Soil can be challenging to cultivate, with some soil not having the right nutrients or the right looseness to be beneficial to plants. Hydroponic plants do not use soil but instead are grown using a solution that contains the nutrients that the hydroponic plants need. Instead of adding the nutrients to the soil through chemical fertilizers, the plant is contained within the nutrients and the fluids that it needs.
Water culture, also known as aquaculture and nutriculture, is when the plant roots are immersed in water with the nutrients completely dissolved. With continuous flow systems, the plants receive a steady stream of water over the roots, which is filled with the nutrient solution. Aggregate culture uses soil and stones intended to trap the water that would escape away from the plant. Finally, aeroponics is when the roots are suspended in air with the nutrient solution misting the roots.
Just like with plants in the soil, hydroponic plants need light to photosynthesize. These plants must be spaced apart enough to ensure that they receive enough light. These plants also need fresh air to receive carbon dioxide, which is used to make food. Hydroponic plants are also picky about the temperature they are in, as they do not have the insulation that comes from being rooted in soil. According to Hydrophonics Growing Information, summer plants need temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F and winter plants need temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F. Hydroponic plants surprisingly need to be supplied with oxygen too, because the water that they’re immersed in can prevent them from absorbing oxygen.
For indoor gardening, gardeners must either give the plants access to light through a window or must provide a high-intensity artificial light. The solution that hydroponic plants need often comes from granules that are placed in water and dissolved. These granules contain potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen in large amounts, with smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, iron, boron, cholorine and copper. Because hydroponic plants lack the natural support from soil, they often need to be propped up with staking methods.
New advances in hydroponics technology have led to special solutions that can have beneficial effects on hydroponic plants. Some solutions promise to increase plant growth by giving the plant concentrated micronutrients. Special forms of hydrogen peroxide have been developed to help hydroponic plants get oxygen. Test strips have been developed to help hydroponics growers monitor the nutrient balances of their plants.
Hydroponic plants are susceptible to a variety of diseases such as club root, root rot and black mold. These diseases can be combated more easily that diseases in plants that sit in soil because the infected part of the roots can be more easily treated. In some cases, the infected part of the roots need to be cut off, while in other cases fungicide or cleaners are needed to remove the disease, according to Hydroponics at Home. Hydroponic plants are also sensitive to pesticides and insecticide, so natural remedies might be needed.