Those who cultivate their indoor plants in potting soil need discipline and a good hand for watering. Good and simple alternatives are hydroponics or planting systems with water storage.
Hydroponics means nothing else than water cultivation. Plants don’t necessarily need soil to grow, but they do need water, nutrients, and air. Earth only serves as a “foundation” for the roots to hold onto. They do just as well in expanded clay. Therefore, in principle, any plant can grow in hydroponics – even cacti or orchids, which are more known to be water-shy.
Hydroponics: plant growth without soil
Hydroponics means that the plants can do without conventional potting soil. Either you buy ready-made hydroponic plants that are rooted in round expanded clay balls, or you convert your plants yourself from soil to hydroponics in spring. To do this, you have to carefully wash out the root ball with water and thoroughly remove the adhering earth. Then you put the bare roots in the special inner pot, put the water level indicator in it, and fill the pot with expanded clay. Then you carefully knock the bottom of the vessel on the tabletop so that the clay balls are distributed between the roots and the shoots get hold. Finally, you put the planted inner pot in the watertight planter.
Plants in hydroponics can do without soil. The air pores required for the roots are in the expanded clay
After the conversion, the plants need a few weeks to grow. The water level indicator shows how big the supply is. Let the pointer swing around the minimum mark and, especially in the growing phase, do not water until the level is below the minimum. At the level of the minimum line, there is still one centimeter of water in the vessel.
The water level indicator should only be set to the maximum in exceptional cases, for example, if you have to water in reserve before going on holiday. If the water level in hydroponic plants is constantly kept at a maximum, roots start to rot over time because they get too little oxygen.
Fertilize and repot hydroponics
Fertilize the plants every two to four weeks with special, low-dose hydroponic fertilizer. Normal flower fertilizers contain too high a concentration of nutrients. You only need to repot hydroponic plants when they have grown too big. This often takes several years because most hydroponic plants grow more slowly than their underground relatives. Instead of repotting, you simply replace the top two to four centimeters of expanded clay balls once or twice a year. They are enriched with nutrient salts, which become visible as a white coating. If you rinse the expanded clay balls with clear water, they can be reused.
Instead of repotting every year, you only replace the top layer of the expanded clay balls in a hydroponic indoor plant
Planting systems with clay granules as water storage
The angular pieces of clay from Seramis, for example, store water like a sponge and slowly release it to the plant roots. Unlike real hydroponics, the roots are not washed out. You plant them with the old pot ball and fill the additional space all around with the clay granules. Use a waterproof planter that is a good third larger than the old flower pot. A layer of granules comes to the bottom up to almost a third of the total height. After that, put the plant in and fill in the edges. The surface of the old pot ball is also covered with clay granules about two centimeters high.
In this planting system, clay granules serve as a water reservoir. Any waterproof planter is suitable for this and the roots get a lot of oxygen thanks to the good ventilation of the granules
The moisture meter is not inserted into the clay granulate at the edge of the pot, but straight or at an angle into the ball of the earth. The device does not show the water level but measures the moisture in the ball of the earth. As long as the indicator is blue, the plant has enough water. If it turns red, it has to be poured. A quarter of the volume of the pot is always poured. It is best to read or measure the volume from the label before planting. After water, it will take some time for the display to turn blue again. Because the clay has a high storage capacity, the plants get by with less irrigation water overall.
Water reservoir in the bottom of the pot
The soil culture of indoor plants in closed pots is very difficult because the roots quickly suffer from waterlogging and die due to a lack of oxygen. Special planting systems now also make that possible. The trick: a partition is inserted between the rooted potting soil and the bottom of the planter. A water reservoir is created underneath, which keeps the earth moist but prevents waterlogging.
With the help of a water reservoir in the bottom of the pot, it is much easier to properly water a houseplant
Thanks to the water reservoir in the bottom of the pot, you rarely have to water. The water is poured in via a pouring shaft at the edge of the pot. To make sure that the roots are not wet, the separating floor is covered with drainage granules such as gravel, lava rock, or expanded clay before the earth balls are planted. The thickness of the drainage layer should be one-fifth of the height of the pot.