This is confusing me since I am new to the idea of hydroponics. I have read that it is possible to damage a plant by overwatering it, so how can plants live with their roots submerged in pure water? Is it only possible to grow specific plants using hydroponics? Or is there a large misunderstanding regarding overwatering?
Given the previous answer, which covers hydroponic growing, I'll just add an explanation of how it's possible to over water a plant which is growing in potting compost, and thereby cause plant death or disease.
The key is in the word 'clean' - hydroponics requires clean water, principally. When a plant has its roots in soil or compost, this isn't clean in the same way. The planting medium is full of bacteria, fungal spores and a wealth of other micro organisms and bio diversity, most of which are supportive of the plant's growth. If you leave this pot with its plant sitting in water permanently, the conditions in the soil change, usually from life supporting to toxic in some way. Gas exchanges are affected, some bacteria multiply and others simply die, and fungal spores may overgrow, thus providing a very toxic environment for the plant trying to survive with its roots in that soil. This is not true of all plants - some grow very well in soggy, wet soil, but the vast majority do not.
It is possible to overwatering plants, when their stems (being into soil) get too much water and no light. In fact, most of the problems of plants comes from an error in the relationship between water and lighting.
The hydroponic cultures can be made in two ways.
- The plant (or rather, a cutting of a plant) is partially immersed in water in a transparent glass container, where it get new roots. look at the picture into answer
- A plant, with already its roots, is introduced into a special container, where it is not in contact with the water and, through a grid, reaches the water only with the roots.
In the first case, the stem enters the water that stimulates the production of roots. But the stem in contact with the water rots, little by little, so that it must be periodically cleaned, ie removed from the container and washed under warm running water. Then put back into the container with clean water. The roots must receive plenty of light. The light, however, also contributes to the formation of green algae that suffocate the roots and remove the light itself. For this reason, plants, containers and water should always be kept clean, as in aquariums.
In the second case the stem does not touch the water. For the roots to be immersed in water or not makes no difference. And light is not so necessary. Then the containers can be colored (but transparent, in any case).
The water, in both cases, must always be very clean. The food is provided by special fertilizers. The hydroponics is easy and comfortable. It is very hard to wrong and, vice versa, it is easy to correct the errors.
Not all plants can be grown hydroponically. Of course not all succulents and plants that do not bear a lot of watering. The house plants, however, are almost all suitable to give cuttings to grow in water. Indeed they are mostly tropical plants from rainforests, rich in water. Although almost all plants of industrial agriculture are arable with this method.
Salad hydroponic on roofs of New York (here, not translated)