Root Trimming Basics

When plants grow in the dirt, their roots develop a lot differently then when grown in water. In-ground plants have roots that are strong,woody, and have almost limitless room to grow and reach down into the earth. In-ground plants depend on these roots to find nutrients and water in the soil and to anchor them through harsh weather and flooding. All that being said, when it comes to hydroponic roots, they have it very easy.

When you grow plants hydroponically, there is no soil and the roots have a direct and reliable source of water and nutrients without ever needing to search for it. Hydroponically grown plants also don’t need to anchor themselves for support against harsh weather. Their sole goal is to absorb as much water and as much nutrients as the plants require. Instead of growing strong and woody roots they grow thousands of very thin and fibrous roots. These allow the plants to filter through the water absorbing nutrients. Because there is no competition, no harsh weather, and no drought, hydroponic roots can grow to the point of taking over your system!

Why should you trim the roots?

1. Water Flow – Too many roots may slow the water from flowing, dripping, or spraying through your hydroponic system. This may result in more stagnant water that can lead to mold and other pest. 

2. Drainage – Roots like to take over and find their way into drain tubes and pumps. Without proper drainage and water circulation you may find yourself with an overflow!

3. Disease and Fungus Prevention – Just like how trimming your plants stems, leaves, and flowers is healthy for the plants so it is true for the roots. By trimming the roots you ensure the root system is healthy and any infected or dying roots are removed. 

How to trim the roots:

1. Always make sure to use a clean and sanitized pair of scissors or pruning shears. Making sure they are also sharp ensures a clean cut.

2. Trim back any roots (2-4 inches back) that are nearing the drain locations and pump. 

3. Trim back any roots (2-4 inches back) that look less than healthy by showing signs of discoloration (dark colored roots), rotting (mushy roots), or molding. 

4. Follow up by adding a diluted dose of 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per one gallon of water in your reservoir. 

Root trimming may apply more so to plants that you have growing in your system for a longer period of time such as some vegetables varieties that have a longer maturing time. Either way, trimming the roots of your plants growing hydroponically is beneficial and will lead to a cleaner system and healthier plants. 

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