Growing Succulents Hydroponically – a Full Guide

Growing succulents hydroponically.
Growing succulents hydroponically.

Introduction to growing Succulents hydroponically

Hydroponics is the method of growing plants by using water as a medium. There have been a lot of advantages to growing plants hydroponically. Currently, this is a big trend in many countries where the vegetables are grown using hydroponics, which consumes less space and there is less water wastage. In hydroculture or hydroponics, plants grow in a soilless medium known as substrate, where the roots anchor themselves. The substrate is sand or gravel and, unlike the soil in traditional planting, it does not hold nutrients. Hydroponically growing plants get nourishment from a water-based fertilizer. For Succulent plants, make the feeding solution weaker than you would for other hydroponic specimens. Normally, hydroponic plants grow faster than soil grew, as they don’t have to develop roots to search for the nutrients in the soil as it’s readily available in the water. Growing Succulents in water is an easy process and we can also increase the décor of our home by keeping plants in water culture. In this article we also discussed the following topics;

  • Hydroponic Succulents growing conditions
  • Hydroponic Succulents nutrient requirements
  • Succulents varieties for Hydroponic system
  • Hydroponic Succulents growing medium
  • Optimal pH for Succulents growing hydroponically

A step by step guide to growing Succulents hydroponically

Succulent plant varieties suited for hydroponics system

All succulents are not best suited for hydroponics, even though most can be grown in water. The best-suited varieties are echeveria and Sempervivum varieties.

Echeveria Agavoides Romeo

The Echeveria Agavoides Romeo is a beautifully colored rosette variety and it belonging to echeveria. The Succulent plant is susceptible to die in high humid conditions. The plant leaves should not be exposed to water. The red color is so striking and completely breath-taking to look at.

Hen and Chicks

Hen and Chicks belong to the sempervivum group and they can grow well indoors and outdoors. They have a rosette structure and they produce a lot of small new babies hence the name. They are commonly called as houseleeks. The plants love the rocky and dry location to grow. These plants don’t need much care. After 4 to 6 years the mother plant dies off and needs to be removed.  Once matured the plant produce flowers.

Echeveria Runyonii

The name suggests the Runyonnii belongs to the echeveria family. It has powdery blue-grey leaves and these plants are a good choice for ground coverage, rock gardens, and containers. They send offshoots of about 10 inches long and produce star-shaped yellow or orange flowers. These are a cool looking Succulent that has very captivating shaped leaves. It’s suitable for propagation through leaf cuttings and like most echeverias a very hardy plant.

Sempervivum Tectorum

Sempervivum Tectorum is a flowering Succulent variety and it is usually grown as a ground cover. During summer the plant produces clusters of reddish-purple flowers. The individual rosettes die off after blooming and must be removed. The small chicks then fill in the empty space and they like to grow in well-drained soil with dry to medium moisture. The plant hates overwatering and tolerates some amount of drought conditions. This plant variety, which includes several types of Succulents, grows like crazy, and the rosette structure is very attractive. They are a hearty type of Succulent that can stand cold temperatures and even snow.

Graptosedum California Sunset

If you want to maintain that awesome deep red color, it is very important to keep this plant in an area where it will be exposed to a lot of bright sunshine.

Echeveria Macrophylla

They have rosette star-shaped leaves of about 10 inches in diameter. The plant is also called ‘Lipstick’ due to the leaves with green interior color and red edges. The plant produces flowers with a yellow tip and red. This plant reaches up to a height of less than a foot and up to 2 feet wide. This plant can be propagated from offsets, leaves, and stem cuttings.

Sempervivum Altum

These are evergreen perennials with fleshy leaves that grow in rosette structure with a 2 inches diameter. The tip of the leaves turns to red color with strong light and they produce pink to purple flowers in long stalks with yellow anthers.

Graptopetalum paraguayense (Ghost Plant)

This Succulent seems to grow really fast. Keep in mind that this plant species requires a sunny spot to thrive.

Conditions required to growing Succulents hydroponically

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Conditions to grow Succulents.
Conditions to grow Succulents.

In a hydroponics system, maintaining the right growing conditions for plants is very important. But even if you achieve the ideal plant spacing, lighting, temperature ranges, humidity levels, air movement, and nutrient balance, your plants will still suffer if you don’t provide the right nutrient solution pH level. The hydroponics system is the practice of growing plants in a soilless medium. There are different ways to grow Succulents hydroponically. Passive hydroponics is also called semi-hydroponics, is a system that does not include pumps or any other way of circulating the nutrient solution. In contrast, an active hydroponics system relies on a pump to deliver nutrients to the plants. Luckily, Succulents do not want to grow in an active hydroponic system.

The Succulent which was kept in the soil might take a few months to develop properly as they want to develop water roots that can adapt to hydroponic well. If you need fast growth then using cutting or offshoot is best as they develop water root very soon. If the older roots are decaying we must remove them as it can degrade the quality of water. In semi hydro also the older water must be removed periodically and the inert material washed so that there are no mineral deposits from the nutrients.

When you water your plants, the minerals dissolve in the liquid and the plant roots absorb them. Plants were grown hydroponically grow faster as a result, since nourishment is always diluted and available in the water. If you capture the water-based fertilizer as it drains to feed it to Succulent multiple times, limit the food recycling to 2 weeks. And, at the end of that period, drench the substrate with water to flush old nutrient residue. After the medium becomes almost dry, begin to feed the Succulent plant a fresh batch of liquid feed.

Reasons for Succulent roots won’t rot in water

If you have to grow Succulents, you know that it is absolutely essential not to overwater your Succulents or the roots will rot. This can lead one to believe that Succulents will be prone to root rot when they are sitting in water. However, this is not the case.

Succulents are prone to root rot in wet soil as the anaerobic conditions present in wet soil promote pathogen and fungal growth. Though, it is the fungus and bacterial pathogens that are responsible for root rot, not the water itself. So, Succulents do not have an issue growing hydroponically. This does not mean that hydroponic systems are completely immune to fungal growth that can cause root rot. It is very important to ensure that your systems are clean and that you change the water in your hydroponic system regularly.

The pH importance for hydroponics system

In nature, roots absorb nutrients dissolved in water which originate from organic and inorganic compounds in the soil and underlying bedrock. Microorganisms and organic matter play a key role in the formation and fertility of the soil substrate, while interactions of minerals and water buffer fluctuations in pH levels, naturally controlling soil pH level. Plants that grow in these soils have evolved and adapted themselves to take advantage of these controlled soil pH levels.

Without the benefit of the nutrient cycles and interactions that take place within the soil, hydroponic growers are solely responsible for recreating the ideal environments that encourage roots to absorb vital nutrients. Whichever type of hydroponic system you are using, the goal is always to deliver water and nutrients to the roots of plants by a water-based nutrient solution. While it’s crucial that you deliver a consistent supply of the nutrients that are appropriate for the types of plants you’re growing as well as for each particular growth phase, it’s also important that you provide the proper pH levels for nutrient uptake.

The growing process of Succulents hydroponically

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Hydroponic Cactus Prickly.
Hydroponic Cactus Prickly.

Prepare your cutting – If Succulent has an offshoot (a new stem with a rosette) you can snip it right off the mother plant, remove the leaves below the rosette, and use that as your cutting. If none of the Succulents have offshoots, you’ll snip the mother plant’s stem an inch or two below the rosette, and remove the remaining leaves. Be sure to leave the rest of the leaves on the mother plant to encourage rosette growth.

Use scissors or gardening shears to snip a stem cutting from a Succulent cutting. Make sure you have sanitized scissors with alcohol so you do not spread any diseases to plant. Let the cuttings dry for a day or two. It is important to let the end of Succulent scab over before putting it in water. If you do not let the end scab over, the Succulent plant will absorb too much water. And after you let the cutting dry out, dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone. Finally, place the cutting in a jar or vase filled with water and place Succulent cutting in a bright spot. It will take 2 to 4 weeks for the Succulent to form roots and changing the water every couple of days.

Find a Succulent that will fit the chosen hydro terrarium size. Take the Succulent plant out of the pot and completely wash away the soil attached to the roots with water. If the main plant or the roots are damaged, bacteria might invade and the plant might rot. Wash the Succulent plant gently, so as not to damage it. After the soil is washed away, first cleanly cut away the plant roots that had been growing in the soil, leaving around a half-inch of root attached to the base. This way, new roots that are suited for the hydroponics system will grow from the cut ends. Use sharp plant shears and the plant will grow without a problem without its roots being cut, but it will be more stable with hydroponic roots. Depending on the season, it might take time for the hydroponic roots to develop, but if the cut ends are kept submerged in water, the plant roots will grow smoothly.

Once the plant roots are cut, allow the cut ends to dry completely. This is dependent on the season but should take generally 1 to 2 days. Once the roots are cut, place the Succulent in the center of the trellis (metal grid) on the upper part of the container. Put water in the lower part of the container, and then try to regulate the water level to keep the cut ends submerged. Use tap water and the chlorine in tap water serve to sterilize many types of saprophytic bacteria, including the mildew that grows in water and makes it difficult for diseases to develop.

Succulents will need nutrients in order to continue growing and thriving in a hydroponic system. Unlike traditional soil growing, hydroponic substrates do not hold nutrients. Therefore, you will have to add nutrients to the water in your system. In general, Succulents need weaker nutrient solutions than those other plants that are grown hydroponically. If you use a nutrient solution that is too strong, you can burn Succulents. Your Succulent cuttings do not need to be in the nutrient solution until plant roots start growing. So do not worry about mixing nutrient solutions when Succulents are initially propagating Succulents.

Generally, once the plant is hydroponically stable, the water can be kept without being changed for long periods of time due to the plant’s natural self-purification abilities, but until the Succulent plant stabilizes, it is best to change the water frequently. As the water level drops or evaporates, it’s alright simply to top off the water without changing it so that the plant roots remain submerged. Though, the plant will grow best and be the most stable if the water is changed completely about once a month.

To gauge the proper water level, try to keep the water at about where the plant roots were cut. Even if the water is changed infrequently, the growth will be healthy. Succulents enjoy locations with good exposure to sunlight. Be sure to grow plants in a sunny location.

Feeding for Succulents growing hydroponically

To prevent saturating Succulent with water, which can kill it, allow the substrate to become mostly dry before refilling the hydroculture pot with liquid feed. But take care to not let the plant sit in a dry medium for long periods of time. The feeding solution for hydroponic provides the same nutrients that traditionally grown plants need. Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as calcium and magnesium, are required in large amounts and considered macronutrients. Minerals such as iron, zinc, and copper are trace elements necessary in small quantities. Recipes for you to prepare your own hydroponic feed for existing but using a commercial formula is very simpler. The manufacturer calculates all the ratios among the nutrients with precision and gives the application instructions.

Nutrient requirement of hydroponic Succulents

  • Succulents grown in hydroponics require to be fed nutrients for its development at regular periods.
  • When using fertilizer always use a fertilizer that is especially used for the hydroponics system.
  • When adding fertilizers in the hydroponic system always remember to dilute it to half its strength.
  • All the nutrients required by soil-bound plants are also required in hydroculture.
  • Many varieties of hydroponic liquid fertilizers are obtainable in the market, select one as per your plant requirement.

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