Hydroculture: Growing Plants in Water

Growing plants in water -- without potting mix -- is easy to do. Here you'll discover how to transfer your plants from soil to water gel crystals or other supporting medium, find out which containers to use, how to supply nutrients to the water, and more.

Supplies You'll Need

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Growing Plants in Water

Some plants can grow directly in water with pebbles for support. Want an easy plant to start out with? Give lucky bamboo a try.

growing plants in water

Most plants will get root rot if left in water for long. They'll grow beautifully, however, if placed in clay aggregate or water gel beads. Water beads not only support plants, they absorb water and release it slowly as plants need it.

Use Rainwater for Plants

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 barrel to capture it and water your plants.

Just a tip before you get started -- not all plants will grow well in a soilless medium. Take a look at this list of house plants that grow in waterRather than plucking a plant right out of its soil, it's a good idea to take a cutting and root it in water. That way you won't risk tearing any roots.

Soak the crystal gel beads in water for several hours, allowing the beads to absorb as much water as they can. They'll swell up before they're ready to use. Drain off any excess water before potting your plant. House plants grown in gel crystals need watering less often than traditional medium.

How to Transfer a Plant from Potting Mix to Hydroculture

Although you can buy plants already growing in water, you can also transfer a house plant from potting mix to hydroculture. Here's how:

  • Gently remove the plant from its pot.
  • Hold the plant near the top of the root ball without pulling on any stems. Carefully pull apart the roots with your hand to remove most of the potting mix from the root ball. If the potting mix is dry, it's a good idea to soak the plant in a bucket of water for a few minutes to loosen the dried potting mix.
  • Wash off roots under running room-temperature water to remove any clinging potting mix.
  • Place the plant in a container with clay aggregate or water-absorbing crystals that have already been soaked in water. Pot your plant like you would in soil, placing the aggregate or crystals on the bottom of the container, positioning the plant roots over it, then surrounding the roots with more aggregate or crystals.

How and When to Fertilize a Plant Growing in Water

This is easy. Add water-soluble fertilizer to water before refilling the container. Growing plants in water are completely dependent on added nutrients, because they are not provided by a potting mix. If your plant looks pale between waterings, apply a foliar (spray) fertilizer up to once a week.