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How to Grow Snake Plants in Water, Without Soil!

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After having so much fun propagating and rooting Snake Plants in water, I decided to try growing them permanently in water, hydroponically, to mix things up a bit! As a side note, Snake Plants, or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, were formerly in the genus Sansevieria and were recently classified into the Dracaena genus. I can’t keep up with these changes!

Although I’m not an expert in hydroponic growing, I do know a thing or two about growing plants, so let me show you the process that I used to convert my plants to permanent hydroponic growing. I promise you it is simple.

Before I show you what I did, there is one question that many people wonder, and it is…

Why Do Plants Rot in Soil that is Wet But Won’t Rot in Just Water?

This is a very valid question! If you are not interested in the answer to this question, scroll to the next section! It’s really interesting though!

It mainly has to do with the availability of oxygen at the root zone. Plant roots will take in oxygen from the water that is present in the soil. If the soil is aerated, the water near the roots will absorb oxygen from the air. If on the other hand the soil is waterlogged, the air will have a hard time getting to the roots.

When the soil is always wet, there aren’t enough air pockets, and this will stress your plants because the roots can’t breathe. Especially if soil is too dense. (Side note…adding perlite to soil makes it harder for root rot to occur since it introduces air pockets in your soil!)

In addition, there are also a lot of microorganisms in soil and this creates competition for oxygen. Once oxygen is depleted, it encourages various fungi to grow. The fungi will then attack the weakened roots and cause rotting to occur.

In just plain water, there isn’t nearly as much competition for oxygen, and therefore, your plant will not rot.

Growing Snake Plants Hydroponically

I know someone who has had her snake plants growing in plain water for over a decade. Just plain water with some pebbles and not even any fertilizer. She said that they weren’t exactly thriving, but they survived!

This got me thinking and I wanted to experiment with growing my water propagated snake plant pups hydroponically. Except I wanted to improve on things just a bit and also include fertilizer in the routine so the plants look their best!

In this post, I’m not going to show how to transfer a soil grown plant into one that is hydroponically grown, but in the future, I will update this post once I get around to doing that. Basically all you’re just going to wash all the soil off the roots. You would still follow same process in the rest of the post.

The steps I’ll show you below can work really for any plant that you’ve already rooted in water. This specific post uses snake plants that I water propagated. The first thing I did was take my pups that I propagated in water and cut them off from the “mother” leaves.

Here is one of the leaf cuttings with a new pup growing on it!

Next I simply took a pair of scissors and cut the pup off right where it was coming out of the leaf cutting.

Now my pup is free!

Left: Leaf cutting that was water propagated
Right: Pup that I cut off

I repeated this process until I had several pups that I used for my hydroponic creation. If you wanted to read about my process of how I grew the pups, check out my blog post on how to propagate snake plant, or sansevieria, in water.

Next, choose a sturdy glass vase or pot without drainage holes that you will use to grow your snake plants hydroponically. I used a narrow, shallow glass container.

Note that algae will eventually form especially if you use a clear container, but I wanted to use glass so I can fill it with pebbles and make it pretty to look at.

I used Mosser Lee River Pebbles that you can easily get on Amazon. You don’t have to use any pebbles, but it will keep the plant sturdy and in place, and look much nicer!

River Pebbles

You can use materials other than river pebbles, but just make sure they’re safe for use for plants.

First I added some pebbles to the bottom of the glass container, and I started added the pups in one by one, and continued to add more pebbles and straightened them as I went. I buried each pup approximately 2-3 inches or so into the pebbles.

It takes a little trial and error until you get an arrangement that you like!

After you’ve added the pebbles, go ahead and add water so that the water level is a little under the surface of the pebbles.

The water I’m using is just plain tap water to which I’ve added a fertilizer that I absolutely love. It is called Dyna-Gro Grow and it’s amazing!

If you just use plain water with no fertilizer, your plant won’t really be doing much and will eventually suffer. So it’s important to add a good fertilizer. By the way, if you have a water softener system in your home, this is toxic to your plants so don’t use that!

I love Dyna-Gro Grow because it is a complete fertilizer that contains all the micro and macro nutrients that plants need, and it is urea-free so there is no fear of burning your plants if you use it as directed on the label!

The label for Dyna-Gro Grow indicates adding 1 teaspoon per gallon of water for non-recirculating hydroponic systems, so I simply mixed up a solution in a gallon jug. I used a measuring spoon to measure out the fertilizer. ALWAYS measure both your fertilizer and water exactly in order to avoid problems!

When you’re done, just place your plant in a good location light-wise and you’re good to go. I have my plant in front of an Eastern facing window. I will update this post as my plant progresses.

Routine Maintenance

Lastly, here are some tips for routine care at this point:

  • Keep an eye out on the water level. It is OK if some of the water evaporates but don’t let it go completely dry! Keep topping it off with your fertilizer solution.
  • In the winter, when light levels are low and plants aren’t growing much, if at all, stop using your fertilizer and just use plain water. Resume your fertilizer solution in the Spring.
  • It is a good idea periodically, maybe once or twice a month, to change the water completely, instead of just topping it off. This will help keep everything fresh and clean.
  • If you notice that the water is cloudy or smelly, chances are that something has rotted. Remove all the water, any rotted debris, and clean the container thoroughly. You can also add a piece or two of activated charcoal to keep the water cleaner and fresh.
  • Algae will likely grow, especially if you have a clear container like I used for my project! Algae isn’t necessarily bad, but if it gets out of hand, simply take your plants out of the container and clean the container up with warm water and soap. Rinse it well, and place your plants back in the container.

Have you tried growing your houseplants hydroponically? Comment below. I’ve love to hear!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

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Theresa

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

I was very happy to find this. I am having trouble getting rid of fungus gnats completely, and I was thinking that growing the plant in water might be the way to go, since the gnats live in soil, not water. I have tried every gnat killing method I could find, and none of them worked permanently. And I have never been an over-waterer—I think they may have come in through my screen this last summer. This has been the first time I have ever had fungus gnats.

Theresa

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Hi Raffaele, Except for the pesticides you mentioned, I have tried all of those methods, along with many more. And I have always let my plants dry out between waterings. None of them helped permanently, and my plants were dying. So I have taken them all out of the dirt, and put them in water. Already the one that I saw was getting worse has perked up.

Raffaele

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

Hi Theresa! I recently wrote a fungus gnat blog post. You might want to check it out! https://www.ohiotropics.com/2021/01/31/killing-fungus-gnats-houseplants/

Trishya

Friday 5th of February 2021

Hi!

Thanks for the info. I have a question about which one you put in water. Do you only use the pups and put them in the pebbles/ water or do you also you the leaf it came from?

Raffaele

Friday 5th of February 2021

Hi! For the example I showed, you separated the pups. You can also leave the original leaf too and not separate them if you'd like.

Kelly

Friday 1st of January 2021

Thanks for the info. Iv been struggling with the hoya plant that was given to me and now I have the info to go forward. Also, I am excited to see what I can grow in just water! Keep you updated on my progress.

Raffaele

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

You're welcome! Plants will grow better in soil generally, but it's fun to try different methods.

Winnie

Thursday 26th of November 2020

Hello Raffaele,

This might be the best blog post I have read on snake plants water propagation! I certainly learned something new today.

I cut my snake plants two months ago and have been water propagating it. Still no roots, and I noticed from the cut area it’s turning brown. Any idea why this is happening? My other snake plants had roots growing out after few weeks, but not this time! I am struggling on finding answers and was hoping that you will have answer for me.

Thanks! Winnie

Michel

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

@Winnie, hi.. name Michel.. i have rooted many snake plant leaves so far.. i have some who took up to 4 month to root.. i think light may be the cause since in september.. it goes lower and lower.. yet.. the leaves rooted.. and it took another 6 weeks for pups to come out... while in mars.. in 5weeks..pups grow 2week after roots.. be patient..as long the leaves don't rot...

the other point.. i put my cutting in cheap dollar tree transparant plastic glass... one by one.. the idea is if one rot.. it will not contaminate the other...

i cut my bottum leaf in angle so the root don't have tu push the leaf up to grow out... and i never put more then a 1/4 inch of water of the higher part of the buttom cut.. i have never had problem with water changing.. just fill up to same level..

No fertiliser for rooting.. yet.. in 6 to 8 month.. they are still in same plastic glass.. and some pups are 8 inch long and the leaf show no sign of rotting...

use only distilled water as tap water chemical make some of my cutting to rot...

Raffaele

Friday 27th of November 2020

Hi Winnie! Glad you enjoyed the blog post. I'd have to see a photo to better help...but did you follow everything I laid out in the blog post? Any differences in what you did?

Cat

Sunday 27th of September 2020

Could you keep that leaf with roots on it, after you cut the pup off, and put it back in water to maybe grow another pup on it?

Cat

Monday 28th of September 2020

Also, my other question: in the picture it looks like the plants are each one straight leaf. Are those regular sansies that will grow in the normal round cluster shape eventually? Won't that get crowded in the container and you have to move them out at some point? This is beautiful and I'm fascinated with it, planning to do this when I get cuttings rooted.

Could I also take very young rooted pups off plants in soil and transfer them to water environment permanently and they would be okay? If I use a cut leaf that's variegated, to root, the new growth will come in solid, and I want some variegated and solid ones in water.

Cat

Monday 28th of September 2020

Excellent, thank you. Could you post your results later on if you remember? I've got a leaf with the cut edge drying now to form callus and then I will put it in water to root. If it grows roots, then a pup, I will remove that pup, but keep the main leaf going as long as possible to see if I get any more pups off it.

Raffaele

Sunday 27th of September 2020

That's a great question! I'm not sure of the outcome, but I'm actually experimenting with this myself right now. :-)