8 Unexpected Hydroponic Grow Mediums


When you grow plants without soil you have many options for alternative ways to support the root systems and deliver nutrients. Some may work better than others depending on the plants you’re growing and the type of system you’re growing in. With soilless growing, there are typically four to five standard grow mediums that are popular substrate options. But there are however, some unexpected hydroponic grow mediums that you may want to try out- if you’re feeling experimental.

Here are 8 unexpected hydroponic grow mediums to try out in your soilless gardening systems:


Sand is inexpensive and widely available. It can be used as a substrate as long as it’s properly sterilized. Its downside is low water retention and therefore won’t hold nutrients either.

Rice Hulls

These shells are a great sustainable option as they can be repurposed as a grow medium. They will however, decay over time.


Pumice is a lightweight stone with similar properties to perlite. It’s a good option for properly aerating plants’ roots.

Packing Peanuts or Styrofoam

Another inexpensive alternative, packing peanuts are easy to come by and they retain water well. This is chemical product so there is a risk of plant contamination with the styrene.


This substrate alternative is widely available and a good medium for tight budgets. Gravel provides great drainage but does run the risk of tangling root systems.

Brick Shavings

Similar to gravel, brick shavings are an inexpensive medium with great drainage. This substance is not pH neutral and will require thorough cleaning.

Wood Chips or Fibers

A great alternative for growers concerned about eco-friendly growing. Wood is a natural and organic resource that’s great for hydroponic systems. It will need to be sterilized and replaced over time.

Hay Bales

Similar to wood chips, hay is an organic option for soilless growing. It will also need to be properly sterilized and replaced once it begins to decompose.

Learn more about types of hydroponic grow mediums here.

Leave a Comment