hydroponics and houseplants

odyssey3(7 noVA)August 17, 2007

I'd like to dip my toe in the water and switch one of my houseplants to hydroponics. Could I get some clay pellets and nutrients and just put them in a cache pot or do I need some type of pump, etc.?

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greystoke(South Africa(11))

My houseplants thrive in wick systems with a 1:1 mix of sand and sawdust as a medium. Never used the clay pellets. No need for pumps etc.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 1:52AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Just so you know that I'm not joking . . . .
These are all hydroponically grown.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 3:35AM
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odyssey3(7 noVA)

Now that second picture is just what I'm looking to do! I have a lot of nice ceramic cachepots that I want to use with interior plastic pots. Where do you get the sawdust? Also, how do you figure how much wicking to use--looks like you use a lot! Oh, and can you explain the use of that plastic pipe in the first picture?

Thanks for your response--hope you didn't get more questions than you bargained for in return!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 10:43PM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Be careful where the sawdust comes from! It could be contaminated. I get the sawdust from a sawmill that cuts virgin pinelogs into planks. But if you can't be certain, use Perlite. I add the sand to give the plant some solid foundation.

The pipe is fitted to all the big pots. You can use it to top-up and check the level of the nutrient with a stick. But it takes up too much space on the smaller pots.
The wicks are made from floormops. They're pure cotton. I check them out by dangling the end in a glass of water to see how high they suck up the moisture. Usually about 4-5". That gives you a clue as to how high the level of the nutrient in the pots should be.
I cut from four up to twelve half inch holes in the bottom of the plastic insert pot depending on size. Then I just plug the holes with the wicks, looping them from one hole to the next in crisscross fashion. On top of that goes a one inch layer of sawdust(perlite) and then the rest of the medium mixture, with a thin layer of bark chips on top for decoration.

One bit of warning:
If you transplant a potplant, be careful to remove as much of the soil as possible to avoid fouling the nutrient and medium. Let the plant soak overnight, then gently shake loose the soil, and repeat of few times.
But even then I have found that the initial nutrient solution starts to rot within a week or two. Just clean the outer pot and let the insert soak in plain tapwater for a while. Then fill-up with nutrient and start again.
This - usually - wont happen again, and I have found that the nutrient stays remarkebly fresh afterwards.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 1:38AM
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tclynx

What kind of house plants are you looking to switch to hydro?
I have tons of photos growing without soil. They are easy of course since they will happily root in a beer bottle (cups work too but the dark glass of the beer bottle seems to help keep some light out of the roots) of water by the sink.

Anyway, I have lots of glass and plastic jars and bottles with photos in em and the media in the containers is a decorative mix of water crystals (you can get soil moist at various hardware or nursery stores) and perlite or colored aquarium gravel. Occasionally I give em a dilute watering with hydro nutrient but usually I just top the containers up with water. The plastic containers I have hanging over my shower so it is kinda like a jungle in there.

Eventually the media and crystals in these jars starts to turn green depending on how much light and nutrients the container has gotten but so far it hasn't offended me enough to throw any out.

I also like greystoke's wick idea but I wonder about the non airated nutrient. Have you had any problems with the nutrient getting stagnant?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 10:22AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

tclynx,
The nutrient stays remarkebly fresh. In fact, it surprises me every time I lift the inner pot out to see how clear and odorless the liquid is.
Of course the liquid is in a shallow bowl and - I would imagine - any movement of the pot stirs-in some oxygen.

Another interesting thing is that - after a while - the plant sends its roots down past the wicks into the nutrient thus becoming a DWC.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 12:48AM
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odyssey3(7 noVA)

I was going to start out with some cane begonias and experiment from there. I don't grow anything super common, except for a peacelily with sentimental value.

Greystoke, would it be possible to put the medium in a pot with nutrients and have no wick or inner pot, or is that an invitation for trouble? I was wondering about that for some of my smaller, 4" pots.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 5:51PM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

odyssey3 wrote:
Greystoke, would it be possible to put the medium in a pot with nutrients and have no wick or inner pot, . . .

Yes, that is possible, but you need to experiment a bit. Your plants do need some support though. Perhaps you could put them in a polystyrene cup filled with fine gravel as an inner pot.
Puncture some holes in the bottom. The nutrient level should just touch the tips of the roots.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 12:01AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Forgot to mention . . .
Puncture the holes in the SIDE of the cups near the bottom

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 4:48AM
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clibanarius(z8GA)

tclynx wrote: "Anyway, I have lots of glass and plastic jars and bottles with photos in em and the media in the containers is a decorative mix of water crystals (you can get soil moist at various hardware or nursery stores) and perlite or colored aquarium gravel."

I've been using this combination (crystals and perlite) to root cuttings, and have just started trying it as a single-container hydroculture media, just as you are. Glad to hear that it can work this way. What perlite:crystal ratio do you use? I have a mini-experiment going with some rooted Aglaomena, Dracaena, and Calathea, one plant each with a perlite:crystal (hydrated) ratio of 1:0, 3:1, and 1:1. So far, they're all doing okay, though the newest leaves in the Calatheas have wilted slightly (it's a striking, very large-leaved variety, black with purple streaks above), and the straight perlite definitely seems to be drying out faster. The more crystals, the wobblier the plants seem to be, but I'm guessing that this will be less of an issue 1) when the plants set out new roots and lock themselves in place, and 2) when you don't use a flexible plastic container (for the experiment I used plastic food storage containers so I could see the water level and roots).

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:29PM
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tclynx

cliganarius,
Most of my indoor plants are strictly hydro, I decided not to bring any dirt (other than on my shoes) into the new house. 90% of them are photos so we know they can happily grow in water. I didn't really mix the perlite with the crystals, it is more that I just covered the top of the crystals with the perlite. I suppose I was hoping to slow evaporation. Many of the plants are really growing in straight crystals with only a little decoration of aquarium gravel or a topping of perlite. This probably wouldn't work for many plants but is effective for photos and probably anything else that roots easily in a cup of water by your sink. As the roots grow the plant will become a bit more stable.

By the way, my indoor lettuce DWC is a container filled with nutrient, perlite floating on top, a bubbler in the bottom and I just started the lettuce seeds in paper towel or cotton balls placed on the floating perlite. As a bunch of lettuce gets big and heavy it tends to sink down but it seems to be working. Have harvested 3 good size bunches of leaf lettuce from this so far. I'm also trying to root some cuttings in this as well as I set my onion sets on it as it was too hot outside for them. If you want to simply put a plant in a container filled with media and nutrient, you probably really need an air pump to keep it airated unless it is something like photos that will grow straight in water.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 7:42AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

tclynx wrote:
. . 90% of them are photos . .

Excuse my ignorance . . . what are "photos"?

I like your lettuce DWC setup. How thick is that layer of perlite?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 1:02AM
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tclynx

Sorry, my miss spelling "Golden Pothos" is the common houseplant that I have so much growing.
http://www.denverplants.com/foliage/html/PothosGold.htm
Here is a link with a picture.

Here is a link that might be useful: plant

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 11:03AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Silly me! I AM getting old. Should've spotted that.
However, they are more commonly know in these parts as "Scindapsus", and THIS is my favourite:

Re: my other question:
How thick is that layer of perlite?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 12:40AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Hope you're not getting tired of me, 'cause I have yet another question:

What are these "water crystals"? Made some enquiries, but no-one seems to know about them in these parts, which makes me think - by what you tell me - could they be "silica gel" = crystals used in laboratory desicators, and sold by petshops as kittylitter.
For desicators the crystals are doped with cobalt which turns the crystals blue when dry, and pink when saturated with water.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 12:57AM
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tclynx

Not silica gel. I got a jar of some of it under the name soil moist. They come with many other names and in different sizes for different purposes. People make cool ties with it too (sew a bandanna or some 0ther cloth into a tube, fill it with the water crystals and sew up the ends. You then soak the cool tie in water to fill up the crystals and tie it around your neck for a slowly cooling accessory in hot weather.)
Try searching water gel and/or water crystals on google or something.
There are some potting soils that have it incorporated into them too.

Greystoke, the plant you have pictured there looks very similar though not quite the same, will it happily root in water if you break a bit off?

Here is a link that might be useful: soil moist

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 8:04AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Thanks for the info. That clears up that mistery!

"Soil Moist" is not available here, but the powder form is.
Its widely used in diapers, etc. , and I've used it myself in the wire armor of electric cables to make it longitudinally water tight. Very effective!

The plant is Scindapsus pictus 'Argyraeus' I think it's a hybrid. And yes it will root readily, but (again) I have not seen it for sale here.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 1:11AM
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