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Water Roots Vs Soil Roots (What’s the Difference)

Plants have the fantastic ability to adapt themselves to different environments. Either in water or in the soil, they can go with the flow and survive with different types of roots if you compare one vs another.

Generally, both water and soil roots have the similar function, absorption of water and other essential nutrients and transport to the whole plant. However, both are different in appearance, texture, function, adaptation, environmental dependency, etc.

As the water plants don’t have to expand themselves in search of water and nutrients, it does not have a highly branched structure. In contrast, the structure of soil roots is more complex.

So, go through this entire article to know the difference between two root types, water roots, and soil roots, despite their similarities.

Water Roots & Soil Roots [Similarities]

Both water and soil roots have the similar function, absorption of water and other essential nutrients and transport to the whole plant.

Water roots on left and soil roots on the right
Soil roots penetrate deeper than water roots.

For water and mineral absorption, both root systems develop root hairs. The root hairs also play a great role in increasing the surface area of the root.

  • Both water and soil roots are the types of adventitious roots. 
  • Upon close observation, water and soil roots bear outer epidermis and inner vascular bundles.
  • Moreover, both roots develop from the same meristematic tissue, also responsible for new growth.
  • When the plant grows, the growth, branching, and expansion occur on water and soil roots.
  • On the tip of both water and soil roots, you can see the root cap for protection.
  • Both soil and water roots develop tolerance to the specific environment, like high salt concentrations, drought, etc.
  • Similarly, aquatic and terrestrial roots can form mycorrhizal associations with fungal partners. 

Water Roots Vs Soil Roots [Differences]

One of the major differences between water and soil roots is water roots develop in aquatic plants, whereas soil roots grow inside terrestrial plants.

The terrestrial environment includes dry habitats like deserts and dry lands. Meanwhile, aquatic habitats are filled with water, such as marshes, swamps, ponds, etc.

1. Appearance

As water roots develop in water plants, the color of these roots is white. In contrast, the color of the soil roots is brown or black as the roots are in contact with the soil all the time.

Moreover, to absorb the oxygen, water roots contain aerenchyma tissues. Meanwhile, aerenchyma tissues are absent in soil roots as they can get proper air circulation.

2. Texture

As water roots are submerged in water all the time, the texture of the roots is delicate and soft. These roots are smoother than Soil roots.

In contrast, soil roots are thick, hard, and sturdy with a rough texture. Moreover, you can find numerous root hairs growing on the soil roots to penetrate the soil for absorption.

3. Function

As water roots and soil roots are from different habitats, their function is also different. Water roots maintain buoyancy by absorbing the water and nutrients from the water columns.

In contrast, soil roots anchor into the soil by thick and strong root parts and absorb water, minerals, and other essential nutrients from soil particles.

4. Adaptation

Both soil and water roots have different adaptation qualities. Water roots have a high salt tolerance capacity and can survive water currents too.

In contrast, soil roots provide good mechanical support to the plant and have drought resistance to survive without water for several days.

However, soil roots are more susceptible to root rot if the soil becomes swampy for a longer duration.

5. Environmental Dependency

Both soil and water roots are dependent on their particular environments. Water plants cannot survive if you plant them in dry, terrestrial lands.

Similarly, If you submerge the terrestrial plant’s soil roots in water, they won’t be able to survive as they are only habitual to the dry lands.

From Editorial Team

Is It Better To Root A Plant In Water Or Soil?

Rooting a plant in water can be a good idea to grow a disease-free and healthy plant. However, the plant submerged in water may develop water roots unsuitable to transplant in potting soil later.

Meanwhile, you can grow and root plants easily in the soil as it is the most natural method to grow plants. However, soil may contain harmful pathogens and may not be as safe as water roots.