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Growing plants in water can be a great option for people who can’t seem to get to grips with their watering requirements.
Whilst growing Monstera adansonii in water is pretty simple to do, there are a few things you need to consider before making the switch.
I prefer keeping them in soil, but only because I find it easier to keep them contained. If you like them trailing or just generally more wild-looking then keeping them in water will be right up your street.
Can a Monstera adansonii grow in water?
Yes, Monstera adansonii grow really well in water.
When plants grow in soil, they have soil roots, that need to absorb oxygen from the air. That’s why it’s important to use an airy potting mix, and not keep your soil permanently saturated. Too much water results in a lack of oxygen which gives rise to root-rot causing bacteria.
When you transfer a Monstera adansonii to water, its soil roots can absorb a bit of oxygen from the water, but the process isn’t very efficient. In the beginning, you need to make sure to maximise oxygen levels in the water, but in time it’ll produce water roots that can more efficiently absorb oxygen from soil.
The soil roots are often shed, though some (I assume those that are most efficient) seem to transition to water roots and stick around.
You still need to make sure there’s oxygen in the water (so don’t let it stagnate) but not as much.
Can a Monstera adansonii live in water permanently?
Yes. There are rumours abound that Monstera adansonii won’t reach their full potential if kept in water forever, but that isn’t true.
That being said, the things required to help your plant mature can be more tricky to provide when you’re keeping Monstera adansonii in water.
You’ll need plenty of light, so a bright window or a growlight. You’ll also need fertiliser that’s been designed to be used in hydroponics. I use the General Hydroponics Flora Series. Watering shouldn’t be a problem! You’ll need to ensure there’s plenty of oxygen by changing the water frequently, adding a bubbler/air pump, or adding oxygenating aquatic plants.
The main problem is helping your plant climb, because it can be a pain keeping moss poles in hydroponic plants. It’s the sole reason I don’t keep my Monstera adansonii in water for long – getting them to climb is a nightmare. The best way, in my opinion, to do this is to have mesh or a trellis attached to a handy wall. You need to make sure you can get the plant out of the pot (for refilling/cleaning without having to take the whole thing apart.
Can Monstera adansonii grow underwater?
I have seen people growing Monstera adansonii completely submerged BUT I wouldn’t recommend trying – it’s very likely it’ll just rot.
There’s a hydroponics Facebook group which often has people displaying their underwater adansonii – it’s pretty much the only houseplant that can live like this, even though…it’s really not advisable.
Especially don’t try this in an aquarium – it’s a very easy way to poison your aquarium.
How to move a Monstera adansonii from soil to water
Step 1 – Remove the soil
Here’s the Monstera adansonii I’m going to be growing in water. I recently took it out of the terrarium – the holes in the leaves are from slugs – and it’s perfectly healthy.
Whilst I would advise using a healthy plant for this, I have had some success rehabbing plants in water. I’m not sure if it’s the process of the fact I have such a good view of the roots, but it’s my preferred method of reviving plants that are moving towards the light.
I unceremoniously dumped the excess soil into a tupperware, and then reused it to repot my Paraiso Verde. There’s no going back now!
Step 2 – Wash the roots
I’m terrible at this. I just don’t care enough to get them really clean, plus I’m quite heavy-handed and end up damaging them. Damaging roots is actually quite a good way to get a plant to redirect it’s energy to them, so don’t worry about damaging them too much.
I knock off as much soil as I can and then run the roots under the tap. Once they’re clean enough, I put them in a glass of water.
As you can see, there’s still plenty of soil on the roots. You absolutely could (and probably should) give a gentle brush with a toothbrush, but…I don’t have the inclination.
The reason we have to get the roots super clean is that they can harbour bacteria. Bacteria are most likely to grow when oxygen levels are depleted.
Sooo instead of getting all the soil off, I just put the adansonii next to my kitchen sink and make sure to change the water often. I aim to do it daily, but in reality, it’s more like four times a week.
I don’t add nutrients until I see root growth BUT I’ve had a lot of success rooting plants in nutrient water this year so it might help accelerate root growth.
How to take care of a Monstera adansonii in water
Keep the water well oxygenated
I like to use oxygenating plants like Java moss because I’m lazy. Another option is an air pump and an air stone. You could also just keep changing the water weekly.
This is key to staving off root rot. If you notice a rotten egg smell emanating from your Monstera adansonii, you may have a stagnant water or rot issue.
Keep algae down
Algae isn’t harmful to potted plants but it looks quite grim.
Don’t try chemicals to get rid of algae. The only ones that work are the ones that turn your water a dark colour so the algae can’t grow. i don’t even think it would be that effective in a glass container.
Speaking of glass containers, whilst they’re a popular choice when growing plants in water, they’re basically inviting algae in. Consider an opaque receptacle if you don’t like the look of algae.
One of the benefits of adding aquatic plants to your Monstera adansonii is that not only does it makes the algae less obvious, but it takes away some of the nutrients and essentially crowds the algae out.
Snails and fish do NOT eat algae unless they’re starving to death. I’ve lived with an aquarist for 15 years – trust me on this. If I find a miracle cure I’ll let you know.
When we fertilise soil plants, we only really need to worry about the NPK, which are the three macronutrients plants need to thrive. The micronutrients are, by and large, provided by the growing substrate.
Tap water (which is what I use) does contain some micronutrients, but it’s always recommended to feed plants in water with a full spectrum hydroponic fertiliser.
You’re also meant to take pH readings to ensure you’re plant isn’t going to experience nutrient lockout, but that’s something I only do when I feeling fancy. Which is like…every two years, max.
Plants can often grow…fine without nutrients, but they’ll be far more susceptible to pests and growth will be leggy and small.
Benefits of growing Monstera adansonii in water
It’s easier to get rid of pests
Ok, I think it’s easier anyway, simply because you can take them out of the water and dunk them in hot water for ten minutes, which kills most bugs (with the exception of flat mites). Add a bit of soap to be sure.
This isn’t that big of a deal to me, and it certainly wouldn’t convince me to shift all my plants to water, but it could be the answer to someone’s prayers.
It looks cool
It just does. Again, not enough to tempt me because whilst this is stunning:
I know that it’d be a algae-fied mess in a few weeks, and I wouldn’t ever bother to clean it.
It’s easier to water
If you’re the kind of person who travels a lot, or is super busy and can only find a few minutes per week to do plant care, keeping Monstera adansonii in water is great. You can change the water on a schedule and you won’t have to worry bout it drying out.
Problems with growing Monstera adansonii in water
Watch out for stem rot
Keeping the stem out of the water is a pain. Sometimes you let the stem fall in, and the plant is totally fine. For years. And then all of a sudden there’s a waft of rotten eggs that grows in power every day until you’re about to call a plumber.
Keep the stem out of the water. You can cover the top of the receptacle with chicken wire and feed the roots through to ensure it doesn’t happen accidentally.
If you do get stem rot, it’s a chop and prop job. The stem’s basically fucked.
Moss poles are a nightmare
I’m sure I’m missing how to get something to climb when it’s growing in water but…I can’t think of how to do it.
If it were me, I’d put little sticky hooks on the wall and train it up them. Leave it in place when I’m changing the water, and then stick the roots back in when it’s fresh.
You could try a leca pole, but most poles would just rot. My favourite way of staking up plants is to use a Kratiste pole, which are compostable. I don’t think they’d last long in water.
Monstera adansonii are easy to grow in water, and they can look really cool if you treat them well. If you can think of a way to stake them up without having to use a wall, please let me know!