Can Hydroponic Plants Be Planted In Soil? Here’s what we know.

Hydroponics gardening is a growing trend among plant lovers due to its ability to rapidly produce plants. It’s a great technique for beginners and experts alike since the controlled environment gives you much greater success.

Once you have a mature plant from your hydroponic garden, you may want to transfer it to soil. You are likely wondering: can hydroponic plants even be planted in soil? Would they survive the transfer? Or would you regret doing it as you watch your precious plants wither and die? For those curious, it is possible. But you need to consider a few things to make it work.   

What is Hydroponic Gardening?

Hydroponic Gardening is a type of gardening that grows plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. This technique uses less water than traditional soil-based gardening while increasing the yield of the crop. It has been a popular technique for commercial gardening for many years, but in recent years, in-home products have become popular.

Why does Hydroponics not use soil?

Botanists Julius von Sacks and Wilhelm Knop discovered in the 1800s that plants can survive in soilless environments. In 1940, William Gericke published the book The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening, which became the basis of modern-day hydroponic gardening.

What does Hydroponic Gardening require?

Hydroponic plants only require water, light, and minerals to grow.

Most plants love slightly acidic water with a PH of around 6- 6.5. This allows the plant to easily absorb the nutrients in the water. In contrast, alkaline water would prevent nutrient uptake by the plant and would cause mineral deficiencies.

Most indoor hydroponic systems need grow lights to help the growth of plants, replacing the natural sunlight given to traditionally grown plants.

Some of the vital minerals needed by plants are nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Several compositions of mixed nutrients and minerals are readily available in the market based on the plants that you are growing.  

In traditional horticulture, plants use the oxygen in the air to grow. Hydroponic plants need oxygen through the water, using an air stone or an air pump. This will inject oxygen into the water so that the plants can absorb it through their roots.

Do Plants Grow Better and Faster Hydroponically or in Soil?

A study held in 2018 revealed that hydroponic plants grow at a faster rate than plants grown in soil. The concentration of minerals and nutrients in hydroponic water seems to be vital for more significant plant growth.

Compared to soil-grown plants, hydroponic plants do not need to develop longer roots to reach the nutrient-dense water beneath them. They can focus on growing their leaves, bearing delicious fruits, or blossoming their pretty flowers. Additionally, with proper spacing and nutrient maintenance, they benefit from not competing with weeds or other plants for nutrients.

Everything You Need To Know About Transplanting Hydroponic Plants to Soil

green leafed plant field planted on brown soil

Can Hydroponic Plants Be Planted In Soil?

Yes, hydroponic plants can be planted in soil. To transplant a hydroponic plant into the soil, you will need to trim the roots and then slowly introduce the roots to a moist soil-based environment. The biggest hurdle is transplant shock. When a plant’s growing medium rapidly changes in water and/or nutrient makeup, it can throw off the plant’s growth. Plants and their roots need time to adjust to the new environment. There is a risk of plants failing to adapt quickly and dying.

Transplanting Hydroponic Plants in Soil: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Reduce the amount of water given to your hydroponic plants the week before you transplant them into pots. Decreasing their access to water will make their roots grow deeper and longer, which will help them adapt to finding water when you transplant them into the soil.

The roots will also start to become more resilient, which is another reason to decrease the watering regimen. Plants grown in water have thinner cell walls than those produced in the soil.

Step 2: Select the proper pot size. Before putting hydroponic plants in your garden, you must transfer them into a pot during the transition period. The plants must be “hardened off” for many weeks before they can live outdoors, and being in pots will make moving them to the ground less stressful.

For transplanting seedlings, a container with a diameter of four to six inches works ideal since it gives a hydroponic plant’s root system enough space to spread without striking the sides.

Step 3: Add Growing Medium To The Pot. For transplanting hydroponic plants, it is best to use loose potting soil or soil-less peat mix. A soilless growing medium provides enough air to allow roots to develop and become tougher without having to worry about heavy dirt crushing on their sensitive membranes.

Mix the soil in a different container with some water to evenly moisten it before adding it to the pot. To avoid root rot, avoid soaking the potting soil. The moist potting mix should be poured into a pot 3/4 full and carefully compacted to the point where a plant can be held erect.

Step 4: Trim the roots of your hydroponic plant. If your plant roots are large and overgrown, you should trim below the root crown to cut back the roots.

Step 5: Create a hole in the planting medium, then insert the plant. Make a hole in the middle of the pot with a spoon. To easily fit the root ball of your transplant, dig a hole that is both deep and wide. To quickly transition plants from hydroponic water to soil, prepare as many pots as necessary before you begin. 

When you have finished preparing all of your pots, you have the option to add mycorrhiza in each hole. These unique fungi collaborate with the root systems of plants to create a beneficial symbiotic relationship that allows both to obtain the nutrients they need to survive.

Step 6: Prune your hydroponic plant. Trimming back a few of the plant leaves and stems is beneficial. By doing this, the plant won’t be as stressed about having to support lush foliage during the soil change with food and water.

Make sure to prune less than one-third of the plant’s leaves to avoid shock. Leave the plants alone if they are seedlings with few leaves.

Step 7: Hardening off the transplants should start now. Put them in a room that is first bright and sunny and leave them there for a few days. If you notice the plant drooping, move them out of direct sunlight and check the soil moisture.

Once accustomed to the sunlight and temperature shift from indoors, add two hours to their daily outdoor time.

If you notice leaves fading or shedding, relax and breathe. Maintaining adequate moisture levels will prevent wilting or drooping in plants. It’s important to keep an eye on the condition outside because the wind and sun quickly dry out the soil.

Infographic with steps for how to transplant hydroponic plants to soil

Frequently Asked Questions

clear drinking glass with green leaves

Can you plant hydroponic basil in soil?

Definitely! The good thing with basil is that it is quite resilient. Just like any other plant, remember to follow the steps listed above to guide you in transplanting this delicious herb.

Can you plant hydroponic lettuce in soil?

Yes, hydroponic lettuce can be planted in soil — just be sure to follow the 7 steps above to reduce the impact of transplant shock.

Can you switch a plant from soil to hydroponics?

Fortunately, you can. However, your plants will still experience transplant shock because of the sudden increase in nutrient concentration.


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♬ As It Was - Harry Styles


A wonderful approach to increasing the size of your garden is to transfer plants from your hydroponic growing system to soil-filled containers or outdoor vegetable plots, using a vertical garden is a great space saver as well. Starting seeds hydroponically is considerably more pleasurable and reduces the risk of soil-borne diseases destroying your seedlings if your indoor growing facilities are clear of sloppy dirt.

Now that you know how to do it correctly, you can avoid transplant shock and watch your hydroponic plants thrive in their new environment!

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