The Easiest Plants to Grow Hydroponically: A Beginner’s Guide

Hydroponics offers an efficient and rewarding way to grow plants without the need for soil. For those new to hydroponics, it’s essential to start with plants that are relatively easy to grow and maintain. In this article, we will explore some of the easiest plants to cultivate hydroponically, with a focus on varieties that have thrived in outdoor and indoor hydroponic setups in my garden, in the Portland, Oregon area.

While there are lots of different varieties of plant you can grow hydroponically, the easiest plant to grow hydroponically is lettuce. They are simple to start, don’t need complicated set ups and finish fast for a delicious reward.

Along with lettuce, i’ll describe some plants, tried and tested, that are really easy to grow and a great starting point for your hydroponic journey.

Lettuce Varieties: Lettuce is often regarded as one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically, and it has performed exceptionally well in outdoor hydroponic setups in Portland, Oregon. Varieties like Butterhead, Romaine, and Leaf lettuce have shown great resilience in the region’s mild climate.

1. Lettuce

Growing lettuce hydroponically is not only easy but also immensely rewarding. Lettuce is often considered one of the simplest plants to cultivate using hydroponic methods due to its adaptability, rapid growth, and minimal maintenance requirements. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, lettuce can be a great starting point for your hydroponic journey.

One of the reasons lettuce is so easy to grow hydroponically is its shallow root system. Unlike plants with deep root structures, lettuce has relatively short roots that make it well-suited for hydroponic setups. This characteristic allows lettuce to thrive in a variety of hydroponic systems, including nutrient film technique (NFT), deep water culture (DWC), and drip irrigation systems.

I currently grow almost all of my lettuce in Kratky systems because they thrive so well with such little daily attention.

Another advantage of growing lettuce hydroponically is its quick growth cycle. Depending on the variety, lettuce can be harvested in as little as 4 to 8 weeks after germination. This means you can enjoy a continuous supply of fresh, crispy lettuce throughout the year, regardless of the outdoor growing season.

Lettuce’s adaptability to different environmental conditions makes it a versatile plant to grow hydroponically. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but it prefers cooler temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C). This makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor hydroponic setups, including those in regions with varying climates.

When it comes to nutrient requirements, lettuce prefers a well-balanced nutrient solution with a higher nitrogen content. This can be easily achieved by using commercially available hydroponic nutrient solutions specifically formulated for leafy greens. Regular monitoring of pH levels is crucial to ensure optimal nutrient uptake and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Lighting is another crucial factor in lettuce’s successful growth. Adequate lighting is essential for photosynthesis and healthy leaf development. In indoor hydroponic gardens, using LED grow lights with a spectrum optimized for plant growth can provide the necessary light intensity and quality. Outdoors, placing your hydroponic system in a well-lit area or providing additional artificial lighting during low-light seasons can ensure optimal growth.

Lettuce is a forgiving plant when it comes to hydroponic gardening mistakes. It can handle minor nutrient imbalances or fluctuations in environmental conditions better than some other plants. This makes it an excellent choice for beginners who are still learning the intricacies of hydroponics.

Maintaining a hydroponic lettuce garden requires minimal effort. Regular monitoring of pH and nutrient levels, along with periodic water changes, is essential. Additionally, removing any dead or decaying leaves and providing adequate airflow to prevent diseases are simple maintenance tasks that help keep your lettuce plants healthy.

One of the joys of growing lettuce hydroponically is the ability to customize your varieties. There are numerous lettuce varieties available, ranging from classic romaine and butterhead to colorful and unique leaf lettuces. Experimenting with different varieties can add diversity to your salads and meals, enhancing both visual appeal and flavor.

2. Herbs

Culinary herbs are another excellent choice for outdoor hydroponic gardening. Varieties like basil, cilantro, and parsley have thrived in the region’s moderate climate and have proven to be relatively easy to grow hydroponically.

In my hydroponic garden, I have successfully grown ‘Genovese’ and ‘Sweet Basil’ varieties of basil, with plans to start more soon! These herbs not only add delightful flavors to my dishes but also thrive in the outdoor hydroponic setup. The plants have flourished, producing abundant leaves with a strong aroma and robust flavor.

Cilantro, with its fresh and tangy taste, has also been a great success in my hydroponic garden. Varieties like ‘Slow Bolt’ and ‘Long Standing’ have demonstrated excellent resilience against the occasional temperature fluctuations during the hot summer. They have consistently provided me with a ready supply of flavorful cilantro throughout the growing season.

Parsley, known for its versatility and nutritional value, has been a reliable herb in my outdoor hydroponic setup as well. Varieties like ‘Italian Flat Leaf’ and ‘Curled Leaf’ have grown vigorously, supplying me with an abundance of fresh parsley for culinary use.

By providing adequate lighting, monitoring nutrient levels, and ensuring proper ventilation in your outdoor hydroponic garden, you can enjoy a continuous supply of aromatic and flavorful herbs throughout the year.

3. Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are a delightful addition to any outdoor hydroponic garden in the Portland, Oregon area. The region’s moderate temperatures and abundant sunlight provide an ideal environment for these compact and fruit-bearing plants.

I have had great success with ‘Sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes in my outdoor hydroponic setup. These determinate varieties have thrived in the Portland climate, producing clusters of sweet and juicy tomatoes throughout the growing season. The vibrant red fruits have become a favorite snack for my family and a colorful addition to our salads.

Another variety that has performed well in my hydroponic garden is ‘Red Cherry.’ These tomatoes boast a rich flavor and have consistently produced a generous harvest. With regular pruning and support, the plants have thrived, showcasing the resilience and adaptability of cherry tomatoes in outdoor hydroponics.

To maximize the yield of cherry tomatoes in outdoor hydroponics, it is important to provide sufficient light, maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels, and ensure proper airflow to prevent diseases. Regular monitoring of nutrient levels and pH balance is crucial for healthy plant growth and fruit development.

4. Strawberries

Strawberries are a delightful and rewarding fruit to grow in outdoor hydroponic systems in the Portland, Oregon area. With their trailing growth habit, they are well-suited for vertical hydroponic setups, allowing you to make the most of limited space.

In my outdoor hydroponic garden, I have grown everbearing strawberry varieties such as ‘Seascape’ and ‘Tristar’ with remarkable success. These varieties produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season, providing a steady supply of juicy and flavorful strawberries for my family to enjoy.

The ability to control environment of hydroponics, has allowed the strawberry plants to flourish. They have produced plump berries that are bursting with sweetness, making them a favorite treat straight from the garden.

To ensure optimal growth and fruit production, it is essential to provide strawberries with adequate light, maintain a well-balanced nutrient solution rich in potassium and phosphorus, and regularly prune the plants to remove runners and promote better fruiting. Proper spacing and support for the plants are also necessary to prevent overcrowding and ensure good air circulation.

By incorporating these tried-and-tested varieties of lettuce, herbs, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries into your hydroponic garden, you can enjoy a diverse range of fresh, homegrown produce throughout the year. With careful attention to the specific needs of each plant, you can cultivate a thriving and abundant hydroponic garden that enhances your culinary experiences and sustainability goals.


Located in Portland, Oregon, Tim started gardening in his 20's and after a couple of decades felt like he had some things to share.

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