Growing kangkong in water

By name, kangkong is a water-loving plant – water spinach or Water Convolvulus. Yet, I’ve been growing it in soil with reasonable results. Well, the only thing is, they need to be heavily watered every day, or else the plants start wilting fast.

The roots that grew on the long kangkong stem.

It also doesn’t help that I chose to plant them in hanging recycled PET bottles. This means that they dry out faster and they’ve become root bound as well. (Note to self: next time I won’t put in drainage holes in the hanging bottles so they don’t lose water so fast – yes, next time!)

Anyway, I had one plant that had grown a very long stem. I was reluctant to cut it because it bore a lot of flowers, and they were just too pretty to not let bloom. The stem has since cut back on growth – probably because I don’t water the plant as much as it needs – and the stem became bare of leaves while roots tried to grow at the leaf nodes as the plant fought to propagate itself before it died completely.

This is one of the amazing things I love about plants – seeing the ways they strive to survive and reproduce themselves.

The network of roots that grew after 2 days in the water.

Finally faced with the ugly, long bare stem, I decided to cut it off. However, seeing the roots at the leaf nodes gave me an idea…

We have an outdoor fish tank that is covered with some plastic netting to keep the fish from jumping out and prevent birds from stealing the fish. Part of that netting began to droop, and when the water level is high, it is partly submerged. I decided to see if the water spinach would show me just how much it liked growing in water, and cut the very long stem into several pieces, placing them on top of the netting so that some of the root nodes were touching the water, and one test specimen directly on the water, under the netting, because I’d heard that the hollow stems help them to float. They do!

Little green shoots of water spinach by Day 4. Also notice how the roots are also sprouting like crazy along the stems.

Within 2 days, the stems on the netting started growing lots of new, white roots that reached eagerly towards the water. Just as eagerly, the fish were below the netting, trying to nibble at them! However, the stems were protected, and soon some green shoots started popping up.

The floating stem drifted around and also started growing new roots, but not as fast as the others – perhaps because it didn’t receive as much direct sunlight, being under the netting. So far, though, it doesn’t seem to be eaten up by the the fish as I thought it would be.

It will be interesting to see how the plants fare as time goes on. Will they get enough nutrients from the water as their potted counterparts? For obvious reasons, I can’t add fertilizer to the fish tank, so I hope the fish help out in this area, if you know what I mean… Let’s see how this spur of the moment experiment concludes!

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Growing kangkong in water — 6 Comments

  1. My kangkong, grown in the ground, just sits there. Doesn’t grow much and doesn’t die. Tried them in pots, same result. Most say it’s awfully easy to grow, but not for me. Perhaps I shd just give up cuz I’ve tried so many times and am really weary of these ingrates. And, NO FLOWERS at all! Hope u hv better luck than I did. The plant that I now hv is OLD and quite certain it wd be really tough., rendering it inedible. But, it’s going to remain in the ground until it decides to kick the bucket by itself.

    • Hey Miki,
      I’m not sure what the climate in your part of the world is like, but here in Singapore, it’s hot, humid and rainy throughout the year. My plants have been growing in recycled plastic drink bottles, which is actually not a lot of space for them to grow in, I now realize. Maybe they’re doing well because they feel threatened – you know how plants immediately start flowering and doing what they need to, to reproduce when they feel they’ve reached the end of their useful lives? They also become bushier when you prune them. Why don’t you try that? And water them well. Mine slow down when I forget to water them. Good luck!

  2. Hey CuriousG, I was wondering If I can grow the kangkong without the leaves, since most of the stuff I found in google said that the ones they had possessed leaves. I remembered my mother planting leafless ones that were bought from the market and whose leaves were used in a meal. Now, while my mom isn’t around, I decided to make a meal which required these. I just finished up and now I put them in a container filled with water (not entirely submerged, of course). Now which leads me back to the question: Will they grow without leaves? How about in dark areas in a container filled with water without a supporting grid? and finally, What are the chances of them growing and actually being put to use?

    • I find that I don’t like growing plants in water, because they don’t get the requisite nutrients unless you add them in chemically. This goes against my “organic” stance.

      Yes, the stems can float on the water without help, and will grow roots, but the leaves aren’t as dark as they should be, even with sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis – at least the ones I grew weren’t. There’s nothing wrong with your experimenting, if you don’t mind waiting. If I were you though, I’d let the stems root in water, and when there are enough roots to support the plants, I’d transplant them into good, organic soil to get nice lush leaves.

      • I’m trying this out since the backyard isn’t that safe for plants and I have lots of spare space inside my house. They can be grown in pots, right? I really don’t have the material to make a plant box inside my house, but I have lots of spare plant pots. I really love growing plants and I have too much spare time. Thanks a lot for the advice, CuriousG, I’ll tell you what happens after a period of time. ^^