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15+ Plants That Grow Without Soil

Are you obsessed with kempt home and don’t want to spoil it with mess when growing the plants around?

Or, if you are stressed about swiping the soil of the houseplants, you can calm your nerve. There are some plants that allow your hands to clean and space to remain tidy. 

Generally, Philodendrons, Euphorbias, and Orchids are some plants that grow without soil. And methods such as Aquascaping, Aquaponics, Aeroponics, Hydroponics, and Sand culture help grow plants without soil. 

Image represents an air plant growing attached to a tree
An air plant growing without the soil.

Although soil is an important medium for any plant to sink its root, it is a painstaking task just to choose what kind of soil a plant might need.

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!

Is It Possible to Grow Plants Without Soil?

Though some plants with deep roots, such as veggies and trees, necessarily need soil to grow, it is possible to grow plants without the soil.

But there must be other growing mediums to provide the plant with all the requirements.

These plants have different names based on the medium that they grow from. 

If the plants grow only in water, they are “hydrophytes,” whereas “lithophytes” are those that need rocks to grow.

However, other plants are also there that grow without soil or water also, which are called “epiphytes.”

Growing plants without soil allow a faster growth rate, easy availability of nutrients for the roots, fewer attacks from pests and diseases, no weed problems, etc.

5 Methods of Growing Plants Without Soil

Ever wondered how you can grow your plants without soil?

It seems impossible but is quite easy as the only things you need to take care of are the type of plants and techniques to use.

So, I have listed a few methods that are applicable for certain house plants that you can grow without soil.

1. Aquaponics

Basically, Aquaponics is the method of growing plants in water with fish.

The basic idea behind the method is that fish waste serves as a nutrient for plants to grow, and plants recycle the water for fish.

For this, you need to choose the right fish species and plants that can survive in a particular season.

Plants such as 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℃.

Image represents the basic design of Aquaponics
Aquaponics involves the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants.

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 a day, only for five minutes.
  • Don’t add live food to the tank for fish.
  • Maintain the pH of the water neutral between 6.8 and 7.
  • If the pH of the tank changes, you need to add calcium hydroxide or potassium carbonate in powdered form.
  • Avoid the growth of weeds on the media bed along with the plants.

2. Aquascaping

Aquascaping is the technique in which you arrange the aquatic features to create an aesthetically pleasing underwater environment.

Aquatic features include aquatic plants, substrates, stones, and driftwoods.

Moreover, you can choose such plants that can survive submerged conditions in the water, like Anubias and Cryptocoryne species.

Image represents an indoor Aquascape
Aquascape elevates indoor aesthetic décor.

Follow these tips to construct a basic indoor aquascape using an aquarium.

  • Take a regular glass tank that can hold about a gallon of water.
  • Place it on a tough counter or solid piece of furniture to prevent it from falling.
  • Attach lights such that the plants can receive the optimal amount of Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR).
  • Add the aquarium gravel or coarse sand to keep an inert environment inside the aquarium.
  • You can buy a variety of aquarium plants and place them on the substrate using tweezers about two to three inches deep.
  • Partially add dechlorinated water when you have finished the above things.

Light is an important factor to consider, so you need to set light timers that can provide lighting for just five to six hours a day.

Also, add liquid fertilizer in fewer amounts in the first week and keep increasing the dose each week when you see plant growth.

3. Hydroponics

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.

Any plant that can be propagated using cuttings or grown from seeds is suitable for hydroponics.

All you need is a plant, a container to hold water, a way to anchor the plant, nutrients, and a light source.

GIF Image represents the basic design of hydroponics system
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water containing nutrients.

After fulfilling the requirements, you can follow the step to complete the process.

  • Take a large plastic container that can hold at least five gallons of dechlorinated water containing balanced liquid fertilizer.
  • Build something to hold the plants on the water. You can drill holes in a polystyrene sheet and place it above the container.
  • The net pot holds the plants in place; hence 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. The holes should be big enough for the bottom of the pots to pass through, but the lip of the pots must rest on the sheet’s surface.
  • Keep PVC pipes to support the sheet from below. This elevates the board slightly above the water level, helping the free development of roots.
  • Place the setup on a balcony that receives full sunlight. If you are growing house plants, place them in a region of dappled sunlight. For veggies, full sunlight is enough.

One thing to note is that your plants receive aeration, which you can provide passively, by submerging the pots only half of their length into the water.

Additionally, if you are growing vegetables indoors, use red grow lights. But, you need to provide balanced conditions of blue and red grow lights for house plants.

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.

4. Aeroponics

Aeroponics involves growing plants in a mist or air environment.

This process doesn’t require any kind of solid support for the plants to grow, as the suspended roots get nutrients from the dense mist.

Roots of the plant get greater oxygen, prevents water logging, and the yield is also faster.

Microgreens, rooting and fruiting crops, trees, etc., are some plants that you can grow using aeroponics.

However, the method is extremely tricky and expensive to achieve on a small and larger scale. It is only feasible in regions that have poor soil for the plants to grow.

Image represents the process of Aeroponics
Aeroponics is the process of providing nutrients in the form of dense vapor or mist directly to plant roots.

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.

You can encourage plant growth by supplying oxygen through the root zone in Aeroponics.

Additionally, it helps to reduce the chance of disease spread which normally happens when you grow the plants in soil or water medium.

5. Sand Culture

It sounds unusual, but the process of sand culture is similar to growing plants in the soil.

However, sand culture uses sand to anchor plants to the grow beds, trays, or pots.

This technique is popular in arid and Middle Eastern countries where sand is in abundance.

Additionally, sand is reusable and allows the lateral distribution of nutrients to the plant roots due to the capillary action using a bottom-up approach.

The process is simple, and you can even do it for your plants like Coneflowers, Sedum, Euphorbias and Cacti that prefer dry environments.

GIF Image represents the basic design of Sand Culture
Plants that are adapted to dry environments are most suitable to grow using sand culture.

Follow the steps to grow the plants through Sand culture.

  • Take a six-inch pot and drill a hole at its base just enough to pass a wick through.
  • Place this pot over a smaller four-inch pot such that the wick touches the inside of the base of this smaller pot.
  • Fill the smaller pot with a nutrient solution that contains slow-releasing liquid fertilizer. Ensure that the wick touches the nutrient solution.
  • After that, you can fill the larger pot with sand and root the plant in the sand. For this, you can either use a seedling with developed roots or stem or root cuttings.
  • Keep the pot in a sunny area that receives indirect light.

The capillary action from the wick allows thorough distribution of nutrient solution to the plant roots. This is called the “self-feeding mechanism” and applies to many plants, from vegetables to house plants.

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 also 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 that everyone can adopt for a better plantsmen life. 

I have listed a few and categorized plants on the basis of the growing medium that they require.

1. Plants That Grow in Water

The process of growing plants in water is called hydroponics, and all you need for this is a jar of water and a touch of fertilizer.

But, choose the right plant for this. Here I have given a few options for you!

Philodendron

Philodendrons are also easily identifiable plants due to their trailing and heart-shaped green leaves.

An advantage of Philodendron is that it is well-suited for both bright and dappling lights, and you can get propagating materials from every part of the plant.

Image represents growing Philodendron in water
Philodendrons are tropical plants that grow in water.

To grow it in a jar of water, clip a six-inch section from the healthy mother plant, clean the leaves to remove the dust, and remove the lower two sets of leaves.

You can place it in a jar of distilled water. After ten days, you will notice roots growing from the leaf nodes.

Chinese Evergreen

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.

There are many varieties of this Aglaonema species to choose from to grow as houseplants.

Image represents the propagation of Chinese Evergreen plant in water
Chinese Evergreens can be propagated using stem cuttings in water.

Like Philodendrons, you can propagate Chinese Evergreen plants using any part. A six-inch stem section with plenty of foliage on top can give the best results.

You can directly take this section and place it in a jar filled with distilled water. Place the jar in a room that receives dappling sunlight. You can learn the successful propagation when roots grow out.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is not actually bamboo but looks like one due to its bamboo-like stem and leaves.

Most gardeners prefer to grow Lucky Bamboo in a transparent jar filled with water, despite its ability to grow in soil because of its indestructibility and little care requirement.

Image represents Lucky Bamboo placed in a jar of water with pebbles at the bottom
Pebbles at the bottom of a jar hold the Lucky Bamboo plant in a steady place.

To grow this plant, take a transparent jar filled with distilled water an inch deep.

You can include a layer of gravel at the bottom of the jar to keep your Lucky Bamboo upright, and you are good to go.

Water Lily

Water Lilies (Nymphaea sp.) are exclusive plants that can be 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 surface of the water.  

Image represents natural habit of Water Lilies in a pond
Outdoor ponds are a great place to grow Water Lilies.

Although gardeners grow these Nymphaea species outdoors in large ponds, you can also grow them indoors.

However, Water Lilies are finicky about the water quality and require a proper water temperature to grow with an exceptional amount of sunlight.

Keep it in a clean jar filled with distilled water and change the water on a regular basis to prevent it from becoming stale and smelly.

Spider Plant

Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are probably the easiest houseplants that you can use for water propagation.

Their strap-like stripped and long leaves add a wonderful décor value indoors.

Image represents growth of Spider Plant propagated in water
Spider Plants propagate well in water, developing roots and showing growth.

Under the right circumstances, your Spider Plant shall produce long stems called plantlets or spiderettes with small roots.

You can simply snip these stems and directly pop them in a narrow-necked jar filled with distilled water.

When the roots become long, you can start adding balanced fertilizer and change the water occasionally to keep long-term growth.

Spanish Moss

Beautiful hairy, gray-green drooping tendrils of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) evoke aesthetic décor to your orchard trees.

Spanish Moss is easy to grow plant because you don’t have to worry about watering it often.

Image represents Spanish Moss
The cascading stem of Spanish Moss is well-suited for indoor decoration.

Instead, 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 quite a different plant that you might encounter in this list.

They are an algal species, Cladophora sp., and are aquarium plants that grow without the soil. They can invoke green beauty in aquariums, a jar of water, or wherever you wish to place them.

Image represents the placing of Marimo Moss Balls in aquariums.
Marimo Moss Balls are balls of algae that can grow without soil submerged in water.

If you place them in aquariums, they can also be a good companion to fish.

However, they are sensitive to light and water requirements.

You need to keep these plants in low indirect sunlight with a change in water once in a couple of weeks will keep them happy.

Paperwhite

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.

Image represents propagation of Paperwhites in water.
Paperwhite flowers can be propagated using bulbs in the water.

Paperwhite plants can gladly grow in some water and pebbles. But they can have a strong smell and be allergic to you or your pets.

2. Plants That Grow On Rocks

Normally, 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

Euphorbia is great for planting in rock gardens because most of them are succulents that can thrive in dry environments.

Although these Euphorbia species are grown outdoors, they can also grow in pots indoors.

Image represents Euphorbia plant growing in a gravel soil
Euphorbias like to grow in dry, gravel-infused soil.

They almost look like cactuses with bizarre shapes, wide, fleshy stems, and spines.

One of the advantages of Euphorbia is that both the leaves and stems have the capacity to propagate. But you need to be careful with the milky sap as it can cause irritation to the skin and eyes.

Catmint

Catmint (Nepeta sp.) is great 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 as well as rabbit resistant.

Image represents Catmints growing in gravel
Catmints prefer to grow in a gravel-based growing medium.

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.

Yucca

Yuccas are extremely 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.

Image represents the flowers of Yucca
Yucca produces tall white flower stalks.

Additionally, Yucca accepts full sun.

Whether you plant them as individuals or in clumps, Yuccas provide the needing focal point to increase the aesthetic beauty of your garden.

You can propagate Yuccas easily using offsets present at the base of the trunks during spring.

Agave

Agave plants are great for rocky gardens as they prefer themselves in rocky soil that receives adequate sunlight.

Sandy or gravel soil is best for these Agave species while equally maintaining good drainage during winters.

However, they prefer summer and respond well if you provide them with water and fertilizer during this time.

Image represents Agave growing in gravel soil
Agave prefers a dry environment and gravel substrate to grow.

Agave plants provide great strength to the rocky gardens with their tall flower spikes and succulent marginally serrated leaves at the base of the plant body, 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 somewhat poisonous.

Stonecrops

As their name suggests, Stonecrops (Sedum sp.) are also ideal for rock gardens.

Since they are succulents, they can take the heat of the sun without any issue and barely require any water to survive.

Stonecrops produce large clusters of white, yellow, pink, or red flowers with succulent leaves that fall off easily.

Image represents potted Stonecrop
Stonecrops have succulent leaves that help them survive in dry habitats.

This is an advantage because you can easily propagate them with fallen leaves.

Coarse gravel-based soil is best for these Sedum species, and they do not require watering once they establish themselves.

Make sure that you keep them in bright direct sunlight if you tend to grow them indoors.

Rock Cress

Rock Cress (Arabis caucasica) is ideal if you want 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 to grow.

Image represents Rock Cress plant cascading over a wall
The crawling habit of Rock Cress makes it suitable for placing in rocky gardens.

Additionally, their fragrant flowers come in different color varieties, 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 to be buried in the soil at all. Here is the list of epiphytes you can consider as houseplants. 

Orchids

If you are choosing plants that don’t require any growing medium, then 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 a tissue called velamen that allows the plant to soak in the moisture from the air.

Image represents the flowers and roots of Orchids
Flower of Orchid (left) and White-Green Colored Velamen Roots (right).

Orchids are often prized for their stunning flowers that come in a variety of 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 the year around.

Choose a tree or area that receives direct sunlight and high moisture if you want to grow them.

Bromeliads

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 if they develop the roots, they only serve the function of hanging or clinging.

Generally, they grow in the tropics, placing their roots in the crooks and cracks of large trees.

Image represents the growing flowers and leaves of Bromeliads
Flowers grow centrally from the base of leaves (left) and Scale-like leaves of Bromeliads (right).

Like special velamen roots of Orchids, Bromeliads have their own special scales on their leaves known as trichomes that help them to 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.

Hoyas

Be aware! Hoyas are a doubtful addition to the epiphyte world.

Not all the Hoya are epiphytes, but some grow on the trees’ barks hanging using their special adventitious roots.

The semi-succulent leaves of Hoyas are slightly pubescent (hairy) in nature, which helps the plant collect moisture from the air, while debris from the tree’s bark is their nutrient source.

Image represents flowers and leaves of Hoya
Hoya displays multi-colored flowers and hairy leaves that help to collect moisture from the air.

Gardeners prefer Hoya plants for their star-shaped flowers of variable colors ranging from white, pink, orange, yellow, burgundy, and sometimes black.

However, gardeners usually give the Hoya species well-draining and slightly acidic soil to grow Hoyas.

Hoya prefers the dappling sunlight in the tropics, so it is recommended to place them in hanging baskets near a window-sill indoors.

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.

Image represents natural habitat of Bird's Nest Fern
Bird’s Nest Fern in its natural habitat (left) and Spores present on the underside of the leaves (right).

The plant is a slow grower hence it is difficult to propagate by beginner gardeners.

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 Fern

Staghorn Ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) get their name from the antler-shaped leaves.

In their tropical homes, they prefer to thrive under the canopy of tall trees, sticking to the barks and receiving dappling sunlight and a lot of moisture.

Hence, to cultivate these plants, they need these two conditions.

Many gardeners hang Staghorn Ferns attached to the wooden planks where they add green décor indoors.

Image represents Staghorn Fern
Staghorn Fern attached to a tree (left) and Spores present on the underside of the leaves (right).

It is easy to propagate using spores or using division from the parts.

Also, you can obtain spores from the underside of the leaves, while a leaf containing a small amount of root ball is enough for potting.

Conclusion

Soil-less growing of plants sounds unusual, but there are many methods, including Aquascaping, Aquaponics, Aeroponics, Hydroponics, and Sand culture. 

You can grow different kinds of plants using the methods mentioned above, but you need to ensure the correct requirements and choice of method for the right plant species.

I have explained everything, and now you can leverage the plantsmen lifestyle without messing your space around. 

Happy Gardening!

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