Indoor Aquatic Gardening – You Can Grow Plants in Water

Last Winter while visiting a school, I was much interested in several kinds of plants that were growing in water. Most of them were common, but the method of growing was the outstanding feature. Indoor gardeners grow their plants in certain soil mixtures, but these were growing in water alone with no soil visible. The intriguing thing about it was that the containers were of clear glass, so that the roots could be seen. This, according to the teacher, kept the pupils’ interest at a high pitch. When I left the school and returned home, I found myself thinking of water culture and how home gardeners and apartment house dwellers, especially those without an outdoor plot of ground, would find much pleasure in trying the method at Home.

What are some of the plants that can be successfully grown in water, you ask? The common sweet potato is one of the most popular – for all that is necessary is to select a well-formed potato that has live buds or eyes; these are not kiln dried. The tuber is placed in a mason jar or other container that fits it, with the lower half submerged in water, and the operation is complete. Charcoal placed in the bottom will absorb impurities. The plant should have a sunny window or one with some sun.

amaryllis blooming

It is unusual to see an amaryllis flowering in water, but it will do so if the bulb is of flowering size. Simply place it so that the base touches the water, and before long the unfolding flower stalk will develop. However, this beautiful plant will send out a flower stalk at any time irrespective of whether it is in water or not.

Another plant in the same category is the Autumn crocus, Colchicum. It, like the amaryllis, flowers even while in the storage box if it is left alone. By placing several bulbs in a low dish with a minimum of water, they will send out the flower stalks, the individuals developing into most interesting specimens. It is not long-lasting, but the fact that it flowers so easily always arouses interest. The pink tubular flowers are three to four inches wide.

While I am mentioning bulbs that send out their flowers with or without water, I must mention that very obnoxious flower, the devil’s tongue from Cochin-China. The bulb grows to large size and will, when ready, send out a flower stalk two or more feet in height. It is a member of the arum family to which many of our most delightful plants belong. The flowers, dotted with greenish-purplish, have an atrocious odor that penetrates every crevice of a room. In fact, a gentleman telephoned the writer and asked what to do with the dozen bulbs he had. He said his wife told him that if he didn’t get rid of the plants she would leave home! After flowering, and when the weather is warm, the bulbs can be planted in rich soil outdoors where they send out an amazing leaf which is cut into segments that make it very ornamental.

When visiting the recently held outdoor industrial show on Lake Michigan in Chicago, I had occasion to inspect the display staged by the Chicago Park District, and among other displays saw several plants growing in water. It consisted of rutabaga, carrot and beets cut horizontally just below the top, or about two inches below, and placed in low containers. They were sending out a mass of very pleasing foliage, and all that was required was an occasional watering.

Has anyone tried to grow the early tulip Due Vanthol in water? Good, strong bulbs will do so, sending out their flowers without much attention beyond an occasional watering. Everyone knows about the paper white narcissus flowering under water culture, but the bulbs must be thoroughly cured and cooled or they may send out foliage instead of good flowers. It is wise to anchor the bulbs with gravel, or their strong root system may push them upward and at an angle. Start in a cool, dark place until roots develop, then bring to the light of a south window. The Chinese sacred lily is in the same class, and may be treated in the same manner. It has a yellow center and white petals which enhance its beauty.

There is much fun – garden fun – for the apartment house dweller if he will grow the dumb cane in suitable bottles of water.

Take a good, strong cutting and place it in a large bottle with some charcoal in an east window that is screened by a thin curtain. The beautiful leaves soon appear, and they are really a superb example of nature’s art. English ivy and wandering jew will last a long time when grown in this manner, but they must not be expected to endure for years. A small amount of a chemical plant food applied at intervals of 30 days will keep them going in a luxuriant manner. They like a semi-shady location, such as an east or west window, during the dark Wintry days. During Summer when the light is more intense, they should occupy the north window. If they do not do well in one room, try another where the conditions may be more suitable.

Some of the floating plants can be used as an added attraction, but they usually enter their resting period during Winter, thus requiring a lower temperature than is found in the average room. High and dry conditions are the bugbear to indoor plant growing, but if it can be corrected, better and more kinds can be grown. Some of the common floating plants are the duckweed, floating heart and the water hyacinth, the latter famous for its rapidity of increase and tendency to obstruct navigation in Southern waters.

Plants must have a certain degree of light if they are to develop the deep green foliage. Without it, they may turn yellow and eventually pass away. Many of the tropical plants that are grown in water are found in the tropics beneath the shade of trees, which is indicative of their needs. Flowering plants usually need an abundance of sunlight if they are to attain their maximum beauty.

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