Indoor Water Plants: How to Choose, Propagate and Grow Plants in Water

Indoor water plants - How to choose propagate grow

When you think about indoor water plants, there are a few types… First there are water plants that you can grow indoors. These are particularly popular for fish tanks and aquariums and then there are indoor plants that you can grow in water. Another popular option for home decoration. Confused yet? Don’t worry, we will take you through both options looking at the top 6 water plants and indoor plants and show you how to propagate, care and maintain your plants.

Water Plants You can Grow Indoors

If you have ever enjoyed time by a lake, pond, or river, you no doubt noticed the lush and vibrant plant life growing on the water. These are hydrophytes, or aquatic plants, and they have evolved to survive by living in water. Some of these plants float freely on the surface; others grow long roots down to the bottom. Some bloom with colorful flowers; others provide a sumptuous carpet of green. Water plants can also be grown indoors, often with a minimal amount of specialized equipment or care. They are great for indoor ponds and fountains, fish tanks or indoor water gardens.

The Top Six Water Plants You Can Grow Indoors

Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laeviatum)

Indoor water plants - Amazon-Frogbit
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These plants grow flat, pad-like leaves that float on the surface of the water. They are often used in aquariums / fish tanks as well as gardens because they are easy to care for and provide a nice, bright green color. However, because they grow rapidly, they can quickly overwhelm the water and choke out other growth, so it is important to thin it out periodically.


Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

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These flowers offer bright colors and rich aromas. They are also very easy to care for, which makes them popular with beginning gardeners. White Callas can grow from containers placed six to 36 inches underwater but the colored variety, which is a hybrid, can only survive on the surface. (Note: These are not the same as water lilies. Water lilies are beautiful aquatic plants that come in a variety of colors, but they are not good candidates for growing indoors because each plant requires around 36 square feet of surface area to survive and is vulnerable to pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and mealy bugs.)


Floating Lotus (Nelumbo)

indoor water plants - floating lotus

Considered by many to be the queen of the water plants, the floating lotus has rich colors, an elegant and classic shape, and wide, deep green leaves. It comes in a range of varieties, providing a diverse selection to suit many different tastes. The trade-off is that lotuses require special care when planting and lots of space to grow. The lotus rhizome should be planted in clay soil, with the shoots up and tips poking above the surface of the clay. Cover that with a half-inch of pea gravel and then fill the container with water up to one inch of the rim. It must be placed where it will get eight hours of direct sunlight daily and the lotus must be fed a monthly dose of 10-26-10 aquatic fertilizer.


Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

indoor water plants - Hornwort
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This rootless, thin-leaved plant floats freely on the surface, pumping oxygen into the water and releasing chemicals that combat the growth of algae, which makes them great in aquariums. Koi use them as shelter for breeding and some species of goldfish will eat them.


Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

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This feathery plant grows underwater, but mature growth can extend above the surface by up to a foot. Parrot’s Feather’s fronds are super-producers of oxygen and destroy algae, but the plant is also highly aggressive and, in many places, an invasive species, so do not transplant it into outdoor water features and ponds.


Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crasspies)

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Perhaps the most brilliant and colorful of the water plants, Water Hyacinth is also highly prolific. Each plant can provide up to 20 blossoms and it grows very quickly and easily. This makes Water Hyacinth a great choice for a burst of color that is easy to grow, but it also requires you to be diligent in keeping it under control—especially if you have other plants, or even animals, in the water with it that might get choked out.


Indoor Plants You Can Grow In Water

Not to be confused with water plants grown indoors, popular indoor plants can also be propagated and grown in water. In fact, this method is becoming quite popular as the plants are so easy to grow in water, easy to maintain and look beautiful within an indoor environment. Some of the best indoor plants to grow in water are as follows.

The Top 6 Indoor Plants You Can Grow In Water

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Indoor water plants - pothos

The pothos is a gorgeous vine that grows readily in water. Known in many different names, including, golden pothos, ceylon creeper, ivy arum, money plant, devil’s vine and devil’s ivy. This plant is almost impossible to kill and will tolerate extremely low light conditions. With gorgeous green and yellow textured leaves, pothos will grow as trailing vines and grow best in indirect sunlight.


Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema genus)

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The Chinese evergreen is another indoor plant that tolerates low light conditions and grows well in water. It is a slow growing plant with various foliage choices from plain green to speckled and silver streaked leaves. Although they grow well indoors in low light, they do prefer warm conditions and grow well in greenhouses and protected outdoor areas.


Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

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Lucky Bamboo is another indoor plant that will thrive in water. They grow best in low to medium light conditions. If placed in direct sunlight the leaves will burn. Lucky bamboo will grow nicely in a saucerful of water, although you may want to support them with a base of pebbles so they remain upright. Lucky Bamboo are also pretty fussy with the water you use and prefers distilled water over regular tap water which often contains too much salt or age and will turn the tips of the leaves yellow. Even though they are called Lucky bamboo they are actually not bamboo at all.


Philodendron (Araceae)

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Philodendrons are another popular indoor plant that easily grows in water. They also grow in very much the same conditions as the Pothos, low to moderate light in indoor moderate temperatures. Philodendrons can also look almost the same as pothos, so you could easily confuse the two. But because they are so easy to grow, look great and can thrive just about anywhere indoors, it’s no wonder they are a popular indoor water plant.


Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia pallida)

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The purple heart plant is in the spiderwort family along with the wandering jew plant and as the name suggests, has foliage in the shape of purple hearts. The purple heart plant will grow as a trailing plant but they are not as hardy as some of the vines listed in this article. The stems of the purple heart can break off easily, so it’s a good idea to take care. If you want to maintain the rich purple in the foliage, then place your purple heart plant in a brightly lit warm room away from drafts and vents.


Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina)

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If you’re after a non traditional plant, then the wandering jew may be what you’re after. Also known as an inchplant, these beautiful plants consist of vibrant purple leaves and absolutely thrive when grown in water. Traditionally a ground cover, the wandering jew if left in optimal conditions will form a blanket across the surface. The distinct patterns and colors of the foliage along with easy propagation, makes the wandering jew a popular house plant.

Propagating succulents in water, along with herbs and even some vegetables is also super easy to do. Whether you are wanting to grow water plants indoors or indoor plants in water, the propagation process is the same.


How to Propagate Plants in Water

Propagating plants in water is not only easy to do, it results in healthy plants that will grow faster and more fully than most plants propagated in soil. In order to start growing cuttings in water, just follow these simple steps.

  1.  Most plants grow root nodes—small bumps on the main stem that indicate where another root would form if it were planted. Often these are found on the opposite side of the stem from a larger branch. Using a sharp and clean knife or scissors, cut the plant at one-quarter inch below the node.
  2. Place the cutting into a clean vase or glass that is deep enough to support the plant and so that the end of the cutting is no closer than two inches to the bottom.
  3. Fill the vessel with clean, fresh, room temperature water far enough to cover the root node from which you measured the cutting.
  4. Place the vessel in a sunny location, such as on a windowsill, but in a place where it is unlikely to be knocked over.
  5. Change the water in the vessel every three to five days, only using fresh, clean, room temperature water. While doing this, rinse of the roots with fresh water and brush or wipe off any film that has formed on them.
  6. When the roots that grow from the node are approximately three to five inches long, you can remove the plant and transplant it into its permanent home or transfer it to a larger water container. Depending on the type of plant and the growing conditions (light, etc.), this should take between three weeks and three months.

How to Grow Plants in Water

Just about any non-porous container that holds water can be used to grow your plants. Glass vases and jars are popular choices. Many people also grow indoor gardens in aquariums that may or may not have fish or other aquatic animals; if you do this, be sure that the plants you choose are not harmful for the animals, and that the animals will not eat the plants too aggressively.

Clear glass bottles or jars are particularly effective containers for water plants because they let in lots of light and create a beautiful, reflective effect. However, opaque and dark containers are better at slowing the growth of algae, and thus require less cleaning. Do not use metals, particularly copper, brass, or lead, as they can leach chemicals into the water that could be toxic for plants, particularly if you use a fertilizer.

For most containers, fill the bottom three-quarters with a water-safe solid material such as gravel, pebbles, sand, beads, or marbles; do not use foam or potting soil. Including a small dash of powdered charcoal or even a small piece of solid charcoal will help keep the water from becoming hazy and smelly. If you are planting into a pond or large tank, use permeable mesh pots or containers made of landscape fabric for submerged varieties.

When transplanting into water, make sure the roots are clean and free from any soil or dirt; trim any yellowed or dead leaves or stems before planting in the water.

Always use clean, fresh water for your plant. You could also add a water-soluble fertilizer (do not use regular soil-based fertilizers) that has the appropriate nutritional balance for your particular plant. Be sure to place your container where the plant will get the amount of sun it requires and will not be accidentally knocked over.

Plant and Water Maintenance

One of the great benefits of indoor water plants and gardens is that the plants are largely maintenance free. Simply prune them when they get too large for their container and thin them if they start to crowd the vessel or crowd out other plant or animal life in the water with them (in aquariums and ponds, this equates to about 60% of the surface area).

As with most non-woody houseplants, for most water plant varieties it is best to prune at the beginning of the growing season—that is, late winter or early spring. If leaves, flowers, or stems turn brown or yellow, cut them off promptly in order to redirect nutrients to the healthier parts of the plant and promote fresh growth. This also prevents dead material from falling into the water and contaminating it. For water lilies and related plants that become overgrown, divide them early in the season to start a new planting elsewhere.

Replenish the water in your plant’s container on a regular basis. Do not allow the water to drop more than an inch or two, and definitely do not allow it to dry out completely, which will send the plant into shock and kill it. Remove pieces of dead organic debris from the water promptly to prevent it from rotting and spreading disease to your plant.

For larger water gardens, you can install a pump and filtration system to circulate the water and keep it clean. This is especially important if there are aquatic animals in the water. But for regular houseplants in water, the maintenance is relatively straightforward. As long as there is enough water and the vessel is clean and clear from algae, then all that is left to do is to enjoy your indoor water plants.

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