What is Hydroton?
Hydroton grow rocks are one of the most versatile growing mediums in the gardening world. You’ll be surprised to find out that hydroton are not rocks at all. They are actually an expanded clay product. This German product has rapidly gained popularity among hydroponic gardeners, but don’t be fooled—soil gardeners can also utilize this great growing medium.
Beneficial Properties of Hydroton:
- Water Retention & Drainage - This material is filled with tiny pores, much like a ‘micro sponge’. Because of this, it holds the perfect amount of water and drains any excess to prevent overwatering.
- Aeration – Unlike soil that compacts and reduces available oxygen over time, hydroton retains its shape and allows for continuous oxygen exchange, keeping your plant roots healthy.
- PH Neutral – In gardening, it is important to have a growing medium that isn't too acidic or basic. This material is a pH neutral product, so you won’t have to worry about any nutrient lockup or plant health issues due to unstable pH.
- Sterile – It is produced in large rolling kilns that ‘bake’ it into its final shape. Since high temperatures are used, hydroton comes to the gardener as a sterile product. This is highly beneficial because you don’t want to introduce disease and harmful bacteria into your garden.
Hydroton in Hydroponics
Hydroton is by far the most popular growing medium used in hydroponics. Although it can be adapted to any method of hydroponic gardening, it works especially well with Deep Water Culture, Drip and Ebb & Flow systems. One important thing to keep in mind is that it can float in systems that completely flood the root system. These types of systems should avoid using hydroton to keep plant roots from being disturbed.
Hydroton in Soil
It seems that all the hype for this product comes from the hydroponics side of gardening, but don’t let that fool you! It is an underrated addition to soil gardens. As can hydroponic gardeners, soil gardeners can cash in on the drainage, aeration, and non-compacting qualities of hydroton.
When mixing your next batch of soil for the garden or containers, try using up to 30% total volume of hydroton. It will greatly improve the overall structure of potting soils, enhancing root productivity. I also like to add about an inch deep of the pellets at the bottom of container planters to ensure proper drainage. You’ll never overwater with a layer of this stuff at the bottom of your planters.
Overall, hydroton truly lives up to its name as the magical growing rocks. These small balls of expanded clay offer benefits to all types of gardeners. Get out there and try some in your garden!