How to Grow Rice Indoors
Although the conventional method for how to grow rice brings to mind images of vast waterlogged paddies in sun-drenched locations, growing rice indoors is possible under the right conditions, but it is challenging.
If you want to grow enough rice plants for a substantial harvest, you may want to consider incorporating these grassy plants into your landscape design or dedicating a large area in your yard to cultivate this grain. But if you just want to try your hand at growing rice inside your home, you may be able to harvest enough for at least one meal.
If you have a greenhouse or solarium, this makes growing rice indoors a more attainable goal than trying to grow it in your den or kitchen.
Types of Rice You Can Grow
The types of rice you can grow indoors are no different than the types you’d grow outdoors. Because rice grains are actually seeds, you’ll be able to find them in specialty seed company catalogs.
White rice and many other types of rice you buy at the grocery store won’t germinate, so you’ll have to find a rice seed supplier. You may have some luck germinating some long-grain or brown rice, so that’s worth a try. Be prepared, however, to discover that the resulting plants may not bear true to type (or bear at all) even if the seeds germinate.
When growing rice at home, you can choose to grow it as a cultivated edible crop (Oryza sativa), a wild grain crop (Zizania aquatica and Zizania palustris) or simply as a grassy ornamental plant.
The most commonly available rice on grocery shelves are the cultivars Diamond and Cheniere, but these seeds are not readily available to home gardeners. Look instead for the cultivars Carolina Gold or Charleston Gold.
As a departure from the typical green grassy foliage of most rice plants, the ornamental Black Madras rice (Oryza sativa ‘Black Madras’) has purplish-black foliage.
What You Need to Grow Rice Indoors
The environmental conditions inside most houses make growing rice at home a daunting challenge. Rice needs full sun, lots of water and nitrogen-rich soil. Although you can meet the conditions of water and soil, providing enough sun is the limiting factor for growing rice indoors.
If you have a greenhouse or solarium that receives full sun for most of the day, these indoor environments may be able to support successful rice culture. Otherwise, you’ll have to use grow lights if you want to grow rice in a room in your home.
Containers for Growing Rice Indoors
Even though commercially cultivated rice is grown in flooded fields called “paddies,” you won’t have to grow rice indoors in your bathtub or sink. Waterlogged fields aren’t actually a requirement for growing rice; instead, the soggy conditions suppress weeds that cannot live on soggy soil in favor of rice, which thrives in that environment.
With that in mind, growing rice indoors flips the script on container recommendations for almost all plants. Instead of making sure to use a container with a drainage hole, rice does best in containers with no holes. In fact, growing rice in a bucket may be the easiest method to follow.
This also makes a terrific kid’s school project, and taking the finished project to school is as easy as carrying the bucket to school by its handle without worrying about water draining from the bottom and making a mess in your car.
Growing rice in a bucket makes a terrific kid’s school project. Plus, taking the finished project to school is as easy as carrying the bucket to school by its handle without worrying about water draining from the bottom and making a mess in your car.
How to Plant Rice Indoors
Using a bucket or other container without drainage holes, fill to within 4 to 6 inches of the top with soil. You don’t have to use a loose potting mix, which is recommended for most container plants, because rice flourishes when grown on heavy soil, such as clay.
Ordinary garden soil works too. The soil needs to be rich in nitrogen; otherwise, the rice foliage will turn yellow.
- Sow rice seeds thickly on top of the soil and cover with a thin layer of soil.
- Gently add water so as not to disturb the seeds until the water is 2 inches above the soil level.
- Place the container in full sun (at least six hours each day; eight hours is better) or under grow lights (12 to 14 hours each day).
- Maintain the water level a couple of inches above the soil level even after the plants begin to grow.
Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist, nursery owner, and writer for the green industry. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson, she worked in the Horticulture Dept. for the University of Georgia as a Master Gardener Coordinator. Blackstone has been a Master Gardener course instructor for 15 years, teaching her class in phytopathology as part of the required Master Gardener curriculum.