Hydroponics are a versatile and worthwhile system to invest in, however, some plants will do better than others with hydroponic gardens. Whether you’ve been hydroponics farming for years or just getting ready to set up you first garden, we have a compilation of the best plants for a hydroponics setup.
See our full list and breakdown of the best hydroponic vegetables.
Leafy greens are one of the best crops out there to grow in a hydroponic garden. They can thrive in almost any setup and are a great choice for beginners due to their hardy nature. There are many varieties of greens to choose from: lettuce, bok choy, spinach, and kale to name a few. Many leafy greens grow well within room temperature conditions and don’t require massive amounts of light to do well, which means they are one option to start hydroponic farming without needing to commit to a large initial investment in equipment such as heavy duty heaters and lamps.
Not only are leafy greens easy to grow and offer many options, but they are also fast-growing plants, which means you’ll be able to reap the rewards of your garden fast!
Tomatoes are another high yield, low maintenance plant that thrives in hydroponic systems. They are thirsty, fast-growing plants that are hard to mess up. This makes them a great choice for a hydroponic gardener looking to invest in a sure-to-please crop for the season. Tomatoes prefer more acidic conditions and because they need a lot of light, you may need to invest in grow lights.
Similar to the leafy greens, however, there are many varieties of tomatoes to choose from and they are useful in a wide range of dishes, which means you’ll always be able to find a tomato worth your garden space.
Peppers mature more slowly than tomatoes or leafy greens do, often taking around two or three months from start to harvest, but they still offer many options, from bell peppers to jalepenos, that you can always find a use for in your day-to-day cooking. They need warm conditions and lots of light, so peppers are probably best suited to summertime gardening unless you are prepared to invest in the necessary equipment to maintain an indoor garden.
Strawberries work well in hydroponic systems, because they don’t take up a lot of space and love water. You can get ready to save a lot of money harvesting fresh strawberries year-round from an indoor hydroponic farm rather than spending the money to purchase off-season imported berries during the winter.
Strawberries do well in many varieties of hydroponics and some people have reported larger berries coming from their hydroponic garden compared to product from elsewhere. Strawberries are also a very common crop for at-home farmers to choose, so there are many varieties available so you can get the exact type of berry you prefer.
Although blueberries are slow-growers, often taking multiple seasons to become productive, they do very well in hydroponic systems. They like warm, acidic conditions, and if you have the patience to invest in blueberry bushes, you will be rewarded with a delicious crop that is otherwise quite expensive at the market.
These berries grow in bushes, and that paired with the longer time required to invest in the fruits makes them best suited to gardeners that have the resources to keep larger farms growing for multiple seasons. Blueberries are probably not the best plant for a beginning farmer, but are a great choice if you’re sure hydroponics is right for you for the long term.
Want to try growing them? Take a look at our post on how to grow hydroponic blueberries.
Grapes are a vining plant, which means it is easy to control how to the plant takes up space in your garden. In addition to being a family favorite, this is a big part of why grapes have made the list. This crop is among the newer ones in the hydroponics community, but many people have had success growing both table and wine grapes.
This plant is quite top-heavy, so you’ll have to modify your setup a bit to make sure none of your grow beds tip over, but, unlike leafy greens or tomatoes, grapes are an excellent choice if you want to break in to one of the new corners of the market.
Best Hydroponic Flowers
Carnations are a popular and widely-sold flower, especially for design purposes. Many floral hydroponics operations already produce carnations, so there is a lot of information out there to help you achieve success if you are just getting started with this type of farming. There are also many types of carnations, so you can choose to grow different colors for each season to sell or to use in your own home to reflect the time of year.
Orchids are another popular flowering plant that thrives in hydroponics. One thing many people don’t realize about orchids is that these plants usually grow in soilless conditions in the natural world. They latch on trees or rocks with thick air roots rather than burrow into the ground and absorb water as it passes by during rains.
This means that hydroponics farms mirror their natural conditions quite well and make them well-suited to being a crop for your garden. These plants will need a good amount of air circulation around their roots, since water doesn’t tend to stick around the roots in the wild, but that is easy to obtain with the proper setup.
Zinnias are bred in smaller, more compact varieties and can thrive well in room temperatures and lower light conditions. This makes them a rather hardy plant that a new grower can use to ease themselves in to the hydroponics world. They do prefer brighter and warmer conditions and will produce a bushier plant with involved pruning, however, they will still grow just fine in lower maintenance conditions. They are a type of daisy that is easily recognized and often sold throughout the U.S.
What is the most profitable hydroponic crop you can grow?
Among the most profitable hydroponic crops you can grow are herbs. Herbs fetch high prices at markets and are used by nearly everyone in every dish. Some of the most popular and profitable herbs include basil, cilantro, and dill. One of the problems you may find, however, is that it can be hard to break into the market if your main crops are herbs.
Leafy greens—particularly lettuce—have a huge market you can tap into, and with their fast and easy growing, it doesn’t take a lot of overhead to get going. Because of this, it can be highly profitable to begin with leafy greens. You can always move into different crops after you have a sustainable business rolling.
What plants can’t be grown hydroponically?
Most plants can theoretically be grown in one hydroponic method or another. Where the difference between “good” hydroponic crops and “bad” one is lies in the efficiency and success rate of trying to use hydroponics as your growing method.
Large, deep rooting plants, such as potatoes, melons, and squash tend to be poor choices for a hydroponic garden. If you know what you’re doing and are prepares, we’ve written a post on the right way to grow hydroponic potatoes. They require a lot of space, and since your entire setup is manufactured, you’re putting more resources into one plant when you could be choosing more compact plants to maximize the return in your setup investment. When it comes to these types of plants, soil farming tends to work the best.
Plants that dislike a lot water also tend to be plants you’ll want to stay away from when choosing your crops. Among these are cacti and succulents, which thrive in dryer conditions.
Are hydroponic plants healthy?
The quality of your harvest when growing hydroponically is purely dependent on the quality of growing conditions you maintain throughout the growing season. If you use poor quality food and don’t keep up with the routine upkeep, your plants will be starved of nutrients and will return you will lower quality crops.
You don’t have backup nutrients in the soil to rely on in the case of mess ups while gardening with hydroponics like you do when traditional farming, and because of this, you will only get the quality of harvest that is equivalent to the investment you make into your plants’ care. With high quality care, you will be rewarded with healthy plants and a nutrient-rich crop that is good for you and tastes great.
Is hydroponics the future?
Many people believe that hydroponics will play a huge role in the future of sustainable agriculture. Feeding the growing global population with nutritious food will rely on a lot of innovation, and hydroponics is one of the places people are looking to as a solution to this problem since it makes use of urbanized environments and other places where plants would otherwise be unable to grow. This makes it possible for everyone to have a wide variety of foods available to them, even if those crops are usually grown in completely different climates.
All in all, if you have a plant, you will likely be able to find a way to make it grow in a hydroponic garden. Some plants, as we’ve seen however, are definitely more well-suited to the hydroponic environment than others. From here, just decide on which crops are right for you, and get building to make your dream garden a reality.