How to Grow Plants in Water – A Step by Step Guide

Over the years, growing plants indoors has become an important part of interior design, but growing them in water is quickly becoming a popular gardening trend. Since growing plants in water requires very little upkeep, it’s a great option for those who are unable to take time and make the effort to maintain an outdoor garden.

In this article, we’ve got all the information on everything you need to know about growing plants in water. Follow these easy tips and you’ll be well on your way to starting your own indoor water garden.

Why Grow Plants in Water?

Growing plants in water is much more convenient than growing them in soil due to various reasons. Here are some of the advantages:

1. Water plants require less attention. 

If you lead a busy lifestyle, watering your indoor plants can tiresome and you may forget or give up sooner or later. However, when you grow them in water, you’ll only have to replace the water every now and then and drop in some fertilizer to keep them healthy. Anyone can do it and it takes hardly any time at all.

2. Less mess to deal with. 

You can place your plant pots on plant stands, windowsills, tables or countertops, but there will always be soil around them, messing up your home. If you have pets, you may catch them digging up the dirt in the plant pots placed on the floor and adding to the mess. This is something any cat owner would have to endure at some point. In this case, water plants are less messy and more convenient.

3. There are fewer pests. 

Plants grown in soil tend to attract annoying houseplant pests such as fungus gnats. The larvae feed on the soil and lay their eggs in it, whether it’s indoors or out. Since there’s no soil involved with water plants, you’ll have fewer pests to deal with.

4. Easier to grow and propagate.  

Some plants are difficult to grow from seed since they don’t always survive. However, there are many varieties that are easy to grow in water and the chances of survival are much higher. Some examples are indoor plants like begonias, spider plants and coleus which are easy to propagate when grown in water. Many tropical plants and herbs generate roots quickly when their stems are cut and placed in water and they’re also much easier to transplant than those grown in soil.  

5. Leads to a better environment.  

You can use any container that will hold enough water for your water plants. This means that you’ll be able to reuse old containers around your house such as bottles, cups, jars and plastic containers, doing your bit to reduce the environmental impact of packaging.

While any waterproof container will work, avoid using those made of brass, lead or copper since these metals can react with fertilizer and corrode, resulting in plant damage. Dark containers are known to help prevent the formation of algae.

Good Plants to Grow in Water

plant in water
Arrowhead plant in water

There are thousands of plant varieties that can be grown in water, but some of the best and easiest plants include the following:

  • Inch Plant – These plants have been grown as indoor houseplants for decades and remain popular today because they’re extremely easy to grow. They’re available in several varieties, colors, and sizes so finding one that would match perfectly in your office or home will be easy.
  • Hoya Plant – These plants (also known as wax plants) are evergreen perennial vines or shrubs that can grow in water, soil or on rocks. Although they have beautiful flowers, they can take up to 7 years to bloom.
  • Arrowhead – A slow-growing, tropical plant, arrowhead is one of the easiest water plants to take care of since it requires hardly any maintenance at all. It can be grown as a potted or hanging plant.
  • Pothos – Pothos is a waxy, evergreen plant with thick, heart-shaped leaves featuring splashes of yellow. It’s typically grown as a hanging plant.
  • English Ivy – An evergreen perennial vine, the English ivy is a common and popular houseplant because it remains green and beautiful all year round. 

Note: Some plants are toxic to humans and animals when ingested, so watch out for these if there are little children or pets in your home. The peace lily, dumb cane, and pothos are some examples of potentially dangerous plants.

How to Grow Plants in Water

another plant in water
Pothos grown in water

Growing plants in water takes a little preparation, but after the initial work is done, you won’t have a lot of maintenance to worry about. Here are 6 easy steps to start growing your own indoor water garden:

1. Choose a Plant

Choose an indoor plant that requires a modest amount of light. All plants, whether indoor or outdoor plants, need sunlight to thrive. Too little sunlight could affect your plant’s growth while too much could scorch it so before you choose a plant, make sure you understand its requirements.

2. Take a Cutting

Water plants are typically grown from cuttings. Purchase one or choose an existing plant from your garden or from a friend’s (make sure that it’s a healthy plant with a well-developed root system). Carefully take cuttings from it using a sharp cutting tool. Make the cut just below the plant’s node, leaving only one or two leaves on the top.

Remove any leaves or flowers from any part of the cutting that will be below the surface of the water. If you leave them, they will grow into seeds and use up all the nutrients saved for the roots.   

2. Choose a Container

Choose one or more containers for your cuttings, making sure that they are big enough so the plants will have enough room to grow. If you’re purchasing containers for water plants, choose one that’s narrower at the top and broader at the bottom since this will support the plant to develop and extend its roots without sinking into the water.

4. Plant the Cutting

You can choose to grow your cuttings in several containers or place multiple cuttings in one large container. Fill the container halfway with clean water or distilled water to eliminate the risk of chemicals such as chlorine harming your plants. Place the cutting carefully in the water and leave it to grow. Once your cuttings develop roots, you can plant them in another vessel of your choice.

5. Choose the Right Spot for Your Plants

Your plants need a sufficient amount of sunlight to thrive, so make sure to place them in a spot exposed to sunlight. Windowsills are ideal but if you don’t have a windowsill that’s large enough, you can place the plants somewhere else, like on a table near the window. As we’ve mentioned above, keep toxic plants away from children and pets in order to avoid unpleasant accidents.

6. Change Water

Change the water in the container once or twice a week to help your plants grow healthy. Never leave it until the water starts turning green or cloudy as this could result in root rot. The water should always be clean and free from chemicals so that your plant will be able to ‘breathe’ and it will also help prevent microorganisms from breeding in the water.

Caring for Water Plants

The most important things your plants will need is clean water, fertilizer, and adequate sunlight. Check the water regularly, refilling as it evaporates and replacing it every week or two. To promote quicker and healthier growth, feed the plants a few drops of liquid organic houseplant fertilizer at least once every two weeks. Be cautious when fertilizing and know the requirements of each type of plant to avoid over- or under-fertilizing which could kill the plant.

After a few weeks or months, your plants will begin to produce roots. In fact, some sprout roots after just a few days. At this point, some plants will be ready to use in cooking whereas other will be mature enough to propagate.

Keep an eye out for pests and signs of diseases. Check the roots of your plants every now and then for root rot and worms. If it’s being attacked by pests, you can try spraying the plant with soap or carefully wiping the leaves to remove them.

If you notice the leaves of your plants turning brown or yellow, it’s a sign that the plant is dying, most likely due to inadequate nutrients or sunlight. In this case, try feeding it with an organic fertilizer or compost tea (this is only if you have not fertilized it in over two weeks) or place the plant in a different location, where it can get more sunlight.

Containers for Water Plants

If you prefer to purchase a container for your water plants, there are many options available on the market. However, you can also use any old or unnecessary containers in your home. Plants with freshly cut stems usually require small containers at first, but they will need to be moved to a bigger container as they grow. 

Here are some ideas for containers you can use for water-grown plants:

  • Vases – Available in various shapes, sizes and colors, vases are excellent for growing water plants and not just to hold flowers.
  • Jars – If you have a jumble of mason jars stashed away in the corner of your pantry, kitchen, or basement, you can use these as a container for your water plants.
  • Test tubes – Strange as it may seem, test tubes are one of the most popular ways to display houseplants in water. Herbs like basil and parsley can be grown in test tubes until they’re big enough to be moved. You can also purchase plant-specific imitation test tube kits. 
  • Wall vessels – Grow your plants in wall vessels which will keep them safely out of the way of children and pets. There are various types of wall vessels to choose from, including test tubes mounted on wood, hanging glass globes and wall-mounted vases.

When choosing a suitable container for your water plants, go for opaque or dark containers as they tend to prevent the growth of algae.

The Bottom Line

As an important source of oxygen, plants are crucial for our survival, and they come with many health benefits. Having indoor plants is always a good idea since you can use them for cooking, for medicinal purposes or just to beautify your home. Water plants are fun to grow and will give you all these benefits, without having to worry too much about maintenance. If you’re someone with a busy schedule, an indoor water garden would be perfect for you.

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