You might have heard of hydroponics or seen plants growing in water before and wondered if this was something you could do at home. If you want to know more about growing plants in water without soil, you’re in the right place.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about this interesting growing method.
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Do Plants Grow Better in Water or Soil?
Whether plants grow better in water or soil isn’t straightforward. It’s hard to say because there are so many variables. It depends on the plant, how much space you have, and which method you prefer. Growing plants in water is a great option if you want to have a garden or propagate plants and you don’t have a lot of space.
To determine whether water or soil is the best option for you, here are the things you need to know.
First, think about what plants need to grow. Every plant has an ideal growing temperature. Warm-season plants like temps between 60 and 80 degrees F while some cool-season plants can tolerate temps as low as 50.
Plants also need light, water, and nutrients. Sunlight is best, but indoor grow lights work, too. Water carries nutrients to the roots, but some plants need a lot more water than others. As for nutrients, whether you’re using soil or water, you need to supplement nutrients.
Next, let’s look at a quick comparison between using water and soil as a planting medium.
In soil, plants don’t get the nutrients directly. Microorganisms in the soil break down the nutrients, releasing phosphorus, nitrogen, and other products into the soil so the roots can absorb them.
The roots have to spread out through the soil to get to the available nutrients, which is why plants rooting in soil need more space than those in water. Over time, soil runs out of nutrients, which is why you have to test it every once in a while and add amendments and fertilizer.
With water, you direct nutrients directly into the water to make sure your plants get the nutrients they need. It’s a little easier to make sure the pH is correct and that the nutrients are balanced correctly in water than it is in soil.
Another benefit of using water over the soil is that there is little risk of disease and pests. It’s often hard to keep gnats, fungus, and other things from contaminating soil. This is generally not a problem with water.
The 15 Plants That Grow in Water without Soil
1. Chameleon Plant
A chameleon plant is remarkably durable and difficult to kill. Place a stem of it into the water and you may see root buds forming almost overnight, and it grows aggressively once established.
Start by getting a long stem from the mother plant, ideally with a piece of healthy root attached. Place the stem into your container with the roots in the water. Keep the vessel out of direct light and enjoy!
Begonias are easy to grow in water from cuttings. So easy, most people would agree that it’s the preferred way to do it. As a bonus, you can even leave them in the water for a while even after they have rooted.
To grow a begonia in water, start with a healthy long stem on an adult plant with a lot of space between the leaves. Cut a piece about four inches long, just beneath a node. Pull off the leave on the stem, leaving only those at the top. Pull off any flowers, too, as they will just use up energy that the plant needs to root.
Place the stem into a small container of water. This detail is important because the plant naturally releases rooting hormone, and the smaller volume will concentrate it so it’s more effective. You can even add multiple stems into one container if you prefer for faster results.
3. Green Onions
Growing green onions in water is extremely easy. Next time you get a bunch from the grocery store, place the leftover root ends into a short glass of water, leaving the stems sticking out, open to the air. You should start to see new growth overnight.
Coleus is one of the easiest plants to grow in water. If you have one and a piece falls off, all you have to do is place the stem in water and wait. Roots grow quickly. In the right circumstances, you might see some root growth in only a few days.
For best results, use a stem that’s at least four inches long. Make sure there’s a node present, and remove the leave below it. Place it in water and make sure it gets adequate light and the roots should be established in about two weeks. For best results, transplant to the soil when the roots are ready.
5. Beet Greens
Once you use your beets, save the leafy greens. Then, fill a small, shallow dish with water and place the beetroots into it with the cut side down, leaving the greens uncovered. Place it on the windowsill or anywhere it will get a lot of light.
Replace the water with fresh water every few days. The greens will begin to grow. Harvest them when they’re mature, and the beetroot will continue to put out new leaves. Repeat again and again.
Keeping fresh herbs on hand in your kitchen is easy once you know how to grow rosemary in water. You can keep harvesting from the same plant for years.
All you have to do is take a fresh cutting that’s about four to six inches long with a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem and add it to water. Keep the water level as high as you want the roots to grow and wait. In a few weeks, you’ll have new rooting seedlings.
7. Bok Choy
Bok choy loves growing in water. All you have to do is save the root end from a bunch you get from the store or that you’ve harvested from your garden. Place it in a cup of water and wait. In a few weeks, it will completely regrow, and you’ll have fresh bok choy for dinner.
Basal roots impressively in water. All you have to do is cut a stem that’s about four inches long with a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem and place it in water. After about two weeks, roots should start to form. When they are about six inches long, remove them from the water and transplant them to your garden.
9. Weeping Willow
Believe it or not, you can start a weeping willow seedling in water. All you have to do is cut a small branch off of a healthy tree and place it into a large glass container or water.
In only a few days, you should start to see small root buds forming on the part of the tree that’s underwater. Keep the rest of the cutting open to air and give it bright, indirect light. When the roots are well established, transplant it to a large pot or into the ground.
Cabbage is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in water. When you use a head of cabbage, instead of throwing away the core, place it in a shallow dish of water and wait. In a short time, leaves will begin to regenerate from the core’s center.
Anyone who has ever had croton knows they can be a little moody. If you have croton that doesn’t seem to like life in its soil-filled pot, try growing one in water.
All you have to do is take a leaf from the mother plant, making sure you have the edge of a stem. Fill your container with water, pop in the leaf, and give it some bright indirect sunlight. In a month or so, the leaf will have established its own root system.
Pothos plants are well-known for being easy to care for, but they’re also really easy to grow in water. You can even leave it in water for an extended period if you want to.
Just take a cutting with a few leaves on it, remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem, and place the stems in water. Roots should form in a few weeks, at which point you can transplant them to soil or let them continue to grow in water.
Horsetail might be the easiest plant to grow in water, primarily because water is its natural habitat. All you have to do is take a piece and stick it in water. Then, watch it root. Unlike some of the other plants on this list, you don’t have to transplant horsetail into the soil.
14. Lucky Bamboo
Lucky bamboo gives horsetail a run for its money for the easiest plant to grow in water. All you have to do is make sure that the piece you’re trying to root has a node or joint. Cut it to any length, and add it to a tall, thin container, covering the node in water. Then, all you have to do is wait!
15. Spider Plant
Do you have a spider plant that’s producing baby plants? All you have to do is remove one of the little plants and place it in water. The baby will root and can then be safely transplanted to soil.
Tips for Growing Plants in Water
If growing plants in water is something you want to try, here are some tips for success:
- Make sure you’re choosing the right plant. Many plants can grow or be propagated in water, but some prefer soil.
- Use cuttings from existing, healthy plants. Growing seeds in water is possible, but using a cutting from an existing plant is one way to improve your chances of success.
- Use the right type of container. Propagation kits are available, but any glass vessel with a reasonable thin neck will do. Your cutting needs support so that the stem and nodes are covered in water while the leaves are exposed to air.
- Make sure you put your containers in the right place. Somewhere where they get bright, indirect light is best. Try to avoid placing them by an air conditioning or heating vent as the temperature fluctuations aren’t good for the growing plant.
- Change the water weekly until roots have formed. Then, it’s usually safe to cut back to changing the water every month or so.
Now that you have a better idea about growing plants in water, give it a try! As you can see, you have a lot of options, and the process isn’t particularly difficult. This method is a great option if you don’t have a lot of space, and it creates a cool feature for your home.