Growing Houseplants in Water

Find Your Green Thumb: How to Grow Houseplants in Water (Hydroponics)

If you’ve always wanted to have beautiful lush houseplants but wasn’t blessed with a green thumb, all you need to do is to throw out the dirt! For most plants, soil is basically a medium that simply holds them in place. It also gives them a source of moisture and provides a small amount of nutrients for a short time. But, potting soil isn’t a requirement. In fact, there are several different types of houseplants that grow much better in water than they do in soil.

While plants do have specific light requirements, one of the main causes of dead plants is too little or too much water. Plants that don’t receive enough water quickly wither and die while plants that get too much water develop root rot and fungal and bacterial problems that can lead to death. You actually only need three things to successfully grow houseplants…

1. Water
2. Nutrients
3. A medium to hold the plant up!

Aside from making it easier to grow houseplants, using water instead of soil has several other big advantages.

Growing your plants in water using hydroponics is much healthier – it helps reduce allergies, prevents mildew and mold and water is pest free.

It’s also cleaner – you don’t need to worry about soil spilling all over the floor and your furniture.

It requires less maintenance – you rarely need to transplant the plants, you don’t have to water them as often and you won’t have to worry about them having enough water while you’re on vacation or away for the weekend.

Using water instead of soil offers a lot of advantages for both you and your plants. Because they’re in a liquid, the nutrients are evenly distributed to the roots of the plant. The chances of over watering or under watering are totally eliminated. And, the roots can receive the proper aeration. It also prevents pest infestations and diseases. All of these things promote healthy thriving houseplants.

Growing plants without soil is very similar to hydroponic farming. In hydroponic farming crops are grown in a mixture of water and liquid nutrients.

However, while hydroponic farming usually is done with an inner and outer pot, you can simply use one pot or vase for your plants. If you choose a vase with a narrow top, no medium is needed to hold the plant in place. If you want to use a pot or vase with a wider opening, you can fill the container with decorative pebbles.

Transferring A Soil Grown Plant to Water

Even if you have a plant that has been growing in soil you can easily transfer it to a vase or pot of water. Make sure that you allow the soil to dry so that the plant is much easier to transplant. Remove the plant from the pot and remove as much dirt as possible from the roots. You can hold the root ball under warm water and let the water gently remove the dirt without damaging the roots. And, remove any dead roots that you see.

Starting A New Houseplant in Water
Virtually any houseplant that can be rooted in water can grow permanently in water. It’s a great way to get multiple plants from one single plant. Simply take cuttings of the parent plant making sure that you cut just below a leaf node. The leaf nodes contain the plants highest concentration of natural rooting hormones. Remove any leaves from the stem that will be in the water. Leaves left on the plant will quickly rot and can cause problems for the plant.

How to Use Pebbles as A Growing Medium

If you need to use pebbles, or just like the decorative look, make sure that you thoroughly rinse them before you place them in the container. Place a layer of pebbles on the bottom of the container as a base. Hold the plant over the container and carefully spread the roots across the pebbles. Once you have the roots in place, gently fill the container up to the desired level with more pebbles.

Avoid Using Tap Water

Although most plants will happily grow in tap water, spring water or well water is the best choice. Tap water is literally void of any nutrients that the plant needs to flourish. And, while you can certainly add some liquid or water soluble fertilizer to the water, some plants are very sensitive to chlorine. You can also use filtered water, or allow the water to sit overnight so that the chlorine can dissipate.

Houseplants That Thrive In Water:

Arrowhead Plant
Chinese Evergreen
Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy
English Ivy
Jade Plant
Peace Lilies
Spider Plants
Wandering Jew
Wax Plant

Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2010


  1. Holly
    Feb 9, 2014

    Hello! What do I use for nutrients? And how do I clean the pebbles after they get salty looking? I have three growing/surviving in pebbles but they are really needing food now, it’s been a few years!

  2. Judy
    Feb 21, 2014

    I don’t understand something about this article. It says that growing plants in water rather than dirt, prevents under watering and over watering! How can growing a plant in water be described as ” not overwatering” it? Please explain! Thank you!

    • Renee West
      Feb 11, 2017

      It is a curious thing and a sensible question but somehow it does work!

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