Hydroponic systems help you grow almost any type of plant, but some veggies and flowers simply require far more effort and condition adjustment than others. The best plants to grow with hydroponics are leafy veggies, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, and strawberries.
Of course, you can also fit some flowers and other vegetables into the group, but we’ll now only deal with the utmost successful plants. We’ve determined them as the best ones to grow with hydroponics with several factors in mind – growing speed, the effort needed, and the growing conditions they require. Stay tuned if you want to get the ultimate guide on the best plants to grow with this method!
What Determines The Growth Of Hydroponic Plants?
Before getting into the best plants specifically, we must deal with the reasons behind some plants advancing better and faster than others. Without a doubt, if you are an experienced horticulturist, you can make your way around the obstacles and grow anything with hydroponics.
However, there’s no point in growing plants that will bring you poor yield, so we’ll discuss the main factors that determine plants’ growth.
Although it’s not directly related to the hydroponic process, sunlight is still the main factor determining growth. However, some plants will need more sunlight than others. If you are planning on growing aloe vera, sweet basil, or lavender without having a hydroponic growth tray exposed to direct sunlight, it will hardly work.
On the other hand, some plants prefer less sunlight and can be best grown with hydroponics indoors with a help of UV lamps. Growing lettuce and strawberries can work perfectly in properly set hydroponic conditions even without much sunlight, to name a few.
Required pH Value
Having a fitting nutrient solution for hydroponic plants won’t work without the correct pH value. For most plants, the pH value for hydroponics needs to be held somewhere between 5.5 and 6. However, it also depends on the nutrient blends, so you can use an acid or base, respectfully, to either reduce or increase the pH value.
The pH value is often increased in the root zone and some plants require it to prevent illnesses and poor development. Regardless of the case, if you don’t get the pH value right, your crop yields will decrease. In this case, even knowing the fast-growing hydroponic plants won’t matter if you want to see success in your efforts.
Nutrient Solution Mixture
Giving the plant the right NPK ratio can make all the difference, and these macronutrients can be found as a part of the complete nutrient solution. The thing is – it drastically varies from one plant type to another.
Knowing the most thriving hydroponics plants isn’t worth anything if you can’t make the right nutrient solution for their growth. For instance, if you want to entice plant growth overall, you should look for higher Nitrogen parts and low phosphorus. A perfect blend of this type would be a 3-1-2 NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) or 6-2-4 NPK ratio.
On the other hand, lower Nitrogen and high Potassium rates are essential for leafy growth. So, growing lettuce with hydroponics might require a 5-18-20 NPK ratio, or anything close to that ratio.
Without proper oxygenation, there’s no point in adding any form of the nutrient blend – your plant won’t be able to absorb it. So, even the best plants from the hydroponics plants list won’t thrive and provide expected yields if you don’t ensure oxygenation.
You can achieve this in several ways – either by adding growth media or by introducing a system like Aeroponics. This type of system has an elevated area between the roots and the nutrient solution that’s sprayed on the root zone. No further oxygenation or growing media is needed since the root zone absorbs it from the air.
Plants That Grow Poorly With Hydroponics
Before we get into the best plants suitable for growing in hydroponic systems, it’s time to deal with the worst ones. Although these are also possible for hydroponic growth, they require much more effort and adjustment and still provide poor yields.
Why is that the case, you might ask? It’s because these plants need the soil to properly spread their roots. The roots then collect the most important substances from the soil, and if you don’t have a professional-grade hydroponic system, you won’t be able to recreate this.
It’s tough to grow potatoes indoors, and the same goes for growing carrots hydroponically. Onions and garlic are just some of the remaining instances. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to grow them with a system large enough for their roots to spread. It’s just that these particular ones are tougher to grow indoors than other vegetables:
- Vine crops
The other reason is that these don’t grow so well in hydroponic systems like water culture with their roots submerged at all times. As much as you can compensate for this with spray systems like Aeroponics, it might not be worth it due to poor yields.
Along with that and deep root veggies, you should avoid the combination of the two with plants that consume too much space. It might still be possible to grow pumpkins and corn commercially, but for smaller systems, it simply won’t work.
Fast Growing Hydroponic Plants
Some plants grow faster than others when in suitable hydroponic systems. These are mostly leafy greens, especially spinach and lettuce. While spinach can thrive much more in a hydroponic environment than in soil, lettuce takes approximately the same time.
However, in the right system like deep water culture, spinach can thrive in just 15 to 20 days. It could take up to a few weeks for lettuce though. It’s still superb in terms of growth speed and these plants produce higher yields in hydroponic systems than with soil growth.
Also suitable for the deep water culture or NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) home-built hydroponic systems is kale and it also needs just a few weeks before it’s edible and ready for harvest. The best hydroponic system for tomatoes is the drip system, but it also works great with deep water culture. It also needs a lot of sunlight and you can expect it to be ready for harvest within 50 to 60 days.
Another one among the fast-growing hydroponic plants is the strawberry. Strawberries work great with NFT systems and you can expect the harvest time as soon as three or four months.
Best Plants For Hydroponics
Finally, it’s about time we introduced some of the best options from the hydroponics plants list that simply thrive with this growing method. We’ll discuss the easiest plants to grow even in indoor conditions, with reduced light and with no specific adjustments being made to the growth tray.
Best Hydroponics Plants List
Looking for the most thriving hydroponic plants, you might be wondering – what can you grow hydroponically? Here’s a list of the fastest-growing plants, as well as the ones that feature the highest yields with this method:
- Green beans
Kale, Lettuce, and Leafy Greens
One of the best plants for hydroponics is lettuce as the lead leafy veggie you can grow in home conditions. It’s perfect even for hydroponic system beginners as you can plant it with Ebb and Flow, NFT, deep water culture, and Aeroponics.
Still, growing lettuce with hydroponics is best with the deep water culture system with just a few weeks needed to reach your dinner table. With a pH level between 5.5 to 6 and the right nutrients, lettuce can grow even faster hydroponically than in soil.
Kale requires just the basic conditions like a temperature between 60 ⁰C and 75 ⁰C. The nutrient solution should have a pH value in the range of 5.5 to 6 for the fastest growth. In these conditions, kale can advance quickly and be ready for the first harvest in 4 to 5 weeks.
Kale grows well indoors also, just like lettuce, making them among the best hydroponic plants.
Making your hydroponic vegetable garden complete is easy with more fast-growing leafy veggies like spinach. It thrives with a nutrient solution of a bit higher pH, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0.
Also, it requires a temperature from 62 ⁰C to 75 ⁰C for the best growing conditions. As we mentioned a while back, it’s one of the fastest-growing hydroponic veggies. In just two to three weeks, you will have a portion of this vitamin-rich veggie served on your table.
Peppers, Basil, and Mints
Different variants of peppers work splendidly with the hydroponic systems, and we’ve grouped them with basil and mints for a reason. You can sometimes even combine them with small herbs like basil and mints due to their matching growth needs.
Namely, peppers are best grown hydroponically in the deep water culture system. They only need about 50 days to be ready for harvest. Hydroponics pepper is best grown in controlled conditions between 6.0 and 7.0 pH values. You can use pH meters to track the value at all times and use acid or base to lower it or raise it.
Peppers need about 12 hours of sunlight, so they might not be the best fit for indoor growth. Basil and mints can grow with the same hydroponic method as peppers, only they will grow within 30 days from seeding. Italian large leaf basil and Genovese basil are some of the best members of this family for hydroponic growth.
As basil is also a member of the mint species, it’s a safe bet to also place mint herbs in growth trays with it. Mint herbs can usually grow within a month, and keep growing for months to come. You can expect the first harvest within two months from seeding.
Tomatoes and Cucumbers
Tomatoes are among the fast-growing hydroponic plants with the addition of mineral nutrients in the nutrient solution. It’s best planted in outdoor hydroponic systems with access to daylight so it can advance in as little as 50 days.
Cucumbers are usually ready for harvest after 50 or 70 days pass from the sprouting phase. You can group them with tomatoes as they require matching growth conditions. They also need a daily sunlight dose with a larger growth tank for the roots to spread in deep water systems.
You can place them in adjacent growth trays and expect them to thrive at nearly identical times as the best hydroponic veggies for a fresh salad.
When it comes to fruits, small berries thrive the best in hydroponic systems. Starting with strawberries which take as little as three to four months, to blueberries which could take considerably longer. Blueberries require more attention but can thrive within the second growing season which is impressive compared to soil-based blueberries.
You can get twice as faster-growing times with hydroponic systems for this fruit type. It typically requires a slightly lower pH than strawberries, in the range from 4.8 to 5.8.
Final Thoughts on the Best Plants For Hydroponics
Ultimately, you will now have a list of the best veggies and some herbs and fruits for hydroponic growing methods. You can see that some plants grow even faster this way than with traditional soil harvesting.
Especially for household use, you will be able to plant just the right species with the help of our ultimate guide.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What plants grow best hydroponically?
The best hydroponic plants are leafy veggies, small berry fruits, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers if you build a larger hydroponic system for roots to spread.
Which plants should be avoided for hydroponic planting?
Some plants like potatoes, carrots, onion, and corn simply grow poorly with the hydroponic method due to their deep root spreading and potential growth tank size only suitable for commercial use.
Does hydroponics need sunlight?
As we discussed in our guide, it's impossible to get heavier yields even with the best plants for hydroponics without access to sunlight. Some species like tomatoes and cucumbers need it more than others like strawberries.
What’s the most beneficial plant to grow hydroponically?
One plant species that grows best hydroponically is lettuce as it achieves much faster growth and yield than with traditional planting.