An Overview of Hydroponic Gardening For Indoor Houseplants

By   05/25/2016

One of the questions I get asked all the time is: what exactly is hydroponic gardening? What makes it different from regular gardening? Well, let’s see.

Basically, hydroponic gardening uses more water. The word Hydro is Greek for water. That’s where the name comes from.

What does that mean? It uses more water? Yes.

Growing onions indoors with hydroponics

Onions being grown hydroponically by NASA

In normal gardening, the plants are put in soil and watered from above. The water seeps into the soil and the plants drink it with their roots. Depending on the plant you water every day or every few days. You want the soil to always be moist so the plants can get the water they need. If you need nutrients, you can put them in the water but it generally doesn’t happen. The plant growth depends on the soil and any diseases that are in the soil can affect the plant.

hydroponic gardening wax peppers

Hungarian peppers growing indoors using hydroponic gardening. By Accuruss – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

With hydroponic gardening, the plants are not put in soil, they are put in some kind of growth medium. Then you run water through that medium continuously. You put nutrients in the water and the plants seep up that water. They get a lot more water and they grow a bit faster and it works really well. It is also much easier to manage.

So basically, the plants sit in water all the time and that water contains mineral nutrient solutions. Those nutrients can come from fish waste, duck manure or just normal nutrients.

Your two main techniques are: sub irrigation and top irrigation. You can guess from the name what they are. There’s another distinguisher between a continuous flow solution and a static solution. In a static solution, the plants sit in containers containing the nutrient solution. If it is un-aerated, the solution is kept very low so that the roots are above and can get enough oxygen. If it is aerated, air is pumped into the water.

In a continuous flow solution, the nutrient solution constantly flows past the roots. It is easier to keep control this way because the same solution goes to all the plants and you can control it from one centralized area like a large tank. You don’t have to control each smaller tank separately.

Another variation is something called aeroponics. In this system roots are continuously saturated with a mist of nutrient solution. With this method you don’t need a substrate and the plants grow with their roots suspended in a growth chamber and are just occasionally wetted with the mist.

The main advantage of aeroponics is the fact that the plants are aerated better than with hydroponics. Another advantage is that any type of plant species can be grown using aeroponics.

Then there is fogoponics, which is just an advancement of aeroponics. It uses water in a vaporized form and the main difference is in the size of the misted droplets.

Since these are indoor systems you will of course need hydroponic lighting but that is a matter for a different article and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have a lot of those on this site.

If you’re interested in making your own aeroponics system at home, try this guide.

If you just want someone else to set it up for you, Aerofarms has you covered.

3 Comments on “An Overview of Hydroponic Gardening For Indoor Houseplants

  1. Theresa Blake

    I’ve recently switched to a hydroponic system for my tomatoes. So far so good! I was actually inspired by a trip to Inle Lake in Myanmar. They grow their vegetables in floating gardens on the lake. It’s kind of the same principal and really cool!

    1. alina Post author

      Myanmar? OMG, I would so love to go there and see those floating gardens! Good luck with your tomatoes. Keep us updated!

  2. Wisconsin Wonder Garden (youtube)

    Love the article except you have the water usage completely backwards. While hydroponics and aquaponics have more water in the system it actually uses far less water that conventional gardening because it isnt constantly being absorbed into the ground. That makes hydroponics/aquaponics much more sustainable.

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