Although traditional soil gardening will never be left behind us, recent years have shown gardening enthusiasts the endless benefits that come from hydroponics. Hydroponics is also a much more flexible option for growing plants in small spaces – great for the urban gardener! If you want to downsize the footprint of your potted plants, you may want to transfer them to a hydroponics setup.
How do you transfer plants from soil to hydroponics? To transfer your plant from soil to a hydroponics system:
- Choose a porous medium.
- Choose a sizable container that allows ample sunlight to reach the plant.
- Transfer the plant into the new container.
- Maintain the hydroponics system.
Transferring your traditional garden to a hydroponics setup can be a bit tricky. There are several elements to consider, one of the most important being nutrition. After you transfer your plants – and protect them from the shock of the transfer! – you must be sure to provide them with the same rich nutrients that they’d absorb from natural soil. Read on to learn how to safely make such a transfer.
1. Choose a Medium
Transferring your plants to hydroponics isn’t as cut-and-dry as it may seem. You don’t just drop your plant in a container of water and hope for the best. When you grow your plants hydroponically, you must provide some sort of medium.
The purpose of the medium is to give your plants something to hold onto. This will prevent them from sinking into the water or floating on the surface (which would inhibit its access to the nutrients below).
Some great media for hydroponics include:
- Coco husks
Whatever growing medium you choose should not contain soil in any way, as this will interfere with the productivity of your hydroponics system. Additionally, the medium should not be inclined to decaying quickly – this is also referred to as “inert.” The best media are porous, allowing them to absorb water and oxygen that can be supplied to the root system.
You are free to use non-porous materials; however, you’ll have to change out the medium often throughout the water cycles. Because there are so many different variations of hydroponics systems, there are no media that are significantly better than the rest – some simply offer more convenience than others.
2. Choose a Container
Now that you’ve determined the medium, you’ll be using, you need to choose the perfect container for your plant. This is not too complex of a process, but it is one to pay close attention to, as the wrong container can have the following consequences:
- It can inhibit your plant’s ability to grow healthily
- It may limit the amount of sunlight your plant is able to absorb
- It may absorb too much heat and burn the root system
Consider the size of the original container you are transferring your plant from. You’ll need to upsize, but not by too much. If you transfer your plant into a container that is significantly bigger than it, you risk compromising the stability of the plant. Such instability can lead to severe damage. This damage primarily includes root and stem breakage. Give your plant a container that allows it to expand without too much extra space.
You must primarily consider the width of the container when noting its size and not so much the depth. You don’t want a container that is excessive in height, however, it is beneficial to give the roots as much space as possible to grow downward. Additionally, a container that is too wide will dry out much more quickly than one that is appropriately sized.
3. Transfer the Plant
Once you have the perfect growing medium and container set up, you are ready to transfer your plants into their final home. You must take care to protect your plants from breakage during the transfer and watch them closely for symptoms of shock once the transfer is complete.
Note that shock is not necessarily a bad thing, however, it is something you must watch closely to ensure your plants make a healthy recovery. Follow these guidelines to safely transfer your potted plants to a hydroponics system:
- Place the substrate into your chosen container and fill it with water.
- Allow the water to reach room temperature.
- Fill two additional containers, ideally a bucket and watering can, with water and allow that to come to room temperature as well.
- Lift the plant at the base of the stem, tipping the container upside down while you do this. This ensures that you will not break the stem or root system by attempting to pull the plant up through the weight of the soil.
- Tap the bottom of the pot lightly to loosen the soil until the plant is free and secure in your hands.
- Dip the root ball into the water to rinse off most of the soil, being careful not to dip the stem in as well.
- Rinse the roots with the watering can to get rid of any clumps or remaining soil. Be sure not to force any soil free if the roots are extensively entangled.
- As you place the plant into its new container, carefully spread its roots throughout the medium (at this point, the container should be about 1/3 full of medium).
- Cover the exposed roots by filling the container with the remaining medium.
4. How to Maintain Your Hydroponics System
You must recognize that your plants’ root system will not reach the size that it normally would if it were planted in soil. This is because nutrients are more readily available, so the roots do not have to extend far to locate and absorb them. Most of the energy for growth is instead directed toward the foliage and any fruits and/or flowers it may produce.
When maintaining your hydroponics system, you must pay attention to these six elements:
- Light: You can provide consistent light by either placing your plants near a window or positioning grow lights above them. Research the exact plants you have, to know the appropriate intensity and duration of light you must provide. Too much light will burn the foliage, however, you must provide enough to support healthy flowering and fruit production.
- Temperature: Generally, hydroponics systems will do well in room temperature, so 68-77˚F will do just fine.
- Humidity: Ideal humidity levels for most houseplants, including those grown hydroponically, range from about 50-60%.
- pH: This is an element that you must check often, as it is extremely important to the health of your plant, directly affecting its ability to absorb and metabolize nutrients. Ideal pH levels are between 5.8 to 6.3.
- Nutrients: There are special solutions made for hydroponic gardening, typically as a mixture of fertilizer and water – make sure to pick the right one for your plant species, since too much fertilizer can burn the roots of your plant. You must drain, clean, and replace this solution at least 1-2 times monthly depending on your method (Kratky, dwc, etc.).
- Water: Of course, because this is a hydroponics system, water is even more critical in this circumstance than it is in soil planting. You must ensure that water levels remain suitable to your plants needs, especially as the water will be mixed in with the nutrient solution.
Although it may seem quite demanding, hydroponics is one of the most low-effort methods of gardening once you have your system set up properly. It is highly rewarding and can be significantly more fruitful than traditional growing methods as your plants will be allowed to expend more energy on producing foliage and fruits rather than an expanding root system.