Aeroponics is a subgroup of hydroponics that uses a nutrient rich mist to feed and hydrate a plant's root system. This technique requires no additional growing mediums, leaving the bare roots to grow unrestricted throughout the ambient aeroponic mist. This has been found to be an incredibly efficient way of growing plants in any environment. In fact, NASA has been using aeroponics to grow plants in space since the 1990’s!
Although there are many different hydroponic techniques, and each one has different strengths and weaknesses, there is nothing quite as spectacular as aeroponics. The fine creeping mist, high humidity, and insane root growth makes aeroponics perfect for cloning and growing seedlings.
Plants need oxygen
In order for a plant's roots to thrive, they need to have both water and oxygen present.
Everybody knows that plants require carbon dioxide to grow, but what many don’t understand is that plants also need oxygen, especially at the root zone.
During photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is consumed and its carbon is chopped off. This leaves oxygen as a byproduct to be released back into the atmosphere. This happens in the leaves where photosynthesis takes place, but photosynthesis does not occur in the roots of plants.
Instead, roots need to draw their energy from the glucose that was made during photosynthesis. During the breakdown of glucose for energy, oxygen is needed for the chemical reaction that makes this stored energy available once again from the glucose. Humans use a very similar process to release the energy stored in the plants that we eat and as such we too need oxygen to release stored energy.
How Hydroponics Prevents Suffocating Your Roots
In most cases, if you try to grow plants in water by just placing it in a container full of stagnant water, the plants will die of suffocation from lack of oxygen.
In hydroponic systems, where plants are grown exclusively in water, suffocation is avoided by incorporating different techniques that “oxygenate” or add oxygen to the water. Air stones, flood cycles, and drip or nutrient film (NFT) waterings allow oxygen to reach the roots along with the water. Although these methods work, there is no better way of combining both nutrient rich water, and oxygen than aeroponics.
Aeroponics and oxygen
Aeroponics involves the same nutrient enriched water that is used throughout all forms of hydroponics. This water is then pressurized using water pumps, and forced through micro sprayers to atomize the droplets in the form of a mist or aerosol.
By definition, an aerosol is a colloid of ultrafine solids and water droplets in the air. That means that there is a rich distribution of nutrients, water, and oxygen in the air itself.
Plants love aeroponics and they thrive in it. Their roots have access to all the elements of growth they could ever need (as long as you use adequate nutrition of course). The highly oxygenated water droplets can be sprayed over the roots 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Aeroponics is suitable for any crop, but is especially useful for clones and herbaceous plants. The added humidity that comes along with aeroponics makes them a great option for dryer climates, and tropical plant species.
Aeroponics for Cloning
New clones do not yet have roots, and therefore don’t have a steady supply of nutrients to drive the energy production occurring at the leaves above. Plants have the incredible ability of changing any one type of cell and causing them to grow into other cells. In the case of clones, the bottom of a plant's stem begins to differentiate into roots.
This can also happen by placing the clones in water or moist rockwool for a couple of weeks, but will not produce nearly the same level of results as those grown using aeroponics.
Aeroponics is a common method of propagation, especially through cloning. Many small clones can be placed side by side in systems like this and the rich, humid environment is perfect for causing cell differentiation to happen in these rootless plants.
How To Get Started With Aeroponics
You will need to find some high quality sprayers or atomizers to turn the high pressured water into a mist. It is important not to get the cheapest sprayers available because these tend to just toss the water around rather than actually turn it into a mist. They also tend to clog a lot more frequently.
A pump is needed to pressurize the aeroponic system. When creating an aeroponic system it is better to go with a larger pump than you think you might need. Contact one of our experts to help find the right size pump for your DIY aeroponic system.
Water tight container
You will need a container for your aeroponic system that prevents the mist from leaking out. They do not need to be completely sealed, but should be able to keep the mist inside the container. Check out this aeroponic system to see an example of a sufficiently sealed container.
It is important to choose a high quality nutrient formula for aeroponics because low quality nutrients can clog up the micro sprayers of your aeroponics system. Try using a formula such as which has a very high solubility to prevent this clogging. It is also useful to use a slightly lower concentration when growing with aeroponics for this same reason.
Building your own aeroponic system can be a very rewarding and educational experience. For those who wish to have a professional system quickly and without having to design it themselves these options are available as well. See our store for details, or contact one of our experts today to ask about building your own aeroponics system!