Discover the Truth: Do Plants Grow Better in Water or Soil?

Do plants grow better in water or soil? This is perhaps one of the most common questions among gardeners. Many want to grow their crops in water while there are those who prefer the conventional way of planting in soil. In this article, we will show some of the advantages and disadvantages of water and soil as planting mediums. That way, you can easily decide which option is best suited for your needs.


But before we will ultimately answer that question, it would be good to first identify what plants need for them to grow.

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    Temperature – The temperature around which plants need to grow should not be too high or too low, or it will lead to abnormal growth and reduced production. For warm-season crops, they grow best at a temperature between 60 and 80 °F. On the other hand, cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce seek temperatures between 50 and 70 °F.
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    Light – All plants require light to grow. Sunlight is the best source of lighting; However, where it is not available, artificial lighting may also be used.
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    Water – Water helps transport nutrients from the roots to the leaves. The water requirements of plants vary and even cacti that can tolerate drought need water for optimum growth.
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    Oxygen – Plants need oxygen for respiration and nutrient uptake. Oxygen is typically more abundant in soil than in water. That is why if you are planting in water, you need to supply additional oxygen to the plant. One way to do it is through bubble air.
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    Mineral nutrients – The minerals present in soil and water are generally not enough to boost the growth of plants. That is why you need to provide additional fertilizer such as vermicompost and manure when planting in soil. A different form of fertilizer is available if you are planting in soil. According to an article published in Upstart University, hydroponic fertilizers usually come in salt forms and they are available in liquid and dry form.

Water vs Soil as Planting Medium

#1 - Water

  • Nutrient formula is dissolved in water so plants receive their needed nutrition always.
  • Plant roots stay smaller and compact as hydroponic systems deliver nutrients directly into the roots.
  • The nutritional value and pH level of water are easily maintained.
  • Hydroponics media are sterile and inert and this lessens the occurrence of pests and disease.
  • Hydroponics increases growth and yield per area.
  • Hydroponics requires less watering and maintenance.

#2 - Soil

  • Plants does not readily receive the nutrients. Soil microorganisms play an important role in breaking down soil particles into the basic elements including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium so plants can use them.
  • The nutrients in soil are spread out so the roots must grow longer to get the needed nutrients.
  • Soil loses its nutritional value over time. It is also difficult to measure and maintain its pH level.
  • Soil is prone to pests and diseases that can harm plants.
  • Soil requires more watering and space.

Do Plants Grow Better in Water or Soil?

Growing plants in water is different from growing in soil. It is hard to say which one is better but location, space area, and personal preferences are important factors to consider for the method to use.

Hydroponics is useful for growing crops where space is limited. With this technique, you can utilize a very small space into a vertical hydroponics garden. However, if you have a big space and access to fertile soil, that could be the best option for your situation.

How Plants Grow in the Soil

When growing crops in the ground, it is important for the soil to have lots of nutrients. The soil also needs amendment which can be in the form of compost or fertilizer. The soil contains microorganisms, bacteria and earthworks which break down the soil particles into nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other basic elements that the plant can use. If the soil is not adequately amended, lower concentration of nutrients will be available for the plants. 

Additionally, water is vital for the roots to absorb these basic elements. Without water, the plants will not be able to absorb enough nutrients to grow.

In terms of maintenance, crops that are planted in soil need regular watering so the roots are able to properly absorb the nutrients from the soil. However, you also need to make sure that you are not over watering as the plants may also drown.

How Plants Grow in the Water

The hydroponics method of planting does not use soil but it uses an inert and sterile medium which is water. Since water by itself does not contain the right nutrition for the plants to grow, nutrients are added to the water. The plant’s roots will absorb these nutrients directly because they are already in the basic form that the plants can readily absorb.

One of the best things about hydroponics is that you can easily test the nutrient solution in the water that is available to the plant roots. You can then add the needed elements if they are inadequate. As long as you keep the nutrient level in the water, you’ll give your plants a boost.

Cost of Growing in Water vs Soil

Setting up a garden on the ground does not require much investment. This is unlike setting up a hydroponics system which requires you to purchase several equipment such as pumps, grow lights, trays, reservoirs and a timer among others. This entail a huge amount of initial investment. However, most hydroponics gardener would say that it is worth it in the long run because this kind of gardening technique is less expensive to maintain.


Growing plants in water and in soil differs in so many ways. What might be best for you might not be the best method for another due to given circumstances and personal preferences.


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Ella Wilson

Hi! This is Ella Wilson, the founder of Being a devotee with plants and gardens, you will find numerous things with me. I have developed enough interest regarding plants that these things do not bore me anymore; instead this has become my passion.

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