I heard that plants can be grown in water as long as they get the required nutrients, sunlight, and oxygen. I was curious about how to do this and how long the plant would live in water.

A plant can live in water for several months or years. If you just grow the plant in water, it can survive for a few months. But if you grow the plant in water with added nutrients, it can continue to grow for several years.

I’ve written a lot more details on how you can grow the plant in water, what are the benefits of doing this, and a list of plants that are suitable for growing in water.

How to grow a plant in water

The main idea behind growing a plant in water is to use propagation. This is a method where you cut part of the plant such as stem, branch, rhizome, roots, and grow it in water.

Select the right plant

The most important thing is to pick the right plant to grow in water. Some plants will thrive in the water for several years while others may not grow well beyond a few weeks or months.

The moment you see these plants not growing well in the water, you will need to transplant them in the potting soil.

Get a cutting of the plant

You need to get a cutting of the plant and propagate it in water. You can get this either from a plant you’re already growing. Or you can get it from your friends, family, or neighbor.

You need to make a cutting of the plant so that at least 3 nodes are present on the cutting. A node is the part of the plant opposite to the leaf that has small, brown air roots.

Once you place the nodes in water, after a few days, they will start developing roots.

Choose the right container

Make sure you pick a glass container that is free from any debris. You can put a mixture of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water in the container for at least an hour. Then rinse it with water. This process will kill any pests or diseases that may be present in the container.

It’s good if the container has a narrow neck as this will help support the plant and prevent it from falling into the water. If the container is transparent, it will help you check the water level. It will also help you see if there is any debris or algae inside the container.

Make sure the container is big enough that the plant can grow to its mature size without any problems.

Fill the container with water

I would suggest using spring water or rainwater if you can collect it. Such water is rich in minerals and nutrients that would benefit a plant growing in the water.

If you can only manage tap water, make sure to keep it in a container for 24 hours. This will help dissipate the chemicals like chlorine and fluoride from the water. These chemicals can harm the plant and stunt it’s growth if present in the water.

Pour the water in the container making sure there is no debris or impurities you can find. Add a few drops of liquid fertilizer to the water that will provide the nutrients to the plant.

Place the plant in the container

Remove any leaves from the lower nodes of the plant that will be inserted in the water. This will avoid the leaves from rotting and causing disease in the roots of the plant.

Do keep some of the leaves on the top of the plant as they will help it to grow faster. Place the plant in the container so that the lower nodes are inserted into the water.

Make sure the top of the plant including the leaves are out of the water. The plant should be supported by the narrow neck of the container so it does not fall into the water or outside the container.

Keep the container in a good location

Your plant will need sunlight and air to grow well. Place the container in a location that gets indirect sunlight such as a windowsill.

Avoid keeping it in direct sunlight as this can heat up the water or encourage the growth of algae.

You can also consider using the artificial light inside your house for growing the plant.

Maintain the plant

After 2 weeks, you should see that roots have started forming on the nodes of the plant that are submerged in the water. If you find that the water level has dropped, you can add more water to the container.

Add a few drops of fertilizer to the water so the plant can get the nutrients to grow well. The amount of fertilizer to use depends on the size of the plant and container. So refer the instructions provided by the manufacturer. But a few drops should be sufficient as it’s much better to add less fertilizer than more that could damage the plant.

The problem with using a transparent container is the sunlight and nutrients can encourage algae growth. The algae will compete with the plant for resources from the water and stunt its growth.

It’s best to clean the container and add fresh water at least every 2 weeks. This is even more important if you find algae growing in the container.

You can clean the container with dishwashing soap and rinse it well with water. Then you can add fresh water back to the container and place the plant in it.

Some plants that can live in water

Here’s a list of some of the plants that can live in water for a long time.

Mint Oregano Basil
Sage Lavender Rosemary
Jade Peace lily Spider plant
Philodendron Coleus English Ivy
Fiddle leaf fig Geranium Begonia

Benefits of growing a plant in water

No issues of fungal diseases

One of the biggest problems of growing a plant in soil is splashing water and soil on the leaves when watering. This creates a moist environment that can attract fungal diseases.

When you grow a plant in water, there is no such issue of splashing water on the leaves. This reduces the chances of fungal diseases.

No potting soil required

Potting soil can be expensive especially when you’re growing a lot of container plants. You also need to pick the right potting soil for the plant

As you’re growing the plant in water, there is no need for potting soil.

No problem of overwatering or underwatering

One of the most common problems when growing plants in a pot are overwatering or underwatering the soil.

You may forget to water the plant for several days and this leads to underwatering. The leaves will start to wilt, turn yellow, and fall off with this problem.

You may tend to keep watering the soil even when there is plenty of moisture in it. This can drown the roots and lead to a problem of root rot. The roots will turn brown and soggy and not be able to provide nutrients to the plant.

When growing a plant in water, you don’t have this problem of underwatering or overwatering. The plants always have the moisture, nutrients, and oxygen they need from the water.

Disadvantages of growing a plant in water

Limits growth of the plant

One of the problems of growing a plant in water is that you can only grow it to a certain level. The plant will be limited by the space, nutrients, and sunlight that is available to it.

If you grow the same plant in a container with potting soil or in an outdoor garden, it will grow much larger.

Need to use the right water

You need to use the right water when growing the plant in water. If you use tap water that contains chemicals or hard water with a lot of salt the plant will not grow well.

The best water you can use is either spring water or rainwater that contains good nutrients and minerals for the plant.

Need to use fertilizer

If you grow the plant in water, you need to provide it with the nutrients. The best way to do this is by using a liquid fertilizer that you add to the water every few weeks.

If you grow a plant in an outdoor garden, the roots can spread into the soil and gather the nutrients. So you don’t need to rely as much on fertilizer.

Clean the container

You need to keep the container clean so the plants can grow well and don’t end up with root rot. You also need to monitor the container for algae and clean it as soon as possible.

Even if there are no visible impurities in the container, it’s best to clean the container and fill it with fresh water after a couple of weeks.

A limited number of plants

You can grow many plants in water for a few weeks. But not all plants are suitable to grow in water for months or years. So you have a limited number of plants to choose from.