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So, your shiny new hydroponic tower has either just landed on your doorstep, or maybe you’ve put the finishing touches on a DIY setup. Now comes the exciting part: deciding what to plant. Luckily, you’re spoiled for choice.
A hydroponic tower system is a great way to grow many different kinds of leafy greens, herbs, and even fruits and vegetables. What you can grow depends ultimately on the amount of light available, local conditions, and skill.
In the following guide, I’ve rounded up my top 10 plant picks that thrive in hydroponic tower systems. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking to venture into hydroponics, or you’re just starting out on your vertical gardening journey, this list is your go-to resource.
Check out also: The Best Herbs to Grow in A Vertical Garden.
First, what is a hydroponic tower and how do they work?
A hydroponic tower is a type of hydroponic growing system in which plants are suspended in net cups inside a vertical tower rather than horizontally. Nutrient-rich water is pumped to the top of the tower before flowing down over the roots, ensuring each plant gets essential nutrients while maximizing space and efficiency.
For an in-depth review of hydroponic towers check out my other article: Hydroponic Towers: What are they and how do they work?
The vertical nature of the tower makes it a great option for growing many different kinds of plants in a small amount of space. They’re also super efficient as they recycle almost all of the water in the system and they use very little electricity.
However, hydroponic towers are better at growing some plants than others.
Which plant types grow best on a hydroponic tower?
Hydroponic towers are not only space-efficient but also quite versatile in what they can support. However, some types of plants are more suited to this style of gardening than others.
1. Leafy Greens
If you’re a fan of salads or smoothies, you’ll be thrilled to know that leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and spinach are among the top performers in hydroponic towers. These plants generally have shallow root systems and grow quickly, making them ideal candidates.
2. Aromatic Herbs
Fresh herbs can elevate any dish, and what’s fresher than picking them right from your hydroponic garden? Herbs like basil, mint, and chives are perfect for hydroponic towers. They require less space and are relatively low-maintenance.
3. Fruits and Veggies
While not all fruits and vegetables are suited for vertical hydroponic systems, some can thrive. Small-fruited varieties like cherry tomatoes and strawberries are great options. Just keep in mind that fruiting plants often need more light and nutrients than leafy greens or herbs.
4. Additional Options
Depending on your system’s specifications and your level of expertise, you could also venture into growing more exotic plants like dwarf varieties of certain fruits or even ornamental flowers for a pop of color.
It can also be possible to grow certain kinds of root vegetables in your hydroponics system but these are generally not well suited for hydroponic towers.
The top 10 plants for growing in a hydroponic tower
There are literally hundreds of different plants that can be grown successfully in a hydroponic tower. However, to get to the top 10, I’ve taken an analytical approach and assessed many possible plants against five key criteria.
Factors determining the top 10 picks
I’ve created 5 key criteria for determining my top picks which can be seen in the table below.
|Speed of Growth
|Plants that grow quickly from seed to harvest are generally favored in hydroponic systems. This allows you to enjoy the fruits (or greens or herbs) of your labor sooner rather than later.
|Ease of Care
|I’ve also considered how easy these plants are to maintain. Hydroponic gardening is already more straightforward than traditional soil gardening in many ways, but some plants are more beginner-friendly than others.
|Nutritional Value and taste
|If you’re growing food, it makes sense to prioritize plants that are packed with nutrients and taste great. Leafy greens often rank high in this category, offering an array of vitamins and minerals.
|The depth of a plant’s root system is crucial in a hydroponic setup. Plants with shallow to medium root systems are generally more compatible with hydroponic towers.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 plants to grow in a vertical hydroponic tower system:
Each of the plants on this list is perfect for growing in a vertical hydroponic tower garden. Each provides, in my view, the perfect blend of taste, speed, and ease of growth.
It’s worth noting that, although I’ve chosen to list the ‘top ten’ here, there are many other viable contenders.
In fact, I’ve listed them all out at the end of this article.
Let’s dive into each of these ten plants to explore in a little more detail what makes them perfect for growing in a hydroponic tower system.
Lettuce is often considered the poster child for hydroponic tower gardening, and for good reason. With a shallow root system, it’s perfectly suited for the vertical arrangement of a hydroponic tower.
Lettuce grows quickly, often ready to harvest in just 4 to 6 weeks, making it ideal for those eager to enjoy fresh produce in a short timeframe. It’s also a low-maintenance plant, requiring minimal nutrients and light compared to fruit-bearing plants.
On top of that, the nutritional value of fresh-picked lettuce is hard to beat. All these factors make lettuce a top pick for any hydroponic tower garden.
Mint thrives in hydroponic towers due to its modest root system and rapid growth. This low-maintenance herb can flourish with minimal light and nutrients, making it perfect for beginners. Plus, its aromatic leaves can be harvested continuously, providing a steady supply for your culinary needs.
Basil is a standout choice for hydroponic tower gardens for several reasons. It has a relatively compact root system that fits well into the vertical space of a hydroponic setup.
The plant grows quickly, allowing for frequent harvests that make it exceptionally rewarding. Basil isn’t too fussy, needing only moderate levels of light and nutrients, making it a good option for both beginners and seasoned gardeners.
Best of all, its aromatic leaves are versatile in the kitchen, usable in everything from sauces to cocktails, providing you with a continual harvest of culinary possibilities year-round.
Arugula is another leafy green that thrives in hydroponic towers. With its shallow root system, arugula takes well to the vertical limitations of tower setups.
It’s a fast grower, often ready for harvest in just 4 to 6 weeks, giving you quick access to fresh, peppery leaves. Arugula is relatively unfussy, requiring moderate levels of light and nutrients, which makes it suitable for both hydroponic novices and experts.
Kale is a superb choice for hydroponic towers due to its shallow root system and adaptability to various light conditions.
It’s a nutrient-dense, fast-growing leafy green that’s easy to care for, making it ideal for both beginners and seasoned gardeners. Its leaves can be harvested continuously, ensuring a steady supply for your culinary needs.
Spinach is ideal for hydroponic towers with its shallow root system and quick growth cycle. It thrives under moderate light conditions and requires basic nutrient levels, making it low-maintenance.
High in nutrients, especially iron, and vitamins, it’s a smart choice for health-focused gardeners. Continuous harvesting allows for a steady supply of fresh leaves.
Strawberries adapt well to hydroponic towers, thanks to their shallow root system and small footprint.
They need a bit more care in light and nutrients but reward you with delicious, juicy fruit multiple times a season, making your gardening efforts worthwhile.
8. Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are one of my favorite choices for hydroponic towers due to their compact growth and prolific fruiting. While they require more light and nutrients compared to leafy greens, the payoff is a bounty of sweet, juicy tomatoes.
Their vertical growth habit also makes efficient use of tower space. However, they can get a little bit big and unruly, so make sure to position them at the bottom of your tower so they don’t obstruct other plants.
If you want to know how to organize plants in your hydroponic tower – read my article!
Chilies are well-suited for hydroponic towers because of their moderate root system and vertical growth habit. Chillie plants often produce fruit continuously, offering a consistent yield throughout the season.
They do require more attention in terms of light and nutrients. But, I think it’s totally worth it – especially if you like a spicy kick to your meals!
And finally, we have cabbage. Cabbage may not be the first plant that comes to mind for hydroponic towers, but its relatively shallow root system and compact growth make it a viable option.
It requires moderate light and nutrient levels and offers a high yield in a small space. Plus, it’s rich in nutrients, making it a healthy choice for any garden.
Other plants that work great in a vertical hydroponic tower
In this article, I’ve highlighted my top 10 plants for hydroponic tower gardening, but there are numerous other options that, although they didn’t make the cut, are still fantastic choices.
My enduring recommendation is to embrace experimentation and relish both your triumphs and setbacks— after all, that’s part of the fun with hydroponic gardening!
Here are 54 more plants that are great for hydroponic towers
Tips & tricks for growing plants in a hydroponic tower
When it comes to mastering your hydroponic tower garden, a few tips can go a long way. It’s likely you’ll come across some problems and challenges along the way – but that’s OK!
I’ve written another article about that where I explore 19 common problems with hydroponics and how to fix them.
1. Consider the root depth
First, consider the root depth and spacing requirements of your chosen plants; this will help you arrange them optimally in the tower.
2. Light requirements
Consistent and adequate lighting is crucial, so either position your tower in a well-lit area or invest in quality grow lights. Remember, hydroponics systems do not need sunlight to work. You can even grow plants in a room without windows if you want.
However, if you are choosing to grow indoors vs. outdoors you’ll need to ensure you have adequate artificial lighting. Which usually means LED lights with at least 34 watts of power.
Nutrient balance is another key factor; be sure to follow guidelines specific to your plants for the best yields. Remember you’ll need to change the nutrient solution regularly.
4. pH levels
Monitoring pH levels will help you avoid nutrient lockout, ensuring that your plants can actually absorb the nutrients you provide.
5. Proper maintenance and upkeep
Learning how to maintain your hydroponic tower is key to its success. Whether it’s cleaning and sterilizing after use, replacing parts, or tinkering with pumps, keeping things running smoothly will result in better crops and less cost.
6. Pests, mold, and disease
Last but not least, keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Regularly check leaves and stems, and consider natural pesticides if you spot any trouble.
Check out my articles on how to prevent and remove algae from a hydroponics system and how to prevent and remove mold from a hydroponics system for more information on this.
To sum up
So there you have it — my top 10 picks for plants that will thrive in your hydroponic tower garden. From the fast-growing lettuce and aromatic herbs like basil and mint to nutrient-packed greens like kale and arugula, there’s something for every level of experience and taste.
Remember, the key to a successful hydroponic garden lies in understanding your plants’ needs, be it in terms of light, nutrients, or root depth. Each plant offers its own unique benefits, flavors, and challenges, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Good luck and happy hydroponic gardening!