when the display has really reached a minimum.

Easy is dangerous.

The expanded clay is very light when dry. Soaked in water, it gets really heavy. After all the water has been largely consumed by the plant, the granules are again a lightweight.
The problem: A large heavy plant loses hold and can even tip over.
Tip 1: The larger the plant and the pot, the coarser the granules should be. Several varieties of this substrate are commercially available.
Tip 2: When filling the pot with granules, place some heavy stones on the ground or mix the granules with sand. The heavy sand makes the substrate more stable, of course, the plant should feel comfortable in the sandy soil.

Do not forget to fertilize!

Coffee grounds as fertilizer

The granules are neutral, i. in this substrate are missing the vital nutrients for a plant. Watering alone is certainly not enough for the plant to thrive, especially if it is supplied with tap water (never use water directly from the tap, min.Let it stand for a few hours at room temperature!) Therefore, the addition of fertilizer is vital. When choosing a fertilizer, make sure that it is also suitable for clay granules.
Tip: Of course, the granules not only store the water, but also the liquid fertilizer. Therefore, there is a risk of over-fertilization - for a plant but too much fertilizer is just as bad as no fertilizer. It is better to fertilize at slightly greater intervals than indicated on the packaging.


Can expanded clay improve the water retention properties of conventional potting soil?

Yes, clay granules can be mixed with the potting soil to loosen them up and provide better drainage and more water. By the way: Here too, a pouring indicator (water level indicator) is a good help and shows if there is a casting need.

Does clay granules store less water over time?

In fact, expanded clay is structurally stable and extremely durable. But every 3-4 years it is worth repotting a plant in fresh granules, the "old" substrate, after thoroughly cleaned with hot water (without detergent!) And dried in the air, can be reused.

Are there any alternatives to clay granules as water storage?

Yes, in recent times also the so-called Geohumus is offered in the trade as a water-storing substrate. This soil additive can absorb significant amounts of fluid and greatly improve soil function. Unlike clay granules, Geohumus loses its water-retaining properties after a few years.

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