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What is a Hydroponic Plant?

Angie Bates
Angie Bates

A hydroponic plant is a type of plant grown without the use of soil. Nutrients are given to the plant directly in a liquid solution form. Hydroponic plants can be grown in personal gardens or commercially and most often consist of consumable produce. These plants may have more nutritional value and more taste than their traditionally grown counterparts.

There are several different systems in which to grow a hydroponic plant, such as water cultures, drip systems, nutrient film techniques (NFT), aeroponic, and wick systems. Although systems differ, there are basic components required for every system. A nutrient solution, a tray to hold the plants, and a reservoir to hold the solution are present in almost all systems. A growing medium is often used as well. Growing mediums do not contain any nutrients, but instead are composed of inert substances, such as gravel or sand, and are only present to stabilize the plants.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Drip systems are the most popular systems in which to grow a hydroponic plant. In this system, each plant has a drip line connected to the nutrient solution in a reservoir below. The nutrients are released on a timer and dripped onto the plants and their growing mediums. Whatever nutrients are not absorbed by the plant drip back into the nutrient solution reservoir to be dripped again at a later time.

Containing no growing medium, NFTs pump water into one end of a tray, which flows over the roots, and drains back into the reservoir on the other end. In water cultures, the plants are held by a Styrofoam™ tray directly in the nutrient solution. Lettuce does best in this type of system because it is a water loving plant. In aeroponic systems, the plants are suspended and the roots hang freely in the air. On a timer, the roots are misted every few minutes with the nutrient solution.

Hydroponics allows for a greater precision in the nutrients the plant receives and does not need to rely on soil quality. As a result, a hydroponic plant may have up to 50 percent more vitamins than a traditionally grown vegetable. Insects and fungi that plague traditionally grown crops are also not usually a problem with hydroponic plants since the need for soil is eliminated. This also makes plants grown hydroponically more environmentally friendly since many pesticides are not needed.

Personal hydroponic gardens can be kept in small or large spaces. They need consistent temperatures of 65–80°F (18.3–26.6°C) and around four to six hours of direct sunlight. Nutrient solutions should be kept cooler, around 60–75°F (15.5–23.8°C). Hydroponic systems take more initial cost and time to set up than conventional gardens. Large vegetables like melons or corn should be avoided unless gardening in a greenhouse with a lot of space.

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