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Watering Houseplants with Science

Watering Houseplants with Science
Posted by Chris Moran from Scotland on 2005-07-12 11:46:00

Hi, Posting from Scotland, UK. I have kept an african violet for 4.5 years during which time it has had 10 consecutive flowerings and is >12inches in diameter.

At the begining I was a complete novice and had never owned an african violet. However, my first plant has been described as "almost show standard" by the UK Saintpaulia and Houseplant Society. I believe that the key to my success is the way in which I have watered the plant.

I am a polymer technologist with a speciality in developing hydrogels for medical, biomaterials, membrane and sensor applications. I developed a plant watering system that uses hydrogel membrane technology to deliver water by osmosis or diffusion to plants. Water passes from an external reservoir through a special hydrogel membrane into a plant container. The water entering the container dissolves nutrients and salts from the soil or growing media. This soil solution causes an osmotic potential difference to develop across the membrane separating the reservoir and the plant container. As the plant draws water through its root system, more water is drawn through the membrane from the reservoir. All I need to do is make sure that the reservoir is kept filled with water. I add commercial nutrient products every few weeks to the plant container.

Over the last 4.5 years I have recorded how often I refill my african violet's reservoir. Generally 300ml of water can last 20 - 30 days which I think is really surprising for a plant of >12 inches diameter. However, just before flowering the plant uses 300ml of water every 4 or 5 days. I can now predict when the plant is about to flower based on the increase in water uptake in the weeks before flowering. I have also noticed that the plant has 2 flowerings per season and that these flowerings are relatively close together with a longer period between seasons. I re-pot about once every 18 months.

I am amazed at the success that I have had and the plant is now like a member of the family which I would sorely miss if it died. I know that enthusiasts will have kept plants for much longer and will water their plants expertly through experience and knowledge. I'm delighted with what I have achieved but also fascinated at how little water the plant seems to need once it established itself on my watering system. I know that most people will not want to record every time they water their plants but this kind of data may be useful to some. I feel my plant is performing better because it is effectively controlling its own watering and is not subject to a feast and famine regime. I now have several african violets around the house and many other common houseplants like begonias, chrysanthemums, poinsettia, gerbera, orchids etc, etc - all watered using my membrane osmosis watering system. Chris


  • Watering Houseplants with Science
    Posted by Chris Moran from Scotland, UK on 2005-07-21 06:20:00

    I am looking to make contacts with North Amercican distributors, retailers and selling agents.



  • watering with science
    Posted by Pam from AZ /USA/ zone 5 on 2005-07-15 01:15:00

    Hey Chris!
    It certainly makes sense that consistancy and a more natural delivery system would produce such an absolutely beautiful plant!
    Will you be making this available in the U.S.?
    • watering with science
      Posted by Chris Moran from Scotland on 2005-07-21 06:34:00

      I am looking to make contacts with North Amercican distributors, retailers
      and selling agents. Not sure where to start as it is a big place.


      • Osmogro
        Posted by Pam Michaud ( from AZ 5b on 2005-07-21 11:48:00

        I'll see if I can't find some here in Flagstaff at the locally owned nurseries.
        I'll try to print out the photos and see what they think
        • Houseplant watering invention
          Posted by Chris Moran from Scotland, UK on 2005-07-21 02:20:00

          Brilliant! Thank you.
          Best wishes


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