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How to grow house plants in water

Updated on April 6, 2011

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.

·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.

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.

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    • profile image

      GreenGo 3 years ago

    • profile image

      monicahernandez 4 years ago

      This is very interesting.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      laurenrich 5 years ago

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

    • BubblesRFun profile image

      BubblesRFun 5 years ago

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

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 5 years ago

      Great info thanks...

    • profile image

      mujahidshaikh 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Very nice and informative lens. Thanks for sharing!

    • desa999 lm profile image

      desa999 lm 5 years ago

      Very informative lens well done!

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens! Keep up the great work!

      One squid thumbs up vote left for this lens!

    • profile image

      baumchen 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      homerepellent 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      rangiiria 6 years ago

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

    • checkyourvibe profile image

      Cathy Slaght 6 years ago from St. Petersburg, Fl

      valuable information!

    • Michelle77 LM profile image

      Michelle77 LM 6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      carredsal 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      AllyVuitton 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      hydroponickit 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      budgetwater 6 years ago

      Hydroponics! Very cool!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have enjoyed your lens on exercising.

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 6 years ago

      Great ideas

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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".

    • profile image

      fulltimehockeymom 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      beckwong 6 years ago

      great lens:)

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      Cool lens:p

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great lens, I hope my plants take to it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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 :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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!

    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great info! I learned something new.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      infoels1 7 years ago

      very well

    • profile image

      infoels1 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      Thanks for all the good ideas.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hello there! I feel awesome today, and I would like that you know that it happened due to such an unexpected affair, which drove me so high! I didn't thought that this could be for real. However, now, I have already experienced it by myself. What I wanted to mean is that this stuff called Viagra Prescription , Generic Viagra and also Viagra Online won't ever let you down when you need some action. Look, I apologize If this offended somebody. Anyway, in a nutshell, I am glad to be part of this fabulous site. By the way, this lens is dynamite!

    • profile image

      waterbeads 7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Tarra99 7 years ago

      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

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      fascinating and well presented

      you've been blessed

    • profile image

      briangreen143 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      mommyplus3kids 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      mpp1 8 years ago


      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.



    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      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.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is so interesting. Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      This is a great lens. Very informational.

    • susanbrian lm profile image

      susanbrian lm 9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Meowlynn 9 years ago

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

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 9 years ago

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

    • LABELSTONE profile image

      LABELSTONE 10 years ago

      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:

    • profile image

      ArrowSheds 10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Barefoot_gardener 10 years ago

      Very interesting, thank you!

    • profile image

      teebutch 10 years ago

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

    • steveffeo lm profile image

      steveffeo lm 10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      ank 10 years ago

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

      Click Here.

    • Barkely profile image

      Barkely 10 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      pretty good.

    • steveffeo lm profile image

      steveffeo lm 10 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

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

      and one about Hobby Greenhouses;

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      MB 11 years ago

      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 profile image

      Cavecreek 11 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • Jennifer Einstein profile image

      Jennifer Einstein 11 years ago from New York City

      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!