How to Grow Houseplants in Water (Hydroculture)

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, insects, and disease along with it! Many houseplants grow very nicely in a simple double pot with a simple water solution, sometimes called passive hydroponics. In hydroculture, special pebbles rather than dirt hold up the plant's stem and roots.


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    Preparation - gather all materials at the kitchen sink including:
    • Plant or rooted cuttings
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    • Clay-fired pebbles
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    • Inner pot with slots
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    • Water level indicator
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    • Outer pot
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    Rinse the clay-fired pebbles to remove dust and minute pebble particles.
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    Rooted cuttings – skip to step 5
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    Transplanting from dirt - remove the plant from its dirt pot. 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 from the plant. Knock off loose dirt clumps. Hold under gently running tap water at room temperature to rinse off the remainder of the dirt. Trim off dead or extra roots.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Then put in a room set at 65-74 degrees.


  • Many plants do well in hydroculture, including cacti and succulents. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • The Pothos vine is about as easy to grow, and as easy to root cuttings in water as can be. Start with a Pothos plant.
  • When transplanting from dirt, a dry plant is easier to work with.
  • You can enjoy hydroculture houseplants without ever playing in the dirt. Buy pre-planted, or plant water rooted cuttings.
  • Touching roots is ok, but touch gently please.
  • Plants that were originally rooted in water seem to do well in hydroculture.
  • Consider buying a pre-planted hydroculture plant to have as a model before you do your first transplant.
  • You can substitute a more decorative outer pot for the plain ones that come in kits, but make sure it is not a lot bigger than the inner pot.


  • Do not keep topping off the water to maintain the full level. The plants do much better if the water level is allowed to drop to or below the fill level before refilling.
  • Don’t skip the water level indicator and try to measure by eye. The trick to hydroculture is that with the indicator you cannot over water or under water.
  • The nutrients aren’t especially dangerous but don’t store them where children can reach.

Things You'll Need

  • Water – tap water is generally fine.
  • Nutrients – can be ordered with potting materials and then mixed with water.
  • The plant - many houseplants take nicely to the hydroculture process.
  • 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.
  • Kit – kits are available with everything you need to get started.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Hydroponics