Water Beads for Plants

You've probably seen these crystal water beads in flower vases at wedding receptions. But did you know...they're also a fun and easy way to grow many house plants?

Plants don't actually need potting mix to grow. They merely require water, air and a source of nutrients for their roots. These water gel beads provide the air and water -- all while giving the plant a creative new look.

These beads are an inert medium, made of water-absorbing polymer gel. Dried crystals are tiny, then swell up as they absorb water. An ideal replacement for potting mix, this "crystal soil" helps to maintain moisture for house plants, by releasing water to the plant as needed.

Why grow house plants without soil? Here are a few advantages:

  • If you -- or anyone in your family -- has allergies, you'll eliminate fungus (mold) irritations by going soilless. And you can say goodbye to those pesky fungus gnats that like to hide in soggy potting mixes.

  • You'll water less often because the beads release water slowly as plants need it. Hydroculture also takes away the risk of over- or under-watering your plants.

  • Root rot is not a threat because the water-soaked beads allow a little air between them. Also, any standing water is easy to pour off.

  • Nutrients are supplied through the water with water-soluble fertilizer. That means your plants can grow more foliage rather than putting energy into growing roots.

How to Use Water Beads

Put the dried gel crystals into a large bowl and cover them with water. Add more water as needed, allowing them to absorb as much water as possible. This will take several hours. The beads will swell up before they're ready to use. Drain off any excess water.

Pot your plant like you would in soil, placing the water-soaked beads on the bottom of the container, positioning the plant roots over it, then surrounding the roots with more beads.

Do not put water beads under a grow light or in direct sunlight because heat will damage them. It's a good idea to choose plants that prefer indirect light.

Green Thumb Tip

Rainwater is ideal for your house plants. It's naturally soft and free from chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals that plants don't like. Use a rain water barrel to capture it and water your plants.

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