University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

If your space is limited or you just don't like to make a mess with soil, try growing your garden in water.  It's also the best solution for anyone who can't master the art of watering plants properly.

Many foliage plants will grow in water.  This method permits the use of many interesting and unusual containers and allows for flexibility of plant arrangements.  Although growth will be slow, the plants will remain attractive for a long time.

You can use any receptacle that will hold water for the containers for your water garden.  Avoid those made of copper, brass, or lead, however.  Fertilizers can corrode these metals and may cause plant damage.  A dark container will help prevent the formation of algae in the water.

Once you have chosen a container, fill it about three-fourths full of a support material such as florist's foam (your best choice), crumbled styrofoam, gravel, pearl chips, pebbles, coarse sand, marbles, beads, or any other similar materials.  Use your imagination. A small piece of charcoal or a pinch of powdered charcoal added to the support materials will help prevent the water from turning foul.

Next, prepare a dilute water and fertilizer solution using a water-soluble fertilizer at one-fourth the recommended rate.  Add this solution to the support material.

For plant materials you may use either cuttings or rooted plants.  Be sure to wash all soil off the roots and cut off any dead or decayed material.  Arrange the plant materials in an attractive manner.  Examples of plants suited to water gardens are the Chinese evergreen (Aglaonemas), Dumbcane, English ivy, Philodendrons, Moses-in-a-cradle, Pothos, Wax plant, and Wandering Jew.

Keep the water-fertilizer solution at the proper level by adding more to the container as needed.  Every four to six weeks, replace the nutrient solution.  If green algae becomes a problem, change the water solution more frequently or use an opaque container.

For more information or supplies for growing water gardens, visit your local full garden center.

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