Do you know terrariums and garden beds are great ways to start your garden, but some plants can also root without soil?
Without the soil, you can even lessen the pest and disease attacks on your plant and keep your house, clothes, and fingernails clean.
So, take your time to read the article to learn about the plants that can grow without the soil and their propagation methods!
Table of Contents Show
Is It Possible to Grow Plants Without Soil?
Though some plants with deep roots, such as vegetables and trees, need soil, it is possible to grow without the soil.
However, other plants that grow without soil or water are called “epiphytes.”
Growing plants without soil allows a faster growth rate, easy nutrient access, no weed problems, etc.
5 Methods of Growing Plants Without Soil
Growing plants without soil seems impossible but is relatively easy as you need to take care of the type of plants and techniques to use.
Aquaponics is the method of growing plants in water with fishes whose feces serve as a nutrient for plants to grow, and plants recycle the water for fishes.
Plants like broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, etc., go well with fish such as silver perch, barramundi, and marrow during spring and summer.
Besides, plants such as garlic, peas, spinach, etc., go well with fish such as rainbow trout during winters.
Water Lilies are also the best plants to choose during summer when the water temperature hits around 24 to 28℃.
You can construct a basic aquaponic system indoors by following these tips.
- Prepare a food-grade plastic container or a large aquarium tank, or join two aquarium tanks to create a large one.
- Build a media bed containing pH-neutral LECA pebbles as a suitable place for the plants to grow over the tank.
- Add fish to the tank and the plants to the media bed. Head-start by growing the seedlings so that they develop proper roots.
- Gently place the plants in the media bed so that the roots touch the surface of the dechlorinated water and can easily take up the required nutrients.
However, there are certain things to take into account.
- Feed your fish two to three times daily, only for five minutes but never use live foods.
- Maintain the pH of the water neutral between 6.8 and 7; if it changes, add calcium hydroxide or potassium carbonate in powdered form.
- Avoid the growth of weeds on the media bed along with the plants.
Aquascaping arranges aquatic features like plants, substrates, and stones to create an aesthetic underwater environment.
Moreover, you can choose plants that can survive submerged conditions in the water, like Anubias and Cryptocoryne species.
Follow these tips to construct a basic indoor aquascape using an aquarium.
- Take a regular glass tank with a gallon of water holding capacity and place it on a rigid counter to prevent it from falling.
- Attach lights so the plants can receive the optimal amount of Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR).
- Add the aquarium gravel or coarse sand, place aquarium plants on the substrate using tweezers about two to three inches deep, and finally, add dechlorinated water.
Light is essential, so you must set light timers to provide lighting for five to six hours a day.
Also, add less liquid fertilizer in the first week and increase the dose each week when you see plant growth.
Hydroponics is the method of growing terrestrial plants in water containing dissolved nutrients.
The technique involves water and holds an inert medium to support the roots of the plant in some cases.
All you need is a plant, a container to hold water, a way to anchor the plant, nutrients, and a light source.
- Take a large plastic container holding at least five gallons of dechlorinated water containing balanced liquid fertilizer.
- Drill holes in a polystyrene sheet and place it above the container.
- Fill net pots with LECA balls to provide aeration and place the plants in the pots.
- Now, place the net pots on the holes drilled over the sheet.
- Keep PVC pipes to support the sheet from below and place them in full sunlight. In the case of houseplants, dappled sunlight is enough.
Remember to provide enough aeration by submerging the pots only half their length into the water.
Place the system under light and dark cycles for 18 and 6 hours, respectively.
Plus, it is ideal to grow seedlings beforehand to make the plant roots better adapted to water later.
Aeroponics involves growing plants in a mist or air environment without solid support.
The plant roots get plentiful oxygen, prevent water logging, and allow easy growing of Microgreens, rooting and fruiting crops, trees, etc.,
However, the method is only feasible for growing plants in regions with poor soil.
If you want an insight into how it’s done, follow the steps below.
- Plants in net pots are suspended with their roots dangling down, supported by a frame that holds the pots in place.
- An instrument (nebulizer/water nozzle) constantly releases a dense mist of nutrients.
- The plant roots receive droplets of micro-nutrients from below.
Aeroponics allows plant growth by supplying oxygen through the root zone and helps reduce the chance of spreading disease.
5. Sand Culture
The process of sand culture is similar to growing plants in the soil that anchors plants to the grow beds, trays, or pots.
This technique is popular in arid and Middle Eastern countries with abundant sand as it is reusable.
You can apply it for plants like Coneflowers, Sedum, Euphorbias, and Cacti prefer dry environments.
Follow the steps to grow the plants through Sand culture.
- Take a six-inch pot with a wick passing through the hole at its base over the smaller four-inch pot.
- Fill the smaller pot with a slow-releasing liquid fertilizer , ensuring that the wick touches it, and the larger pot with sand to root the developed cuttings.
- Keep the pot in a sunny area that receives indirect light.
However, you can use lime-free sand that is medium to coarse in size, which allows proper aeration.
Besides, you need to change the nutrient solution once a week by thoroughly keeping the sandy substrate moist using water to prevent the accumulation of salts.
If you want to reuse the sand, wash it using distilled water until it retains a neutral pH.
Plants That Grow Without Soil
Growing plants without soil is not an experiment but a successful gardening culture everyone can adopt for a better plant life.
I have listed a few and categorized plants based on their required growing medium.
1. Plants That Grow in Water
Growing plants in water is called hydroponics, and you only need a jar of water and a touch of fertilizer.
Philodendrons are also easily identifiable plants due to their trailing and heart-shaped green leaves, which are well suited to bright and dappling light.
Also, you can get propagating materials from every part of the plant.
To grow it in a jar of water, clip a six-inch section from the healthy mother plant and remove the lower two sets of leaves.
Place it in a jar of distilled water and notice the roots growing from the leaf nodes after 10 days.
With large variegated leaves and impressive size, Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema sp.) plants are a true enigma for plant enthusiasts.
Their thick stems and large leaves allow the plant to live long in the water.
Place any section in distilled water in the area receiving dappling light for successful propagation.
Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is not really bamboo but looks like one due to its bamboo-like stem and leaves.
You may see it in a transparent jar filled with water, despite its ability to succeed in soil because of its indestructibility and little care requirement.
To grow this plant, take a transparent jar filled with distilled water an inch deep and include some gravel at the bottom for upright placement of your Lucky Bamboo.
Water Lilies (Nymphaea sp.) are exclusive plants best described as aquatic plants that grow without soil.
They have pink to light-pink flowers with large circular leaves, making them afloat on the water’s surface.
Although gardeners grow these Nymphaea species outdoors in large ponds, you can also grow them indoors.
However, Water Lilies are picky about the water quality and require a proper water temperature to grow with exceptional sunlight.
Keep it in a clean jar filled with distilled water and change it regularly to prevent it from becoming stale and smelly.
Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) with strap-like stripped and long leaves are probably the easiest houseplants for water propagation.
Under the right circumstances, your Spider Plant shall produce long stems called plantlets or spiderettes with small roots.
You can snip these stems and directly pop them in a narrow-necked jar filled with distilled water.
When the roots are long, you can add balanced fertilizer and change the water occasionally to keep long-term growth.
Beautiful hairy, gray-green drooping tendrils of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) evoke aesthetic decor to your orchard trees.
Instead of water, the plant survives by absorbing moisture from the surrounding air.
You can grow it indoors, but ensure to mist it twice a week and fertilize the plant with high phosphorous fertilizer once in two weeks.
Marimo Moss Ball
Marimo Moss Balls are algal species and aquarium plants growing without soil that can make any jar of water or aquarium incredible.
However, they are sensitive to light and water requirements.
You need to keep these plants in low indirect sunlight with a water change once in a couple of weeks will keep them happy.
Paperwhite (Narcissus sp.) plants are a variety of daffodils that can allure you with white-yellow and fragrant flowers.
You can force-grow this Narcissus species using bulbs during the winter seasons.
Paperwhite plants can gladly grow in some water and pebbles. But they can smell strongly and be allergic to you or your pets.
2. Plants That Grow On Rocks
Usually, plants that grow on rocks are lithophytes or drought-tolerant rock lovers. They inhabit the rocky areas in the wild, but you can grow them in self-maintained rocky gardens.
Here are piles of options that you can choose from!
Euphorbia is great for planting in rock gardens because most succulents can thrive in dry environments.
Although these Euphorbia species are grown outdoors, they can also grow in pots indoors.
They almost resemble cactuses with bizarre shapes, broad, fleshy stems, and spines.
Catmint (Nepeta sp.) is excellent for rock gardens where you can place them as border plants.
Flowers of Catmint come in various colors depending on variety, from pink, violet, and white to lavender blue.
Moreover, the foliage of this Nepeta species is aromatic and great deer and rabbit resistant.
Their heat and drought-tolerant ability make them a well-suited contender for rock gardens having gravel soil with slight drainage.
They need full sun but can tolerate light shade and can be propagated during spring using stem cuttings.
Yuccas are incredibly hardy trees that grow well in a dry environment infused with rocks.
These Yucca species boast evergreen sword-shaped leaves and white flower stalks that grow three to ten feet above the foliage and add flair to your rock garden.
The soil requirement for Yucca includes a dry sandy substrate that is low in fertility and excellent drainage.
Additionally, Yucca accepts full sun, so plant them as individuals or in clumps and propagate using offsets at the base of the trunks during spring.
Be sure to keep it out of reach from children and pets as it is highly poisonous.
Agave plants are great for rocky gardens because they prefer sandy soil and adequate sunlight.
During winters, they prefer well drainage but water and fertilize them often during summers.
Agave plants enhance rocky gardens with tall flower spikes and succulent marginally serrated leaves at the plant base, forming a rosette habit.
Offsets called “pups” present at the base of the plant are the ideal choice to propagate the new Agave plants.
However, they rarely flower indoors, and their sap juice is poisonous.
Stonecrops (Sedum sp.) is also ideal for rock gardens as they can take the sun’s heat without any issue and barely require water.
This succulent produces large clusters of white, yellow, pink, or red flowers, and you can propagate their thick leaves that fall off easily.
Coarse gravel-based soil with bright direct sunlight is best for these Sedum species, and they do not require watering once they establish themselves.
Rock Cress (Arabis caucasica) is ideal for a velvety look for your rock garden. The plant beautifully sprawls over the rocks and thrives in little moisture.
Since they grow like moss, moist rocks are a brilliant substrate for this plant.
Their fragrant flowers come in different colors, including white, pink, purple, and rose.
Leaves of the plants don’t serve as any aesthetic value as flowers but serve as a garnish in dishes.
3. Plants That Grow Without Soil and Water
The epiphytes that don’t need soil and water to grow are also called “air plants.”
They get the nutrients directly from the air, meaning they don’t need their roots buried in the soil.
If you choose plants that don’t require any growing medium, don’t ignore Orchids.
About 70% of the Orchids grow sticking to the branches and trunks of trees using their clinging roots.
Orchids have thick, greenish-white, and spongy aerial roots made up of velamen tissue that allows the plant to soak in the moisture from the air.
Orchids are often prized for their stunning flowers that come in various shapes and colors that are great for hanging baskets.
Some species of Orchids have long-lasting blooms that can stay in the plant for months blooming all year around.
Choose a tree or area that receives direct sunlight and high moisture if you want to grow them.
Bromeliads are members of the Bromeliaceae family, also known as the pineapple family. A member of this family is the Tillandsia species, the “true air plants.”
Bromeliads lack roots but only function as hanging or clinging if they develop the roots.
Generally, they grow in the tropics, placing their roots in the crooks and cracks of large trees.
Like the particular velamen roots of Orchids, Bromeliads have unique scales on their leaves known as trichomes that help suck moisture from the air.
They produce tall flower spikes from the center of the plant if provided with proper humidity and a little acidic substrate.
The pups of Bromeliads are the best for propagation, and you can place them in any form of supportive wood that will help them spread.
Not all the Hoya are epiphytes, but some grow on the trees’ barks hanging using their unique adventitious roots.
Gardeners prefer Hoya plants for their star-shaped flowers of variable colors ranging from white, pink, orange, yellow, burgundy, and sometimes black.
Usually, Hoya prefers slightly acidic, well-draining soil and dappled sunlight.
Place them in hanging baskets near a window sill indoors for an incredible view.
Bird’s Nest Fern
Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus) has received its name from its extensive leaves or fronds that emerge from the center of the plant, forming a rosette habit.
The species of fern are naturally epiphytic and can be found growing high up in the crooks of trees in rainforest homes.
Since the plant is a Petridophyte, it doesn’t produce flowers, so its aesthetic décor is solely based on its spoon-shaped, bright green fronds.
The plant is a slow grower hence it is difficult to propagate for beginners.
You can propagate it using spores that are formed underside of the fronds giving a fuzzy or dusty appearance.
Sprinkle the spores over a moist moss substrate and attach the entire moss substrate to a tree when they germinate.
Also, ensure that the plant receives filtered sunlight and avoid direct daylight.
Staghorn Ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) get their name from their antler-shaped leaves, which thrive in dappled sunlight and good moisture.
Many gardeners hang Staghorn Ferns attached to the wooden planks for indoor aesthetics.
It is easy to propagate using spores found on the leave’s underside or division from the parts.
If you are into growing plants without soil, go through this interview to grasp the hydroponic concept (With Mrs. Erinn Witz from SeedsandSpades)
From Editorial Team
Always use uncontaminated water for preparing solutions and cleaning equipment while growing plants without soil.
Also, remember to construct suitable windbreakers and rain protection to secure your plants from any mechanical damage in the absence of soil substrate.