Wouldn’t it be nice if we could grow plants without having to get dirty?
Wait – I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be about hydroponics, right?
Actually, no. If you want to try your hand at growing plants in water, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a hydroponic system.
As you’ll see below, there are a wide range of plants that can be grown in water without having to setup a hydroponic system. Grow herbs like basil and oregano in your kitchen, air purifying plants like philodendron in the bedroom, colorful houseplants like coleus and lucky bamboo in living spaces, and even regrow your vegetables like lettuce and chives!
You can save money, stay clean, and avoid bugs. Even better, these plants are easy to care for.
So let’s get into it. Below, you will find an assortment of water plants you can get growing in glass jars, fish bowls, or terrariums.
Let’s start with the kitchen…
Do you like the idea of fresh herbs at your fingertips all day, every day? Then you’re in for a treat. A window ledge, glass jar and running tap water are all you need.
Want to know how to grow your own cheap organic herbs? The trick to growing these in water is propagation. Essentially, grow plants from plants. How great is that?
So, how do you do it?
You do it by snipping the key parts of healthy matured plants, right at the leaf node. That’s the part of the stem where the leaves branch out from. Ideally, snip a part of the stem with one to three leaves already sprouting.
The health benefits of home grown herbs (in water anyway) are in abundance, so go ahead and pack your meals and snacks full of vitamins and blend in some extra flavor.
The benefits are much greater than any store-bought herbs can give you because they’re fresh from the glass jar on your kitchen windowsill.
10 such herbs you can grow from existing matured herb plants are…
- Lemon Balm
Now, about that last one… You’re probably not going to make any recipe taste better. It’ll do you more good on your bedroom windowsill. That’s because research tells us the aroma promotes relaxation.
Lavender is great to have on hand for those sleepless and stressful nights.
Pop the lavender into a glass mason jar, top it up with tap water, place it in your bedroom near the window. That’s it!
To take it a step further and purify your air (in any room), there are even air plants you can grow in just water itself…
Did you know that plants provide even more health benefits than those listed above? Learn more about them in my article about the ways in which plants benefit our mental health.
Some plants thrive in water, others drown. Know this though, almost any plant can be rooted or propagated in water; Just not all of them will nourish and grow.
The process used for growing any type of houseplant in water with zero soil is called hydroculture. All you really need to know is you root the plants in water (just like you do with the herbs above), then transfer them to pots.
Instead of potting in soil, you can do this:
Why would you do that?
Because flowers and plants need both air and water.
Without oxygen, the plants can develop root problems. So, using either gel beads or expanding clay will allow air to circulate around the roots and help prevent those issues.
To get started with growing plants in water, you will want to propagate established plants.
Here’s a list of 6 plants that are perfect for propagating in water.
1 – The Chinese Evergreen
To propagate this plant in water, you’re looking for a fresh cut from a matured healthy Chinese Evergreen.
Try to get around 6-inches of stem with the cut taken just below the leaf node. Quick reminder: That’s the bit where the leaves shoot out from the stem.
To give these a great start in life…
- Take a few stems with at least one leaf already emerging.
- Transfer that to a glass jar, then fill it just enough for the roots to submerge in water.
- If you can, use rainwater. If you’re using tap water, leave the amount you need out for a day so that the chlorine can evaporate (you don’t want chemicals in the water, otherwise it’ll affect the plants growth, and maybe even kill it).
It is quite the hardy plant, but it’s also not always going to grow to its full potential. If it struggles in water, consider potting it with water/gel beads. If you don’t want to, start again and re-propagate it.
Six inches of a few stems is all you need to regrow a Chinese Evergreen in water.
If you want something that trails a little (or a lot), try this:
2 – English Ivy
This is one plant you may want to keep growing anew, because they don’t do well in water only. What you’ll get is root growth in four to six weeks.
But after that, they’re ready for planting in soil, not that you need to.
Who’s to say you need to keep it all?
You have options with this… Take the fully-grown ones and re-propagate them, like you did from the start. Or just keep on pruning it to keep the size you want. When pruning English Ivy, make the cuts a ¼ inch above the leaf node. That way, the root system remains intact, and the leaves are just shortened.
The result: Beautifully maintained trailing Ivy, grown in a glass jar or vase with tap water.
To get the plant growing, all you need is to water a mature English Ivy the day before cutting it. Cut 6 inches of the stem, with three to four leaves already sprouting. When you put it in the glass jar, only cover the cut stem with water and leave the leaves out.
Then just change the water when it’s needed. You’ll know when it does. If it smells foul or the color starts looking off, freshen it up and your plant will be good as new.
Then there’s this little aquarium plant:
3 – The Peace Lily
The amount of roots on a peace lily is amazing. Definitely grow this in a glass jar. About the rooting…
A mature peace lily will need re-potted every year or two. The roots become overcrowded, so to keep it healthy:
- Take a mature Peace Lily out of its pot.
- Swish the roots around a sink or basin filled with lukewarm water (because cold water might be a shock to the system) to get rid of every bit of soil.
- Get it washed until you can clearly see the roots.
- Take a knife, clear away the offshoots from the roots and the crown… keeping up to four leaves intact.
With that, you’re ready to add it to your glass bowl (well, any vase, but glass will let you see the exposed roots – Gorgeous!).
One thing to remember with these is to use fresh water, probably weekly. The plants roots will soak up the nutrients from the water. The more you replenish with fresh water, the more nourishment the plant gets.
Another thing, you can use a few drops of fertilizer like Miracle-Gro. So, if you’re ever unsure that your peace lily is getting the nutrients it needs. Give it some fertilizer.
Afraid you’ll kill your plants? Go with this little hardy plant instead:
4 – Philodendron Plants
Here’s a little greenery that’s nearly invincible. Drown the roots in water, never change it for a year and it’ll still be alive with green leaves spilling over the side of your glass jar. Easy-peasy, right?
It is ‘IF’ you start off with a good cut, which is:
- About 6 inches from the parent plants stem.
- A ¼ inch below the leaf node.
- Keeping two or three leaves intact, getting rid of the rest.
- Then put that stem in a glass jar, making sure all the nodes are in the water.
It survives at room temperature, so it’s a great little indoor water plant. Quite hardy too. And the roots, they’ll forever grow just in water (might need a clipping now and then). Apart from that, it’s the easiest plant to grow and keep alive in water.
If you have a brown thumb, be sure to check out my list of hard-to-kill indoor plants.
If you fail in a big way with any plant, get discouraged and want to give up, grow one of these and you’ll grow your planting confidence. Unless you really are the grim reaper of the plant kingdom.
Ready to give it a try? You can get your Monstera Deliciosa (A.K.A. Split-Leaf Philodendron or Swiss Cheese Plant) from the Planting Tree.
Speaking ‘bout grim:
5 – The Pothos Plant
You might know this better as the Devil’s Ivy. Sounds bad, but it really isn’t. It can be when grown in the wild but we’re talking about a glass jar, bottle or vase, so it’s not going to take over your home.
The ideal container to use is a darker jar, bottle or vase. The reason? Algae prevention. You know that gooey green stuff that lines the tops of ponds in parks? Yes, that stuff. You don’t want that forming. It’ll soak up nutrients the plant should be getting. Block the sunlight and it’s less likely to be a problem.
Note this about Pothos too: They do need a little bit of hydroponics thrown in, only so far as a liquid fertilizer. Miracle-Gro will do the job. It’s for supplemental nitrogen and phosphorus, which is really all any water plant needs to survive.
Here’s how to get your Pothos plant started. The first thing you need is either:
- A friend who has one of these plants.
- A local gardening center to see if they’ll give or sell you some cuttings.
What you’re looking for is a few cuttings from an already grown pothos plant. Cut from the stem. You only need one section, but that section should have at least three nodes.
- Three cuttings from the stem.
- Each with three nodes.
Drop those cuttings into a container with the cut ends submerged in water. Give it a few days and you’ll see the roots start to form. Refresh the water weekly, sprinkle in some liquid fertilizer about once a month, and you’ll have a healthy pothos plant.
Looking for more than a single cutting? The Marble Queen Pothos from Nature Hills has beautiful white/green variegated foliage and you can take your own cuttings as it grows!
Or if you’re up for a bit of a challenge, try:
6 – The Spider Plant
These don’t grow too great in water. They can survive though. What you need are plantlets taken from an already grown spider plant. Submerge those in water and they’ll begin to form their own roots.
Some people prefer to only propagate spider plants in water, then pot it (in soil) after it’s rooted and growing. No need if you prefer the water method.
Replace soil with pebbles after it’s rooted. The roots will cling to the pebbles, then all you need to do is make sure the leaves of the spider plant aren’t submerging in the water. Only let the water be the root system.
What to watch for is a build of salt in the water. That’ll contaminate it, cause yellowing and eventually rotting. Prevent that by changing your water weekly. If it’s tap water, let it dechlorinate by leaving it overnight. Preferably, leave a container outdoors to collect rainwater and use that.
If you do want to keep the water clear, such as using a clear glass vase or mason jar, add some liquid fertilizer into the water. You won’t need much.
Now, if you’re not so keen on any of those, there are some colorful options too:
1 – Tradescantia Zebrina
This is a great looking green, purple and silver plant. It has to be something to include as part of any ornamental collection. Let it trail over the end of a bookshelf or make it a centerpiece on a side table or coffee table.
It’s a really fast grower too, as you can see in the video below:
Just in water, like 24-hours, new roots form, new leaves sprout, and branches too.
All you need to propagate these are as many stems as you want from an already matured Tradescantia Zebrina (A.K.A. Silver Inch Plant, Wandering Jew/Wandering Dude). How many? Depends on how big a plant you want.
If it’s for a narrow top jar, one or two stems with leaves will do. For a larger vase, you could grow about six in the one vase for a more filled-out plant. It’s one of the perks of having a super-fast-growing plant.
To start with, don’t use the vase though; Pot them separately. You know those little clear plastic cups you get for kid’s parties, bbqs, and picnics? Those’ll do the trick. Use one plastic cup per stem.
For the cuts:
- Take a pair of scissors and cut just above the highest leaf on the plant.
- Then snip off the lowest set of leaves.
All you want left with is a node (per stem) to put in the water so that it’ll grow new roots. Just keep enough water in the cups to keep the nodes submerged.
Soon,(like really soon), roots will form. Shortly after that, new leaves start sprouting, then branches start to emerge. Then, more leaves on those new branches.
So, with that in mind, you may want to rethink propagating a dozen stems.
To compliment it, this next one is great:
2 – The Purple Heart Plant
Another beautiful purple plant you can grow in water is the Purple Heart plant (Tradescantia Pallida). This is a spectacular plant to have on display near your Wandering Dude.
The propagation method is the same too. Take one or more stems, cut from above the highest leaf and snip the leaves at the bottom. The only part to put in water is the nodes. You know, for roots to grow?
And like the Tradescantia Zebrina, it’s a fast grower, so think through how many you’re going to regrow in the one go.
Something completely different is:
3 – Growing a Sweet Potato Vine in Water
This can be one of a few things.
- A houseplant, (edible or ornamental).
- A family project with the kids.
- Or the beginning of a different type of plant just using the slips that sprout from the sweet potato.
Whatever the case, growing them works the same way. Start with a sweet potato (organic’s best because some spray these with a sprout retardant before selling them).
Who wants plants growing in their food? Some do (the leaves have a spicy tang to them).
Here’s what you need:
- One sweet potato
- One glass jar big enough to put it in
- A few toothpicks
That’s all that’s needed (aside from water, obviously).
What you do is put the toothpicks into the sweet potato about half way; They’re going to be holding the potato up in the jar (They rest on the rim of the container). Only the bottom half is in the water.
Sit the glass jar in a sunny spot, keep the water topped up, and give it a few weeks for leaves to form.
If you’re growing the editable kind, leaves can be eaten. Not the ornamental ones though. You don’t want to taste that.
The longer you leave it in water, eventually, slips will start to sprout. These are plants in themselves. When you pull them from the sweet potato, the roots should pop right off with them. Those are what you can plant in glass jars, or any plant display container, leave it in water and let it do its thing.
The sprout slips are super cool looking because they’re rarely seen as houseplants.
For the biggest color variety, there’s this:
4 – The Coleus Plant
Rooting a coleus in water is a little different from all the other plants. The reason being, there’s two types of stems on a coleus plant. Your typical stem has a node on the end and an apical stem has a bud. Think of the apical stem as a secondary stem.
Since there’s essentially two stems, it’s sort of like a fail-safe that gives you the best chance of propagation.
To get the apical stem, the plant needs to be a mature plant. With that, take a cut up to six inches long. Using your fingers, pull away the leaves from the bottom part, leaving only the top leaves.
With that done, all that’s left to do is pop your stem into water. Like all others, only the nodes should be in the water. Not the leaves. You’ll get plenty of color from a Coleus plant.
Now, to wrap things up, here’s a little indoor water plant to bring you and yours a little bit of good fortune:
5 – The Infamous Lucky Bamboo Plant
In Chinese culture, the Bamboo plant is for luck, but you have to know your Feng-Shui numbers.
Three is a go-to number:
Or in the Western culture, it’s become known for:
We could all do with some of that going on.
Here’s the thing to remember, the more stalks you have arranged in a bamboo plant, the bigger the blessing. Never four though. That’s bad luck in Chinese culture. To the Chinese, when you say the number four, it sounds like you’re saying death.
So, if you’re ever gifting a bamboo plant to someone from China, never give them a four-stalked bamboo plant. It’s interpreted like a death wish. You’ll be greeted with utter dismay. No herbal tea for you.
The great part of growing the lucky bamboo plant is you only need a shallow dish. Just enough water to keep the roots covered. That can be in a small dish lined with pebbles, so long as the roots are in the water.
The only thing to be careful with is harsh water. Purified or distilled water, with no added minerals is best. If you’re going to use tap water, just make sure you give the water 24-hours in a bowl before using it so chemicals evaporate.
As far as watering it goes, top it up as needed and change the water if it gets smelly.
Not only is lucky bamboo an excellent plant to grow in water, but it adds beauty to your home that you can’t get with just any plant. For instance, you can buy beautifully braided lucky bamboo, or even have the stalks twisted into spirals (see on amazon).
Alright. Time for a rewind…
Remember, the first list of herbs to grow in your kitchen with water? Circling back to the kitchen, there are even organic vegetables you can regrow in water. Just use some cuttings from the veggies you buy at the farm stand, farmers market, or from the organic section at your supermarket.
Why not stretch your grocery budget?
Here’s a list of:
1 – Carrot tops
Just to be clear, you aren’t going to sprout some fresh carrots from water and a few shreds of carrot. What this is for is the greenery from the carrot tops; the part of the carrot to use in salads.
For most, when they’re prepping veggies, this part is scrapped. Chop the head off the carrot and toss it. What. A. Waste! Make a carrot top pesto with it. It’s also a great project you can get the kids involved with. Tell them to grow their own dinner.
What to give them is:
- A shallow dish
- Enough cotton balls to line the base of it
- Roughly 3 cm from the stem of a carrot top with some root sitting visible at the top of it
Line the dish with cotton balls, stick the carrot in the center of it and then water the cotton balls and keep it moist. Don’t drown it though. This method gives the fastest growth, provided it’s given plenty of natural sunlight.
The bedroom or kitchen window should be sufficient. If not, it’s easy enough to move around the house and put on the windowsill of the sunniest room, any day. A few days is all it takes for the greenery to shoot out long stems of carrot tops.
With that, you’ll likely want some side salad…
2 – Lettuce
Any lettuce can be regrown from the stems, but for home grown lettuce, Romaine lettuce seems to work best. What not to expect is a full head of lettuce, similar to the size you started with. That won’t happen. What you’ll get is enough regrown lettuce to add to a sandwich. That’s per stem.
Starting with a Romaine lettuce, when you’re cutting it, cut the leaves about an inch away from the stem. Use it all. Only leave the stem.
Pop that stem into a dish of water deep enough to give it about a half inch of water. Place the dish on the windowsill to get sunlight and change the water every day or every other day for up to 12 days.
No longer than 12 days though. After that, it loses taste, becomes bitter, less dense, turns a disgusting blue/green color instead of the bright green you want (that’s definitely not the fresh sandwich you’d been hoping for; a rabbit wouldn’t thank you for it).
You can do the same with the other big green salad leaves too…
3 – Cabbage
Just like regrowing lettuce, you can clone your cabbage leaves too. All that’s needed is one left over cabbage leaf, a shallow dish, a little water and it’ll start to reproduce. The water should be changed regularly, and you can even use recycled water.
You know, like when the showers running as you wait for it to warm up? Grab some of that water or the water you’re draining from your pot of pasta. Pour some of that into your dish.
After a few days, you’ll see new leaves form.
This next one, you can do for the entire summer:
4 – Celery
You can get decent celery grown in water indoors within a week. You’ll only get some though. To regrow the healthy stalks, soil is best, because eventually the stalks and the leaves on celery begin to decay in water.
For just a small amount, like enough for garnishing, a week, a stalk of celery, and a shallow dish is enough to get it growing.
- Cut a couple inches of stalk from a bunch of celery.
- Put that in a dish with about an inch of water so that half of it is submerged.
- Give the celery stalk sunlight, change the water every second day.
You’ll have enough celery for garnishing your dinners within the week. After that, take it out of the water. If you don’t, it’s probably going to rot.
This next one has to be among the simplest (and fail-proof):
5 – Garlic Leaves / Chives
These aren’t quite the same taste as garlic. They’re milder, so a bit like green onion with a hint of garlic.
All you need to get these sprouting is:
- A (fresh) garlic clove
- A tiny glass (like a shot glass)
Put just enough water in the shot glass to cover the bottom of the garlic clove. Not so much that it’s all in the water. Pop this onto your windowsill, then just let it do its thing until you have inches of green garlic flavored leaves stemming up from the clove. Trim it from the top when you’re ready to use it.
And if you don’t like the hint of garlic, just regrow some…
6 – Green Onions
You’ll never buy a bunch of green onions again when you see just how easy these are to, well, clone. Just use the green onion you buy with your groceries as you would, but that inch or two of root-end you snip off and toss out…
- Put it root-end down in a glass jar
- Top up with a ¾ inch of tap water
- Place it on your windowsill
Change water every couple of days and you’ll never need to buy another bunch of green onions. They’ll grow inches in just a week. Snip from the top and use as you go.
7 – Leeks
Do the same with these as you’d do with green onions. Cut a couple inches of the root-end, place that in a glass jar, but instead of ¾ inches of water, fill it to cover the roots.
The flavor isn’t as pungent, but it’s definitely a go-to for sprinkling over scrambled eggs, topping your salad, or garnishing soup.
To wrap things up with the vegetables, here’s one for your spicy Asian dishes:
8 – Lemongrass
The only thing you need here is a hearty stalk with the bulb intact. If it has roots, all the better.
Put the stalk root-end down (just like the garlic bulb and the root of the green onion), and cover that with an inch of water. Place it on a sunny windowsill and you’re golden.
Change the water daily and over a few weeks, you’ll likely have more lemongrass than you’ll be able to get through.
And there you have it
Go forth, fill your water bottles, mason jars, or any vases you want to use for water plants and get them growing around your home.
Some for décor, some for eating, the odd one just for the fun of it (sweet potatoes), and for a bit of luck, get a few stalks of lucky bamboo going. Give your family and your guests some good fortune by sitting this one in your hallway.
And definitely clone your vegetables, especially those pricey organic veggies. You’ll save a fortune, and have fun family projects to go with:
- Fresh herbs
- Fresh Veggies
- Fresh air
- And a fresh fragrant smell, year-round
It’s hard to beat hardy plants grown indoors with nothing but water from your kitchen tap.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.