From growing your houseplants in no soil glass containers to hydroculture, ponds, indoor water gardens, and aquariums, there is almost no end to the ways you can grow plants in water. This article covers almost all of them, I left out hydroponics since that is worthy of an entire article all its own. Learn about the 85 best plants to grow in water including the edible, the flowering, and the eyecatching.
Edible Plants That Will Grow in Water
Did you know that there are some edible plants, mostly herbs that you can grow entirely in water? It’s true! These delicious plants will grow just about anywhere it would seem. The key to growing them though is starting with a healthy, well-established plant. You won’t get very far trying to grow these from seed in the water. If your plant isn’t healthy they won’t thrive either and in fact, the move to water could kill them. This is because water isn’t the ideal growing medium for them. But, not ideal doesn’t mean it won’t work. Here are 11 edible plants that will grow in water.
- Lemon Balm
How to Grow Edible Plants in Water
Not all edible plants will grow in water, but those listed above will do well if they get the right start in life. Here are the steps you need to follow to grow herbs and other edible plants in water.
- Take a cutting from a bigger, healthy plant. Looking specifically for newer growth that is green and not brown. Aim to have 3 leaves on your cutting and about 4 to 6 inches of length.
- Remove any leaves that are on the lower ⅓rd of the cutting. This will be in water and if there are any leaves in the water they will develop mold.
- Fill a jar with water. If you use tap water let it sit for 24 hours to let the chemicals added to your water to evaporate.
- Place the cuttings in the jar of water, careful not to injure any of the leaves.
- Put the jar in a sunny window and turn the plant so the leaves are facing the sun as much as possible.
- Change the water every couple of days to prevent algae and bacterial growth.
Roots will start growing from the bottom of the stem after 10 to 14 days at which point the water will have a harder time staying clean. Once the roots reach 2 inches long you might decide you want to plant your herbs in dirt, this is the time to do that. Otherwise, this is when you should upgrade to a bigger jar to give the growing roots more room.
Food You Can Regrow in Water
You may have seen the popular social media video of plants being regrown in water from kitchen scraps. It doesn’t quite work the way they show in the video, but there is some truth in it. Below are foods, mostly vegetables, that if you put the scraps in water they will regrow at least some part of their plant. Some of them will give you food, others will only give you the greens and the chance to get seeds from them. Either way, you have the opportunity to get free food from them just by putting them in a container of water and putting them in the kitchen windowsill.
Cabbage is one of the few plants that will actually start to grow roots from their scraps. Start with just the base of the cabbage in a shallow bowl of water and a sunny window. After a few days and a change of water, you will start to see roots developing from the stem. At this point, you can put it in the dirt if you want the best results, or you can keep growing it in that bowl of water!
Leaves will start growing out of the top after a while. Simply harvest the leaves you need for a meal and keep them growing until the plant gets a bit soft. One benefit of putting the rooted plant in soil is that you can keep the plant growing and let it go to seed so you can grow your own cabbage for free!
Set the tops of carrots in a shallow dish of water for a little bit of green growth. You’ll never regrow the carrot but you can grow the greens that are edible! You can even leave them and eventually, you will get some flowers and carrot seeds. You won’t get a whole lot of free food right away, but each carrot plant has the potential to produce 1,000 seeds! You’ll want to grow those in soil. Just make sure your carrot ends are sitting in a bright sunny window. They’ll need a lot of help growing.
You can start the regrowing process for celery in water, but if you really want your plant to thrive it is going to need to be put in soil. In the water, you’ll only get one very small harvest, enough for a garnish really and that’s it. But, move it into soil and you will get your celery to fully regrow!
Green Onions in water practically grow like weeds! They are by far the easiest food to regrow from scraps. Leave the last inch or so of the green onion intact and put it in just a small amount of water. Put the cup in a sunny window and wait. Change the water every couple of days just to keep it fresh. In about a week your green onion will be tall enough for you to cut a bit off. When you make that cut it will keep growing. Basically, you’ll have infinite green onions.
After a while, though your green onions will start to get a bit soft at the bottom. This is when you know it’s time to plant it in a little bit of dirt. It can stay in the window, it just needs a bit of soil to help it out. So long as you don’t pull the plant out, you will be able to keep growing your green onion forever.
Regrowing leeks is just like regrowing green onions, so I won’t bother repeating the steps again here. Just keep in mind that leeks have a much more mild flavor than green onions and as the leeks soak up more and more water that flavor will grow even weaker. It will need some soil if you hope to keep its delicate flavor intact for the long term.
To regrow lemongrass you need a healthy stalk with a bulb. Cover the bulb in about an inch of water in a tall cup and leave it in a window with a lot of sun. You will need to change the water every day but in a few weeks, your lemongrass will have regrown and be ready to enjoy again.
Lettuce is quick to regrow and in fact, the entire process will be done in less than two weeks. Start with just the stem of the lettuce. The best type of lettuce to regrow is Romaine, but that isn’t to say that this won’t work with iceberg. In a shallow container put about half an inch of water along with the stem. Put it in a sunny window and wait. Don’t expect miracles here. You might get enough lettuce for a sandwich and that’s it.
After about 12 days it’s time to throw that lettuce away. It’s going to get mushy and lose its flavor. Still, one free sandwich worth of lettuce is worth it if you follow the zero waste lifestyle or you just want to make an effort to buy less.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to grow your houseplants in water, one of them being aesthetics. There’s something very modern and very clean about a houseplant in water where you can see their roots. But, not all houseplants will thrive being grown just in water, you might also need rocks, gel beads, water beads, and other things for the roots to wrap around. These are the houseplants that can grow in water.
The Aluminum Plant is one of those that will absolutely thrive when you put it in water. Like many others, this one should be started from a cutting from a healthy plant.
These gorgeous large-leafed plants will thrive in water, just make sure there are a few nodes in the water for roots to grow from.
The Chinese Evergreen will grow fantastically in water and will take to it either as a cutting or you can put the whole plant in water. Both ways work wonders. They will want rather large containers of water for their roots either way. So don’t plant this one in an old vase you have laying around. If it looks like your Chinese Evergreen is struggling in water try adding some gel beads which will help with air circulation around the roots.
Growing Coleus plants in water is a bit of a more complicated process than most plants from the very beginning. This is because you need to start with a cutting of an apical stem. Your best bet is to start with a mature plant. Here are the steps you need to follow.
- Find a stem with buds at the end, this is the apical stem
- Measure out 2 to 6 inches down this stem, try to include a leaf node towards the bottom.
- Cut the stem off the plant
- Remove the lower leaves from the stem, including the little ones, but leave those at the top intact.
- Dip the cut ends in Root Hormone Powder to promote root growth
- Knock off excess root powder
- Put the stem in water and wait
Chameleon Plants are prolific growers and nearly impossible to kill, making them one of the best plants to start water gardening with. Either take a cutting that includes some root from a mature plant or try transplanting the whole plant into the water! The roots of the Chameleon Plant will need to be kept out of the sun, so I suggest planting it in a darker bottle.
You might want to wear gloves while you’re getting your Dumb Cane set up in the water, the sap from it can actually burn your skin! Once you’ve got yourself protected starting Dumb Cane is as easy as taking a cutting from another plant and letting the cut end dry out. Once it’s dry you can put it in water and enjoy it.
I’ll be honest with you, English Ivy isn’t really the best plant for growing in water. It really likes dirt and after 4 to 6 weeks it’s going to start dying. Some people would say you shouldn’t bother in that case. While I do see where they’re coming from, there is another option. Start a new English Ivy plant every month! If you don’t mind the idea then you can just keep an endless cycle of new English Ivy plants going month after month.
You don’t have to let them die at the end of the month either. Pop them in some dirt and they will be as happy as a clam. After that, well…it’s time to start gifting friends and family some English Ivy!
Did you know that there are over 1,000 different varieties of bamboo in the world and Lucky Bamboo isn’t one of them? It’s true! While the name would imply that Lucky Bamboo is part of the bamboo family, it actually isn’t. It got its name because it looks very similar to bamboo. You can plant sections of the cane in water and it will be quite happy. But, make sure that whatever you put it in is filled with weights. Lucky Bamboo can get very top-heavy as it grows bigger and the last thing you want is for it to tip over.
The Peace Lily is one of the few plants that you can just pick up the whole plant, wash the roots off, and stick in some water and expect it to live. Their root system isn’t the most attractive, but it is certainly a striking view. Getting all the dirt off the roots might be a bit of a challenge, so expect to have to change the water a few times before it all comes off.
Expect to have to change the water your Peace Lily is in on a weekly basis and add some organic liquid fertilizer like liquid seaweed to help your Peace Lily stay fed. You should also expect to have to transplant the whole plant every couple of years if it is growing well. This is because their root system can get HUGE.
Philodendrons are a great plant to begin with if you’re just starting out in hydroculture. Most varieties of Philodendrons will grow in water and grow in water with ease. Get them started with a 6 to 8 inch cutting. The most important thing when putting your Philodendron is to consider the weight of the plant. They can get pretty big, so get it a jar or other container with a wide base. You might also consider adding some weight to the container in the form of a rock or decorative stones.
The Pothos is one of the most common houseplants you’ll find growing in water. To get it started take a cutting from a healthy plant that includes two or three nodes that will be submerged in your water. Be sure to add some liquid fertilizer about once a month to keep your Pothos happy and healthy.
Purple Heart Plant
Purple Heart Plants add an amazing splash of color to what would otherwise be a very green-centric list. These beauties only need enough water to cover one leaf node to begin with, this is where the root will grow from. You might want to have a few cuttings of this plant, they look gorgeous all bunched up together.
Spider Plants are so prolific they are sometimes considered an invasive plant inside the house. If they find a patch of dirt, or water their little plantlets will take root. Just like with Chinese Evergreens these plants can be grown in water from cuttings or the whole plant. Just make sure you’ve cleaned off all the dirt. If you have a goldfish bowl consider adding a spider plant to it! They are a fantastic addition and fish love hiding in their roots. A salt build-up in the water can cause your Spider Plant to start yellowing, so be sure to change the water every couple of weeks.
If you want results fast then you want a Wandering Jew. You will start to see the first roots on your cutting come out after just one day! You’ll want a few cuttings in a container, Wandering Jew is one of those plants that looks best in a bunch. This is a fantastic plant if you want to grow them as a project with your kids.
Not all water is created equally when it comes to gardening, and this is especially true for plants that are being grown only in water. The best water you can use in Hydroculture and Hydroponics is rainwater. Water from the city, even outdoor taps, are pumped full of chemicals to make it better for us Humans. But those chemicals aren’t great for plants. Especially when the roots are going to be sitting in it unprotected.
So, if it is at all possible you should collect some rainwater for your plants. This is easily done with a bucket or pretty much any container with a wide opening for collecting water. My personal favorite is plastic tubs.
But, if collecting rainwater won’t work for you because it’s summer or really for any reason, that’s ok. You can still have a gorgeous hydro garden. Just fill up some containers (not the one you’re planting in) with water from the sink and let it sit for 24 hours. Then, when you’re pouring the water into the container where the plant will live don’t pour in the last quarter of the water since this is where some of the things from the water will have settled. Go ahead and throw that out, or drink it yourself.
Garden ponds are a glorious thing. They attract all sorts of beneficial life for your garden, give birds and bees somewhere to get a drink, and they actually cool down the temperature of the air surrounding them. Of course, we don’t all have room for a pond in our yards, if we’re lucky enough to have a yard at all. Don’t let a lack of garden space stop you from growing pond plants though! Many plants grown in ponds work wonderfully in containers. Some of them you can even grow in jars on your desk! These are some of the most popular pond plants, some of which you can grow in a container just about anywhere.
While this plant will spend almost its entire life underwater Anacharis is unique in that in the summertime it will get little white flowers that pop up out of the water. Anarcharis will grow well in containers like a big glass jar. Just make sure that it has enough dirt to sit in and pile on some rocks to help keep the plant from trying to float free.
The Cardinal Flower is a gorgeous red plant that is sure to attract birds and insects to your garden. This is one of those water plants that begs to be grown outside. But, it is really only suited for Zones 5 to 9. Outside of those, you might want to consider growing inside instead.
I have been in love with Cattails since I was a little girl and I saw them growing wild in a creek near my Uncle’s farm. They look gorgeous grown in a well-maintained container mixed in with a bunch of other water plants. They’re also great for birds who will use the cattail’s fluff as nesting material. But, if you don’t have any birds coming for it then you might want to cut off the heads before they fall off because the seeds will spread EVERYWHERE!
Thanks to the fact that Creeping Jenny only gets to be about 2 inches tall you could easily grow this gorgeous little plant just about anywhere you wanted, including your desk. It will even develop cute little yellow flowers in the summertime. If you’re growing it outdoors then it grows best in Zones 3-10. But if you don’t live in 3-10 you can still grow it inside!
Duckweed is incredibly easy to grow, hence the weed in the name. But don’t let the name fool you. This cute little plant makes a great addition to your water garden. It floats on top of the water and provides shade to anything living below. It also will help prevent algae from growing.
Hornwort has the benefit of being an incredibly hardy plant that isn’t bothered in the slightest by a little bit of algae growth. But, you will find that it is constantly shedding its needles. So, if you plan on growing it expect to be fishing for Hornwort needles often.
Dwarf versions of this plant only get to be about 8 inches tall, which makes them ideal for growing in water in the house. While the larger variety will grow to be about two feet tall. You could combine both in one container for a striking, multi-layered look.
Impatiens are best known for being squarely on land, but these guys actually love being right next to a good source of water. They are also covered in flowers making them fantastic for attracting butterflies and bees to your yard.
Lotus are one of those flowering plants that bring you back to another era when everyone was dressing up in the finest clothes just to have tea. However, you need to be careful about which variety you get. Some of them can be up to 6 feet tall! Keep an eye out for a dwarf variety if you want something a bit smaller.
The Mosaic Plant is one of the most gorgeous plants you can grow in water. The way the leaves sit on the water makes it look like a work of art. Those these are most often used as shade for fish ponds you can grow them absolutely anywhere.
These days we aren’t making paper out of papyrus anymore, which means it can just be an interesting ornamental plant in gardens everywhere. But, this is one of those plants you’ll want outside in the ground. It can get up to 6 feet tall.
Pickerel is a fantastic pond plant that you can grow in containers as well. Though for this one I recommend it stay outside. This is because it can 2 to 3 feet tall, which means its container needs to be pretty big. But, the amazing flowers which come in pink, blue, white, and lavender are absolutely worth it. They grow best in Zones 4 to 10 if you’re growing them outdoors.
You already know Pitcher Plants as one of the few carnivorous plants in the world, but did you know they love being planted near water? They thrive in bog-like conditions, and of course, they’ll eat all the creepy crawlies in your damp area. Unfortunately, along with the bad bugs they also like to eat spiders and small lizards.
Sweet Flag will grow pretty much anywhere so long as it has a little bit of water at all times. It will grow at the edge of a creek with just its feet touching the water or partially submerged in a container on the balcony. It is incredibly forgiving and easy to grow.
Sensitive Plant is an adorable little plant that is a bit shy. You see, whenever it gets touched by something it will curl its fern-like leave inwards. But that curl is stressful on the plant so it needs to be put somewhere that it won’t always be curled up in. Even a light misting of water coming off a water feature is enough to set off this poor sensitive plant.
Taro plants will grow to be about 4 feet tall if they are in a good sunny spot. They’re also a tropical plant, which means they love to be warm. Both of these things combined means that if you’ve got a big floor-to-ceiling window in your house that gets a lot of sun this is the plant for you.
Watercress is edible, but I would argue that it is much nicer to look at than eat. It will grow at the edges of ponds or partially submerged in water. So no matter what type of water gardening you’re doing Watercress is a good option for you.
Water Forget-Me-Nots are kind of the perfect edge of the pond plant. They’ve got cute little flowers and they prefer to only have a little bit of water near them at all times rather than always being in it.
Water Hyacinth is…enthusiastic to say the least. They have been known to grow so out of control that they kill the fish living in the water below them. But, with care and maintenance, these can be cute little plants that float on the water and give you 20 or so flowers per plant.
There are quite possibly somewhere in the order of thousands of different varieties of Water Iris for you to pick from. The biggest thing you need to worry about is the size of the space you have. They are a gorgeous addition to any water garden.
Water Lettuce is named the way it is because when it’s mature it looks like a head of lettuce floating on top of the water. Sadly, they aren’t edible. But, they do look fantastic! They’re great for growing in containers on decks or indoors.
If you only ever grew one plant on your desk it needs to be a water lily. These gorgeous works of art are right at home on a desk, in a container, or in a pond or fountain. I am honestly so in love with these amazing little plants that I think they should be as mandatory for gardeners as radishes. They come in a number of different sizes and the flowers can be just about any color you want.
So long as you can give Water Snowflakes 4 to 24 inches of water to sit in then you can grow them. These cute little plants have adorable star-shaped flowers. But, be careful. Water Snowflakes love to spread out wide. So expect to have to trim them or else you’ll trip on them.
Ok, this one is a bit of a cheater because it’s a tree, but it’s such a great-looking tree that I had to include it! It is by far the easiest tree to grow in water. But you’re going to need a lot of space for it. We are talking about a tree after all.
Aquarium plants are the ultimate plants for growing in water. These plants are typically only used in aquariums, but, who says you can’t grow a tank full of them without the fish?! It would certainly make your tank the center of conversation whenever someone comes by and starts looking for fish.
- Amazon Frogbit
- Aponogeton Crispus
- Brazilian Pennywort
- Cryptocoryne Wendtii
- Dwarf Hairgrass
- Dwarf Sagittaria
- Echinodorus Red Devil
- Floating Bladderwort
- Giant Hygro
- Green Foxtail
- Guppy Grass
- Italian Vallisneria
- Java Moss
- Ludwigia Repens
- Marsilea Hirsuta
- Micro Sword
- Monte Carlo
- Ricca Fluitans
- Rotala Rotundifolia
- Water Spangles
- Water Sprite
- Water Wisteria
Many pond plants, indoor water garden plants, and aquarium plants are going to need something to grow in. The only exceptions to that are the ones that grow floating on the surface of the water. This is where substrates come in. Substrates are just what your plants are growing in. It might be soil, it might be sand, or it might be a specially formulated substrate that has extra nutrients for your plants.
The best thing for aquariums and containers is a mix of sand, gravel, and the formulated substrate. CaribSea Eco-Complete or ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia are two of the best substrates on the market right now.
But, if you are planting a pond or pond plants, you are going to be looking at a completely different setup. You will want to buy a heavy loam compost that won’t float to the top of your pond. You can buy aquatic compost, but any heavy soil for the garden will do just fine.
You will also want aquatic plant containers, some rocks to put in them, and a layer of fine stones to go on top. The aquatic plant containers will help keep some of the most prolific growers from completely taking over your water garden.
Be sure that you water down the plants in the containers before you put them in the water. This will help keep the dirt from instantly floating away. The fine stones can be placed on top once you have the container settled in to prevent the dirt from moving too much.