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Taking care of your plant
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Taking care of your hydroculture plant is simple when you follow these four easy rules:
The development of new roots is the most critical step in transferring a plant from soil to hydroculture. Make sure that during this period the plant is protected from drafts, large temperature changes, and receives plenty of light. Spraying the leaves with water might help while the water absorption by the roots is still lacking.
As nutrients inhibit the root growth, delay feeding until the root system is fully developed.
Although many non-flowering indoor plants will survive at very low light, they need at least 400 lux to grow and bloom. You can check the light level with the light metering system of your photo camera. Replace the flowerpot with a white sheet of paper. Frame the paper in the viewfinder and read the exposure at 100 ASA for an aperture setting of 4. The approximate lux value is the reciprocal of the exposure time multiplied by 10. For example, 1/40 s corresponds to 400 lux.
Hydroculture plants are rarely infested with bugs or mildew. If it should happen, the treatment is much easier than with regular plants: simply remove the plant from the insert, place it in a mild soap or detergent solution, and submerge it for 10-15 minutes. Replace the pebbles with new ones or boil them in water for a few minutes. Finally, clean the planter and culture insert and repot the plant. If you insist, of course, you can use the full line of insecticides and fungicides available for in-soil plants.
A few words about water
Some water systems contain large amounts of minerals and salts. Since the roots cannot absorb all of it, the salt concentration rises each time you water the plant. If you suspect this to be the case, simply discard the water inside the planter about once every month. There is no need to replace the fertilizer when you do this.
The salt content can be checked by a conductivity meter. Fresh water should have a conductance of <0.5 mS; with fertilizer added, the value may reach 2.0-2.5 mS. Staying below these limits is particularly important for highly salt-sensitive plants, such as orchids.
"Hard water" may lead to white spots on the surface of clay pebbles because of the precipitation of calcium and magnesium salts. The spots are cosmetic only and do not need to be removed. If you are bothered by them, simply replace the top layer of pebbles.
White spots may also be due to organic substances secreted by the root system of the plant. An occasional washing of the pebbles will take care of the problem. The easiest way to do this is to fill the planter up to the rim with water, allow the pebbles to soak for 2 or 3 minutes, and, then, discard the water. Alternatively, take the hydroculture insert out of the planter and rinse the pebbles under running (lukewarm) tap water.
The resin-based fertilizer releases the nutrients over time and on demand, i.e. when the plant uses more it will release more. The release of nutrients depends, in part, on the pH of the water. Within the optimal growth range for hydroculture plants of pH 5-7 this is usually no problem. However, when the pH is too alkaline (>7.5) the supply of nutrients may not be sufficient.
You can check the pH of your watering water with a test kit available from your local garden store. A more convenient way is to measure the pH with a battery-operated pH meter. If the pH lies outside the optimal range, change the water source or use buffer to adjust the water to within this range. As a last resort, switch to liquid fertilizer that is added to the watering water. Apply about half the amount recommended for regular in-soil plants.