12 Indoor Plants That Can Grow in Just Water (Top Picks)

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Monstera adansonii plant cutting in water
There are several plant species (usually trailing and creeping species) that can survive in only tap water. Morinimnas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some remarkably hardy plants can thrive in jars, glass containers, and sculptural vases containing only tap or rainwater. Though it seems contrary to what we’ve learned about root systems and their need to latch onto nutrient-rich substrates, a handful of terrestrial plants have the amazing ability to draw up moisture and nutrients from water as the sole growth medium. Some of these are naturally found along the banks of freshwater systems, whereas others, surprisingly, are averse to having wet feet when they are rooted in soil.

A desert aloe, for example, may succumb to root rot in persistently wet, poorly draining substrates, but it may thrive in a setup where its bare root system is bathed in clean water. This is so because it isn’t actually the presence of water that causes root rot; it’s the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, along with anoxic byproducts (due to trapped moisture), that damages root tissues in soil. Devoid of pathogens and enriched with a dose of liquid fertilizer, water in a hydroponic setup can nourish commercially important plants.

That being said, the addition of nutrients in water isn’t always necessary. There are dozens of plants, many of which can be categorized as creeping or trailing species, that can survive in only tap water. While their longevity and capacity to grow to maximum size is not assured by the barest of setups, they can continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace, and eventually expand their root systems to fill out their vessels.

Simply obtain cuttings of the plants below, drop them in a glass of water, and place them in a sunny spot. After a few days to weeks, with regular water changes, you’ll find that they’ll produce new roots and leaves! You may wish to outplant them or move them into larger setups once their roots have grown considerably.

1) Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

Devil's ivy leaves
Devil’s ivy is less likely to grow aggressively when its roots are placed in a clear jar or glass of water. Mokkie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to French Polynesia

Devil’s ivy, also known as ‘pothos’, is one of the hardiest houseplants around. With stems that can effortlessly creep along walls, this species can transform indoor spaces in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions. A recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, it requires very little in terms of maintenance. While it has a knack for growing at aggressive rates when rooted into rich substrates, it lengthens at a more agreeable pace when its roots are placed in a clear jar or glass of water.

Simply take healthy cuttings from well-established specimens of devil’s ivy. For the rapid production of new roots, cut in between the nodes of the trailing stems. Place these in a container, preferably one with raised sides to support the stems, with fresh water. The base of the stem should sit in a few inches of water and the leaves should ideally emerge through the container’s opening and be exposed to bright light. You may add a diluted liquid fertilizer to the setup but do make sure to change the water every few days.

2) Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)

Potted Chinese evergreen
Chinese evergreen is considered to be a hardy and low-maintenance plant, with a preference for areas that are partially shaded. Jerzy Opioła, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Philippines and Indonesia

A tropical indoor plant, the Chinese evergreen is distinguished by its relatively large leaves that grow to about 8 inches (20 cm) long. These are remarkably attractive because they develop white, light green, cream, and greyish-green splotches as they unfurl into their full size. Some varieties have a higher degree of variegation than others, though the amount of sunlight can also influence leaf appearance. Generally perceived as hardy and low-maintenance, this aroid should be grown in spaces with partial shade or filtered light.

One of the most straightforward ways of propagating Chinese evergreen is by taking cuttings of its main stem and placing these in either a few inches of moist, fertile soil or a container of non-chlorinated tap water. Cuttings should be thoroughly rinsed of soil before being left in a container of clean water. Stem sections measuring at least 6 inches (15 cm) long are more likely to generate new roots than shorter ones. You can place a few clean rocks in the water to help anchor the new roots.

3) Silver inch plant (Tradescantia zebrina)

Silver inch plant leaves
The silver inch plant is hardy to USDA zones 8 – 12 and prefers warm conditions. Mokkie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central and tropical South America

Typically found in rainforests and rich wetlands, the silver inch plant spreads over moist substrates via a network of runners. Its trailing stems can cling tightly to the ground, sending out roots wherever their nodes come into contact with adequate substrates. Hardy to USDA zones 8 – 12, it favors warm conditions and is usually kept as a houseplant in temperate regions. Often cultivated as an ornamental due to its zebra-patterned, succulent, and clasping foliage, it readily sends out new roots in water!

As this indoor plant grows so quickly, it’s one of the best options for water cultivation. There’s truly no harm in snipping cuttings from well-established specimens and leaving these in a jar or two of tap water to experiment with how quickly new tissues appear. While there’s no guarantee that a water-rooted specimen can survive for as long as one rooted in soil, you can attempt to maintain it indefinitely! Just make sure to remove any decaying portions of the plant and cut back or divide its dangling stems once the roots have maximized the container’s volume.

4) Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

Lucky bamboo in vase of water
To increase the amount of time lucky bamboo will last in water, it’s recommended to anchor the roots with small pebbles. Bernard Ladenthin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central Africa

This species’ common name is misleading as it isn’t actually a true bamboo. A member of the Asparagaceae family, it has bamboo-like stems that grow to a maximum height of about 40 inches (1 meter). As the young stems are pliable, to a degree, they may be woven, curved, or braided to create a sculptural piece of living décor. These elaborate arrangements are often rooted in just water, where their elongating roots, encased in glass, are as much a spectacle as their bright green foliage.

Unsurprisingly, lucky bamboo seldom reaches full size when it is grown in water. Regardless, when its stems are maintained at a height of just 10 – 20 inches (25 – 51 cm), they can transform a table or desk setting, enlivening the atmosphere within the home or office. To ensure that this species can last for some time in water, its roots should ideally be anchored by small pebbles.

5) Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider plant
Propagating spider plant in water requires a healthy tuber which can be obtained from the divided root system of an older plant. Wildfeuer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to South Africa

Given its reputation for being adaptable, tolerant of indoor conditions, and generous as a mother plant, C. comosum has become one of the most reliable houseplants in temperate to tropical regions. This fantastic perennial is great for beginners because of its resilience and its low-maintenance. A member of the Asparagaceae family, it is often mistaken as a type of grass. Its lengthy and narrow foliage, which may occasionally have a cream-colored strip running along its central vein, arises from a tuberous network of roots.

To propagate spider plant in water, you’ll need to acquire one of its healthy tubers. This can be obtained from the divided root system of an older plant. Place this in a glass or jar of purified water or rainwater. Over time, new roots and foliage should form. Spider plants may last for a long time in a water-only setup, though do note that they are less likely to produce plantlets in the absence of supplementary nutrients. Plantlets produced by older specimens may also be placed in water; remove their lower leaves to prevent them from rotting.

6) Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chive flowers
After your water-rooted chives have developed an extensive network of new roots, it’s recommended to transplant them into a pot of fertile soil to encourage self-propagation. Kolforn (Wikimedia), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia, Europe, and North America

Interested in cultivating herbs in your very own kitchen? Consider growing chives to start. This flavorful crop forms bulbs that can persist in a medium of only fresh water. Fully-intact specimens, purchased from a grocery or market, can simply be placed in a glass or jar. This method helps prolong the life of the flavorful foliage, ensuring that they can be used for future dishes.

Frequent water changes are necessary to ensure that your chives’ bulbs remain in good condition. Once your water-rooted chives have developed an extensive network of new roots, consider transplanting them into a pot of fertile soil. This should encourage them to self-propagate by developing new bulbs and blooms. Note that, though water can sustain the needs of this species for some time and is suitable for its early propagation stage, it is unlikely to promote its longevity outside of a fertilized, hydroponic setup.

7) Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum)

Arrowhead vine leaves
Arrowhead vine’s trailing stem can grow to a full height of about 5 feet indoors if provided with suitable structural support. Digigalos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central and South America

Named for the tri-pointed shape of its tropical foliage, the arrowhead vine is an aroid that, in its native range, scales trees and clings to them using its adventitious roots. Indoors, its trailing stem can grow to a full height of about 5 feet (1.5 meters) when provided with structural support. Varieties typically cultivated as houseplants are marked by striking white or cream-colored markings that run over the length of the leaves’ veins.

Like many other tropical plants with a vining habit, this species can be rooted in water. Cuttings obtained from healthy stems, detached just below a mature node, should begin to produce new tissues within just a few weeks. Make sure to remove any leaves close to the bottom of the cutting, as these may rot if they remain fully or partly submerged in water. When viewed through a clear, glass container, the roots will appear to coil in on themselves, perfectly adapting to the shape of the vessel. To promote longevity, the leaves should be exposed to warm temperatures, moderate humidity levels, and bright, filtered light.

8) Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

Heartleaf philodendron leaves
Heartleaf philodendron is usually cultivated as a vine and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central America

As its common name suggests, the heartleaf philodendron is set apart by its smooth leaf margins, which perfectly outline the shape of a heart. This tropical aroid, now a popular recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, is often grown as a houseplant or as a specimen in large terrariums. As it can survive with its roots surrounded by a growth medium (e.g., soil or water) or fully exposed, it may be categorized as a semi-epiphyte.

One of the representative plants of its well-known genus, the heartleaf philodendron is usually cultivated as a vine. Adequate support is necessary for upright growth, allowing specimens to reach heights of up to 20 feet (6 meters). One of the most straightforward means of propagating this species is placing cuttings in a clear container of water. Stem cuttings should be at least a few inches long; the bottommost leaves may be removed before submerging the nodes.

9) Coleus (Coleus scutellarioides)

Coleus leaves
Coleus is typically grown as an indoor ornamental plant thanks to its eye-catching foliage. Mokkie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Southeast Asia and tropical Australia

Also known as painted nettle, coleus is typically grown as an ornamental houseplant. Its eye-catching foliage features decorative patterns of vibrant colors. Some cultivars have a seemingly dramatic combination of deep red, purple, and fuchsia pigments, whereas others have refreshing sprays of light, neon hues. The tapered, long-lasting leaves, which vary in size, have noticeably scalloped margins.

To grow coleus in water, collect cuttings from healthy specimens. Remove buds and blooms, leaving just a few pairs of foliage. The water should be changed frequently to prevent algal growth, which can stifle the production of new roots. A diluted solution of supplementary nutrients may be provided. The stems will seldom flourish for a considerably long time in a setup with only water. If you intend to propagate them further, consider outplanting cuttings that have developed a substantial volume of new roots.

10) Rex begonia (Begonia rex)

Rex begonia leaves
Rex begonia is predominantly cultivated for its ornamental properties, with hundreds of eye-catching cultivars available. Maja Dumat / CC BY 2.0

Native to China, northern India, and Vietnam

Chiefly propagated for its stunning, ornamental foliage, rex begonia can grow beautifully in indoor settings. Today, this flowering species comes in hundreds of eye-catching cultivars and varieties, most of which have been extensively developed in nursery setups. When rooted into soil, this begonia can spread via its network of underground rhizomes. It can thus be cultivated as decorative groundcover in partly shaded locations.

If you’re interested in increasing the longevity of cut foliage, consider placing a few spritely cuttings in a vase or jar of water, situated in an area with indirect light. Ensure that the bottom part of the cuttings is submerged; lower leaves should be removed as they may rot if they are partly exposed to water. Fine, white roots should begin to emerge from the base of your cuttings. You’ll find that new plantlets may arise from this area as well.

11) English ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy growing in water
English ivy cuttings should be placed on a brightly-lit windowsill, which encourages the leaves to photosynthesize at an efficient rate. rrei320 / CC BY 2.0

Native to Europe and western Asia

It’s unsurprising that such a versatile and prolific vine should be a part of this list of water-loving plants! The infamous English ivy, either appreciated or perceived as a pest based on its growth location and its rate of spread, can be grown in water for some time. Cuttings should be placed on brightly lit windowsills, where their leaves are more likely to photosynthesize at efficient rates. In just a few weeks, new roots should begin to form and follow the curves of a jar of water. The sparse minerals in tap water should sustain a manageable rate of growth.

12) Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)

Paperwhite narcissus flowers
Paperwhite narcissus is a bulbous flowering plant that thrives in moist but well-draining substrate. Magnus Manske, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Mediterranean

The paperwhite narcissus is a bulbous flowering plant. Its bulbs thrive in moist yet well-draining substrates, but they can also send out new roots in water. Unlike most of the plants listed above, however, this species should fare best in jars containing but a few centimeters of water – just enough to coax the bottom of each bulb to produce downward-oriented roots. If the bulbs are kept wet, they may rot.

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs should be placed on a raised surface, suspending them above a layer of clean water, or propped onto pebbles or small rocks. In a sense, this setup would be similar to that used to “force” narcissus bulbs before planting them outdoors. This way, they can be grown indoors through winter, strengthening the stems so that they produce higher-quality buds.

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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