Guest expert: Jennifer Pendleton, @redjlper
One of the newer ways to take care of house plants is to use a semi-hydroponic system, think leca or pon substrates. These inorganic substrates are a substitute for potting soil. Plant lovers have turned to this to avoid having to deal with gnats and other pests and to just not have soil all over their homes! (I can relate, who wants to continuously sweep the floor?!)
It involves placing the substrate, whether clay balls or high-quality mineral stones and the plant in an inner pot. Then it is added to a cache pot that works as the water reservoir. The expanded clay balls or mineral stones sit in the water or nutrient solution and wick the solution up to the plant roots. Semi hydro is also a type of passive hydroponics since a pump isn’t used, instead, the substrate wicks the water and nutrients to the houseplants.
A lot of the time we learn from trial and error and this is so true for indoor plant lovers. There is a ton of gardening information that is tried and true but not as much for indoor plants.
We are so lucky to live in a time when useful information is accessible if we know where to look! And sometimes reading a book or blog post just isn’t enough, right? A lot of plant parents have turned to Facebook Groups to find a community to talk to about the issues they have with their plant babies. And not to mention the wealth of plant care information on YouTube, Instagram, and even TikTok!
We found Jennifer Pendleton in a FB group when she posted her semi-hydroponics nutrient system for her plants that has worked wonders to avoid root rot and make her plants thrive.
We couldn’t help but ask Jennifer to talk about her journey to finding the right process and she was happy to oblige. Read on for her great tips for a semi-hydroponic setup.
Q: What is your process for giving your plants liquid nutrients?
I have a water distiller and throughout the week distill three gallons of water. On the weekend I mix up my nutrients in the distilled water, test my PH, and fill up my reservoirs. I used to be diligent about flushing but honestly don’t anymore usually. I just fill back up to the max water line.
Q: How did you develop your system? How long did it take for you to figure it out?
Before starting semi hydro I found Kevin from HakunaLaPlanta on YouTube. He has a video where he talks about the nutrients that he uses so I followed his advice. My first time moving to semi hydro I used leca pebbles and all of the nutrients except for Hydroguard.
I lost several of my transfers to root rot so I started looking for what I could do differently. Over the next few months, I tried a DIY pon mix and also learned about Hydroguard.
our recommended pon mix
Almost all of my plants are now in DIY pon and I use Hydroguard in every batch of nutrients. Hydroguard is a natural bacterial root treatment that helps prevent root rot.
Look at this graphic she put together of the process:
Follow her process:
- Step 1: Calimagic, 5ml
- Step 2: FloraMicro, 5ml
- Step 3: FloraGro, 5ml
- Step 4: FloraBloom, 5ml
- Step 5: Diamond Nectar, 5ml
- Step 6: RapidStart, 2ml
- Step 7: Hydroguard, 2ml
- pH test kit
Q: You note in your process that the order of how to mix the nutrient solution is important. Why is that?
The mix order is important because you can cause a nutrient lockout. I kid that it’s my chemistry set but honestly, that is what it is. You have to mix the right nutrients in the right order to get the results you want.
Q: How did you find the right products? Did you try different kinds or brands before settling on the right mix? Why do you like it?
I’m a big believer in research before purchase. I liked what Kevin was doing and how his plants were looking so I followed his advice on most of it.
Most of the products I use like, General Hydroponics – CaliMagic, Diamond Nectar, and Rapid Start, the trio of liquid fertilizer – were all from Kevin. Hydroguard was being talked about in one of the semi hydro sites and I loved the results I got when I tried it.
Monstera_under_my_bed has a gorgeous Calathea White Fusion. It was one of my plants that rotted with the first transfer and I asked what she used on it. She told me about a Rose Spray that isn’t available in the US that helps prevent fungal diseases and pests. So, I found one that was available and worked in a similar manner.
Q: What type of substrate do you use?
I like the look of DIY pon, specifically Bonsai Jack’s inorganic mix. I also found that I got better results compared to when I used Leca.
Q: What type of pots do you use?
I use self-watering pots. I prefer the ones with a water gauge and no wick.
Q: Is algae a problem for any of your plants in semi-hydro?
I seem to always have algae in my Aerogarden which I use to root cuttings, but that is the only place I have a problem.
Q: Is it important to use nutrients specifically developed for hydroponic gardening? Or other types of fertilizer can also be used? What is your experience?
I have had better results when sticking to hydroponic nutrients.
Q: How long have you been growing plants indoors?
Seriously, for just over a year. I could never keep plants alive in soil. I tried several times over the year and they would just survive.
After moving to semi hydro my plants thrive and I’ve really become very interested in the hobby. Now, I do not have any plants in the soil in the house, even my cacti are in pon and doing well.
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