Hydroculture, also called hydroponics, is a method of growing plants that completely excludes the use of soil or similar substrate; the roots of the plants are placed in a container filled with expanded clay, or other incoherent and inert material, and then placed in another container with water and nutrients: over the course of the weeks the inert material absorbs water and nutrients, making them available to the whole root system.
This method of cultivation is used particularly for houseplants, since the plants grown in this way require less care than those grown in the soil.
- With the hydroculture the problem of watering is solved, since these are so spaced in time that we can leave our plants without cure for weeks.
- The plants grown in this way are not subject to the parasites that usually ruin the roots, such as root rot, worms, snails, molds, which do not develop in the expanded clay.
- The characteristics of the growing substrate allow an excellent development of the root system, since an inert and incoherent substrate tends to always maintain the correct aeration of the roots, and also avoids all types of rot.
- Plants grown in hydroponics they tend to have a fairly slow development, therefore they do not need too frequent repotting; moreover the repotting is simplified by the fact that it is not necessary to change all the substrate every time we repot the plant, but it is sufficient to top up the new pot to fill it all.
Generally the best results are obtained by using the majority of leafy apartment plants, or in any case those with a robust root system and rapid development; therefore you can use most of the species of ficus, the calathee, the anthuriums, the pothos, the dracene, and many other plants; avoid the cacti, which do not like a too humid environment, while we can grow some succulents like aloes. Even some epiphytic plants find an ideal environment if grown in hydroculture, like most orchids and bromeliads.
As for which plants to choose then generally you have a greater success starting to cultivate in hydroculture small plants, or possibly cuttings rooted in water, which adapt more easily to the expanded clay substrate and to the constant presence of humidity.
If we wish, however, to cultivate a plant grown in a pot with soil in hydroculture, we can easily do so, provided that we take some precautions.
In fact, remember that the inert substrate guarantees the absence of rot and mold, provided that not even the smallest amount of soil is present in it: therefore we choose a small plant in a pot and soak it in water, so that the earthy bread that surrounds it the roots soften; it is generally advisable to soak earth and roots in water at room temperature for a few hours. Then we proceed by shaking the plants to clean up the roots from the soil, rinsing the root system with clean water until complete cleaning; at this point we cut the blackened or ruined roots, and shorten the others by at least a quarter: we are now ready to repot the plant into the hydroculture vessel.
Generally the plants cultivated in hydroculture are placed in a plastic container, filled with expanded clay, which gives an excellent visual effect, very similar to the ground; It is also possible to use perlite or vermiculite, whose white color can be decorative. The pot is then placed in a larger container, without drainage holes, inside which a solution consisting of water and fertilizer is placed, in which the pot with the plant is immersed for about a quarter.
On the market there are special vessels, equipped with a cavity and a comfortable indicator, which warns us when it is necessary to top up the water contained in the vessel. These vases exist in various shapes, materials and sizes. If desired, it is also possible to prepare a container for hydroculture by placing a simple plastic vase, equipped with drainage holes, in a larger vessel; in this case it is however more difficult to evaluate the water needs of the plants, since we cannot see at what level we are filling the external container; in any case with a little practice we should not have big problems.
Hydroculture: care of plants cultivated in hydroculture
To start growing plants in water first of all it is good to choose the right materials; for a beginner it will be much easier to grow plants in special pots, with level indicator; in the choice of fertilizer then remember to check that it is indicated for hydroculture: in this regard we can find various types, to dissolve in water or even to put directly in the jar, slow release and prolonged over time.
Once we have placed our plant in the container for hydroculture, we fill it with water up to the level marked by our indicator (about a quarter of the internal vessel); after about a month we begin to put the fertilizer in the water, in the formulation chosen by us.
At this point we will only have to top up the water to the optimum level; generally this operation must be carried out every 3-4 weeks, but much depends on the type of plant chosen and on the climate present in our apartment.
Every 4-7 weeks we remind you to extract the inner vase and place it under running water, to rinse the expanded clay from dust and any fertilizer residues; on this occasion we also clean the inner jar thoroughly, and then reposition the containers and top up with clean water and fertilizer.