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Yes, you can 100% grow a Monstera Deliciosa successfully in water IF:
- You change the water frequently
- You clean the soil off the roots well
- You fertilise it using a fertiliser that’s suitable for hydroponics
- You grow it in an aquarium (top marks if your boyfriend maintains said aquarium):
Can you grow a Monstera in water?
In a word, yes.
I see this question asked on Facebook groups all the time, and there seems to be equal number of people arguing for yes or no.
So I decided to try it myself.
I bought myself a baby Monstera for the princely sum of £4.99, washed off the roots, and popped him in a very professional hydroponics set-up consisting of a San Miguel pint glass and some tap water.
He’s doing fine. A leaf was unfurling when I bought him and it’s come out fine. Water roots are growing well and are already threatening to break out of the glass.
I have a video all about growing Monstera in water here.
My best tip for transferring a Monstera from soil to water
Once you’ve cleaned the soil off the roots (details on that below), treat your Monstera as if you were propagating it in water.
At the moment of transfer, your plant will have soil roots, which are great at getting oxygen from the air (like our lungs do). If it’s to live in water, it’ll need to grow water roots, so it can absorb oxygen from water (like fishs’ gills do).
Now, soil roots can absorb some oxygen from water, so don’t go chopping all the roots off. If that worked, I’d do it, because cleaning roots is tedious af.
The soil roots will drop off, and new water roots will grow. Water roots are whiter, thicker, and somehow creepier looking than soil roots. You’ll know them when you see them.
Sometimes the soil roots do well in water, and don’t drop off; sometimes they do. As long as you’ve got new roots replacing the old roots, it’s all good.
Treating your plant like a propagation works because you’re basically rooting it again, just not from scratch. I have an article here on growing roots faster.
Don’t add fertiliser straight away. The roots aren’t that good at absorbing oxygen, never mind fertiliser. Wait until it’s started growing again.
Why would you want to grow a Monstera in water?
Ok, aside from the pros I listed below, I think that it looks really cool. It’s also a great way to utilise clear vases in a unique way.
You may see clear vessels being used for Leca on Instagram, but semi-hydroponics systems need to be flushed every few weeks to remove mineral build-up, so most people using Leca in vases drill a hole in the side.
You don’t need to do that if you’re only using water.
Pros of growing a Monstera in water
- It’s less messy than soil
I have a small house and a lot of plants.
There’s soil EVERYWHERE.
(I also have two house rabbits, so there’s hay everywhere too. My poor vacuum.)
You’ll know if you follow my Instagram that I’m currently trying out passive/semi-hydroponics. I have a full guide to getting started with leca here.
Sure, it’s important for me to try new things so I can help you guys, BUT the lack of soil and mess is real appealing.
- It’s cheaper over time
Soil is expensive enough, without going through the hassle of making up your own bespoke potting mix. Water is far, far cheaper – even if you go for an expensive RO unit (don’t do that though, there’s no need).
- Growing plants in water reduces pests
Another reason I’m interested in hydroponics.
Growing plants in water can reduce some pests (like gnats, that lay their eggs in the soil and eat decaying matter in the soil) to almost zero.
Whilst it’s less effective on pests such as thrips and spider mites (that I’m currently battling – some plants have both. It’s fine), it’s easier to treat plants for pests when they’re in water.
You can really blast them with the showerhead of the hose without worrying that you’re making a mess or wasting soil.
- You can check the roots really easily
I mean, they’re right there. Just look at ’em.
Even if you’re not growing your plants in clear receptacles, you can just take the plant out and have a look.
When you initially transfer your plant from soil to water, you’ll need to keep an eye out for root rot and trim off any as soon as you see it.
If you’re a bit confused about why plants grown completely in water don’t necessarily get root rot, I explain that here (it’s all to do with bacteria and oxygen).
- It can be lower maintenance if set up correctly, or you grow your Monstera in an aquarium
Cons of growing a Monstera in water
- It can be massive ballache
Ok, it isn’t for me, because I have an aquarium. Every week or so I replace the water with fresh aquarium water, and do little else.
But if you don’t have an aquarium, you’ll need to change the water frequently and add fertiliser. Whilst you could just use regular fertiliser, plants grown in water need micronutrients as well as the macronutrients usually found in plant fertilisers. I recommend using the General Hydroponics Flora series, which you can get on Amazon.
- You end up with algae
Algae is unlikely to have a negative effect on your plant, but it looks pretty gross and is nigh-on impossible to prevent.
DO NOT be swayed by people that tell you that a fish will help. Not only is it cruel to keep a fish in an unfiltered, unheated tank, IT WON’T HELP.
Take it from someone that’s had fish for over a decade – very few fish/snails will eat algae effectively. They’ll eat their delicious fish food instead.
Combat algae by growing your plant in an opaque pot and washing out the vessel often.
Please take it from someone that lives with someone with over twenty years of experience with aquariums – there are only two effective ways of getting rid of algae without risking damaging your plant:
- reduce the amount of light getting to the water
- reducing all nutrients in the water (i.e. don’t over fertilise)
How to keep the water oxygenated
If you notice that your Monstera roots are going brown/mushy that could be root rot. If your Monstera looks like it’s starting to die in water, this is probably why.
Root rot is caused by bacteria. You can’t stop bacteria but you can stop them from thriving. They thrive in low-oxygen environments, so keeping your water oxygenated is key to keeping your Monstera in water healthy.
So, how do we ensure the water stays oxygenated
- Change the water frequently
- Add an air stone and pump
- Add oxygenating plants
Changing the water often is easy peasy. Once a week is probably fine. It’s also one of those things I simply…won’t do. I’ll change the water every three months and wonder why my algae-covered Monstera isn’t thriving.
Adding an airstone is pretty cheap and really effective. It’s also noisy* and whilst they’re not expensive to run at all, there’s an added running cost.
*You will buy one that says it’s silent. It won’t be. You’ll buy another, more expensive one that promises to be silent. It will be. For a week. And then brrrrrrrrrrrr. Buy a cheap one and put it somewhere where it won’t get on your nerves.
Adding oxygenating plants is the one for me. I use java moss.
If you’re lazy or have ADHD or are prone to bouts of depression and ignore your plants, this is the way. You can buy it from aquatic stores. The best thing is that it grows, so only need to buy it once.
NB: I don’t know if it’s just naturally easy to grow, or if I, by chance, have good conditions for it to grow. All I know is that it does.
Tips for growing a Monstera in water:
Clean the roots properly
I’m not the most patient at this, but I’m getting (a bit) better.
When you transplant a plant from soil to water (or leca) it will grow water roots, and eventually shed its soil roots.
If you leave too much soil on the plant’s roots, it’ll stop oxygen from getting to the roots and cause root rot.
Increase light, temperature, and humidity
This is good advice for any time you change something in your plant’s life.
By increasing the light, temperature, and humidity, you can give your plant the extra energy it needs to help stave off shock.
Read this article on humidity if you’re not sure why it’s so important.
Use fertiliser correctly
I know I already mentioned this, but it’s important:
Don’t add fertiliser until your plant is established.
I like to wait until it’s grown a load of new roots, and preferably a couple of new leaves.
You’ll just end up stressing out if you fertilise straight away. Imagine you’re in an accident and rather than getting medical help, someone’s like ‘can I get you a sandwich?’. Whether you want it or not, it’s not the best idea right now!
Use a fertiliser specifically for hydroponics, since your plant won’t be getting any nutrients from the soil. As I mentioned before, I use General Hydroponics. Dynagro is another option if you can get hold of it.
You may need a pH test kit for this if you’re planning on keeping a lot of plants in water. If the pH isn’t correct then your plant’s ability to take in nutrients can be compromised.
I personally don’t bother.
In my experience, Monstera are pretty easy going on this front, so it’s probably not necessary if you’re only planning on keeping your Monstera in water.
How to clean off your Monstera’s roots properly
Like I’ve mentioned before, Monstera are tough cookies.
I did a crap job of cleaning my Monstera roots before popping him in his glass. I rinse the roots under the tap every time I change the water and there’s STILL soil coming off. I suppose the hardened stuff will take a while to soften.
Remove as much soil as you can with your fingers. Be as gentle as you can BUT some roots will snap. I snapped LOADS and my guy is fine.
Step 2: Using either a hose or tap, blast the roots. Start off gently and increase the pressure.
Do this into a bucket/washing-up bowl. Getting a lot of soil down the drain will not help your plumbing at all.
Once the bucket or whatever is full, turn off the water and soak the roots in the accumulated water for a bit, and try to get off any remaining soil.
A toothbrush seems to be the weapon of choice here, though I admit I didn’t do this. I will in future though.
*Future Caroline: she did not, in fact, bother with cleaning off the roots properly. Ever.*
Which fertiliser is best for a Monstera grown in water?
As I mentioned, regular plant fertiliser may not be enough for plants grown in water, because they can’t get any micronutrients in the soil.
If you’re only looking at keeping one plant in water, I’d stick to the usual seaweed emulsion. I don’t think it’s worth forking out for fancy fertilisers for one plant. If your Monstera looks like it’s suffering then you might want to consider investing in hydroponic supplies, or you could just put it back in soil.
Here are the supplies I use/recommend:
I put a couple of drops in the water when the plant is first put in water. It helps with transplant shock. It’s good to have if you have a lot of repotting to do.
Superthrive is NOT fertiliser. Some people say it’s like a vitamin, but if it helps plants deal with transplant shock, I think of it as being more like a sedative.
If your plant develops root rot, cut off the affected part and then wash the remaining roots with hydrogen peroxide to prevent further rot.
I have an article here on using Hydrogen peroxide with house plants. Whilst I’ve not found it to be THAT effective as pest control, it’s great for killing the bacteria that cause root rot.
This is a set of three nutrients that I use for the plants I have in Leca and water. They’re great, but once I’ve used them up (in, like five years because you only need a tiny bit) I’m going to switch to a one-step fertiliser because I’m lazy.
Like I said, this isn’t necessary if you only have a couple of plants, but if you’re interested in the Leca life, then you may want to invest in this.
I (very) occasionally test my nutrient water and it’s always been fine. If yours is more erratic, then this stuff is easier than having to try out different strengths of fertiliser.
Will Monstera grow faster in soil?
There’s no way of knowing. A plant that’s well looked after in water will grow faster than a poorly cared for one in soil.
Light and humidity are really the keys to fast Monstera growth.
I might pick up a similar-sized Monstera and put them in the same conditions and have a very slow, very boring, race…
…Okay, I have two Monsteras in water and two in soil. Sometimes they grow fast, sometimes they don’t. I wish I had more compelling results. If you want super fast growth, it’s all about the light and humidity.
Would I recommend growing a plant in water?
I think it’s fun and it looks cool, but it’s really up to you.
Tbh I have both and once I added the oxygenating plants they’re pretty much the same in terms of care EXCEPT it’s easier to clean the thrips of the ones in water.
Growing house plants in aquariums
My Monstera Thai Constellation is currently growing in my aquarium and she’s doing so so well. The great thing about growing a plant in an aquarium is that a lot of the issues like watering, fertilisation and humidity are solved by the tank.
Plants in aquariums obviously don’t need to be watered, they get plenty of nutrition from the fish poop, and the humidity immediately above a fish tank is quite high.
One of the issues is that you need to have an open-top tank to fit the plants in, and to do that you need to ensure that none of your fish are jumpers/escape artists. Do a roll call every morning if you’re unsure!
Also no goldfish. They will eat the roots.
The other issue is keeping the plants upright and stable. We have a little plastic ring clipped onto the side of the tank, but a lot of people swear by slicing up pool noodles to serve as little plant holders.
I also, I’m ashamed to admit, pegged her up in the beginning:
Monstera are pretty resilient. They’re also cheap if you want a tiny one. If you want to try growing a Monstera in water, don’t try with the 50-year-old one your grandmother gave you.
Go and buy a cheap one. If you can’t find a cheap one, go for a golden pothos or something, give that a go.
Don’t rush out and buy a tonne of nutrients, unless you’re like me and have decided on a whim that switching to semi-hydroponics is your new thing. At least wait until I’ve made all the mistakes first.
Remember: treat it like you’re propagating it. In the beginning, it’s roots we’re after.