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How to Grow Houseplants In Water

Growing Plants in Water

Let’s be absolutely frank here: we all forget to water our plants sometimes. And for those of us who tend to travel, it’s not uncommon to return to shrivelled or overwatered greenery due to miscommunications with the plant sitter. Yikes.

An Anthurium houseplant growing in a water vase

Anthurium houseplants are normally grown in soil, but they can do really well in water too

The solution is here! Ditch the soil and grow your plants in water permanently. Reduced maintenance and, with the right vase, a gorgeous centerpiece; what’s not to love?

Can houseplants grow in water? The short answer? Yes!

You’re probably familiar with the fact that you can take a cutting from a plant and place it in water for it to regrow. This is referred to as water propagation and it’s a very popular way to produce more plants. Once the cutting has grown its own root system, most indoor horticulturalists then move it to soil. However, you don’t have to!

In many cases, houseplants can thrive in water indefinitely as long as you provide what they need to continue growing. This is called hydroponic growing and it’s great because it makes for a whole different way to display your houseplants. Who doesn’t like greenery in a pretty vase or bottle?

It’s fascinating to be able to glimpse for once at what normally happens below the soil, seeing the root system develop and grow in a glass container. Additionally, as mentioned in the intro, hydroponic growing is the perfect solution for those who have trouble sticking to a regular houseplant watering schedule.

So how do you go about growing your own houseplant(s) hydroponically? Luckily, it’s pretty easy.

A Dracaena cutting rooting in a vase of water

Dracaena cutting rooting in water

Taking a Cutting

If you’d like to grow a houseplant in water, you could of course take a fully grown plant out of its pot. If you thoroughly clean the roots of any dirt it would most likely be able to adjust to its feet being submerged and continue growing.

To avoid the extra work of having to take a plant out of its existing container (and to obtain a fully new plant for free - bonus!), my preferred option is propagation. This involves taking a piece of an existing plant and placing the base in water. As mentioned before, if you took the cutting correctly, it will soon grow a new root system and then continue producing new foliage.

The process of taking a cutting differs from plant to plant. With vining plants like Pothos and English Ivy, you can just snip a piece off a vine. Suckering plants like Sansevieria or the popular Pilea Peperomioides can be propagated from the offsets they produce at their base. Some Begonias can be propagated using just one small section of a single leaf and Dracaena stems can be cut into lots of small pieces, all of them viable.

To find out the best way to take a cutting from your plant, have a look at the full propagation guide in the articles linked to in the above paragraph.

Tip! This soil-less method also works for herbs. That way you get a pretty centerpiece to display and use while cooking.

Rooting in Water

Now that you have successfully obtained your cutting, let’s move on to rooting it.

  • Start by choosing your container.
    It can be anything from a pretty vase to an old bottle. Keep in mind that if the container has a narrow neck that you might not be able to get the plant out of it once it has rooted, unless you’re willing to sacrifice either the bottle or the root system, so choose wisely!
  • Fill up your container.
    If your tap water is high quality you can use that; if you think it’s too full of chlorine/chloramine or if has been extensively filtered (which removes all nutrients), you may want to go for bottled or even rain water instead.
  • Place the plant in the container.
    You may have to stabilize the stem to avoid it from toppling over and/or new growth becoming all lopsided.
  • Find a spot for your plant.
    The right location is important! New cuttings generally don’t like being exposed to full sun and the water in a translucent vase can heat up quickly. Bright indirect light is better. Avoid drafts and cold: a spot that’s warm (but not hot!) will give the best results.
  • Be patient.
    The houseplant hobby is one that requires patience and this is no exception. You might start seeing root growth within as little as a few days if it’s summertime and you chose a vigorous grower. If the plant is a slow grower and it’s winter hibernation time you’ll likely have to wait longer.

 

Plant cutting growing in water that has grown new roots

Polyscias Fabian cutting that has grown new roots

Maintenance and Problems

If you followed all the steps above you should now have a happy cutting working hard to produce its new root system. Hurrah! The advantage of growing houseplants in water is that they require very little maintenance, although there are still a few tasks to stay on top of.

  • Water changes.
    The plant will absorb nutrients from the water in its container. Bits of leaf or root might die off and foul the water. All this means that it’s a good idea to regularly do water changes.
  • Fertilizer.
    You should not be adding any sort of fertilizer to your cutting if it’s still in the beginning stages of forming a root system. Later, however, you can add a few drops of liquid houseplant fertilizer whenever you do a water change. Or, even better: use pond - or aquarium water! Your plant will love the nutrients contained in fish waste.
  • Algae.
    Seeing algae growth? Your plant might be getting too much light or you’re overdoing it on the fertilizer. While algae growth is not necessarily a problem it can be unsightly, and also difficult to remove if you can’t take the plant out of its container. Luckily, covering the glass for a week or two to starve the algae from light is usually enough to get rid of it.

 

Many houseplants can be grown in water including the top of a Pineapple

A pineapple top can be rooted in water and will continue growing.

What do you think?

Is this something you might try? Perhaps you do it already? Let us know in the comments below.


About the Author

Mari

Mari (Guest Post)

Mari is the author behind Houseplant Central, which is dedicated to helping houseplant lovers keep their greenery happy and healthy.

Originally from The Netherlands, she now lives in Spain, where she spends her days writing articles about plants while surrounded by her extensive houseplant collection and two noisy parakeets.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

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