Best Seeds for Hydroponics [2020 Ultimate Guide]

Hydroponic gardening has been a longtime favorite for growers that want to maximize their harvest. Hydroponics allows one to tweak virtually all stimuli into being ideal for the specific plants being grown.

The biggest advantage to growing hydroponically has been the flexibility in controlling the lighting, nutrients, water, air, temperature, etc. down to very precise levels. This has allowed not only for seasonal outdoor plants to be grown indoors, year-round, but has also empowered these indoor gardeners to better learn what makes the plants they grow thrive.

In other words, all the environmental factors contributing to your garden’s health count as stimuli – and indoor hydroponic gardens allow you to not only control these factors, but to do so with precision. Over time of doing this professionally one gains insight into exactly how much of what to give their garden, and when.

The reason we want to look at the just the seed here is twofold:

First, a significant number of hydroponic growers have used cuttings or clippings exclusively in their gardens. Even growers with years of experience growing a wide variety of plants hydroponically can suddenly realize that they have never grown a plant up from a seed – only a clipping. Therefore, we want to make sure there is quality information available regarding the germination and rooting of seeds in hydroponic gardening systems.

Second, it seems counterintuitive to focus on optimizing every other external stimuli without giving any consideration to the source material of the plant itself. This is often the very reason that one end’s up in the aforementioned situation. We have previously covered grow lighting, temp. & humidity, nutrients, and even grow mediums – demonstrating that we think of things like lighting and humidity first, too. It is far too easy to underestimate the tiny seed.


Best Hydroponic Seeds: Assortments

In this section, you will find our thoughtfully curated picks for some of the best hydroponic-suitable seed options on the market.

We know you’re here because time is precious. Who wants to sort through pages of seed vendors – most of whom are buying the same generic seeds in bulk and (maybe) repackaging them into smaller packets? As sad as it is, there are people out there selling seeds that don’t know the first thing about what they’re selling. Horror stories abound of people getting seeds that won’t germinate, seeds that aren’t what they’re supposed to be, or even packets full of filler with few actual seeds at all. 

We’ve gone out of our way to find legitimate seed farms so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with problems like these. After all, it’s not just the cost of the seed you lose to such, but the time and other resources as well. 

Survival Garden Bugout Bag – 22,000 seeds across 34 varieties – Vegetables/herbs

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Sustainable Seed Company is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Founded by “Farmer John” Fendley and Theo Bill in 2008, the company actually got its start in California. The company’s name, “Sustainable Seed”, was given much thought as the two looked to express how sustainability is prioritized throughout the company’s decision-making. 

For example, Sustainable Seed Company sources the seed packaging and shipping materials they use by adhering to the most rigorous and respected standards in the industry, including Cradle to Cradle, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

Farmer John took inspiration from his grandmother’s robust garden, which relied on good seed to feed their large family. Dismayed at the shortage of quality seeds available on the market, he took on the crusade of bringing heirloom varieties back to the mainstream, and has seen resounding success on all fronts. 

Sustainable Seed Co.’s products are organically certified heirloom varieties, and the Bugout Bag shown here includes 34 of them. If they were divided equally, it would be about 650 seeds per variety (they are never divided equally). The 34 varieties spread the spectrum of culinary vegetables and herbs – a complete list is available by clicking the link above.

Sow Right Seed Co. – Garden Flower Collection – 10 Varieties

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The Sow Right Seed Co. is building a strong reputation as a family-owned seed farm that sources their product from their farm to yours. The result is a selection of Non-GMO heirloom varieties that have all been popular with farmers and gardeners for a long time.

This packet contains quality seed that is far superior to the generic dollar-store seed that dominates the flower seed market. Rest assured that what you plant will not only grow, but thrive! Hand-selecting the most productive and healthy plants for seed-sourcing works to ensure healthy and robust germination.

This assortment is put together by the farmers at Sow Right, and features ten of their favorite heirloom flower specimens. Whether you’re looking to liven up a flowerbed or you run a hydroponic nursery, this assortment will get/keep you going.

The 10 flower varieties are:

– Purple Coneflower – USDA Info

– Snapdragon, Tetra Mix – USDA Info

– Zinnia, California Giants – Wikipedia Link

– Shasta Daisy, Alaska  – Wikipedia Link
(like a common daisy in appearance, but larger)

– Cosmos, Candystripe – English Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Link

– Cape Daisy – Osteospermum barberiae

– Black-eyed Susan – Wikipedia Link

– Lupine, Russell – Wikipedia Link

– Aster, Powder Puff – Wikipedia Link

– Blanket Flower – Wikipedia Link

Survival Garden Heirloom Seed Assortment – 15,000 seeds across 32 varieties – Vegetables/herbs

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This is a seed assortment similar to the previous in content, but offered from a different seed company. The focus on providing a well-rounded garden that provides a healthy balance of nutrition is comparable, as is nearly everything else. The only obvious differences are the lack of organic certification and a slightly lower seed count. The specific counts are available by clicking the above link.

The Survival Garden kit featured here is the company’s only product, but it is so comprehensive to their mission that they honestly don’t need others. 

The bag includes enough seed to start a robust farm-garden capable of providing nutritionally balanced food. Despite the lack of an organic certification, these seeds are organic in everything but paperwork. They are open-pollinated, Non-GMO, non-hybrid, and non-patent, heirloom varieties.

Rainbow Zinnia Mix – 2,000+ Flower Seeds

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We threw in this Rainbow Zinnia Mix for any hydroponic growers that might be interested in some affordable splashes of random color in their garden. 

Zinnias are crazy easy to get growing and bloom into beautifully vibrant flowers. This rainbow mix contains a big pack of over 2,000 seeds that cover a spectrum of colorful Zinnia varieties.

Zinnias grow readily in all North American climate zones, meaning they will readily adapt to any hydroponic system, regardless of light selection or humidity controls.

Popular Heirloom Lettuce & Leafy Vegetable Seed Assortment – 4,000+ Non-GMO seeds across 15 varieties

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More and more people are learning the amazing benefits to growing their own lettuce hydroponically. Big, leafy plants always do well hydroponically, and lettuces are no exception.

This seed bundle includes 15 of the most popular heirloom lettuce varieties, including Kale, Spinach, Arugula, Oak, Romaine, Iceberg, and Butter, along with a few other kinds as well. 

Grow several varieties at once or try one at a time. Absolutely perfect for vegan and vegetarian growers that have an interest in knowing where their food comes from. 

This kit includes everything you need, including plant markers, over 4,000 seeds from the 15 different strains of lettuce greens, and a detailed planting guide to help you get started – or you could just bookmark us here, of course.


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Hydroponic-Ready Seed Starting Supplies

Ok, so now that you’re linked to some great, high-quality hydroponic seed assortments, it’s time to look at the equipment you’ll need to get growing. 

Remember – we’re not looking at the various hydroponic systems in play, we’re only looking at what you need to germinate your new seeds and prepare them for transplanting.

At a bare minimum, you’ll want:

– a grow tray with a lid (preferably vented to control humidity)

– a warming mat to place under the tray (to ensure germination)

– a medium to germinate the seed in, such as rockwool

– water (½ strength nutrient solution can be preferable)

For your convenience, we’ve sought out an ideal “grower’s kit” that includes these basic necessities in quantities that accommodate both hobbyists and professional gardeners alike.

10-Pack of 10” x 22” Grow Trays

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This multi-pack of grow trays is the perfect complement to any and every hydroponic setup. These trays are ideal for germinating your rockwool cubes and double as drip pans for the inevitable moment you need to catch some liquid from somewhere in your system.

Available in bulk sizes as well (Qty. 5, 10, 50, or 100), these trays are an economic solution to a wide variety of hydroponic gardening tasks.

Yield Lab 7 Inch Propagation & Humidity Vented Domes (10 Pack)

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This 10-Pack of clear humidity-control lids is manufactured to fit the standard 10” x 20” grow trays listed above. Each lid features dual humidity-control vents that can be used to provide precise chamber humidity, evenly.

Allowing fresh air to move through the chamber while still maintaining the humidity created during germination will help prevent any potential mildewing, mold, or rot as well as certain moisture-seeking pests.

Sure, you can find cheaper lids that don’t have the vents, but it’s honestly so much better to just go ahead and invest in the ventable lids. The plastic of the cheaper lids is far too thin and brittle to effectively cut for DIY venting. Even if you could easily cut it, the dial-vent is going to be hard to replicate for any level of accuracy in humidity control.

VIVOSUN 2 Pack Durable Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat

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This is a pair of the matching 10”x 20.75” heat mats for the other seed-growing supplies listed above.

Each heating mat is waterproof by design and engineered to maintain a temperature ~10 -20 above the ambient room temperature. The mats feature a 5.7 foot cord that fits standard 120V outlets. Their waterproof nature makes for easy scrubbing and cleaning, and is perfect for use with hydroponics.

If you compare these mats with some of the others out there, you might notice the higher efficiency of this product. Most of the 10” x 20” heating pads draw 20 watts each, while this particular model only draws 18W. It doesn’t sound like much, but in commercial operations where dozens of mats are used simultaneously, all day long, the savings can add up.


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Hydroponic Seeds – FAQ

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Should I Use Seeds to Grow Hydroponically?

When just starting out with their hydroponic garden, clippings from healthy plants are easy to clone and quick to get growing. It’s so easy, in fact, most gardeners never have a reason to do it any differently!

Hydroponic gardening has been a longtime favorite for growers that want to maximize their harvest. Hydroponics allows one to tweak virtually all stimuli into being ideal for the specific plants being grown.

The biggest advantage to growing hydroponically has been the flexibility in controlling the lighting, nutrients, water, air, temperature, etc. down to very precise levels. This has allowed not only for seasonal outdoor plants to be grown indoors, year-round, but has also empowered these indoor gardeners to better learn what makes the plants they grow thrive.

In other words, all the environmental factors contributing to your garden’s health count as stimuli – and indoor hydroponic gardens allow you to not only control these factors, but to do so with precision. Over time of doing this professionally one gains insight into exactly how much of what to give their garden, and when.

The reason we want to look at the just the seed here is twofold:

– First, a significant number of hydroponic growers have used cuttings or clippings exclusively in their gardens. Even growers with years of experience growing a wide variety of plants hydroponically can suddenly realize that they have never grown a plant up from a seed – only a clipping. Therefore, we want to make sure there is quality information available regarding the germination and rooting of seeds in hydroponic gardening systems.

– Second, it seems counterintuitive to focus on optimizing every other external stimuli without giving any consideration to the source material of the plant itself. This is often the very reason that one end’s up in the aforementioned situation. We have previously covered lighting, temp. & humidity, nutrients, and even grow mediums – demonstrating that we think of things like lighting and humidity first, too. It is far too easy to underestimate the tiny seed.

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Aren’t hydroponic seeds the same as clippings? Just Slower?

When one grows plants long enough, growing a plant up from a seed to a meal brings its own kind of satisfaction. 

As your garden grows, the difference in cost between using seeds and cuttings to populate it becomes significant as well.

For this reason, commercial growers will almost always have a section of their greenhouse devoted to germinating and sprouting seeds. Not only is it cheaper across the board, but it also allows one to be more selective in which plants “make it” to the next stage of resource investment. 

Choosing to grow a plant up from its seed comes with both pros and cons, like everything else. Let’s take a look at some of the specific ways that growing from quality seed is superior to growing from quality clippings.

Seeds Offer a Wider Variety of Options

The first thing most people realize when they begin to look for seeds to grow is that there are an abundance of options to choose from. It is far easier and cheaper to both package and ship seeds around the world than it is fresh, living cuttings.

In fact, some of the more rare heirloom species of certain plants may only be available for purchase in seed form. Also available from almost any seed bank company are seed assortments which can contain further variety, albeit usually grouped together by similar type (vegetables, flowers, herbs, etc.)

You might have noticed how many times we’ve used the word “variety” so far. It turns out that when discussing the purchase of seeds online for use in hydroponic gardens, “variety” is unavoidable.

While there are a few species of flora that do better in soil than a hydroponic or aeroponic kind of environment, there are still a great many plants that will absolutely thrive in a properly maintained hydroponic garden.

Gardeners that focus on growing and blooming flowers have long preferred to grow from the seed, knowing that doing so leads to wider variety in coloration and other important characteristics. This can allow the plantsman or plantswoman to select the preferred traits for further cultivation or hybridization.

Additionally, as already mentioned, there is a wider variety of the more difficult-to-find species available for purchase in seed form. The gardening community is robust, and it is hardly uncommon for forum requests for specific species to result in delivery of said seeds – regardless of location or proximity.

Seeds Can Dramatically Lower Costs

An adept gardener can often raise up several healthy plants from a single packet of less than a dozen seeds. Packets with low seed counts are typically going to be premium quality and gender-controlled, and all but assured to grow. 

Bulk packs are also available, and most often will take the assortment to the next level. These packs are most often curated by purpose, as in the Survival Essentials Heirloom Seed Vault. This unique assortment comes in a weather-proof container to provide maximum shelf-life to the 144 packets of heirloom seeds inside.

While you can get similar bulk assortments without the “vault”, the purpose of Survival Essentials’ various assortments is to provide a generous inventory of premium seeds for fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs, and even medicinal herbs to ensure these species stay around for good. 

Gardeners that grow mainly vegetables in their hydroponic gardens can find high volumes of seeds for popular varieties, but we recommend carefully considering the reputation of the vendor or seed bank before making a purchase. Seeds bought in bulk can see huge reductions in costs, but there is generally some consistency among popular species in global markets. 

If a price seems too good to be true, double check its legitimacy here on our site or with another reviewer you trust.

Seeds Grow Into Healthier Plants

Plants that are grown up from a seed in one stable environment will live to be stronger and healthier specimens. In a well-run garden, such plants will have never experienced a system shock or growth stunt in the entirety of their lives.

It doesn’t take a deep spiritual epiphany to accept the idea that taking a cutting and rooting it into a new plant can be of salience to the overall growth of the plant. Germinating from the seed is, perhaps, the most natural thing about its life in an indoor hydroponic garden. That’s not to imply anything negative about optimizing all other conditions for the plants; instead it’s a consideration of the plant as a living being and the potential difference in its “upbringing”.

Another important benefit that comes from growing each plant up from a seed is the more efficient adaptation of the plant to its environment. Whereas a clipping comes from a plant that has grown up in a different “ecosystem” and is then transported to yours, a seed is germinated, rooted, and grown all within the same ecosystem.

It is somewhat analogous to transferring tropical fish from one tank to another. There is a list of recommended procedures to be followed that helps reduce the risk of inducing “system shock” in the fish. 

Fish born in your tank instead of the pet store’s, however, need not ever go through these procedures – there is no risk whatsoever of inducing shock because they adapt to the conditions of their environment as they grow.

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Do you need special seeds for hydroponics? 

No, you definitely don’t need any “special seeds” to use in hydroponic gardens. Using starter cubes of rockwool to germinate the seeds is the preferred method. This method uses rockwool cubes that are an inch or two square for each plant, and is known to quickly develop a very healthy root ball. Most seed starter cubes will feature a pre-formed hole for optimal seed depth, and are made to fit inside (heated) trays that hasten seed germination. 

Aside from that, the only limitation on your seed choice will be in the design of your garden itself. Most hydroponic gardeners avoid crawling vines, corn, melons, and tubers (potatoes) that typically grow under the soil. These kinds of plants can be grown hydroponically, of course, but their size, weight, or invasiveness can often cause more trouble or effort than they are worth. 

However, you will find that a variety of lettuces, leafy greens, microgreens, fruits, berries, vegetables, and a great many flowers are ideal for growing hydroponically. Each of these can be easy to grow, as long as the gardener does their homework first and adjusts the system to match their goals.

While a great many flowers can be also grown hydroponically from a seed, there are some species that do much better than others. 

Some of the more popular varieties include:

 – Amaryllis

 – Begonias

 – Carnations

 – Chrysanthemums

 – Daisies

 – Daffodils

 – Dahlias

 – Freezia

 – Gerbera

 – Hoya

 – Hyacinth 

 – Iris

 – Morning Glory/Poppy

 – Orchid

 – Peace Lily

 – Petunia

 – Snapdragon

 – Zinnia

Of course, there are many more flowering plants that can be grown hydroponically, but this list pretty much covers the fan favorites. These plants are favorable to indoor hydroponic gardening due to their beauty, adaptability, and need for specific conditions to grow. 

Orchids and Peace Lillies, for example, are among the most coveted flowers in any garden – but they can be difficult to grow. Even indoors and with constant attention, the specific requirements for a healthy flower can require more precision of control with lighting, temperature, humidity, etc.  

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What are “heirloom” seeds?

Heirloom seeds are simply those species of fruits, vegetables, and other farm and garden favorites that have survived the test of time. When you buy heirloom vegetable seeds, you can rest assured that the product you harvest in the end is the same thing that people have been growing and eating for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years!

How do we know this? Well, these species are deemed “heirloom” varieties because they have all procreated naturally, without the aid of hybridization, genetic modification, or (direct) chemical treatment. Heirloom seeds, therefore, are those that have been open-pollinated by the birds, the bees, and the breeze. 

Therefore, while all open-pollinated plants aren’t necessarily going to be heirloom species, all heirloom varieties will be open-pollinated.

If you’re looking specifically for seeds that are “Non-GMO” or otherwise “organic”, be sure that the vendor says so in direct language on their packaging and marketing material. Also, ensure the vendor provides evidence of certification or of adherence to the relevant standards. Most reputable seed farms that have invested in meeting such standards will be sure to put their documentation where it’s easy to find, but farmers and gardeners don’t always put the time into doing so – so double-check if you need to! 

Many gardeners have inaccurately assumed that because a given seed packet was labelled as an heirloom variety, it was inherently organic. This is not necessarily the case. While heirloom species are free from hybridization and genetic tampering, chemical treatments are widespread in commercial farming and chemically treated plants can still produce pollen and seeds, and therefore can be open-pollinated.

An organic certification is the best way to be sure of guaranteeing organic sourcing for your harvest. These farms will be as isolated from chemical contamination via cross-pollination as is possible in the modern world; significantly more so in the case of indoor, climate controlled hydroponic greenhouses. These facilities control everything from insects and air to nutrients and light spectrum. If every product coming in the door is certified organic, so is everything going out, as well.

The main benefit that comes from growing heirloom seed varieties is their adaptability. These seeds have been around for centuries in most cases, and any fragility or weakness along the way has been long since “weeded out”. 😁 (Pardon the pun.)

This translates into the surviving “heirloom” strains being of a stronger genetic stock that can often be easier to grow in varied conditions.

Many people also favor heirloom varieties for the enhanced flavor they can provide. Like the traits that might have made a plant weaker against competing strains, farmers and gardeners over the years have favored the seeds of robust and flavorful harvests over anything to the contrary.

This almost certainly resulted in an organic hybridization of ancient species that resulted in the heirloom varieties that ended up sticking around as more and more people began covering acreage with them.

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How do you germinate seeds for hydroponics?  

Germinating seeds is a simple, straightforward process that hydroponics makes even easier than it already is. The biggest gain from using a clipping to start your grow is time. By clipping and rooting a clone, you skip the germination and go straight to the rooting.

By growing from a seed, you gain much more, as we explained above. In case you missed it, the main benefits of starting from seeds are lower costs compared to buying rooted cuttings, wider variety of plant species, and the opportunity to selectively cultivate or hybridize your plants.

In order to get your seeds germinating for your hydroponic garden, it will be easiest to use Starter Cubes. These are pre-cut cubes of rockwool growing medium that are also pre-tapped with seed holes to the center of the cube. Cubes are available in standard sizes of 1”x1” for standard use (Best Value), 1.5”x1.5”, or 2”x2” for more robust root balls.

Take your sheet of rockwool, and carefully cut the webbing between the cubes with a utility knife or utility scissors to fit into your Grow Tray. Don’t cut individual cubes apart – this could lead to them easily tipping over and damaging the sproutlings. It’s best to figure how many cubes fit your tray across (five 2” cubes, ten 1” cubes) and work in horizontal strips. 

Pre-soak your rockwool for at least 5 minutes and place it on a warming mat (make sure you match the mat to the tray by size like we did). This works like an incubator and speeds things up considerably – seeds will germinate naturally in the moist cube, but the process can take weeks longer. After the rockwool is properly soaked, drain any excess standing water from the tray. 

To plant the seeds, simply place the desired number of seeds on the hole that you faced up when laying the rockwool in the tray. We prefer to use the slender end of a chopstick to get the seeds in, but plenty of people use toothpicks, skewers, and all sorts of things. Just be gentle.

As far as how many seeds, that depends on what you’re growing. Some lettuces may need 3 or 4 seeds per cube, whereas larger seeds can go one per. Once you’ve got all your seeds planted in the pre-soaked rockwool, go ahead and turn the heating mat on (if you haven’t already) and cover the tray. You’ll want to water each plant once a day until transplanting.

If you’ve paid for premium quality seeds, you can be pretty confident to at least get a sprout to appear on each cube. What you do after that with nutrients and lights is on you.

A newer option that has become popular with standalone systems is the Rapid Rooter, which works like a plug. The plug is essentially a compressed clump of growing medium that is pre-loaded with nutrients. These plugs drop into a standard 2” net pot or grow tray, allowing the roots to hang down and absorb their oxygen and nutrients.

The Rapid Rooter plugs can fit in a variety of standard 2” hydroponic implements at 1.5” in diameter x 2” tall. You don’t want to compress the medium plug, as doing so will restrict the movement of oxygen and water/nutrients throughout the root ball. 

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Can seeds grow in just water? 

Normally, plants require nutrients that cannot be found in plain water, although seeds can be germinated in plain water. 

Watering regularly dissolves and releases nutrients that are embedded in the soil in outdoor growing. 

In hydroponic growing, water is the base of your nutrient solution, but will be mixed according to the instructions provided by your chosen nutrient vendor. 

Virtually all plants need three things to grow healthily – light, water, and nutrients. Technically the leaves absorb CO2 and the roots absorb oxygen as well, but those first three things are considered fundamental for growing anything by professionals all over the world.

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When should I start feeding my hydroponic seedlings?

Many commercial hydroponic operations will use a weaker (about ½ strength) nutrient solution mix to not only germinate their seeds, but to water the tray throughout sprouting.

As the sprouts grow and become more mature, pay attention to your root ball’s development. Once the roots are long enough to be nourished with your system, go ahead and transplant.   

This brings our look at growing up plants in a hydroponic garden from a seed to a close. We hope you found what you were looking for, and maybe even learned a little something new along the way. 

Give some of our other hydroponic gardening articles a look, and don’t forget to hit Ctrl-D to bookmark us for future reference. 

Thanks for reading, and happy harvesting!