How to Grow Plants with Water Crystals

How to Grow Plants with Water Crystals
Kapitula Olga /

While gardening is a hobby that can bring a lot of positivity to your life, sometimes you’re too busy and too tired to take care of all the plants around your house. Hiring a professional gardener will do the trick, but for small, household plants water beads may be the solution that you’re looking for.

Perfect for all types of plants, using hydrogel crystals allows for the slow release of water when the plant needs it. This can help reduce root rot and other problems related to overwatering or not enough watering.

What are water beads?

The so-called water beads are little granules created from water-absorbent polymer. They can be used as a soil additive or on their own (if the plants can be grown in water only). Because they release water slowly in the soil, water jelly crystals are good for the planet as well.

When shopping for water beads you can see them labelled as hydrogel crystals, water jelly crystals, granules and gel crystals. While it’s the same thing, we advise you to take five minutes to read the description of the product or to consult with a salesman.

How much water can crystals hold?

Water granules are pretty small when dry but when put in water they will grow a couple times their original size. It takes some time for the little gel crystals to absorb the water, they will grow.

A teaspoon of dry water beads is enough for a two-litre pot. If you put in already hydrated granules in the pot two cups are more than enough.

How much water beads you should use?

There is no limit on how many water beads you should use. The amount must be adjusted according to the plant and the size of the pot. The general rule is one to four (e.g. one cup of water beads to four cups of soil).

How to hydrate water granules?

Before using them in gardening you will have to hydrate the dry water granules. Depending on the brand of granules you’ve bought there are different amounts of water that they can retain.

Place the granules in laver and cover them with warm water (cold water works as well, it just takes longer). While most instructions will say to leave the granules to soak for three to four hours, we advise you to leave them overnight. That way you’ll be sure they’ve absorbed as much water as the gel can hold.

After you’ve drained any excess water (if there’s any) the granules are ready for use.

How to grow plants with water beads?

Hydrogel crystals can be used for growing plants both as a water retainer in the soil and on their own for growing plants that can grow in water only.

If you’re adding water beads to an already soil-planted plant with developed roots follow the next steps:

Step 1: Remove the plant from the pot.
Gently remove any soil that is on the roots of the plant. Be careful not to tear and damage the rooting of the plant.

Step 2: Place the water beads and the potting mix in the pot.
Keep in mind that potting soil allows for the free flow of water. Place the granules on the lower half of the pot in order for them to always hydrate properly.

Step 3: Put the plant in.
Once you’ve put the granules in the pot it’s time to place the plant. Make sure the roots have contact with the granules, as they will have to grow into the hydrogel beads.

Step 4: Top off with potting soil.
When you’ve put the plant in the pot add the rest of the potting soil. And that’s it! Keep an eye on your plant to see how often it would need to be watered.

Fertilising the water beads

If you’re growing plants in water beads only (without the use of soil) you will have to apply plant fertiliser to keep it healthy as water cannot provide the needed minerals for the plant to grow.

Most plants are doing well when fertilised once a week, but make sure to keep an eye on the plant and adjust the rate of fertilising as needed.

What indoor plants can grow in gel crystals?

Any potted plant can be grown with water beads, and any plant that can grow in water only should be able to thrive in water granules. Feel free to experiment with all types of plants!

How long water beads last?

This is strongly dependant on the type of gel crystals you’re using. Of course, some higher-end crystals will last longer than others. Generally, water jelly granules will be good for around four to five years before needing replacement.


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5 years ago

Beautifully described the use and process of hydrogel beads, thanks for sharing

5 years ago

An informative post i have seen so far, thanks for sharing

4 years ago

Can I grow in JUST water beads?

2 years ago
Reply to  emmy

Unfortunately no, this is another one of those things that sounds great but simply doesn’t work. It looks great for a few weeks to months as the decline is slow.

Think of it as a temporary thing, much like a vase of flowers. Only use plants that won’t bother you when they die.

2 years ago

Do you have to continually soak water beads

The Fantastic Team
The Fantastic Team
1 year ago
Reply to  Noelle

Yes, you should continue to water them every two or three weeks. Don’t forget to add a little bit of plant food.

1 year ago

How do you know when it’s time to water the soil? How do you get your water beads to fill up again once in bottom of the pot

The Fantastic Team
The Fantastic Team
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryce

You can tell they need water because they shrink a little bit. Our advice is to add a little bit of water every two or three weeks. Definitely avoid standing water, that would drown your plant and can be a cause of root rot.

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