Want To Go From Hydroponics To Soil? Here's a Quick Guide

By Kent Gruetzmacher
Published: January 14, 2021 | Last updated: April 30, 2021 02:50:02
Key Takeaways

There are many reasons why cultivators might transplant their plants from hydroponic systems into soil. Kent Gruetzmacher breaks down common scenarios.

Agriculture is an unpredictable affair, and occasionally cultivators are forced to change their approaches to gardening without much notice or planning. These forced infrastructural garden alterations usually have to do with moving cultivation locations or some environmental, equipment, or financial constraint inhibiting the continued use of hydroponic gardening.


Whether or not one has to transplant from a hydroponics system to soil is out of choice or necessity, there are a few pointers for different hydroponics scenarios that can help with this sometimes-daunting task.

Transplanting Cuttings and Clones From Hydroponic Systems

Many modern gardeners choose to grow their plants from clones or cuttings rather than seeds. Hydroponic systems prove quite useful for cloning methods, most notably with mist propagation systems and domed incubation trays that feature rockwool cubes. Each of these hydroponically oriented propagation techniques are compatible with soil growing systems once the cuttings have rooted.


There are several reasons for this approach to nascent plant growth, but most of them are founded on the preservation of a genetic line as well as plant sexing. For many horticulturalists, it takes years to find that perfect blend of environment, nutrients, and genetics. Therefore, many cultivators choose to keep a mother plant to preserve a genetic tradition and ensure consistent, excellent harvests.

Moreover, for many indoor gardeners, growing a garden directly from seeds is not an option. Since most indoor horticulturalists place as many as 12 plants per 1,000W light in their grow rooms, it’s wholly unpractical to attempt to grow all these plants from seeds that could be either male or female.

Read also: Transition to Veg Phase: Hardening-Off and Transplanting


Transplanting Plant in Rockwool CubeTransplanting Plant in Rockwool Cube. Source: OpenRangeStock/Shutterstock

Rockwool Transplanting Tips

Rockwool is a favorite growth medium for hydroponic gardeners, whether they use it for cloning or full-fledged plant growth. Cultivators who choose to use rockwool for the propagation of clones do so with the intentions of transplanting into soil.

Conversely, when using larger six- or nine-inch rockwool cubes for vegetative growth or flowering on a hydroponic flood table, cultivators don’t generally plan on relocating the plants into soil. As mentioned in the introduction, these larger rockwool cube transplant scenarios often fall into the “unexpected life occurrences of a grower” category.


Nonetheless, for both seedlings in small rockwool cubes and sizable plants in large rockwool cubes, the dynamics of transplanting into soil are the same. To begin with, dig a hole into the soil a few inches wider and deeper than the intended rockwool transplant and sprinkle mycorrhizae over the surface of the hole.

At that point, simply place the entire rockwool cube into the hole and fill in around it with soil. Finally, water the entire soil container as done in any other transplant situation. To help avoid transplant shock, raise the lights slightly higher for an indoor garden and put the plants in a shaded area for an outdoor operation until they seem settled.

Read also: The Do's and Don'ts of Rockwool

Eggplant seedlings transplanted in plastic cups

Mist Propagation Systems for Transitioning to Soil

Mist propagation systems (cloners) are a favorite choice among growers for the propagation of clones or cuttings into individual plants. With these systems, growers place cuttings into foam pucks that feature slits from the middle to the end of the puck.

The pucks are on the top or lid of the mist propagation system, with a reservoir and misting system functioning internally. With the right mix of rooting hormone and nutrients, the bottom stem of the cutting protruding from the puck eventually sprouts its own roots.

At this juncture, they are ready to be transplanted into soil. For most growers, this process starts with filling a Dixie cup about three-quarters full of soil then sprinkling it with mycorrhizae.

Next, remove the rooted cutting out of the foam puck through the side slit and hold it over the Dixie cup with the roots touching the soil. After that, fill soil in around the roots and stem of the cutting until the new plant stands on its own. When finished, water the Dixie cups thoroughly and take the necessary precautions to avoid transplant shock.

Read also: A Simple Guide to Taking Plant Cuttings

Holding a hydroponic basket with seedling and rootsBean plant in a hydroponic basket with visible roots. Source: AlensAndSomeLuck/Shutterstock

Hydroponic Baskets

It is safe to assume that any well-planned cultivation operation doesn’t consist of transplanting full-grown plants from hydroponic baskets (or nets) into soil. When growing plants in hydroponic baskets, the roots become wholly entwined within the holes of the plastic netting.

As a result, trying to remove the delicate root system from these baskets for transplanting into soil is virtually impossible without killing the plant. Therefore, if one is forced to transplant out of hydroponic baskets and into soil, they should strive to employ soil when the roots are just sprouting from the stem of the plant and not yet grown into the sidewalls of the basket.

However, if one must transplant fully developed plants out of hydroponic baskets and into soil, they should just dig out a large enough hole in the soil, add mycorrhizae, and plant the entire basket.

Read next: Choosing the Right Growing Medium for Larger Results


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Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content

Profile Picture of Kent Gruetzmacher

Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.

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