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Raising your own plant

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Most indoor plants grow well in hydroculture, including African violets, orchids, anthuriums, peace lilies, philodendrons, dieffenbachia, palms, any ficus, cactus, or Schefflera. Select a plant that is strong and not too old. Remove the plant from the flower pot and carefully remove all soil from the root ball. Use water that is not too cold and not too warm. To kill bugs, spores, and mildew that came with the soil, you may soak the roots in a mild soap or bleach solution for a few minutes.

For potting, put a layer of clay pebbles at the bottom of the hydroculture insert. Hold the plant as shown below and add pebbles until the insert is filled with pebbles close to the rim. Attach the water gauge and place the insert inside a fitting planter. Fill with water up to the maximum indicated on the gauge. Keep the water level above the 1/2 mark until the plant has developed new roots. This may take, depending on the plant, between 1 and 4 weeks.

PlantingPlanting an adult plant

Alternatively, you can clone your favorite house green by cutting off a sprig or leave and placing it in a cup of water, in a well-lit spot. All cuttings whose stems are not yet woody are suitable for this. After the shoot has developed roots, it can be planted in a small hydroculture pot (use 4-8 mm clay pebbles for this). Also, you may purchase a bare-root plant suitable for hydroculture from a mail order company or a local plant nursery.

For African violets simply insert a leaf, or several leaves, into the hydroculture planter and wait for new leaves to sprout. Cut the leaf off with a long enough stem so that the cut end is positioned at least 1 inch below the surface. As soon as new plants have developed, they need to be separated, each to its own pot.

Planted leaf Leaf with 2 inch stem

Cloned plant Cloned African violet
 

A few things to consider

Environment: Indoor plants often suffer from too little light. Place the plant close to a window, under a sky light, or use a special grow light. Good lighting is especially important while the plant is developing new roots. Compact fluorescent light bulbs and regular fluorescent lights are well suited for stimulating plant growth; incandescent and halogen light bulbs may cause problems because of the high heat production.

Some indoor plants are very sensitive to drafts. Avoid placing them close to an air conditioning vent or next to an outside door. Air deflectors can be used to keep drafts away.

Water gaugeWater level indicator

Watering: As a rule, add water only until the water level indicator reaches the 1/2 mark. On occasion, you can water up to the maximum mark, for example, before going on a vacation. Also, new plants require higher water levels until their root system is fully developed.

Let the indicator always go all the way down before watering. Cacti and other succulent plants will grow better if you allow the water level to stay down for several days. The roots continue to absorb water from the clay pebbles which store water for quite some time. When using tap water for watering, let the water stand in an open container for about 24 hours to allow most of the chlorine gas to escape.

Feeding: Like any other plant, a hydroculture plant needs feeding. The fertilizer included in the starter kit is a special slow-release formula that provides a constant level of all essential nutrients for about 6 month. For rapidly growing plants the feeding interval can be shorter. Use the dial on top of the water gauge to indicate the month of feeding.
 

Month dial Month dial Fertilizer Fertilizer pouch

Some kits come with a fertilizer pouch that fits in a space between the bottom of the insert and the outer pot. Replace the pouch every 6 month. While exchanging the fertilizer you should also exchange the water to prevent non-absorbed nutrients and minerals from building up. Other kits contain a small amount of loose fertilizer. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the fertilizer into the flowerpot before putting the insert back.

To force flowers to bloom, you may add a fertilizer to the water that is rich in phosphate, such as Schultz-Instant Bloom Plus. Discontinue the treatment as soon as you see new blossoms.

Substrate: The roots of hydroculture plants absorb water directly from the substrate. Thus, even if the water level is low, there is still plenty of water available to the plant. The pebbles transport water from the bottom to the top, allowing the upper root system to participate in the absorption of nutrients and water.

clay pebblesClay pebbles (LECA)

Another important function of the substrate is to allow air to reach the roots. To further promote ventilation, the hydroculture insert fits loosely inside the flower pot and contains large breathing slits. Good ventilation is important for a healthy root system. Insufficient air flow may lead to fouling and bacterial growth. Discard crushed clay pebbles and pebbles that are too small for the size of the flower pot.

Repotting: Eventually, your hydroculture plant will outgrow its pot and needs to be transferred to a larger one. First, take out the plant and remove the insert. This may require cutting off roots that have grown through the breathing slits, or cutting up the insert so that the roots can slip out (replacement inserts are available). Then, place the plant into the next larger insert and fill with pebbles as shown above. There is no need to remove the clay pebbles from in-between the roots. Add new pebbles as required.

African violets do not require repotting: If you start them in starter kit #2, they will most likely never outgrow the flowerpot.

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