Plants For Hydroponics (Herbs, Greens, & Fruit To Grow Without Soil)


Are you thinking about starting your own hydroponic garden? Read on for the best herbs, greens, and fruit you can grow hydroponically as well as what plants to avoid when growing without soil. 

One of the most important factors to decide when starting your own hydroponic garden is what plants to grow! Choosing the best plants for you depends on the size of your garden, the level of maintenance you would like, the type of system you choose, and of course, the type of plants you enjoy! Read on to find out the best hydroponic plant options for you and what ones to steer clear of. 

Plants For Hydroponics (Herbs, Greens, & Fruit To Grow Without Soil)

Growing plants without soil is what it means to grow plants hydroponically. In hydroponics, the soil is replaced with nutrient-rich water for the plants to be grown in!

plants for hydroponics 1
Hydroponics is a way to grow plants without soil – and there are lots of options when it comes to what you will grow.

Growing plants in water is super simple and can yield large harvests when done properly. In fact, if you are starting a hydroponic garden solely for use in the kitchen, it is important to be aware that hydroponic grow systems can yield a lot more than expected.

Because of this, you may not need as many plants as you would in a traditional, soil-grown garden. 

When choosing what plants to put in your hydroponic system, definitely take the time to do your research. It is extremely important to remember to put plants with similar needs and growth rates within the same hydroponic system.

hydroponics 6
Put plants with similar needs in a single hydroponic system.

If you put plants with differing needs in the same system, one will likely out-compete the other, causing the one that got the short end of the stick to die. We recommend first-time hydroponic growers choose a variety of leafy greens to grow together as a starting point since most greens have similar needs and growth rates.

There are many different methods for growing plants hydroponically. But, each method is similar in its basic principles.

To name a few:

  • Ebb and Flow systems use a timed water cycle to feed plants throughout each day.
  • Deep Water Culture systems submerge plants 24/7 in highly aerated water.
  • The Kratky Method requires no electricity to grow plants in a reservoir of water.
kratky hydroponics
The Kratky method of hydroponics does not need electricity to work.
Image courtesy of user: lienyuan lee via: Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hydroponic_Water_Spinach_%E6%B0%B4%E8%80%95%E7%A9%BA%E5%BF%83%E8%8F%9C_-_panoramio.jpg

Choosing the right hydroponic technique for you mostly depends on the type of plants you would like to grow.

What Plants Can Grow Hydroponically?

It is true that almost any plant can be grown hydroponically. But, some varieties of plants tend to be more successful in hydroponic systems than others.

plants for hydroponics 2
Some plant varieties, such as lettuce and leafy greens, do very well in hydroponic systems.

Lettuces and other leafy greens grow in hydroponic systems as if they were made for it! Leafy greens such as kale, chard, romaine, and bok choy grow extremely fast and abundantly in hydroponic systems.

Microgreens and sprouts do great as well and can be harvested much earlier in the growth cycle.

You can learn about growing microgreens indoors here.

If you are looking for a foolproof microgreens growing kit, try out The Good Box (you can learn more here!)

You can also grow microgreens in a hydroponic system.

Broccoli and cauliflower are great hydroponic candidates in addition to tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. Flowering and fruiting plants can be grown successfully in hydroponic systems, although they do require a bit more maintenance and time.

What Plants Grow Fastest In Hydroponics?

With the proper conditions, all plants are going to grow faster in hydroponic gardens compared to traditional gardens. But, leafy greens and herbs take the cake for having the fastest growth rates. Leafy greens can go from start to harvest-ready in as little as three weeks!

plants for hydroponics 3
Leafy greens and herbs are some of the fastest plants to grow in hydroponics.

One of the most noteworthy benefits of hydroponic systems is that plants grow faster and produce larger yields while only requiring a fraction of the resources that traditional gardens require. Hydroponic systems grow plants directly in water that is made to be rich in nutrients with a liquid fertilizer.

Due to this, plants have unlimited access to the nutrients that they need to thrive which results in speedy growth rates.

Hydroponic Herbs

Growing herbs hydroponically is a great way to bring some freshness and flavor into your cooking! If you are wondering what the best herbs to grow are, the answer is really whatever herb you are going to use most often!

plants for hydroponics 4
You have lots of options when it comes to growing hydroponic herbs, including parsley, basil, thyme, sage, and mint.

Your hydroponic garden will likely yield more than you are expecting so choose the herbs that you cook with most.

Some options that you can’t go wrong with are:

  • parsley
  • basil
  • thyme
  • chives
  • mint
  • lemon balm
  • watercress
  • sage
  • oregano
  • lavender
basil
Basil is just one herb that can do well when growing in a hydroponic system.

Each of these herbs is known for doing especially well in hydroponic systems.

It is important to remember that plants need plenty of light, especially herbs! It can be easy to forget this since most hydroponic systems are set up indoors.

But, it is essential to ensure that your growing system is in a location where it will get at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If this is not possible, artificial grow lights are a great option.

daylight
Make sure your microgreens get plenty of sunlight after they sprout. Otherwise, you will need to provide grow lights for them.

Many out-of-the-box-ready hydroponic gardens already include grow lights. A very popular example of this is the AeroGarden which grows six plants at a time.  

It is also important to make sure the pH level of the water is at the correct level for your plants. Most herbs prefer a water pH level of around six to seven (slightly acidic). pH test strips will help you determine if your water needs any adjusting.

Hydroponic Greens

Lettuces and leafy greens are the most popular plants to grow hydroponically. This is because they can thrive in the most basic of setups and require little maintenance.

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Lettuce and other leafy greens (like spinach) are very popular in hydroponic gardening.

Lettuce is a great option because you can pick off the outer leaves to use throughout the growing cycle meaning that you will have a long-lived harvest of the freshest lettuce around! Any variety of lettuce will do great in a hydroponic system; romaine, bibb, iceberg… you name it!

Other leafy greens that do really well in hydroponic systems are spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, and watercress. Just like with lettuce, you can pick off the outer leaves and start getting some use out of your plants before they complete their growth cycle.

kale
Kale is another great choice for hydroponic leafy greens.

But, it is important to remember that these leafy greens and lettuces will grow fast and they won’t last long if they’ve grown too big for the system! 

The two most popular systems for growing leafy greens are the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Culture technique. The NFT is a growing technique where a thin stream of nutrient-dense water flows directly to the roots of plants and is redistributed through an active water cycle.

NFT Hydroponics 1
NFT hydroponics uses a thin stream of water to supply plant roots with nutrients.

The Deep Water Culture technique is when plants are grown in a reservoir of highly oxygenated water. The roots of the plant remain entirely submerged in water throughout their entire growth cycle. 

Microgreens are another great option for hydroponic gardens because they are fast to grow and full of nutrition. In ideal growing conditions, microgreens can be ready as soon as seven days to 21 days after planting, depending on the varieties that you choose. 

Hydroponic Fruit

Almost any fruit can be grown hydroponically as long as its necessary growth conditions are replicated through the hydroponic system. Watermelons, pineapple, cantaloupe, bananas, and more can all be grown successfully in hydroponic setups. But, of course, the larger the fruit, the larger the hydroponic system must be to support it!

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Strawberries are a popular choice for hydroponic fruit – but there are many others as well.

The most popular fruits to grow hydroponically are smaller varieties like berries and grapes. Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes can all be successfully grown in a hydroponic setup!

Strawberries most likely take first place and are the most popular fruit to grow (if you don’t count tomatoes)! But, fruiting plants require more maintenance and time than leafy greens do.

Fruiting plants require support as many of them are vines. Wires, strings, and structure are necessary to support the plant as it grows and they must be able to hold the weight of the fruit as well. 

cherry tomato plant
You can grow tomatoes in hydroponics, but gravity still applies, so you might need support as the plants grow taller.

It is important to remember that fruiting plants are often picky plants! Each variety of fruiting plant has its own set of preferred conditions therefore it is not a good idea to place different types of fruit in the same hydroponic system.

Vine crops tend to be very needy and thirsty plants, so if they are grown with other plants, they will steal the other plants’ nourishment and nutrients. If you love strawberries, devote your system to strawberries only and focus on the exact needs of strawberry plants to get the best results!

What Plants Cannot Grow Hydroponically?

The only plants to avoid when it comes to hydroponics are large root vegetables. Potatoes, turnips, onions, garlic, and carrots are some examples of large root vegetables that cannot be easily sustained in a hydroponic system. It is certainly possible and it has been done but it requires a large-scale operation to achieve.

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Potatoes (and other root vegetables) are challenging to grow hydroponically.

Large root vegetables are not ideal because of their large root systems. One of the advantages of a hydroponic system is how compact and space efficient they are.

To grow large root vegetables hydroponically would require a very large setup to support the large root systems. When it comes to these types of vegetables, it is much more cost-effective to simply grow them in the soil so they have all the space they need to seek out nutrients and thrive!

Conclusion

There are a ton of advantages to growing plants hydroponically. Determining the best system and set of plants for you and your preferences is the first step in bringing fresh abundance into your home!

You can learn about aquaponics (and how it compares to hydroponics) here.

You can learn about some popular fish for aquaponics here.

You can learn more about how to create a water garden here.

About the author:
Sofi is a passionate writer who studied communications and environmental studies at Eckerd College. You can get in touch with Sofi at https://slenzi4.wixsite.com/website.

Sofi L.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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