Peace Lily and hydroculture

CarnavalGrotesqueJanuary 2, 2012

Hi everyone,

This is my first ever post and I hope someone will be able to help me. My wife and I decided to start growing houseplants again after a hiatus (long story), but decided to use hydroculture rather than soil. I bought a beautiful peace lily but when I took it out of the pot to wash the soil off the roots I noticed that it was severely rootbound. It is such a tangle in there that even after 48 of soaking I still can't get all the soil out. the closer I get to where the soil line was, the denser the root system. I'm digging around but I'm afraid that I'm going to damage the root system too much and harm the plant.

I need advice. Should I:

a. give up. Don't like this idea at all :)

b. break the plant up into sections. It almost seems to be many tightly packed plants and I'm finding that there is a natural "break line" where I could break the one mass into two smaller ones, but I'm afraid of really hurting the plant.

c. just keep soaking then washing and massaging the roots, soaking then washing and massaging, until all the soil is gone. That could take weeks...

Please help. I don't know peace lilies well enough to know how sensitive they are to anything really: pruning, root damage, transitioning to hydroculture.

Thanks and happy gardening,


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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, Dez, welcome!

Yes, these plants grow tightly together and need to be separated periodically and re-potted.
It truly is best to remove all of the old soil when transitioning to a new medium. Good plan.

What will be your substrate/growing medium in the hydro system?


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 12:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree with Josh .... and there is no reason you can't divide the plant to facilitate removal of all the old soil. You can always plant several divisions together later, in the same pot.

You can make it much easier for the plant to transition from soil to water by initially including an airstone in the pot if you have one handy. Roots of plants grown in soil need to go through a transition period when moved to hydroculture, during which the root tissue changes to allow O2 for root metabolism to be supplied from the foliage instead of the the roots via the soil. The air stone temporarily provides an environment richer in O2, which eases and speeds the transition considerably. After about a week, you can remove the airstone.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Thanks for the quick responses. I was just so afraid that I was or would be doing too much damage to the roots. I'll be using LECA as my substrate. I'm off to buy a big bag tomorrow morning. From what I gather I have to soak the pellets overnight before repotting. My plants are just sitting in water right now, but they don't seem to mind it too much. I've never heard of airstones, and none of the literature on hydrovulture that I've read so far mentions them. What are they and how are they used?

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 3:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

They're used to oxygenate aquariums so both fish and plants can prosper in a more oxygen-rich environment.

Related item: For those that insist on rooting their cuttings in water, they go a long way toward ensuring the cuttings do in fact root; and because of the more highly oxygenated water, the roots of cuttings propagated with airstones make the transition to a solid medium with reduced stress.

As noted, the extra O2 the airstones add to the water make it easier for plants grown in a well-aerated solid medium (soil) to make the transition to a nearly airless medium (water).


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Thanks for the info, tapla. I will look into this.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 4:47PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Great suggestion, Al!

Carnaval, I think you'll do just fine.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 5:05PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

These plants will be fine grown in semi-hydroponics. If the root ball is almost solid roots along the old pot walls you can slice them off with a large knife just like cutting the rind off a pineapple. Once the plants and roots are all free form each other, fill the lower third of the pot with LECA and set your plants. Get as much of the old soil off as you can even if you need to cut it off, new roots will grow back. if you can, put the plant on a heating mat until you see new growth.

The plants(s) will stall a bit but then start to grow soon. Cutting the roots won't hurt them in the long run.

If the water is only an inch or two deep and not filling the new pot, you can get by without an air supply but it still might help. If you are planing on growing them with the roots immersed in water then You should use the stone since there will be no air getting to the roots.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 7:40PM
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Al very interesting! Thanks for something I would of never thought of.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 9:04PM
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