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Growing succulents... in water?

Six Silver
May 4, 2015

As I was looking at different succulent blogs, I came across an article that definitely caught my attention: growing propagated succulents in water. Given how overwatering is a problem with these plants, I am curious: is that actually possible or is the first picture on the article just a depoted plant place in water...?

Thoughts, anyone?

I'm thinking about giving it a try with a couple of my many graptosedum leaf plantlets...

Comments (16)

  • bernardyjh

    Six silver, I've been experimenting with that.
    So far, only success with my Crassula Perforata stem cutting. I had 3 plants where I snip off the roots, because they were all facing the imminent death of root rot. But I also let them callous for a week before I introduce them with the deception of contacting with water to force the root growth to reach for it.

    I learnt that low light under the leaves encourages root growth, but some shaded light promotes the leaves to produce more food for root growth. So my solution was to wrap these mini vials with a magazine cover.
    So far the root hairs are popping steadily. Once it's established, I'll probably put it in a small pot.

    Six Silver thanked bernardyjh
  • k8 (7b, NJ)

    i mean, they propagate just fine without water, so . . . why bother?

  • rina_Ontario,Canada

    The roots growing in water are very different than soil roots; so when transplanting, they may not be able to adjust.

    Six Silver thanked rina_Ontario,Canada
  • Six Silver

    Interesting, Bernard...

    ...I was (and probably will) just going to place my plantlets at the rim of a small jar or vial filled with water and let the roots reach down... and basically see what happens (I'm a curious cat).

    Rina, I do remember reading something about soil roots and water roots being different; I'm glad you confirmed! That said, I personally wouldn't (won't?) have transplanted these water succulents (if they do make it) to grit, the whole point of this experiment being to know how well they would actually do...

    K8, this wouldn't be so much a bother as an experiment: I like observing how things work, especially when there are different ways to make them work. Grit may be best but, just as sunlight is better than grow lights, it doesn't mean there's no use for them or that I can't have plants in my apartment just because there isn't enough natural light coming in...

    Besides, if water works well enough, I'd love to grow a couple of succulents that way: after all, it would eliminate all risks of overwatering and some pests infestations could probably be avoided (root nematodes, roots mealies, gnats...)...

    ...and if it doesn't, that's okay too: experimenting is fun in my book :)

  • k8 (7b, NJ)

    i'm a little confused, how would it eliminate overwatering? if anything, you'd be more at risk for rot than normal?

    obviously, you should do whatever you want, but if you think grit is best, i guess i have a hard time understanding why you'd want to go the complete opposite route of dunking them in water, depriving them of oxygen &etc. . . while grow lights are basically a less-powerful version of the sun, water and grit don't have quite the same relationship.

    again, idk, do you, but you asked for thoughts and mine are: i wouldn't try this with any succulent i paid over $1 for c:

    Six Silver thanked k8 (7b, NJ)
  • waterbug_guy

    For me this type of thing is about learning. For years I've been trying lots of plants in soggy soil, plants that anyone will tell you must have well drained soil...but do fine in almost standing water. So while growing these plants in water/soggy soil isn't directly useful it has help me understand what kills these and what doesn't rather than just believing a lot of people who are just repeating what they've heard. Simple enough to experiment.

    For example I plant succulents and cactus in pots with clay soil and just the top 1/2" or so with rock. Keeps the part that rots dry and the roots moist. In my climate the clay soil helps keep the roots from drying out too much. Learning is good imo whether directly applicable or not.

    Six Silver thanked waterbug_guy
  • Six Silver

    My bad — I meant thoughts regarding on the feasibility of growing succs in water, but that may not have been very clear; and that's okay because I do welcome opinions, including different opinions — so thank you, Kate, for your two cents (and, promise, I'm not being sarcastic) :)

    To be fair, I agree with you and definitely won't switch the succs I've bought from soil to water, especially as I don't believe it'll work with these specific plants: as Rina said, soil roots and water roots are very different, and all the pretty succs I buy obviously have soil roots given the media they're all planted in. Knowing how prone to overwatering these succs with soil roots are, I'm guessing they're a lot less likely to adapt to the change and, right now, I see no point in killing a plant which is doing perfectly fine.

    That said, I do have lots of plantlets sprouting off graptosedum leaves that fell as I was manipulating my plants and I do believe they have a better chance at developing water roots and growing... just as the article I found described. It probably would work with cuttings, too, if calloused before hand, because they also have to grow new roots the way leaf plantlets do.

    What I am actually really curious about — and what my "thoughts anyone" was all about — is, if succs can grow in water, how well will they thrive? Because, ultimately, I was my plants to thrive even when conditions aren't perfect, as with grow lights, for example.

    As for understanding why I'd want to do something as extreme as growing succs in water when grit works so well, I can see how that can be confusing; and I guess part of it is about having a different personality: I'm curious. Perhaps a little adventurous. Or maybe it's just noob's excitement (probably is that, actually). I like to see how things work and if they can work differently. Growing succs in water is, for me, all about experimenting, like I did back in school...

    So far, I've grown succs in 100% soil; soil & pebbles; LECA; and crushed LECA & grit.
    So far, I prefer using grit and am switching media, even though all my plants are okay, even those in 100% soil. Actually, I'll probably leave the strings of pearls in 100% soil, just because they seem to be so greedy on water (I'm guessing my current location may have something to do with that)... just because different things can work, maybe not as well, maybe just as well, and even at times, maybe better.

    Do I actually believe succs can thrive in water in better than in grit? No. Just as well? Perhaps. But even if they don't — even if this experiment is a fiasco — that's okay. Experiments don't always go the way we want. Besides, I'm not using expensive plants for this; I'm not even using plants that are happy and thriving and beautiful...

    I hope I've cleared up some of the confusion... and thank you again for your thoughts and questions :)

  • rina_Ontario,Canada

    There are ppl growing succulents hydroponically if you are really interested.

    Six Silver thanked rina_Ontario,Canada
  • Six Silver

    Hey Rina,

    I am reading a little bit on that, usually in the form of "...even succulents and cacti have been reported to thrive in such conditions...", which isn't very helpful...

    To be honest, for now, I don't want to do anything complicated; just as K8 said, "dunking them in water" and see how they do...

    That said, if you know where I can find information online, I'd love to read it :)

  • aztcqn

    I'm all for educated guesses and seeking to answer your own questions. It's how you gain wisdom.
    Since my leafies and cuttings do their own thing without asking, I've never even considered trying someway different. You'll have the edge of experience over some of us. ;]

  • ninjamonkeyfrog


    I grow yucca plants in soil and standing water and have just started growing succulents in standing water if youve found out anything interesting id definitely be interested in experimenting

  • salenascott

    Hi there. I am coming to this discussion late as well, like ninjamonkeyfrog. I too have started growing my succulents in water. For some reason I have an easier time propogating plants, from leaves if I leave them in standing water vs grit, soil, perlite mix etc. (letting them callous for several days first) Maybe this is because water roots grow quicker? I've even had shriveled up, dead, finicky types of succulent leaves suddenly sprout after a couple days in water And I'm also more likely to run into a fungus/insect problem from the soil materials vs. water. That being said, clean water can be changed out easily when the succulents are just in water, so that makes sense.

    The thing that has helped me make this more successful is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide puts oxygen into the water and roots when added to the standing water, and it helps keep fungus away. A good reference for how much hydrogen peroxide you should use is this site:


    It also kills fungus gnat larvae and I've seen it kill those little jerk gnats as well.

    These are the plants I have going in water at this time. This species seems to take to the water well.

    Has anyone grown these in water into a more mature stage?
    The succulents in the last photo were baby rosettes taken from soil and put into my measuring cup here with very large rocks and water.

    Maybe the point of all of this is, is that the plants will grow best in the conditions they have adapted too. Meaning a succulent from a nursery in soil transplanted to water probably wouldn't do very well. So maybe it's best just to put propogated plants in water. I wish we could find an expert on this....

  • rina_Ontario,Canada

    Considering what succulents are 'programmed' to grow in, it isn't water...but anything could be done, with more or less success. Yes, they will root. Yes, they could rot - but may not...Real experts on growing succulents grow them in conditions that are as close as those in nature as could be duplicated.

    Never rooted any in water, but successfully in gritty mix. Leaves & cuttings. So do not have need to try what - to me - is not quite right for the plant. JMHO.

    There are ppl that grow succulents in semi-hydro, and plants look good. Hydrogen peroxide has been used for long time, in greenhouses, as fungicide and similar.

    How long do you have these in water?

    Good luck on growing them in water, would be interested to see them in 6 mo, or a year? Pls. post as time goes on.

  • MsGreenFinger GW

    I grow all of my succulents in semi-hydro and they don't mind. Not the same as standing in a jar of water, but there is water in their pots up to 1/3 of height.

  • joeparmer

    Hey Six!

    How did this go? Are your succulents still alive? I rooted a jade and cactus cutting by hovering them over water for a couple weeks. When the roots reached down to the water I liked it so much I decided to just leave it! I'm trying to figure out is this is going to work long term. I don't care if their growth is stunted, as long as they stay alive. The roots look so cool through the glass.

    My jade is doing great, 3 weeks in water.

    The cactus roots have not yet reached the water.

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