RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Houseplants make you happy, and they clean your indoor air. But they also require upkeep and can feel daunting for the brown-thumbed among us. At least, until now. Introducing the ultimate, impossible-to-kill houseplant that grows in water and never has to be fed.
Growing houseplants in water is similar to hydroponic farming, in which farmers grow crops in a mixture of liquid nutrients and water rather than in soil. "To grow plants, you need water, you need nutrients, you need oxygen, and you need something to keep it from falling over," says David Emmons, owner of Vermont Nature Creations, a company that designs root vases for waterborne plants and herbs. "With most plants, the soil keeps it from tipping over and provides the nutrients." But small houseplants and herbs can get adequate nutrient intake from water, which contains trace amounts of minerals and other nutrients that support plant growth. In other words, no soil required.
This method for growing plants is great for novice indoor gardeners, he says, because it's low-maintenance and keeps the plant largely free of disease and pest problems. "You eliminate most plant diseases because the majority are from soilborne mold and soilborne bugs," he says. Without soil, you bypass those problems.
Growing plants in water takes little time or preparation. Feel like getting started? Great! Here’s the plan:
Step 1—Pick your plant. Herbs are particularly well suited to indoor hydroponics, says Emmons. "Some herbs grow so fast in water, you see a new leaf almost every day." Mints and oreganos grow fastest, followed by basil and rosemary. Lavender and sage are also favorites at his shop. As for houseplants, Emmons recommends any type of ivy (English ivy is his favorite), philodendron, wandering Jew, purple passion, and coleus. Even many flowering plants such begonias or impatiens will thrive in water. "It's so wonderful to look up and see impatiens still flowering in your window in January!" says Emmons.
Read on for other tips on growing houseplants in water.