Hydroponic succulents

unprofessional(5)January 28, 2012

Been a little discussion of this lately, so figured I'd share some of my stuff, and others can jump in with any they have. All mine are what I think is considered semi-hydro, where the water isn't moving, it's just wicked up through the LECA.

I get all my glass forms from TJ Maxx - don't think I've paid more than $10 for any of it. Selection is pretty random, though.

Have a couple aloes, which seem to do really really well this way - I'd like to get a whole lot more, and try some species.

String of Pearls in front of our filthy picture window (cut me some slack; still renovating this old house).

The hawarthias in this one are a recent addition - hoping I can save them.

This was a jade that died down to the ground in a frost, but started growing out of the side of the stump, so once it had grown a bit, I chopped the stump, carved it to fit the rock a bit better, and then buried it in the LECA. I just exposed it about a week ago, and cut the yarn holding it to the rock off (I know yarn's not the best choice, but work with what you have, right?). There's a nice mat of roots reaching through the grooves in the rock, and just around it, so just hoping it will continue to be successful. It's started growing new leaves after dropping a few after the chop, so seems like things are going well thus far. I'm certainly not going to call it a success until it's been in there post-six months.

These feros are a new addition - curious to see how they'll do.

And, the prettiest Iris on the planet:

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penfold2(4b, MN)

They look healthy. I like what you're doing with the jade there. My only question is how are you going to prevent mineral accumulation in the water? It seems like it would be nearly impossible to change the water on some of those containers without removing the contents.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 10:24AM
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Far be it from me to argue with success, shower you with mop bucket water and say it's rain....but I see a couple of problems with your plants long-term.

1) Highly restricted air movement - even in the house the plants benefit from air flow, and yours aren't getting much, and none when the containers are lidded. Cactus and succulent plants are not terrarium plants.

2) Roots - I do believe most succulents grow well, grow long and can / will grow with covered roots / unlit by sunlight. Now I could be wrong on that, but it seems that this is A Truth. However, is the Leca completely covering the roots so that they get no light? Then this might not be a problem.

We have a factory here in Kamloops which makes cat litter. Is Leca basically the same sort of clay coloured and baked hard?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:02AM
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I understand the reservations; I basically consider it an experiment in an exceptionally low-maintenance growing method that's worked so far. I will update when it stops/doesn't work as well.

I know nothing about mineral accumulation. I'm glad you posted on it, as I should try to research a bit. The way I water is basically just wait until the water at the bottom has evaporated/wicked away, then add enough to get about 1/2"-1" at the bottom. The bigger aloe sucks up water insanely fast.

I will keep the air movement thing in mind; I generally only close them up when I want to raise the humidity a bit (when adding stressed plants it seems to give them a nice boost), though the small aloe is in the kitchen, and is closed 100% of the time, so we'll see what happens. That one loses far less water and has grown very well in the six-months I've had it.

The only part of the roots that gets any light is when the roots reach the bottom of the pots, and that's still a pretty minimal amount.

I believe LECA is just any sort of natural clay that's rolled into balls and fired, while I think most cat litter clays are specifically bentonite clays. Could be wrong on that, though.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:33AM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

The problem is that as water evaporates, the minerals contained in the water get left behind. Every time you water, you add more and more minerals. Plants will absorb some minerals, but only specific ones in a specific ratio. Unless the water is allowed to drain away and be replaced with new water, minerals will accumulate until the roots can no longer absorb water. Using distilled water will delay this result, but eventually the water will need to be replaced, especially if you are going to fertilize at all.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 12:28PM
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I like your idea and think you are brave to try it out. The concept of hydoponics does seem conta-intuitive to succulent culture though. I may be mistaken, but I thought there was someone on this Board who did use succulents in terrariums??

That Iris is awfully pretty!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:00PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I swear I posted a comment here today, about the same time as Penfold posted. How strange that it's not here now.

Fascinating growing, I would never have believed that Aloes or Jades could grow in closed containers w/out rotting.

I too commented on the lovely Iris, as either interested party &/or hanging out w/ her parent (Dad?)

I'd started my response by asking your name pls. or what might we call you, as I felt strange addressing someone in a post as 'Unprofessional'.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:46PM
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I forgot to comment on the lovely Iris, but what follows comes up short when compared with her.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:52PM
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I know nothing about hydroponics but I do have quite a few irises. None of mine are nearly as pretty as yours! Interesting experiment.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Hi U!

Fantastic work and I hope it keeps going for you. Yes, i would love to follow U, oops, You on this one and thanks for the e-mail:-)

I love your jade idea.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:54PM
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Thanks all for the comments, questions, concerns. I will keep all updated with any developments. I just did up a monstrose Cereus in a big vlassic pickle jar, and next up on the list is a Puya.

And, my name is Jon. I teach English at a residential treatment facility for youths from Detroit.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Jon, I saw snow out your window and figured you were in snow country. I'm originally from Battle Creek and we did have hens and chicks in the rock garden, but I never knew they were even succulents until about 7 months ago! That's how new I am to this. Will be interesting to see how that phal that's blooming will do too.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:27PM
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Wife tells me that the "pickle cactus" is ugly. I love ugly plants!

Chopped the jade a bit. Not really sure how I should shape it, but gonna have to keep it small on this size rock. Not sure if I should chop the little stem at the base of the main stem or let it develop more. Ignore the cuttings laying around.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 7:28PM
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Some updates. Saw some Sans for sale in lowes the other day being sold/grown the EXACT same way. Guess I missed out on the money!

The aloe doesn't get direct sun, so the etoliation isn't surprising, but it fills its little terrarium pretty perfectly.

Lots of light/lots of growth on these two - lots of little buds forming on the string of pearls, though I don't have anything blooming I can try to cross with. :(

Update on my jade just before I cut it back again - going to have to repot into something wider, but happy with where it's going. Going to try to be really strict on forcing branching. Not sure what to do with the side trunk, and also the original big trunk shriveled up, but refuses to fall off, and I'm afraid I'll tear up roots if I try to force it off. Suggestions? The cuttings that I let fall root really easily, so I'm going to let them grow a bit before repotting/regifting.

This plant is not as yellow as the picture makes it seem.

Here's a chunk of Gollum I cut off a mother plant and shoved in the leca this past summer. It sat on an enclosed porch all summer and really did well.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:08AM
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I know this is an old post, but it's interesting to see succulents grown this way since I am currently experimenting with adenium and Jade plants in semi hydro.
If anyone else is thinking of doing this but you wanted to be able to drain the containers to reduce the problem of mineral accumulation, my understanding is that there are special drill bits that can drill holes into glass. That might help a lot with this sort of thing.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:26AM
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i experimented with putting some succulents on wicking mats and also laying a watering wick on the surface of the soil, but under a layer of gravel. i wanted to provide continuous slow source of water over a long period (2mo in this case).
small aloes and small gollum jades planted in 4" clay pots on wicking mat did good. pretty large sansevieria and bromeliads got a top-water-wick treatment. all were good.
it's not exactly semi-hydro, but pretty close and much less work intensive. i combine it with top watering too.
sev of my zz plants are actually in semi-hydro with pure perlite and after some time i wrap them in coir matting cones with perlite inside to be able to handle them better.
they have grown very good roots and tubers too.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:25PM
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