Thriving Without Soil: How to Grow and Propagate Plants on Water

From the spider plant to the heartleaf philodendron, many plants thrive solely on water.

These plants are unique, perfect for small spaces and indoor living, and have some of the most resilient and easy-to-propagate roots.

In this blog, we will explore how plants thrive on water, the differences between hydroponics and water roots, and the methods for growing them successfully.

We'll cover some tips to ensure they flourish and introduce five types of water plants to grow indoors. Hopefully, you can expand your indoor jungle and incorporate these amazing species into your collection!

Why plants survive on water

Water, being a vital component in photosynthesis and nutrient absorption, plays a crucial role in a plant's survival. Through a process called capillary action, plants draw water and essential nutrients from their surroundings, ensuring healthy growth and development. This natural ability allows certain plants to flourish even without soil, provided they have access to a consistent water source.

Hydroponics and growing plants in water

Hydroponics and growing plants in water both involve cultivating plants without soil, but they differ in their approach and setup.

In hydroponics, plants are typically grown in a nutrient-rich water solution, where essential minerals are carefully balanced to support optimal growth. This method often involves the use of a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse, and sophisticated systems to deliver nutrients directly to the plant roots.

On the other hand, growing plants in water, also known as water propagation or hydroculture, typically involves rooting plant cuttings or placing whole plants in water to encourage root development.

While hydroponics focuses on maximizing nutrient delivery and productivity for large-scale cultivation, growing plants in water offers a simpler and more accessible way for home gardeners to propagate and care for their favorite plants, often requiring less equipment and maintenance.

How to grow plants on water

Growing plants hydroponically requires minimal resources and space. 

  1. Select a healthy plant cutting with a few inches of stem or leaf node intact. 
  2. Place the cutting in a container filled with clean, room temperature water, ensuring the base of the plant is submerged while the upper foliage remains above water. 
  3. Choose transparent glass jars or containers to monitor root growth easily.

It's really that simple! But let's talk about some tips to make the process a success.

Tips for successful water propagation

Choose the right plants: Opt for plants known for their water propagation compatibility, such as spider plants, heartleaf philodendron, or golden pothos.

Provide adequate light: Place your water propagation station in a bright spot with indirect sunlight to facilitate photosynthesis while preventing sunburn on the delicate foliage.

Change water regularly: To prevent the accumulation of stagnant water and algae growth, change the water in your propagation containers every 1-2 weeks with fresh, clean water.

Maintain water levels: Ensure the base of the plant remains submerged in water, adjusting the water level as needed to support healthy root growth.

Use sharp knives: When taking cuttings from the parent plant, use a clean, sharp knife (such as a Hori Hori) to make precise cuts, promoting quicker root development.

5 plants that thrive on water

Spider plant

Spider plant: Known for its air-purifying properties, spider plants produce long stems with baby spiderettes that readily root in water, making them ideal for growing solely in water.

Heartleaf philodendron: With its heart-shaped leaves and trailing vines, the heartleaf philodendron is a popular choice for water propagation. They also grow rapidly; within a few weeks, you can watch as new roots emerge.

Golden pothos: Golden pothos can thrive in both soil and water. They are easy to propagate, grow quickly, and can become excellent climbers.

ZZ plant: Characterized by its glossy, dark green foliage, the ZZ plant thrives well in water, especially in low-light conditions.

Lucky bamboo: Despite its name, lucky bamboo is not a bamboo but a member of the Dracaena family. Lucky bamboo grows exceptionally well with a little indirect light and clean water, which is why it's a favorite in offices and on desks.

Golden pathos

Final thoughts

Water propagation is a convenient way to introduce more plants indoors and into a busy schedule. Plants that thrive in water are easy to propagate, requiring only basic care during the initial weeks of root growth. Pick up a few plants and watch them slowly come to life!




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