10 Houseplants You Can Grow Without Soil


In our last blog post, we introduced you to hydroponics, or growing indoor plants without soil. That was within the context of an indoor vertical garden. What about the common houseplant? Are there any species of those you can grow without soil? We researched extensively to bring you the answer.

Which houseplants can you grow without soil? You can grow the following houseplants without using any soil:

  • Aechmea
  • Aloe Vera
  • Paperwhites
  • Philodendrons
  • Marimo Moss Balls
  • Hyacinths
  • Spanish Moss
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • Air Plants
  • Orchids

In this article, we will elaborate on each of the 10 plants on this list, explaining what they are and how you grow them indoors. Your soilless indoor garden is about to become a reality!

10 Indoor Plants You Can Grow Without Soil

Aechmea

The appealing aechmea belongs to the Bromeliaceae family and the Bromelioideae subfamily. They can grow beautifully vivid pink spiky flowers that will leave you breathless! If the aechmea appeals to you, then know that it’s pretty hard to screw up. That makes it a great indoor houseplant choice for beginners.

Once planted, the roots of the aechmea will grab onto a host plant nearby. They don’t hate being potted in soil, but they also don’t need it to grow. This plant requires no strict lighting conditions either. You will have to water well, but not to the point of overdoing it, as that could cause root rot.

Aloe Vera

If you’ve ever used aloe vera gel for a bug bite, rash, or a patch of itchy skin, that medicine comes from the aloe vera plant. This succulent is also an evergreen perennial. The leaves have that thick, stiff texture of succulents as well as tiny barbs throughout. Once grown, those leaves also get very long. You can take one off, split it open, and then get your own aloe vera, no pharmacy required!

Since it’s a succulent, you don’t have to water aloe vera as much as you would other indoor plants like aechmea. It needs some shade, lots of sunlight, and pebbles or sand in which to grow. Again, if you had soil, you could use it, but it’s by no means necessary.

Paperwhites

The paperwhite or Narcissus tazetta comes from such areas of the world as Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, and Greece. The delicate white and yellow daffodils that sprout from the paperwhite’s bulbs can do so even in the winter if you grow this plant indoors. It does have a somewhat strong smell that gardeners call musky at best and like cat urine at worst.

If you still want to grow your own paperwhites, use pebbles instead of soil. They need water but not a lot of bright sunlight. After all, paperwhites are winter growers, don’t forget.  

Philodendrons

In the Araceae family, the philodendron is a favorite plant among gardeners. The large, bright green leaves in a distinct heart shape add a tropical, summery atmosphere to any home, apartment, or even an office. You can grow this plant at work with ease, as tap water doesn’t bother the philodendron one bit.

Marimo Moss Balls

If you’ve never seen a Marimo moss ball before, prepare to be amazed. A type of algae, Aegagropila linnaei grow underwater. If you have a fish tank, you can add these large green algae balls to the tank with your fish. You can also plant them on their own in a bowl. Since they live in water, they don’t need any watering. You will need to dump the water bowl and refill it every now and again, though. Marimo moss balls also prefer indirect lighting.

Hyacinths

Another great indoor flowering plant that requires no soil is the hyacinth. Belonging to the Asparagaceae family and Scilloideae subfamily, hyacinths grow tall flowers in an array of lovely colors. These include whites, light blues, dark blues, purples, and bright pinks. You’ll want a whole collection at home.

To get the tallest, fullest hyacinths, don’t give them any light at all at first. Yes, that’s right, for 10 weeks or longer, keep them in the dark so their roots can grow. This may seem counterintuitive to what you should do for your indoor plants, but it’s the right way to go about hyacinth care. Once those 10 weeks pass, hyacinths need filtered sunlight and pebbles to thrive. They are susceptible to overwatering, so tread carefully!

Spanish Moss

Although it’s also a flowering plant, Spanish moss doesn’t resemble the pretty hyacinth in the slightest. These are epiphytic plants, so they attach to other plants and grow that way. That’s why they don’t need soil. You can find Spanish moss in the wild in warmer climes like those in Queensland, the West Indies, the southern United States, South America, Central America, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Mexico.

Your own Tillandsia usneoides (the scientific name for Spanish moss) has some strict growing requirements once you move it indoors. On a two-week basis, you have to give it liquid fertilizer that’s concentrated with phosphorous. Then, two times weekly, mist it. Keep your eyes peeled for insects around your home or apartment, since Spanish moss can unfortunately attract bugs.

Lucky Bamboo

Dracaena sanderiana or lucky bamboo belongs to the Asparagaceae family just like hyacinths. There’s no resemblance to the two plants; in fact, lucky bamboo isn’t a true bamboo. Common to Central Africa, this dracaena plant grows best in a gravel support system that’s an inch or more deep. This will hold your lucky bamboo so it’s stick-straight as it sprouts up. Keep its bowl or pot submerged in water, about an inch if not more, so the roots get plenty of water.  

Air Plants

Tillandsia or air plants are part of a species with more than 650 flowering plants. A member of the Bromeliaceae family, air plants grow naturally in deserts, mountains, and forests. You can most often find them in Argentina, the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, the southeast US, and parts of Mexico.

The positioning of the air plant’s leaves, like a rosette, allows the plant to take in nutrients and water. You don’t need to water them super often, only twice, maybe three times weekly. You want to water thoroughly, enough so that you can see water dripping from the leaves of the air plant. They also need good ventilation to survive, so open your house vents.

Orchids

The last indoor soilless plant you might try growing is the humble orchid. Also known as Orchidaceae, orchids have come up on this blog before. The only plant family with as many flowering plants as the orchid is the Asteraceae. Like hyacinths, orchids grow in a variety of colors, sometimes more than one in the same flower. These include white, lavender, fuchsia, light pink, electric pink, red, teal, and blueish-purple.

Orchids will do well when planted on lava rocks, as the porosity of these rocks allows the orchids to hook their roots in. You can also plant orchids on bark, stones, or moss. These plants are epiphytic as well due to the membrane that covers their roots. This has a soft texture that allows the roots to absorb as much water as possible.

Related Questions

What other plants can live in just water?

The Marimo moss balls we covered in this article have got you interested. You’ve never heard of a plant that you submerge in water. You’re now curious if any other plants are like the Marimo moss ball and can live in just water. Indeed, there’s a whole slew of them out there, and you can grow them indoors! They include the following:

  • Lemongrass
  • Leeks
  • Green onions
  • Chives or garlic leaves
  • Celery
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Coleus
  • Sweet potato
  • Purple heart plant
  • Spider plants
  • Pothos
  • Peace lily
  • English ivy
  • Chinese evergreen

Can bamboo grow without soil?

No, real bamboo does not grow without soil. Remember that lucky bamboo isn’t truly bamboo, it’s a dracaena. It may look like the real thing, but it’s not. If you try to grow authentic bamboo the way you would lucky bamboo, the plant likely won’t survive.

Bamboo does need soil and a lot of water, too. You want the soil to be soaked. You will have to fertilize bamboo using lawn fertilizer. Otherwise, choose a fertilizer with nitrogen in it. Keep an eye out for insects like aphids, mealybugs, and scale when growing bamboo.

Can you grow orchids without a medium?

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that orchids need a medium in which to latch onto and grow. Some gardeners use lava rocks, but others favor bark, stones, and moss. If you don’t have such a medium available, can you still grow orchids?

Yes, you can. You’d want to use something like a cork bark plaque. Put this flat on a surface and spread your sphagnum peat moss across the middle. Then, add your orchids, ensuring the roots can get into the moss. Cover the roots with more sphagnum peat moss and then attach twine or fishing line to keep the orchids secure.

You don’t necessarily even need a big plaque for this. One that’s three-by-three is sufficient; bigger plagues come in sizes like nine-by-nine or even 12-by-12.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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