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How to grow house plants in water


Did you know that you don’t have to grow your houseplants in dirt? Essentially the dirt is just the medium holding the plant up and allowing the roots to pull nutrients through moisture. You can throw out the dirt, and insects and disease along with it! Many houseplants grow very nicely in a water solution, and that is hydroculture for the home.

A bamboo stick in a pot of pebbles filled with water is hydroculture that everybody has seen. This lens will tell you how to apply this technique to all kinds of plants. It’s simple. It’s clean. And it works!

This lens explains hydroculture, helps you get started, and provides valuable resources.

New Hydroculture Search Engine!


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What is hydroculture?

Its sometimes called passive hydroponics

In hydroculture, pebbles rather than dirt hold up the plant's stem and roots. The reservoir pot is filled to a pre-determined level with a water nutrient solution. The roots grow out around the pebbles. Once a plant is setup, you periodically re-fill the reservoir with nutrient solution.

Hydroculture is the little brother of hydroponics. In hydroponics, bigger containers, more involved water systems, and complex solutions are combined to grow vegetables that we buy in the supermarket. Houseplants will grow very nicely in a simpler, more passive version of the hydroponics process, which is called hydroculture.


5 big reasons to use water instead of dirt

and many small ones ...


·Reduce allergy; dirt holds spores, mold,mildew.

·Pest free - no soil born pests like dirt gnats.

·Reduce odors.


·Easier clean up after spills. No dirt to sweep.

·Less risk of staining furniture.

3.Watering is easier

·Fertilize when you water, and less frequently.

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·Over watering and under watering are eliminated.

4.Plants like it

·Nutrients are distributed evenly to the roots.

·Root aeration since pebbles do not compact like soil.

5.Less maintenance for you

·Pebbles don't have to be replaced and can be reused.

·Hydroculture plants have smaller root systems: less transplanting.

·Water less frequently. Your plants are fine while you are on vacation.


How hydroculture works

It's really simple!

Essentially pebbles hold up the plant and root system, which gets nutrients from a water mixture. Once a plant is setup, you periodically re-fill the reservoir with nutrient solution. Hence you are growing plants in water and without dirt. There are five components to a hydroculture plant.

The plant - many houseplants take nicely to the hydroculture process.

Pebbles - the plant sits in a pile of pebbles. For hydroculture we use clay-fired pebbles that come in several sizes, from pea size to grape size.

Inner pot - the pebbles sit in an inner pot that has slits for water access. The inner pot also has a slot for a water level indicator.

Water level indicator - a simple float tells you when the pot needs water (lowest level), and when you have enough liquid (upper level).

Outer pot - the inner pot sits in a decorative non-porous pot that is slightly larger.


How to get started

Make? Or buy?

I bought my first hydro plant from Interior Water Gardens in Surf City, New Jersey. Also bought a kit from them and immediately did my first transplant from dirt to water.

It's a personal choice. You can enjoy hydroculture houseplants without every playing in the dirt. Hydroculture Resource Links are provided below for some excellent sources. You can also convert your own plants and enjoy the process. Transplanting tips are provided below.

The easiest way to grow your own is to root plant cuttings in water, and then plant them in a hydro pot.


5 Steps to transplanting

Moving from dirt to water in 5 easy steps

Preparation - gather all materials at the kitchen sink: plant, pebbles (rinsed), inner pot with water level indicator, outer pot.

Remove the plant from its dirt pot. A dry plant is a better starting point. Hold the plant at the base near the dirt and gently wiggle it out, dirt and all. Tapping the pot might help free the plant.

Remove the dirt form the plant. Knock off loose dirt clumps. Hold under gently running, room temperature tap water to rinse of the remainder of the dirt. Touching roots is ok, but gently please. Trim off dead or extra roots.

Plant the plant. Cover the bottom of the inner pot with pebbles, about an inch. Place the plant on the pebbles, and spread out roots. Hold in place with one hand while pouring more pebbles around the plant roots up to the base. Tap the container to settle the pebbles, and then rinse under room temperature running tap water.

Finish and feed the plant. Place the inner container in the outer container, and fill the pot with nutrient solution until the water level indicator shows its full enough.

Hydroculture Resources

These are places I've browsed and shopped. If you are tempted to get into hydroculture by this lens, looking at some of these sites should move you into the shopping cart stage.

  • Interior Water Gardens
    A hydroculture store on the Jersey shore. They specialize in Orchids, which are great water plants! They sell kits and offer advice.
  • Luwasa
    A Swiss company that has been a leader in hydroculture for years. My first kits were from Luwasa. You can buy direct or from distributors closer to your home.
  • Hydroponic Equipment Company
    A full line hydroponic site, but they have hydroculture materials. This link is to their Luwasa products page.
  • Houseplant Hydroculture
    A hydro plant lover's site. Excellent information and first hand suggestions from somebody who has done it before you.
  • Water Roots
    Another hydro plant lover's site. Excellent information and first hand suggestions.
  • Atlantis Hydroponics
    A hydroponics firm and store, that also supports the passive hydroculture, which they call interiorscaping. Lots of supplies but you'll have to wade through the "big boy" hydroponics toys to find them.
  • Leni Home Design
    A pretty site with lots of plant decorating ideas and products.
  • Nature Perfect
    They specialize in the bamboo plants that thrive in hydroculture (and are sold everywhere).
  • Plants for people
    Advocates for surrounding yourself with plants. Check them out.
  • WikiHow - How to Grow Plants in Water
    Basic "How To" information on hydroculture and related topics like propagating plants.

Internet search on hydroculture

A focused search for hydroculture information

check out the hydroculture search engine

got a couple of minutes for a musical interlude (about houseplants!)? - really, it is (brief and about houseplants) ...

Did you ever wonder if your houseplants have feelings. This clip was produced and directed by two 14 year olds from Idaho, home of Napoleon Dynamite. The music explores a noble experiment. You be the judge.

Hydroculture Stuff on Amazon


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Reader Feedback - thanks for visiting the Hydroculture lens

GreenGo on February 02, 2015:

See my hot Peppers growing

monicahernandez on April 11, 2013:

This is very interesting.

GardenIdeasHub LM on January 22, 2013:

Thanks for the information about growing house plants in water and will be back to read more.

laurenrich on January 13, 2013:

This is great information. I will use many of these ideas. Thanks for sharing.

BubblesRFun on December 24, 2012:

I never realized you could grow a plant like that. That for the great info. I might even try it:)

imagelist lm on December 23, 2012:

Great info thanks...

mujahidshaikh on May 25, 2012:

Nice Lens and great info instead of using soil using water is also help us to take precaution of pollution Cheers!! Hydroponic Equipment

crstnblue on May 25, 2012:

Very nice and informative lens. Thanks for sharing!

desa999 lm on May 16, 2012:

Very informative lens well done!

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 11, 2012:

I gave a friend of mine some Philodendron cuttings about 7 years ago and she still has them in water.

anonymous on March 18, 2012:

That is really great. i'm glad to have opened your lens. it opened my mind to try it. i once gathered stalks/stems of a vegetable in a water filled container for ground planting but after several days, it rooted and started to grow leaves, i was fascinated and just kept watering it, the plant grew nice until i went on a vacation and the plant dried out because of no water. now i have the techniques on how to make it right. thanks a lot.

anonymous on November 04, 2011:

Nice lens! Keep up the great work!

One squid thumbs up vote left for this lens!

baumchen on November 03, 2011:

Its really important that the pebbles are not too big, is what I have found out. Only mature plants can deal with big pebbles (&gt;10 mm).

homerepellent on October 08, 2011:

A complete guide from transplanting, to starting out from scratch, to maintenance. A thoroughly great lens to begin your journey on hydro-plantation. Thank you for the information.



rangiiria on October 05, 2011:

I have just started gowing vegs hydroponically - so far its good ;)

Cathy Slaght from St. Petersburg, Fl on September 28, 2011:

valuable information!

Michelle77 LM on August 15, 2011:

This is very interesting but doesn't it take more work to change the water in these kind of plants than to just water them? I tend to forget to change the water until it starts to get slimy and stinky :( OOPS!

carredsal on August 05, 2011:

Very interesting...I had no idea you could use this method for house plants...

AllyVuitton on July 28, 2011:

I'd never heard of this, so thanks for the eye-opener. It's a pretty neat idea, and hopefully gets rid of all the mold! I'll definitely try it.

hydroponickit on July 20, 2011:

I have been using hydroponics for 30 years to grow my own food indoors.

budgetwater on July 05, 2011:

Hydroponics! Very cool!

anonymous on June 21, 2011:

I have enjoyed your lens on exercising.

franstan lm on June 19, 2011:

Great ideas

anonymous on June 04, 2011:

Did you know that you can bless water - since 1999 Dr. Masaru Emoto has published several volumes of a work on how words and music influence water - etitled "Messages from Water", it contains photographs of water crystals next to essays and "words of intent".

fulltimehockeymom on May 23, 2011:

Just setup a hydroponic system myself and I have to say I am loving it. Followed some hydroponic system instructions and started growing my own herbs from a small unit in my kitchen. Nothing like using fresh ingredients to give your dinner a yummy kick.

beckwong on April 25, 2011:

great lens:)

Annamadagan on April 09, 2011:

Cool lens:p

E L Seaton from Virginia on March 22, 2011:

Great lens, I hope my plants take to it!

anonymous on February 20, 2011:

i've been growing a dead rose in water for a year now. it's from my best friends casket bouquet. we knew each other for 39 years. I kept it and was surprised when new leaves started blooming on it even though the rose itself is dead looking ;) adding you to blog roll, blessed by a squid angel :)

anonymous on February 17, 2011:

A really interesting Lens! I would love to try hydroculture, but always mistrust the feed. If I could buy something organic, then I would have a go, certainly much leaner than soil!

Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on February 15, 2011:

Great info! I learned something new.

ohcaroline on January 20, 2011:

That's some good useful information. I'm going to try it with the next plants that I buy.

infoels1 on January 11, 2011:

very well

infoels1 on January 10, 2011:

@Tarra99: some plants grow in water . i have 2 water plants in my home,

SofiaMann on November 05, 2010:

Thanks for all the good ideas.

anonymous on October 08, 2010:

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waterbeads on September 15, 2010:

WaterBeads4Plants has been used for bamboo a lot, and it's good to see my experiments with other plants should do fine. Great way to add color and water at the same time.

tssfacts on September 13, 2010:

I have always wanted to do this. You gave me enough information that I think this is doable for me to at least try.

Tarra99 on September 09, 2010:

I did not know so many plants could grow in just water...the only one I was aware of was the lucky bamboo. thanks for teaching me something new

Nan from London, UK on September 09, 2010:

fascinating and well presented

you've been blessed

briangreen143 on June 09, 2010:

That was really cool. I learned a lot from your lens. I did not know it is possible to do that. Very useful stuff.

mommyplus3kids on August 25, 2009:

Really nice lens. Great info and I also love hydroponics.

mpp1 on August 24, 2009:


I have a blog on hydroponics and I found this a really interesting aspect of passive hydroponics. The lens is well set out and captures the attention - you obviously are well into this field of hydroponics.

Keep on developing the lens - I will certainly come back again.



anonymous on July 07, 2009:

great lens. very interesting. i just bought i first regular houseplant, its still alive and i am happy. but a plant in the water might be cool

anonymous on May 16, 2009:

I found this article searching for plants that you could grow in water and had no idea it could be applied to a variety of plants. Thanks for all of the information!

anonymous on May 03, 2009:

Found this article by accident while looking for house plants that will survive in water. I plan to use house plants in a small pond in the back yard. Aquarium plants are much too expensive. It would be helpful if some names of common plants were included. Thanks.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on December 29, 2008:

This is so interesting. Thank you.

anonymous on October 15, 2008:

Thanks for the help i am doing a science project for High school

anonymous on September 10, 2008:

This is a great lens. Very informational.

susanbrian lm on August 31, 2008:

I love your lens and I gave you 5 stars. Thank for the useful info.

I am a palm tree enthusiast, just started my own web site Florida Palm Trees. Check it out when you have time.

Thank you Susan.

Meowlynn on April 23, 2008:

Thanks for the great links. Got a lot of info for my rock garden project.

beeobrien lm on April 08, 2008:

I've been wanting to try this. Maybe now is the time. Thanks for the lens.

LABELSTONE on January 26, 2008:

Great 5-star lense with lots of information. Ihave a plant that is 5 years old and has survived in a dark area on the counter in a little waterfall!! Please visit my lens on Fruit Crate Labels at:

ArrowSheds on January 22, 2008:

Excellent ideas, I will have to try this. Nice lens

Barefoot_gardener on January 21, 2008:

Very interesting, thank you!

teebutch on January 11, 2008:

Nice info and great stuff you have here. Keep up the good work. Five stars for you. Thanks, Indoor Greenhouse Kit

steveffeo lm on June 09, 2007:

Great lens Cave, I use the Mittleider method also called the poor mans hydroponics,

anonymous on June 05, 2007:

Thanks for all of this information. It was very helpful as I used it in an experiment regarding the effect that different liquids have on 5 of the same geraniums. All 5 geraniums were placed in 5 different vases containing 5 different liquids.

Thank you very much-the info was useful!

ank on May 21, 2007:

Hi Cavecreek, great lens . I really enjoyed articles on it. However , i have also created my lens check out

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Barkely on May 08, 2007:

Wow, I learned something new here. I have a couple bamboo plants in water and pebbles, but I never thought to try it for my other houseplants. Now I have something new to play with.

Thanks for sharing this great information.

anonymous on May 05, 2007:

pretty good.

steveffeo lm on May 04, 2007:

Hi Cave I use the Mittleider method "The poor mans hydroponics" I agree 100% you can grow anything in water or a clean filler, we use ground up pine needls and sand. Check out the Nutrient mix, I haven't done any pure water growing yet but it will be fun to experiment.

anonymous on April 03, 2007:

are you sure the root system is smaller in hydroculture? i have more roots growing into the water reservoir than in the entire root ball of ordinary soil-less mediums in my experience when i compare the root systems of equally sized plants with different substrates, the hydroculture is always larger

anonymous on March 24, 2007:

Hi, a very good and informative site about Hydroponics. I also just started out;

and one about Hobby Greenhouses;

anonymous on February 21, 2007:

I watched in horror as my cat turned my little therapy garden into his personal litter box! :( Can this method be used inside for eatable plants such as cherry tomatoes, green onions, and spinach? Are the nutrients needed organic?

MB on August 28, 2006:

I had never heard of lenses prior to my attempt to research raising house plants in water. I googled Hydroponics and was mired in too much info about how to farm without dirt. What I really wanted to know was all here in this lens. Thanks for this well written lens. The help was much appreciated

Cavecreek (author) on August 03, 2006:

Thanks for the feedback!

Jennifer Einstein from New York City on June 24, 2006:

I can't say that I am going to start using the water system, but I enjoyed learning about it and will absolutely consider it in the future. Not worrying about over/under watering sounds really tempting! Thanks for being the new something I learned today!

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