Ask a Question forum: Growing plants completely in water? Test tube project.

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Savan
Aug 18, 2016 3:49 PM CST
Hey everyone,

I browsed this site real quick but all of you seemed to know so much and were so friendly I thought I'd give it a go! :3
I've got a set of test tubes standing on my desk, something like this; https://goo.gl/AS4wos , except that they're three in a row.
I would love to grow plants in these without dirt. It would look amazing and I think it would be a nice project. Now, I don't know terribly much about plants and I'll probably need to read up about them, but I was wondering if this was possibly and if so, what kind of plants would I need to get and where do I get them? I would like to grow them from seeds, not purchase them full grown.
I live in the Netherlands so suggesting any store that's exclusively American or English wouldn't help, sadly enough.

Thanks in advance!


-Savannah
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Aug 18, 2016 5:48 PM CST
Welcome! to NGA

What size test tubes are these? There are a lot of plants that will grow just in water - think hydroponic systems. Usually there is an inert medium for the plants to root in and an exchange of water baring nutrients.

In test tubes, you could root small cuttings of your local plants: Ivy, coleus, any plant that enjoys water and roots readily. The plants will quickly outgrow your test tubes so you will have a constantly changing show.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Aug 18, 2016 6:01 PM CST
Test tubes work good to root plant cuttings in water. If you want to start with seeds it will be a bit more difficult but it can be done.
You'll need to add some growing medium to the test tube - for that you might want to make a small paper collar to act as a funnel to keep the soil away from the upper inside of the tubes. A chop stick is a handy tool to work with; helps to pack the planting medium and to place the seeds on the soil. The tricky part will be watering as you will have no drainage holes. There could be a problem with disease.

One of my children is a teacher and she showed me this classroom project; it's very basic as it is geared to 5 year old children but the basics are there. Starting the seeds in damp paper towels then transfering the seeds to the test tubes containing different growing media:
https://www.educationalinsights.com/text/EI/downloads/guides...

Good luck and hope you succeed.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"

Savan
Aug 19, 2016 1:52 AM CST
Hmm sounds good. So by the sounds of it, I could cut off some ivy from the garden and put it in water? And it just grows it own roots?
Name: Ron
Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
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rattlebox
Aug 19, 2016 10:00 AM CST
Hi, Greene! Unfortunately I'm not on the site much these days, but was killing time doing a bit of browsing, ran across this thread, and wanted to comment.

Savannah, think about flower arrangements. Those with greenery in with the flowers. These test tubes are essentially small vases. Many plant cuttings will live weeks, even months in just clean water, even if they don't grow roots.

A couple points to keep in mind. Those cuttings that root will tend to use water fairly quickly, especially considering the small amount of water in a test tube, so you will need to watch that those tubes don't dry out.

Cuttings that don't root may not use water so quickly, but you'll need to watch that the water stays clean. Regular water changes, maybe combined with a bit of a trim of the stem end, will keep these cuttings looking healthy. Sometimes, even these cuttings may eventually develop roots.

Another point to think about when taking cuttings is that plants that do well in shade or partial shade will likely do better long term than plants that require full sun. But don't be afraid to experiment. Gardening is an adventure. Things that should work sometimes don't, and things that shouldn't sometimes do.

Most land plant seed, even if they sprout, would quickly die and rot if left fully aquatic. There are aquatic/bog plants whose seed would sprout and possibly grow in plain water, but even these would likely need a substrate for their roots. Additionally, seed are unlikely to be available commercially.

But cuttings are a quick and easy way to have a desk-top display. As I mentioned before, experiment! If you stick with it you will eventually develop favorites, those that last a reasonable length of time and that give you a look you enjoy.

Good luck, and have fun with your project!

Ron
[He] decided that if a few quiet beers wouldn't allow him to see things in a different light, then a few more probably would. - Terry Pratchett
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Aug 19, 2016 1:14 PM CST
@rattlebox, Hi there; long time no see. Hurray! I'm only on the computer 2x per day.

@Savan, I think experimenting with different types of plants/seeds/cuttings will be fun. Try some in water, some in soil, some in other media. Do you have access to HydroGel or a similar product? That's another type of material you can add to the test tubes to support the plants.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/160122907833?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_...
http://www.amleo.com/Search.aspx?ss=terra-sorb+hydrogel
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Aug 19, 2016 3:55 PM CST
Savan said:Hmm sounds good. So by the sounds of it, I could cut off some ivy from the garden and put it in water? And it just grows it own roots?


Yes.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 19, 2016 3:55 PM CST
I have a hard time throwing away any plant cutting so I always have jars, cups and glasses of water with cuttings in them sitting around. Some plants like Coleus will last months and look beautiful growing in just water.

I'm sure you have access to Coleus plants where you are, Savannah. They are very commonly grown in summer, and come in a stunning array of colorful foliage. Just find someone with a nice big plant growing in their garden, and ask for a cutting or two.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

Savan
Aug 20, 2016 6:11 PM CST
Hey everyone! Thank you all for being so kind and enthusiastic and open, it makes me feel so welcome :3
Also, I am sorry if my English is a bit rough or incorrect at times, I am a Dutchie and a young one too. So please excuse me if I use any words, sayings or grammar rules incorrectly.

@rattlebox Thank you. The test tubes stand on my desk and so checking to see if there's enough water/if the water is clean will be easy. Experiment I will, it sounds so much fun already!

@greene Thank you. I have never seen Hydrogel, or anything similar for that matter, and it is on the expensive side. What does it do exactly? And you mention soil, water and other media. What else is there to grow in? I'm curious.

@DaisyI Good, thank you.

@dyzzypyxxy I have the same problem with food. Currently there are about 5 tupperware containers in my fridge containing leftovers.
I looked up those Coleus plants, I have seen them before. They sell them at the local gardening shop nearby but I don't think I have ever seen them just sitting around somewhere. Maybe they grow only in green here? I don't think I know anyone who grows them. They look lovely though. Thank you.

I have dropped the idea of growing the plants from seeds and I have gone out and cut off some ivy. It is some kind of green reddish ivy? Like mostly green and then the edges and the stems are reddish. They've been in the water for about a day, day and a half. I am not yet seeing root growth but they seem to be doing fine.
I was also wondering, will the ivy grow larger on it's own? Or will it stay the same size from when I've cut it off? I would love for the ivy to grow a bit bigger, be like a desk center piece. :3 Acorn

-Savannah
[Last edited by Savan - Aug 20, 2016 6:12 PM (+)]
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Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Aug 20, 2016 6:24 PM CST
Savan said:
@greene Thank you. I have never seen Hydrogel, or anything similar for that matter, and it is on the expensive side. What does it do exactly? And you mention soil, water and other media. What else is there to grow in? I'm curious.


There are many different things used as growing medium. Here is a link to a hydroponics site:
http://www.simplyhydro.com/growing1.htm

Oh, if you want to try the hydrogel I can mail you a small amount so you can use it in your test. Treemail me to give me a mailing address; I will pay the postage to the Netherlands.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 20, 2016 6:30 PM CST
I have no experience with growing ivy in water, but different plants have different needs and it's possible it will grow for you, at least for a while. The fact that there is basically no nutrient value in the water may give it a short life span, though.

Here are some pictures of some different colors of Coleus I have growing just in case you're still keeping your eye out for it:

Thumb of 2016-08-21/dyzzypyxxy/3177dc Thumb of 2016-08-21/dyzzypyxxy/25978b

Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Image
DaisyI
Aug 20, 2016 8:55 PM CST
The ivy will do surprisingly well in just water. It will grow but I'm not sure how much with just a test tube to hold all its roots. There is a complex relationship between plant roots and plant top - neither can survive without the other. And there is a balancing act going on to maintain a proportional relationship, each doing its fair share to keep the whole plant alive and healthy. Eventually, the roots will not be able to keep up their end of the bargain and the plant will need some nutrients to survive. Right now, the ivy is living on stored energy, probably impatiently waiting for roots to send up some food. Smiling

In theory, you could keep a plant like Ivy alive for years with a bigger jar and a drop of liquid fertilizer once a week.

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