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A friend took the attached picture a few months ago. It is an Aloe vera potted in rice, coffee and sugar. I would like to learn how to use rice (and coffee and sugar) to grow plants in.

aloe vera potted in rice, coffee and sugar

I wonder if such a growth medium has the advantage of being a passive dehumidifier?

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    Pot does not look as if it has ever been watered. Sugar is very water soluble. The picture looks like an ornamental display, not a viable method for growing plants. – Wayfaring Stranger Dec 20 '16 at 15:09
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    I agree - the sugar layer would be completely gone with the first watering, and the others would muddle together and all turn coffee colored. I wonder if there is a secondary pot in the center, where the plant is actually growing in soil? – michelle Dec 20 '16 at 15:25
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The aloe is not growing in that medium. Sugar dissolves, rice and coffee decompose, when exposed to the conditions required for a healthy root zone. They would sour and kill the plant roots. Not suitable at all for growing plants in. It's either temporary, or someone doesn't know what they're doing, or the plant is in an inside pot.

What you could do, if you like that look, is to place a waterproof container with a smaller diameter inside the glass pot, before putting down the layers. When you add the layers of material, you will bury the inside container, up to the brim. This container can be used as a liner for the plant's pot (which should be a close fit). You would remove the pot from the display for watering, and return it when the drainage holes are not drizzling water.

  • Thank you for your answer. However, I am not looking for the look. I want to know if it is possible to use rice as a growth medium. I believe there are plants that extract the water they need directly from air or plants that are potted in soilless mixes. Rice is a natural desiccant and I wonder if the a plant's root hair will be able to extract the water from the rice grains. Ok, an aloe is not a good candidate for this; but maybe an orchid or a Mother-in-Laws Tongue are? – Pablo Jan 4 '17 at 15:30
  • @Pablo If there's enough moisture for the plant to grow in (orchid or Sansevieria, even epiphytic Bromeliads), the rice will decompose. What you're looking for is a hyrdoponic or aquaponic system, and rice, because it decomposes, is not a good medium. – J. Musser Jan 4 '17 at 20:37
  • Yes rice is a (rather poor) dessicant which means that it will reduce humidity to a point where air plants will die quickly. Also air plants is a misnomer - most of the water absorption comes from rain which is absorbed through the plants exposed surfaces. They are often found growing in crevices full of damp detritus which provides them with an additional reservoir. – George of all trades Feb 7 '17 at 14:06
  • @Georgeofalltrades This thread discusses Aloe, not epiphytic Bromeliads. But your information is correct – J. Musser Feb 7 '17 at 17:35
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In a Mexican restaurant at S. Cooper on Park Row in Arlington, Texas I have seen aloe vera maintained for the past seven months without water in a glass vase filled with uncooked rice and a light sprinkling of cinnamon (for decoration?). Supposedly, the rice absorbs humidity which supplies all required moisture. The plant is not increasing in size.

  • I guess I'll have to try it out to confirm it is possible. – Pablo Feb 7 '17 at 9:52
  • Lets look at the physics here: if the rice absorbs water from the air between the rice grains, then the amount of water in the spaces between the rice grains must decrease. This would make it harder for a plant to absorb water from the air as the concentration of water inside the plant would be massively higher than outside. Even if the plant's root hairs were to invade the rice grains themselves (unlikely for many reasons) then again the concentration of water in the plant would be greater than the rice grain. Dried rice is not going to provide it with water. – George of all trades Feb 7 '17 at 17:45
  • You'll notice in the case you describe and in the OPs photo, the plant is a succulent capable of surviving without watering for an extended period, but not indefinitely. These things should be thought of more as a long lasting flower arrangement: the plant will eventually die in these conditions. – George of all trades Feb 7 '17 at 17:47

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