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Evidence of hydro benefits not yet flooding in

Written by
Amy Earley

Take a standard peace lily, wash the soil from its roots, and transfer the plant to a bowl of water, where it will remain for the rest of its life.

That, in a nutshell, explains the new hydro houseplants craze. Unlike traditional hydroponics, which usually involves growing veggies in a nutrient solution to boost production, the benefits of soil-less indoor plants are not so clear to me.

We have devil’s ivy off-cuts growing in a vase, but that takes no time to do and is a simple way to strike cuttings.

But should you really remove the soil from your rubber plant’s roots and grow it in a container of water? We’re not so sure.

Fans of hydro houseplants claim they need less maintenance and have fewer pests and diseases.

But can you really anchor a tall fiddle leaf fig, for instance, properly in a container of water and will it grow as well as a plant with its roots deep in quality potting soil?

Again, the jury is out.

Far more is known about hydroculture, which is similar to hydroponics but uses a solid inert growing medium, which gives roots something to grow into. Often “expanded clay” pebbles are used as the aggregate.

Many devil’s ivy cuttings grow in tap water, and lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) also seems to do just fine in water from the tap (it also does well in potting mix).

Some hydro aficionados favour spring water, while others prefer rainwater for their plants. We haven’t yet seen any proof of which type of water produces the best results.

So until we discover some convincing evidence of the superiority of the hydro plant method, we will stick to striking cuttings in water and leave our established houseplants growing happily in potting mix.

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