Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recycled Hydroculture: A "Green" Project

When the sun has retreated fully from the sky, as it is now earlier and earlier, it becomes too dark to garden outside. Going through your recycling bin and a closet or two will net you the materials you need for this fun Hydroculture project.
Once I located everything, this took me a matter of minutes to complete.

Search around your place and find a glass container. I used a clean glass jar from some marinated artichoke hearts. (Hint: hot water will help remove the labels from the glass. If you have an instant hot water dispenser in your kitchen, by all means use that. If not, just steaming water from the tap should do! Score the label slightly, and run hot water over until soaked. Repeat for especially stubborn labels.) Clean your container thoroughly, if you need soap to remove any oils or heavy dirt, make sure you rinse your container very well!

Now, your aggregate! I used a mix of glass beads I had laying around in a craft box collecting dust. You could use marbles, or the smooth glass craft stones you get in bags at the dollar store as well, or use your imagination! Leftover colored easter egg grass might be interesting.

Hydroculture officionados will tell you to use an absorbent aggregate like the small clay balls. If you want Hydroculture to work for you long term as a way to sustain your plants, by all means make that investment! When I did the project for myself, I did it with the understanding that I probably wouldn't make this plant live for years. You can fully expect a beautiful "arrangement" that will last for months!

Some old crafty things put to good use!

Now, fill your glass jar at least halfway full with your "aggregate". Even better if you can fill it to the top, it'll allow more room for the roots to grow, and have a more stand-out appearance. There were only enough beads to fill this jar halfway. If you have it available, add a small amount of charcoal to the mix to keep the water from getting too putrid. In a small container, you will replace water so often that it won't get much of a chance to get nasty.
The hardest part could very well be deciding what you want to grow in there! There are many houseplants that are suited to hydroculture. Just a few are:
Arrowhead Vine
Spider Plant

I decided on this little cutting from an Arrowhead Vine. This is a cutting I started in water previously, you can see it has almost a two-inch root. You can pre-root the cutting if you wish, or you can make a new cutting to put into your container with the aggregate and let it root right there amongst the beads. (Or whatever you use.)
It is easier to get a plant to adjust to the conditions of hydroculture when it was started with the rooting process in water. It's already used to wetter conditions around the root.
Carefully insert your little plant in the center of your container, and bury the stem a bit in your aggregate. If you are very particular about the plant standing up straight, insert it deeper so it is supported. To me, it didn't matter with a vining plant that will inevitably end up "touching the sides" anyway.

(Please note: Arrowhead vine is on the ASPCA's list of plants considered to be toxic to cats. Do not let your cat chew or eat your plants without first making sure they are safe for them to chew! Many popular house plants are not safe for chewing! He was promptly scolded for checking out a "bad plant". Keep all potentially toxic houseplants away from your pets and children. For the full list, please see the ASPCA's list on their website, or just click http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/?plant_toxicity=toxic-to-cats )
Now, to add the water! Just plain water will do, but if you're extra ambitious you can add a small amount of liquid fertilizer to your water. Just make sure you change the water every week if you use fertilizer. I filled the water up to almost the top line of my aggregate, but just below. You don't want too much water around the stem part of your plant, it will be less likely to rot that way. Don't fret if you overfill just a little, evaporation will make up for it in a matter of days in a small container.
Select a position where your plant will receive bright, but indirect light. Avoid too much direct sunshine. I have a large window, and a skylight. During the summer months the plants live on the mantle, where they are not accessible to chewing kitty mouths and they get a double dose of bright light. You are now ready to enjoy! Cheaper, greener, and longer lasting than a bouquet of flowers.


  1. What a fun post and also informative. I am forever rooting plants is a glass vase that I keep by the kitchen. The only problem is that I have to move them everytime the cats are in there - all three not only nibble on the leaves, but they pull the plants out and leave them wherever they choose. I like the idea of using up old crafts materials.

  2. I thought I was being 'ghetto-fabulous' using recycled containers in hydroculture. But this is really 'ghetto-fabulous'. Way to go!! It's amazing how easy it is to start gardening in hydroculture. Here is my website on hydroculture if you want to check it out: http://hydroculture-info.blogspot.com/

  3. You haven't posted in a while, so I am dropping by to say hello and hope you are okay.