Watering gel beads offer an attractive solution for growing plants indoors without soil. The beads are colorful, non-toxic, and one pound can soak up 50 gallons of water, or around 30 grams for every gram of watering gel beads.
You probably shouldn’t go around replacing all your houseplants’ soil with gel-beads, but for plants that prefer a watery environment and indirect sunlight, they are a perfect match.
Read on to discover how you can enhance your decor and get the best results for your houseplants using watering gel beads.
How to Use Watering Gel Beads
You don’t need any fancy equipment to use water beads, but get these items ready:
- Vase or flowerpot (see-through vases work a treat)
- Large bowl
- Water dissolvable plant food
- Mesh strainer
Gel beads are easy to use as a replacement for soil. Place dry gel beads, which are about the size of peppercorns, into a strainer and rinse with cool water. Don’t worry, they won’t expand a great deal in the strainer. It takes time for the beads to absorb their maximum capacity of liquid.
Measure out two cups of water, add in a pinch of houseplant food, and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Gel beads don’t supply any nutrients to the plants, so you need to add your own, or the plant will suffer.
Pour the two cups of water into the bowl with the gel beads. Each brand of gel beads will have slightly different requirements, but most will arrive in packets with about a tablespoon’s worth of gel beads.
Over the next few hours, the gel beads will expand as they soak up all the water. When they are about the size of marbles, they are ready to go into the plant pot.
Most brands of gel beads will say they are ready for use after three or four hours of absorbing water. If you want to be absolutely sure they are at maximum capacity, we recommend leaving them overnight.
Now it’s time to get your plants ready for the watering gel beads. For best results, use the five tips outlined below.
How to Prepare Your Plants to Use Watering Gel Beads
Watering gel beads are incredibly versatile and can even be used to grow from seed. However, when you’re starting out, it’s best to learn how to get good results from mature plants. Here’s how to get a houseplant ready for gel beads.
Gently remove the plant from its pot and work on the root ball with your fingers to remove as much soil as possible, taking care not to damage the roots.
Soak the roots in water if there is any caked on dried soil. Now hold the plant at the base of the stem and rinse the roots under fresh running water to remove the last remnants of soil.
How to Plant with Watering Gel Beads
Pour half of the beads into the pot or vase. Arrange the roots over the gel beads, so they are spread as evenly as possible over the surface. Add the remaining gel beads over the tops of the roots and ensure they go up high enough to support the stem.
Water beads resemble colorful marbles when expanded and add a spot of color to areas of your home when you use see-through glass vases. You will appreciate the play of light as it shines through the vase. Watching the root system grow along with the plant is also a satisfying experience for gardening enthusiasts.
Best Watering Beads and Plant Combos
As we mentioned, watering gel beads aren’t suitable for every type of plant, but when combined with the right varieties, they are an excellent way to add color to your home without all the mess and fuss.
Another great advantage is the beads won’t attract pests, and when used correctly, they reduce the risk of fungal diseases.
Instead of trying them out on all your plants, which may not end well for some, try out a few of the plants on the list below:
- Dragon plant
- spider plants
- Ivy looks great when placed up high so the vines can hang down.
- Wandering Jew (will produce gorgeous purples, pinks, and greens to match your beads)
Some varieties of plants will not play well with watering gel beads, including:
Another thing to keep in mind is that direct sunlight will quickly evaporate the water in the beads. For this reason, it’s best to stick to plants that prefer part shade.
How to Keep Your Plants Hydrated with Watering Gel Beads
Your watering gel beads will need topping off every 2 or 3 weeks. You will also need to add fertilizer because the beads cannot supply the plants with nutrients.
Mix a pinch of houseplant fertilizer into two cups of water until it is completely dissolved.
Pour the water over the beads and leave overnight. Be sure to drain any excess water off the following day to avoid root rot. Some plants may need fertilizing every week but keep an eye on their health and adjust as needed.
More Watering Gel Bead Tips
Gel beads are a great solution for storing cut flowers. The beads keep the plants hydrated so they last longer, and there’s no risk of stagnant water.
Create a dazzling light display by layering different colored gel beads in a clear vase and burying a waterproof LED light.
Gel beads can also be used in the soil as a slow moisture release, and you can also add them to goldfish bowls to add color.
How to Dispose Watering Gel Beads
You can shrink and reuse your gel beads, which is a better solution than throwing them in the bin. Leave the beads out in the sun to dry.
Keep an eye on them, though, as they will start to break down if left out too long.
A more convenient method might be to dry them out in a warm part of the house and use a dehumidifier to quicken the process.
Watering gel beads can be placed in soil, where they will continuously absorb and release water for about three months as they break down. They are a great solution if you are planning a trip away for a few weeks.
Crumble up dry gel beads before you mix them into the soil. You can also use this idea in any potted plants which are still using soil as the growing medium.