Did you know that there are hundreds of plants that grow in water? No soil, just water! We’re not talking about seaweed here, either.
In fact, in this guide, we’ll show you 50 plants that will grow in water and how to do it yourself at home.
From herbs to houseplants, read on to find out more!
How to grow plants in water
Before we look at how to grow plants in water, let’s look at the benefits.
Before we take a look at how it’s done, let’s look at some of the pros of growing plants in water.
- Access to nutrients: plants growing in water can absorb nutrients faster and better than those grown in soil;
- Less space: pots and containers can take up a lot of space in your home. Luckily, plants that are grown in water develop smaller, thinner roots, which makes it easier to find a spot for them in your home;
- Less mess: soil can be a very messy medium, especially when you need to transplant or repot your plants. Not to mention that if you have pets (especially cats), they can be tempted to dig it up. No soil instantly means less mess and less time spent dusting and cleaning bits of soil scattered around your home;
- Easier to water: this one is pretty self-explanatory. But if you find yourself forgetting to water your plants, growing them in water will be a real lifesaver — for you and your plants. Also, you can stop worrying about accidentally overwatering your plants.
- Fewer pests and problems: say goodbye to fungus gnats, soil mites, and other pests living in plant pots! Interestingly enough, growing plants in water also make them less susceptible to root rot. This is because potted plants will struggle to get the oxygen they need from the soil if it’s waterlogged. But if they’re grown in a vase, for example, their roots will take all the oxygen they need straight from the water.
You might be surprised to learn that you can keep a well-stocked herb garden without any of the mess of soil and pots.
Almost all the kitchen staples can thrive in water alone. This is great for gardeners who get most of their herbs from the garden but are left short when winter rolls in.
The following herbs can all thrive in water:
What you need
All you need to grow herbs in water is a suitable container, water, and a little space on the window sill.
It’s essential to use the correct type of container when growing herbs in water.
Ideally, you need an opaque vase or jar. This is because your herbs’ roots don’t like too much sunshine, and when exposed to it, they can burn and die. However, the plant itself loves sunshine, so you can’t simply place it in the shade. Look for colored glass, paint it yourself, or wrap the paper around the outside to keep the sunlight out.
Your container will need to allow the stems to remain upright rather than flopping over. You can either use narrow topped vases or colored mason jars. With jars, drill a hole in the lid to allow the stems to come out; about an inch (2.5 cm) wide should be enough.
The water you use is also essential. Freshly collected rainwater is excellent, and you can use it straight away. You can also use tap water, but it’s best to either boil it and let it cool down or let it sit for 24 hours or so. This drives off any unwanted chemicals, such as chlorine.
Bottled water is also suitable, though it’s not a bad idea to let that sit for a while as well. Around 8-hours should be appropriate to drive off any chemicals from the plastic that might have seeped into the water. Best of all is fresh spring water. This is fantastic, as it may contain trace elements that will allow your plants to thrive.
You’ll need to regularly feed your herbs fertilizer to ensure they get all the minerals and nutrients they need. Look for water-soluble fertilizers that feature root boosting mycorrhizae. This natural fungus improves the root’s ability to absorb nutrients and water, ensuring greater yields.
Once you’ve gathered your equipment, getting started is pretty simple. You can buy the herbs you want to grow from the store or pick them from your garden. Wash them thoroughly and cut the stems to around 6″ (15 cm), ensuring that each stem has at least three leaves on it. The stems can be shorter, as long as they have three leaves, but be sure to cut the end to allow for root growth.
Next, place the stems into the water-filled containers. Be sure to remove any leaves that would otherwise be underwater. Depending on the herb, it can take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks for the roots to start forming. Woody herbs such as rosemary will generally take the longest to get started.
Before the roots have started growing, change the water weekly while leaving the plant in the container. After the seeds have formed, you can reduce the time between water changes to around once a month.
Feeding is relatively simple, dissolve the fertilizer into the water. Over time, water will evaporate, and as you top it up, the fertilizer will become diluted. As such, it’s best to start from scratch about once a month. When changing the water, give your herbs a good rinse to prevent a build-up of fertilizer on the roots, damaging and burning the plants. It’s also a good idea to rinse out the inside of the container as well.
Vegetables you can regrow in water
Several vegetables can also thrive without soil. They’re easy to grow, and in most cases, you can use parts of the vegetable you might otherwise discard. It’s worth noting that you won’t have the same results with most of these vegetables as if you had grown them from seeds.
– Spring onions, leeks, and garlic leaves
There are many uses for these versatile greens; they can add a hit of onion flavor to various dishes. Spring onions are particularly easy to grow, and once you’ve done it once, you might never rebuy a bunch!
For spring onions and leeks, it couldn’t be easier:
- Chop your spring onions around 1″ (2.5 cm) from the root end, and leeks about 2″ (5 cm);
- Place them in a glass or jar, taking care not to overcrowd them;
- Add around ¾” (just under 2 cm) of water;
- Place the container on a windowsill that gets a decent amount of sunlight;
- Change the water every other day.
You’ll be amazed at how fast they grow, and you’ll start seeing results within days. Spring onions will typically be fully regrown within a week or so. Chop what you want to use, and keep the roots submerged for a never-ending supply.
Garlic leaves are just as easy to grow in water and offer a mild garlic flavor. For this, place an unpeeled garlic clove in a small shot glass. Add in just enough water to cover the bottom of the clove, and put it on a window sill that gets plenty of light. After the greens — or scapes — have grown a few inches tall, you can cut them and let them regrow.
– Carrot and parsnip tops
While you can’t regrow an entire carrot or parsnip in water alone, you can grow the leafy tops. These have many uses in the kitchen, such as carrot top pesto, while parsnip leaves are great additions to soups.
- Gather the carrot and parsnip tops that you’d otherwise discard, cut around 1″ (2.5 cm) from the stem;
- Line a shallow dish with cotton pads;
- Place a carrot or parsnip top in the middle of the pads;
- Spray the cotton pads with water, taking care not to overwater them;
- Place the dish on a sunny window sill.
Within a few days, you should start seeing the leafy greens appearing. These can be cut when needed, then left to regrow.
– Cabbage, lettuce, and bok choy
Cabbage, lettuce, and bok choy will all regrow in water. However, they won’t grow into a full-sized head. Instead, they’ll produce around 10 to 12 smaller leaves. These are ideal for sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries, and if you have a few going all at once, you can get a pretty good harvest. For lettuce, Romaine generally provides the best results.
- Cut the leaves from a full-sized cabbage, bok choy, or lettuce around 1″ (2.5 cm) from the stem;
- Place the stem in a shallow dish;
- Add around half an inch (1.25 cm) of water to the dish;
- Place the dish on a sunny window sill;
- Replace the water daily or every other day;
It won’t take long for the leaves to grow, and within 10 days, you’ll have a good amount of leaves. Don’t let the leaves stay longer than 12 days or so, as they will become bitter as the plant begins to bolt.
This is another easy one to grow and a great way to save money on store-bought lemongrass. It works in the same way as green onions. Cut the stems about 1″ (2.5 cm) from the root bulbs, and place them in a jar. Add about ¾” (just under 2 cm) of water and place on a sunny window sill. Replace the water every day, and within a few weeks, you’ll have a decent harvest.
Water propagation is a superb way to get more houseplants. It essentially allows you to take small cuttings from existing plants and clone a whole new one.
This can then be placed elsewhere in your home or given to friends or family. Propagated cuttings are typically later planted into the soil. Still, some can live their entire life in water in a hydroponics process — more on that below.
There are several plants that grow roots in water:
- Syngonium (arrowhead plant)
- Maranta (prayer plant) — the only calathea that can be propagated from a leaf cutting
- Fittonia (nerve plant)
- Spider plant
- Sansevieria (snake plant)
- Fiddle leaf fig
- Tradescantia (spiderwort or wandering dude)
- English ivy
Propagate houseplants in water
Many water propagated plants follow the same steps to ensure success.
Here’s a quick guide:
1. Take a cutting
Depending on the exact plant you wish to propagate, you will either need a fresh leaf or a stem cutting. These can be taken from some of your current, soil-bound houseplants. The best practice is to take a cutting that has several leaves — while one leaf is sufficient, it’ll typically take longer to stabilize.
The stem is most likely to produce roots at the leaf node (typically small bumps from which leaves and roots will grow), so cut below the node for best results. Depending on the plant, you’ll normally need to cut a 4-8″ (10-20 cm) piece of stem.
2. Add water
Next, put your stem or leaf cuttings into a jar or glass. You can use tap water, but it’s best to either let it sit for 24 hours or boil it first to drive off unwanted chemicals such as chlorine. Some plants, such as lucky bamboo, are susceptible to chlorine, so it’s essential to remove it before planting.
Otherwise, use bottled water. Best of all, however, is fresh spring water, although rainwater also works well. Add the water to the container, and cover a few inches of the stem, making sure the leaf node is covered.
3. Choose the right location
Place the container in a bright part of your home, but take care to avoid direct sunlight. Also, keep it away from areas with significant temperature fluctuations, such as radiators or drafty doors and windows.
4. Feed and maintain it
Top up the water as it evaporates, and try to change it entirely once every month. If the water becomes cloudy, it’s also worth changing it. Add in liquid or water-soluble fertilizer for the best results.
A 2-2-2 all-purpose nutri-stimulant fertilizer generally works well. Alternatively, you can seek out specialized indoor formulas. Just add in a few drops once a month or so when you change the water. Take care not to add too much at a time, however.
If your plant is struggling to get started, you can try using a rooting hormone.
5. Transplant into soil
Depending on the plant, you can start to see roots developing within a week or so. Allow the roots to grow strong, and give them at least a month from their first appearance before transplanting into soil.
When the time comes, prepare a pot of soil and gently place the propagated cutting roots into the middle. Bury the roots and care for the plant as usual.
If you don’t want the hassle of soil or prefer water plants’ aesthetics, why not try hydroponic houseplants.
Some houseplants don’t need to be transplanted into the soil and can live their entire lives in water. This is a process known as hydroponics. While commonly used on an industrial scale, it can look pretty spectacular in the home. Hydroponics essentially refers to plants that can grow in water, and it’s easier than it seems.
The following plants that grow in water vases, colored mason jars, and stylized glasses can all create a stunning display in your home:
- Lucky bamboo
- Chinese evergreen
- Peace lily
- Pothos and philodendron
For the most part, you can follow the steps above for propagating houseplants in water. You can add pebbles, marbles, and other heavy items into your containers to weigh them down and offer support to the root systems as the plants mature. As a bonus, they often look great too.
Tips for growing plants in water
We’ve spent a lot of time nurturing our hydroponic houseplants, and the following tips work wonders for us!
- Change the water weekly to prevent unpleasant smells and bacteria growth;
- Use opaque vases or jars to prevent algae from growing inside the container;
- Choose a narrow-necked container to help support the stems. Vases and bottles are good choices. Metal containers should generally be avoided, while glass and ceramic tend to work best;
- Use a liquid fertilizer once every 3 or 4 weeks to give your plants a nutrient boost;
- You can use tap water to grow your plants. However, if the water in your area is very hard, we suggest using rainwater or distilled water instead. You can also leave the water in a jug to ‘air out’ overnight, which will allow substances such as chloramine to evaporate from it.
Water plants for your garden pond
Suppose you have a garden pond or a water feature, plenty of plants that can live in water. Not only do these add natural decor to your water feature, but they can attract wildlife to your garden as well. As a bonus, they also stop green algae from building up while improving the pond’s water quality.
There are two main types of pond plants:
1. Marginals: these live on the edge of the pond, in shallower water
- Flowering rush
- Marsh marigold
- Blue iris
- Creeping Jenny
- Sweet flag
2. Floating plants: these are usually embedded in the bed of the pond.
- Water lilies
- Calla lily
- Water lettuce
- Mosaic flower
- Water Hyacinth
How to grow plants in your pond
When you buy aquatic plants for your pond, they may come in a pot of soil. Carefully remove the plant from the soil, and gently rinse the roots off, slowly pouring water over them to avoid root damage.
For marginal plants, choose a suitable place on the edge of the pond — ideally between rocks to add support. Gently push the roots into the gap between the rocks, ensuring the water is not too deep. Finally, use another rock to anchor the plant into place.
The easiest way to secure them to the bed of your pond is to put the roots in a container with floating plants. Add in some gravel to weigh it down and anchor the roots, then drop the container into the part of the pond you’d like them to grow. Floating plants prefer still water and consistent temperatures, so avoid placing them near pumps if possible.
It’s impressive just how many plants can grow in water alone. From herbs and vegetables to pond plants and houseplants that grow in water, there’s a whole world of aquatic plant life to explore!
Let’s recap the basics:
- There are plenty of benefits to growing plants in water, from making less mess to taking up less space;
- Several herbs and vegetables can be regrown in water, and some can even regrow an entire clone;
- Houseplants can be cloned by propagating in water, ensuring an endless supply of plants!
- Some houseplants can live their entire lives in just water, in a process known as hydroponics;
- Pond plants come in all shapes and sizes, from floating flowers to reedy marginals.
So, if you’re looking for a new gardening project, why not try growing plants in water? Having read this guide, you’re more than ready to get started!
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