Unlocking the Potential: Choosing the Best Hydroponic Plants for Maximum Yield

September 30, 2021 in environment, Sustainability

Article summary and Key takeaways: Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, and choosing the right plants is crucial for successful cultivation. There are three main types of hydroponic systems: Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Deep Water Culture (DWC), and Ebb and Flow. Each system is suited for different plants based on their root systems and growth cycles. Lettuce, herbs, and strawberries thrive in NFT systems, while tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers do well in DWC systems. Beans, spinach, and kale are suited for Ebb and Flow systems. When selecting plants for hydroponics, factors such as growth rate, nutrient requirements, space, and light requirements should be considered. Hydroponics is not limited to vegetables and herbs; it can also be used for decorative purposes and growing flowers. Orchids, roses, and lucky bamboo are suitable for hydroponic flower cultivation. Microgreens, Swiss chard, and herbs are ideal for indoor hydroponics, while strawberries and herbs are suitable for small-scale setups. A wide range of fruits and vegetables can be grown hydroponically, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and strawberries. Fast-growing and profitable hydroponic plants include microgreens, lettuce, basil, strawberries, and tomatoes. However, there are limitations to hydroponics, such as certain plants not being suitable for hydroponic cultivation and challenges in meeting the nutrient demands of some plants. Despite these limitations, hydroponics offers numerous benefits and continues to gain popularity in the agricultural industry.

Best Hydroponic Plants

When it comes to hydroponics, choosing the right plants is crucial for successful cultivation. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, where the roots are submerged in a nutrient-rich water solution. This innovative technique offers numerous benefits, such as faster growth rates, higher yields, and the ability to grow plants in limited spaces. In this article, we will explore the best hydroponic plants for different systems and purposes, as well as discuss the limitations of hydroponics.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

Before diving into the best hydroponic plants, it is important to understand the different types of hydroponic systems. There are three main types:

1. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System

In an NFT system, a thin film of nutrient-rich water flows continuously over the roots, providing them with a constant supply of nutrients. This system is ideal for plants with shallow root systems, such as lettuce, herbs, and strawberries. These plants thrive in the continuous flow of nutrients and can be harvested quickly.

2. Deep Water Culture (DWC) System

The DWC system involves suspending the plant roots in a nutrient solution, with an oxygen source bubbling below. This system is well-suited for growing larger plants with longer growth cycles, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. The constant supply of oxygen and nutrients allows these plants to thrive and produce bountiful yields.

3. Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) System

The ebb and flow system works by flooding the plant roots with nutrient solution and then draining it away. This cycle repeats at regular intervals. This system is versatile and can accommodate a wide range of plants. However, it is particularly well-suited for growing larger plants with deep root systems, such as beans, spinach, and kale.

Each hydroponic system has its pros and cons, and the choice ultimately depends on the specific needs of the plants and the available resources.

Best Hydroponic Plants for Different Systems

Now let’s delve into the best plants for each type of hydroponic system:

1. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System

– Lettuce: Lettuce is one of the most popular plants for NFT systems due to its shallow root system and fast growth rate. Varieties like Buttercrunch, Romaine, and Bibb lettuce thrive in this system.

– Herbs: Basil, parsley, and cilantro are excellent choices for NFT systems. These herbs require minimal space and provide a continuous supply of fresh flavors.

– Strawberries: Strawberries are well-suited for NFT systems as they have shallow roots and can bear fruit quickly. Varieties like Everbearing and June-bearing strawberries are ideal for hydroponic cultivation.

2. Deep Water Culture (DWC) System

– Tomatoes: Tomatoes are highly productive in DWC systems. Varieties like Beefsteak, Cherry, and Roma tomatoes are popular choices due to their high yield potential and delicious taste.

– Cucumbers: Cucumbers thrive in the constant supply of nutrients and oxygen provided by DWC systems. Varieties like English cucumbers and Burpless cucumbers are perfect for hydroponic cultivation.

– Peppers: Bell peppers, jalapenos, and chili peppers are all suitable for DWC systems. These plants require ample space to grow and produce vibrant, flavorful fruits.

3. Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) System

– Beans: Beans, such as green beans and snap beans, grow exceptionally well in ebb and flow systems. These plants have extensive root systems and benefit from the periodic flooding and draining of nutrient solution.

– Spinach: Spinach is a nutrient-rich leafy green that thrives in ebb and flow systems. Its deep root system benefits from the periodic flooding and draining, resulting in healthy and vigorous growth.

– Kale: Kale is a hardy and nutritious green that performs well in ebb and flow systems. Its deep root system can withstand the periodic changes in water levels and produce abundant leaves.

When selecting plants for hydroponics, there are several factors to consider:

1. Growth Rate and Yield Potential

It is important to choose plants that have a fast growth rate and high yield potential in hydroponic systems. This ensures a continuous supply of fresh produce and maximizes the efficiency of the system.

2. Nutrient Requirements

Different plants have varying nutrient requirements. It is essential to choose plants that have similar nutrient needs to avoid imbalances in the nutrient solution. This allows for optimal growth and development of the plants.

3. Space and Light Requirements

Consider the available space and light conditions when selecting plants for hydroponics. Some plants, like vine crops, require more space to grow, while others, like leafy greens, can thrive in smaller areas. Additionally, certain plants have specific light requirements, such as full sun or partial shade.

Best Hydroponic Plants for Specific Purposes

Hydroponics is not only limited to growing vegetables and herbs. It can also be used for decorative purposes and growing flowers. Here are some of the best plants for specific purposes:

1. Best Plants for Hydroponic Vases or Decorative Purposes

– Pothos: Pothos is a popular houseplant that can be grown hydroponically. Its trailing vines and variegated leaves make it an excellent choice for hanging baskets or vases.

– Lucky Bamboo: Lucky Bamboo is believed to bring good luck and is commonly grown in water. It requires minimal care and can add a touch of elegance to any space.

2. Best Flowers for Hydroponic Systems

– Orchids: Orchids are known for their beauty and elegance. Growing them hydroponically allows for precise control over their nutrient and water requirements, resulting in stunning blooms.

– Roses: Roses are classic flowers that can be grown hydroponically for their striking beauty and fragrance. Varieties like miniature roses and hybrid teas are well-suited for hydroponic cultivation.

3. Best Plants for Indoor Hydroponics

– Microgreens: Microgreens, such as arugula, radish, and kale, are perfect for indoor hydroponics. They grow quickly and can be harvested within a few weeks, providing a fresh and nutritious addition to meals.

– Swiss Chard: Swiss chard is a leafy green that thrives in indoor hydroponic systems. Its vibrant colors and mild flavor make it a popular choice for salads and stir-fries.

4. Best Plants for Small-Scale Hydroponic Setups

– Herbs: Herbs like basil, mint, and thyme are well-suited for small-scale hydroponic setups. They require minimal space and provide a continuous supply of fresh flavors for culinary use.

– Strawberries: Strawberries can also be grown in small-scale hydroponic setups. Their shallow root system and compact growth habit make them an ideal choice for limited spaces.

List of Hydroponic Fruits and Vegetables

Hydroponics offers the opportunity to grow a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Here is a comprehensive list of produce suitable for hydroponics:

– Tomatoes
– Cucumbers
– Peppers
– Lettuce
– Basil
– Mint
– Strawberries
– Beans
– Spinach
– Kale
– Swiss Chard
– Arugula
– Radish
– Kale
– Microgreens
– Bell Peppers
– Jalapenos
– Chili Peppers
– Cherry Tomatoes
– Beefsteak Tomatoes
– Roma Tomatoes
– English Cucumbers
– Burpless Cucumbers
– Romaine Lettuce
– Buttercrunch Lettuce
– Bibb Lettuce
– Everbearing Strawberries
– June-bearing Strawberries
– Green Beans
– Snap Beans

When growing different types of produce hydroponically, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

1. Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Each plant has specific temperature and humidity requirements for optimal growth. It is important to provide the right environmental conditions to ensure healthy and vigorous plants.

2. Pollination and Fruit Set Considerations

Some fruits, like tomatoes and peppers, require pollination to set fruit. In hydroponic systems, this can be achieved manually by gently vibrating the flowers or using a small brush to transfer pollen. Understanding the pollination requirements of different plants is essential for successful fruit set.

Fast-Growing and Profitable Hydroponic Plants

Hydroponics offers the opportunity to grow fast-growing crops that can be highly profitable. Here are some examples:

1. Overview of Fast-Growing Hydroponic Plants

– Microgreens: Microgreens are one of the fastest-growing crops in hydroponics. They can be harvested within a few weeks and offer high-profit margins due to their popularity in the culinary industry.

– Lettuce: Certain varieties of lettuce, such as Buttercrunch and Romaine, have a fast growth rate and can be harvested in as little as 4-6 weeks. This makes them a profitable choice for hydroponic cultivation.

2. Discussion of the Most Profitable Hydroponic Crops

– Basil: Basil is a highly profitable crop in hydroponics due to its high demand in the culinary industry. Its fast growth rate and ability to be harvested multiple times make it a lucrative choice for hydroponic cultivation.

– Strawberries: Strawberries are a popular and high-value crop in hydroponics. They have a fast growth rate and can be sold at premium prices, making them a profitable choice for both home growers and commercial operations.

– Tomatoes: Certain varieties of tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes, have a high-profit potential in hydroponics. Their sweet flavor and versatility in culinary applications make them a sought-after crop.

The profitability of hydroponic crops is influenced by various factors, including market demand, pricing, and the efficiency of the cultivation process.

Limitations of Hydroponics

While hydroponics offers numerous benefits, there are some limitations to consider:

1. Explanation of What Cannot be Grown Hydroponically

Some plants are not suitable for hydroponic cultivation due to their extensive root systems or specific growth requirements. Root crops, such as carrots and potatoes, rely on soil for proper development and cannot be grown hydroponically.

2. Challenges and Limitations of Hydroponic Cultivation

Plants with high nutrient demands can pose challenges in hydroponic systems. Ensuring the nutrient solution is properly balanced and providing adequate amounts of essential nutrients can be more challenging with plants that have higher nutrient requirements.

Additionally, the initial setup costs of hydroponic systems can be higher compared to traditional soil-based cultivation. However, the long-term benefits and potential for higher yields can outweigh the initial investment.


Choosing the right plants is essential for successful hydroponic cultivation. Whether you are a home grower or a commercial cultivator, selecting the best plants for your hydroponic system and purpose is crucial. From fast-growing crops to profitable options, hydroponics offers a wide range of possibilities for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. While hydroponics has its limitations, it continues to gain popularity due to its numerous benefits. With the right plants and proper care, hydroponics can revolutionize the way we grow and consume our food.

Question 1: What are the best hydroponic plants to grow?
Answer: Some of the best hydroponic plants to grow include lettuce, herbs (such as basil and mint), tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries.

Question 2: What is the easiest thing to grow hydroponically?
Answer: Lettuce is often considered one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically due to its relatively simple requirements and fast growth.

Question 3: What cannot be grown hydroponically?
Answer: Certain root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are challenging to grow hydroponically due to their specific growth requirements and the difficulty of providing adequate support for their root systems.

Question 4: What is the most profitable thing to grow hydroponically?
Answer: The profitability of hydroponic crops can vary depending on factors such as market demand and production costs. However, high-value crops like gourmet herbs, specialty lettuce varieties, and exotic fruits can often be more profitable to grow hydroponically compared to traditional field farming.


About the author 

Sam Martinez

Hello, I'm Sam. With a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Yale, I've dedicated my life to understanding and advocating for our natural world. My work has taken me from the halls of academia to the front lines of environmental activism. I'm thrilled to share stories from my journey, insights from my research, and ways we can all contribute to a healthier planet.