17 Herbs That Grow In Water

by | Mar 23, 2021 | Growing Guides, Tips | 0 comments

Sometimes the thought of starting an indoor garden can be a bit daunting. Which container should I use? Do I need drainage holes? Potting soil or potting mix? What about a watering schedule? Well, lucky for you, an indoor herb garden can be grown with little more than tap water and a windowsill. Your garden can be as simple as sprouting some greens in a class–– no dirt and no watering.

We’ve compiled a list of herbs that grow in nothing but water and detail exactly how to set up your make-shift hydroponic system. Whether you’re looking to invest some money into a more robust device or want to make use of some empty mason jars, growing herbs in water is almost too easy to mess up.

How Can I Grow Herbs Indoors Without Soil?

Many fresh herbs don’t need potting soil or potting mix to grow well in your home. While you typically can’t start a plant from seeds without soil, continuing their growth in nothing but water is more than possible. With little more than a snip from a thriving plant and a sunny windowsill to feed your herbs, you can have a budding water-based garden in no time.

  • Cut from Herb Plant: To start, you’ll need a pre-existing herb plant to propagate. If you already have a potted herb garden, this is an excellent option, or perhaps you can borrow a cutting from a friend. Some fresh organic herbs from a local market may work, but the chances of success are lower. Freshest is best. With a clean pair of sharp shears, snip off a healthy stem.
  • Place in Glass Jar: Find a glass jar and fill it with filtered water to the rim. Tap water is fine if you let it sit out overnight unless your area is known for insufficient tap water. Either way, avoid distilled water as it has no nutrients to feed your plant. Trim off any lower leaves to keep them from touching the water. If the leaves touch the water, they are more likely to form mildew. 
  • Keep Water Clean: Sitting water is prone to grow bacteria and algae, so change out the water at least every other day. An opaque or tinted glass jar is more likely to limit bacteria than a transparent one is. Keep the glass in a sunny spot on a south-facing windowsill if you’ve got one.
  • Harvest When Needed: Some herbs, like peppermint, will show many new leaves and roots growing in water, while others like rosemary take a bit longer. Regardless, in about a week, you should see a root system develop and new leaves emerge. At this point, you can either re-pot these fresh herbs in soil for sustained growth or leave them in water for a slower but simpler process.

rooted herb inside glass with water

Can You Put Herbs in Water?

While you can keep herbs in water, growing herbs in water is ideal for propagating herb cuttings to be replanted in soil. Any sustained hydroponic gardens will need more particular care. If you decide to grow herbs long-term in water, you’ll need to supplement soil nutrients with a rooting hormone or water-soluble fertilizers. A dedicated hydroponic system is your best bet for growing thriving herbs in water, as the light, water, and nutrients are all automated and customizable.

Your herb garden will see drastically higher yields with a sophisticated hydroponic system and free you up to grow in more places than just your kitchen windowsill. You can also worry less about trouble-shooting algae growth or lacking nutrients as most devices automate those processes. And while herbs can grow in a set-up as simple as a glass full of water, a hydroponic system can grow almost any other veggie as well, providing you with a complete produce department in your own home. 

different green herbs on top of table

Which Herbs Can Grow in Just Water?

  • Lemon Balm: As a soft-stemmed herb, lemon balm works exceptionally well for transplanting or rooting in water. This aromatic and citrusy plant tastes like the best parts of lemon and mint.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is a more difficult plant and will grow more slowly in water. Nonetheless, this staple of Italian food propagates well. Make sure to strip off the lower leaves to keep them out of the water. 
  • Peppermint: To grow peppermint in water, take a 5″ to 6″ (inch) cutting from a healthy mint plant and place it in your water-filled vessel. Give it four to six hours of sunlight daily for optimal growth.
  • Fennel: Hydroponic fennel can thrive indefinitely, making it an excellent choice to grow in water if given the appropriate supplemental nutrients. However, if you choose to replant your fennel harvest, wait a few weeks for new roots to mature.
  • Spearmint: For spearmint, follow a process similar to peppermint. For best results when rooting mint stems in water, let each cutting grow several thick roots that are a few inches long before transplanting them into soil.
  • Catnip: If you’re looking to get your pets in on the hydroponic adventure, catnip propagates easily from leaf-tip cuttings and will be an instant favorite among your feline friends. Change the water regularly and expect to see roots emerge in less than a week.
  • Stevia: In the wild, stevia plants grow near lakes and ponds, making it an excellent option for growing in a high-moisture environment. New roots should emerge in only a couple of weeks; use it as a natural sugar-substitute!
  • Thyme: For woody herbs like thyme, make sure to use cuttings from new, green growth as the older brown stems do not sprout roots quickly. Thyme is a popular plant among water-growers.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro is one of the more difficult herbs to grow indoors, so rooting it in water first is a helpful step toward long-term thriving. This plant needs lots of sun and likes the heat, so a south-facing window in late-spring is ideal. Don’t expect more than one harvest!
  • Sage: Sage is responsible for that nostalgic taste associated with Thanksgiving Turkey. After three to four weeks in water, you should start seeing roots sprouting out of the stem. The herb is then ready to replant in soil.
  • Chives: Chives don’t grow well from cuttings, though it’s possible. You’ll have better luck growing from the root bulb of the chives. Let the bulb float in water, and new growth should emerge.
  • Lavender: Be sure to keep two inches of a lavender cutting covered by the water at all times, at least until the roots form. Keep the roots underwater to allow them to fully mature. Your kitchen will be smelling fresher in no time.
  • Marjoram: If you’re unfamiliar, marjoram is similar to oregano, though with a milder and sweeter flavor. This cold-sensitive herb needs six to eight weeks to develop in water before replanting in your garden.
  • Lemongrass: To encourage lemongrass stalks to grow new roots, place the bulbs in a jar filled with water. Rooting lemongrass in water may take up to three weeks. This plant pairs particularly well with mint varieties. 
  • Tarragon: Tarragon can grow in water, though it prefers drier environments, so you should only use hydroponics during the rooting process. A rooting hormone is recommended for tarragon as it will speed up the development of roots and limit its time sitting in water.
  • Basil: I can’t think of many things more desirable in my kitchen than fresh basil, and it’s an excellent option for growing hydroponically. Basil can survive indefinitely in water and can thrive particularly well in a robust system. 
  • Dill: Cuttings from dill develop water roots relatively quickly and are ready for transplanting into containers or pots filled with potting mix in about two or three weeks. For best results, snip stems from healthy, new plants.

Can Oregano Grow in Water?

Most people are familiar with the dried variety, though fresh oregano is delicious in its own right. Similar to basil, this herb ubiquitous to Italian cooking grows well in a simple setup and even better in a dedicated hydroponic unit. Find a warm place for the oregano to develop that gets filtered or partial sunlight, as too much direct sun will damage the cuttings. Change the water in the container every other day to avoid algae or mildew. Feel free to continue growing oregano in water or transplant any new plants to a vessel filled with a well-aerated potting mix.

Can You Grow Ginger in Water?

Ginger can grow well in water. Though not technically in the same category as herb plants, ginger is often used as a spice or herb. Growing ginger in water has advantages over soil-based cultivation, as it takes less maintenance and less space. Traditional methods can also take up to a year to produce a harvest! But hydroponic ginger will develop new roots in about eight weeks. The woody, upper portion of the root system (rhizome) is what we eat and needs several months to mature. When grown hydroponically, harvest ginger in about four to five months, more than twice as fast as the traditional method. Give this root-spice plenty of direct sunlight as it likes the heat.

Can Parsley Grow in Water?

Parsley is an annual herb, similar to cilantro and dill, meaning that you can only harvest new growth once a year. Any subsequent yields will need to be regrown. Parsley can survive in water but likely cannot be grown hydroponically long term. It will stay alive and expand throughout the entire growing season, though it will need to start from seed in soil. You can then propagate stem and leaf cuttings and allow the roots to develop in water. Fresh parsley makes a great addition to pasta sauces and a beautiful green garnish on almost any dish. Tracking parsley’s growth progress on a piece of paper helps determine how your hydroponic herbs are growing and how to improve future propagations. 

Can I Grow Herbs in Mason Jars?

If you’re not having great success growing plants in a jar of water but like the DIY project of utilizing a clear jar for your indoor garden, herbs can be grown in soil in a mason jar. The visual appeal and space-savings are virtually the same, though with the potential for longer-term sustainability.

The main challenge with growing herbs in mason jars is proper aeration and drainage since glass jars do not have drainage holes, and you cannot add them safely. Add two inches of rocks on the bottom of the vessel to allow excess water to pass through the soil. Above the rocks and below the potting mix, add a layer of aerated organic material like perlite or vermiculite to avoid waterlogging the dirt. Some people have recommended inserting a straw through the soil to the rocks at the jar’s bottom to promote air circulation.

What Herbs Grow Well in Mason Jars?

Most of the herbs we’ve listed for growing in water will work just as well in a traditional potting method. You may even root your greens in a glass of water to then plant them for long-term thriving in soil. Once the roots are fully developed, dump out the water and reuse the mason jar as the potting container. All you need is a sunny spot and consistent watering for a beautiful herb garden. I prefer keeping basil, lemongrass, and peppermint on hand at all times, but you can grow any combination you want! After you have a few thriving plants, propagate fresh cuttings in water to continue the new growth cycle. 

Which Plants Mainly Grow in Water?

Herbs and edible veggies are not the only plants that can grow in water. Several plants naturally grow in water and can be used as houseplants if you mimic a setup similar to their native environment. A backyard pond or water feature is often ideal, but indoor accommodations are possible.

  • Amazon Lily: The Amazon lily is a large flowering plant that does well when grown in water. This plant produces fragrant, white flowers that fade to pink. Place your Amazon lily where it will receive full sun and where it has plenty of room to spread, as the plant can grow up to twenty feet wide if unpruned. 
  • Lotus: Lotus flowers are widely grown in Asian countries but can be grown in the United States. The lotus can become quite large, with fragrant flowers and layers of petals. They are usually either white, pink, or both. Lotus plants are hardy and can survive the winter dormant in a pond or growing all year sheltered inside. These plants prefer full sun and bloom in the spring.
  • Cattail: Cattails grow wild along the shallow waters of many ponds, lakes, and rivers. They provide food and shelter for small birds and insects and serve a similar purpose for indoor aquariums. This plant gets its name from the fuzzy brown heads on its stems, which can grow up to nine feet tall, resembling a cat’s tail. They prefer full sun and spread quickly.
By Brent Hellendoorn

By Brent Hellendoorn

Brent is excited about all things minimal, and thus environmentally sustainable. From kitchen-scrap composting to indoor herb gardens and air-purifying houseplants, he enjoys continual learning and innovation. In simple, eco-conscious living, there is always room to… grow!

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My husband and I are attempting to turn our tiny city condo into an urban gardening oasis. Join us on our journey toward sustainable living and making the most of our space.

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