How to Grow Plants in Water: All You Need to Know

grass growing in water

For those of us who aren’t that skilled when it comes to planting different types of flowers, herbs, or vegetables, it’s important to know how to grow plants in water. It’s a nice and clean alternative to using soil and following other complicated steps. Today we are going to look over all you need to know if you decide to inform yourself about how to grow plants in water.

Growing Plants in Water – Hydroponics?

It’s important to make a distinction right from the start. Even though they are based on the same principle, growing plants in water isn’t the same thing with hydroponics or hydroculture. Hydroponic farming refers to the practice adopted by farmers to grow crops in a container with water and liquid nutrients instead of soil. Water already contains minerals, as well as other nutrients, which are great for plant growth so you don’t need the soil anymore.

how to grow plants in water small plant grown in water being held by a person's hand
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How to Grow Plants in Water – Step by Step Guide

1. Choose the Plants You Want

Naturally, some plants perform better in water than others. As such, you should only choose for your project plants that thrive in these conditions. Generally, plants that have woody, strong stems make for the best candidates. Here are some names of plants that grow in water, though the complete list is very long:

  • Wandering Jew;
  • Sweet potato vine;
  • Pothos;
  • Philodendron;
  • Any type of ivy;
  • Impatiens;
  • Herbs (mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, lavender, sage);
  • Dracaena;
  • Croton;
  • Begonias;
  • Chinese evergreen;
  • Purple passion;
  • Coleus, etc.

Out of all the plants mentioned on the list, herbs are the fastest to grow in water. Here you have a clip explaining how you can have an endless supply of fresh herbs right in your home:

Hydroculture is a great idea if you want to learn how to grow vegetables from scraps as well. This helps you save up and eat more healthily.

2. Choose the Vessels

This is another important thing you need to choose when deciding how to grow plants in water. They need to be translucent, but you can choose between clear or colored ones. Glass or plastic make for excellent materials if you want to start learning how to grow plants in water. You can find plenty of options in craft and dollar stores, such as inexpensive vases and bottles. Drinking glasses and canning jars also work for this purpose. If your plants are healthy, you don’t need to worry about algae growth in your vessels even if you keep them directly in the sunlight.

3. Root the Plants

The process of rooting when deciding on how to grow plants in water is the same as when you’re planting in soil. You just need to cut off a small segment that is actively growing on the existing plant. Check for it just below the leaf. Then, put it into a jar or a vase you filled with water. Next, you just need to let it in the water. Soon, you will notice some roots appearing together with the submerged stems. After that, sets of new leaves will start forming. If you don’t have a plant to cut from, you can either ask your friends or go to a specialized shop.

How to grow plants in water irrigation system
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4. Taking Care of Them

When trying to learn how to grow plants in water, it’s important to know that the aftercare process is quite simple. Here you have a couple of tips on this topic:

  • Sunshine

Most plants love to stay in a clear jar right next to a sunny window. On the contrary, others love to stay in a ceramic vase on the table in the living room. The best method to find out what they love is to move the jars around. A helpful thing is the fact that the same plant will have the same light needs both in soil and in water, so inform yourself about that before planting.

  • Feeding

After each change of water, you need to add a couple of grains of soluble plant food or some drops of liquid fertilizer. However, you need to pay extra attention here. As opposed to adding fertilizer to the soil, the one added to water will instantly reach your plant’s roots. Consequently, it’s very easy to pour too much and thus injure your plants.

  • Water

Ideally, when learning how to grow plants in water, you shouldn’t go for tap water. Most of it is filtered out of the most important nutrients or it’s too chlorinated. Instead, opt for bottled spring water or well water for the best results. Once a month, you should change it. Meanwhile, if you notice that it has evaporated from the vase, you can add a small amount as well. When changing it, remember to add fertilizer again, just like we mentioned above.

  • Take Control of the Overgrowth

In some cases, you may notice some excessive root growth. If it starts to become a problem, cut back part of the roots. Another option is to start potting the plants in soil. If you choose to do this, you should be careful when transitioning the plants. In general, the roots grown in water are very different than the ones grown in soil. They tend to be brittle, so they can snap off if you’re not handling them with care.

What you need to do is to move the water plants to a pot that contains porous potting soil. If you don’t trust the commercially available varieties, you can learn how to make your own potting soil so you have complete control over the growth conditions. The potting medium should be moist for several weeks until the plants get used to the transition. Then, you can safely move them to some heavier soil.

  • Reassess Them Yearly

After a year, the water may start to have a murky aspect. As such, you might need to change it completely. By this time, your roots will grow a lot, so you might need to trim them back, depending on the plants you choose. If you don’t, there is the risk of them suffocating the plant. In the case of some herbs, for example, after a year you will need to replace the entire cutting. The stronger or woodier the stem, the longer the period they can last in water. One example is rosemary, which can live even 6 years in water. On the contrary, basil only lasts for a year.

Here is a clip showing you how you can grow indoor plants in water for years:

Why Should You Start Learning about How to Grow Plants in Water?

There are a lot of advantages to growing vegetables in water or choosing other outdoor plants that grow in water. Now that you know a little more about the entire process, let’s see why should you bother to adopt this practice.

1. Easier Feeding and Watering

With hydroculture, it’s easier to figure out how much to feed and to water your plants. Most often, you will just need to top off the water levels. One of the main differences is that when planting with soil, some nutrients are fixed in the soil, being insoluble. Meanwhile, when growing plants in water, nutrients are evenly offered to the root system. As such, the plants grown in this way are more vigorous.

2. Fewer Pests and Diseases

The soil usually brings the risk of plenty of soil born pests. One example would be the potting soil gnats. However, with hydroculture, you can live without any mold spores or mildew issues, which is great for people who suffer from allergies.

How to grow plants in water drawing of an aquaponics system
Suggestion for an aquaponics system. Image source:

3. Low Maintenance

As we previously mentioned, plants grown in water require much less maintenance than those grown in soil. Moreover, it’s cleaner and a lot easier to refresh. If you cut off dirt, you also cut off on spills and odors. At the same time, you need to water and transplant less often. The best part? When you’re away on holiday or with business, you don’t need to worry about leaving the plants unattended anymore.

4. Easy-to-Find Supplies

Nowadays, there are more and more people interested in hydroponics. As such, it’s a lot easier to find supplies in garden centers or at local nurseries. However, if you don’t have any nearby, you can always order some online. Try looking up hydroculture kits or interior water gardens. There is also a huge array of books on this topic, where you can find useful information. One example is the Aquaponics and Hydroponics volume.

5. Vast Array of Plants

Choosing to grow plants in water isn’t such a big limitation as you’d expect. Most of the flowers, herbs, and other plants can be successfully grown like this as well. However, some things may differ, which is why you should pay attention and get as much information as you can before you start planting them.


Hydroponics, or hydroculture, or simply growing plants in water is a new trend that’s catching up more and more. Plenty of gardeners love this method of growing their own vegetables, herbs, or flowers because it’s easier, cleaner, and it requires less maintenance. If you decide to try it as well, remember you should be well-informed about each plant you’re choosing.

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