9 Plants You Can Grow in Water—No Soil Necessary

Welcome to the world of hydroponics!

It's common knowledge that plants need three things to survive: light, water, and a space to grow in. The third requirement, a space, is a broad category that can include soil, peat moss, clay pebbles, and even just water. Water propagation is a common practice many people utilize to increase their plant collection. However, growing your plants exclusively in water is possible as long as you fulfill a few simple requirements.

If you stick to easy-to-care-for plants that grow in water, you won't need a complicated hydroponics setup. The best part: If you get tired of growing plants in water, all you have to do is pot them in soil.

How to Grow Plants in Water

Growing plants in water can be as simple as placing cuttings in a watertight vessel. However, if you want your plant to thrive (and eventually harvest edibles), a little more work is involved. Here's what you need to grow plants in water.

Checking your plant's light requirements

Like growing plants in pots or outdoors, light is essential for photosynthesis, and without the right amount of it, the plants will not thrive. Just like when growing plants in soil, plants that grow in water all require different amounts of light, so it's best to check the light preferences for each specific variety you grow.

Choose the right vessel

Any watertight container will work for growing plants in water. Glass containers are easy to come by, and it's nice to see the roots growing. However, glass containers are also more susceptible to algae growth due to light exposure and stagnant water.

One way to avoid this is to use an opaque container (plastic, glass, or ceramic). An opaque container does not prevent algae growth, but it does slow it. Add a pinch of powdered charcoal or a few small pieces of charcoal to the water to help inhibit algae growth. Forgo metal containers—metal corrodes, and some metals react to plant fertilizer.

Fertilize hydroponic houseplants

Although plants will easily root in plain water, they will eventually need food. Typically, plants grown in water require lower-strength fertilizer than those grown in soil. Generally, you want to dilute a water-soluble fertilizer to a quarter strength, but this will also depend on the plant and the type of fertilizer you're using.

Use the right water

Unchlorinated water is best for plants. Use tap water that has sat at room temperature overnight for best results. Most plants only need a monthly water change to stay healthy, but that depends on the type of vessel, the plant, and the amount of sunlight it gets. Over time, the water will evaporate from the container. Replenish the water weekly and completely change the water once it starts to look murky.

9 Plants That Can Grow in Water

Now that the basic growing requirements are covered, all you need are plants! These nine plants grow remarkably well in water with little effort.

01 of 09

Herbs

How to Grow Basil in Water
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Any soft-stem herb will survive solely in water. For best results cut from the soft, green stem and not the woody stem. Herbs with woody stems will survive, but the stem tends to get mushy before it roots. Take a cutting from a mature, healthy plant and place it in a sunny spot. Herbs need plenty of bright, indirect light to thrive.

02 of 09

Vegetable Scraps

vegetable scraps growing in water by window
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Regrowing vegetable scraps such as lettuce, green onions, and carrot tops is a fun way to reuse parts of the vegetable you typically toss. However, don't expect a large harvest from them—regrowing scraps is mostly for fun.

Keep about 3 inches of the bottom part of the vegetables and place them in a shallow bowl of water. Your scraps will root and put out new growth from the center.

03 of 09

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo plant in Water
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This plant is almost exclusively sold in a jar of water. Most of the time, the bamboo is held in place by a layer of pebbles to help stabilize the stems. Add enough water to keep the roots covered. It doesn't need fertilizer, but you can give it very diluted fertilizer monthly.

04 of 09

Pothos

pothos plant in water
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This easy-to-grow houseplant grows happily in water. Pothos produces plenty of auxin, a hormone in plants that regulates growth and helps stimulate root growth. Many houseplant parents mix pothos cuttings with other stems they want to propagate to speed up growth.

It's also a vining plant that produces aerial roots, making it even easier to root out. All these roots need is exposure to water to have a growth spurt. The same holds true for any vining plant, including monstera, English ivy, and hoyas.

05 of 09

Philodendron

Philodendron in Water
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Philodendrons have either a vining or upright growth habit. The vining varieties, including heartleaf, Brasil, and micans can be grown similarly to pothos in water. Cut below a leaf node for the upright varieties such as pink princess, lemon lime, and birkin before placing them in water.

06 of 09

Coleus

coleus leaves in water by window
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This colorful foliage plant roots quickly in water. Take a 6-inch cutting and remove the leaves from the bottom 4 inches before placing it in water. Keep the cutting in a sunny spot and fertilize monthly for best results.

07 of 09

Begonia

Polka Dot Begonia in Water
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All types of begonia grow well in water, but rex and tuberous varieties do exceptionally well. As long as you take a healthy stem cutting with a node, these lovelies will root. It will take several weeks before you see any root development, but don't worry. As long as the leaf and steam look great, change the water regularly and be patient.

08 of 09

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen in Water with roots
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The Chinese evergreen is a hardy plant that requires little attention, both in soil and out. Cut off a few inches of your Chinese evergreen plant. Ensure the cutting is long enough to have a couple of inches submerged underwater and some leaves above the waterline. Replenish the water as needed.

09 of 09

Baby's Tears

Baby's Tears Plant with small green leaves
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This plant is also a trailing variety that produces tiny leaves along its stem. Cut a 6-inch piece and remove any leaves that will be in contact with the water, otherwise the leaves will rot and turn the water murky. New roots will emerge from where the leaves were removed.

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