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Water in Plants: Understanding the flow of Water in Plants

Get the lowdown on what you need to know about plants and water. Get the lowdown on what you need to know about plants and water.


Just like humans, plants are mostly water. In the garden, we give gallons of water to each plant over the course of its life. To better understand your garden, let’s follow the path of water as it flows through the vascular system. Water starts in the soil or hydroponic medium, but how does it travel into the roots and up through the rest of your plant?


Osmosis occurs when a substance spreads evenly throughout an area, like when you wet the corner of a paper towel and moisture quickly spreads through the fibers. When roots are dry but the growing medium is wet, they share the water. The roots are passive; they do not pull in water. Instead, water naturally moves to drier cells. Once inside the roots, the vascular system takes that H2O on up the pipes to the rest of the plant: stems, leaves, flowers, etc.

Vascular System

Xylem and phloem are the main cells that make up the vascular system. These hollow cells stack to form tubes. Xylem are the tubes that carry water and nutrients up from the roots. Carbohydrate factories in the leaves process air, water and nutrients into plant sugars like sucrose. Phloem are the tubes that carry those plant sugars (and water) around to the various parts of the plant where energy is needed. Many of these sugars are stored in the roots and will be used up during the rinse phase, imparting a sweeter taste to your harvest.

Some of the water and sugar inside the roots are released into the growing medium to attract beneficial bacteria and fungi. Water brings nutrients with it into various plant parts, while also carrying sugars and beneficial microorganisms down to the roots.


Transpiration is the second process that moves water for your plants. We humans have hearts to pump fluid through our veins, but plants have no such pump. They rely on the pull of gases from the stomata to draw moisture up and out of the plant. The more a plant transpires, the more water it requires. Think of a straw in a cold beverage: As the drink leaves the straw and enters your mouth, more liquid is pulled into the bottom of the straw. The plant version of this is when oxygen and water are expelled via transpiration, more water is drawn into the roots.

So the next time your garden needs a little TLC, follow the path of water. It may lead you to healthier plants and higher yields!


Exclusive Web-Only Bonus:

Additional Water Saving Tips for the Smaller Scale Grow Room (and elsewhere!)

By Erik Biksa

- in soil beds or containers, cover the the surface with a piece of ground cloth or other breathable, rot-resistant fabric. This will still allow the roots to breathe and not suffocate the stem while reducing the amount of water that is lost to the air from the soil, rather than the leaves. It can also help to reduce fungus gnats.

- install water saving toilets, with an optional higher volume “number two” flush. On average, most conventional toilets run through more water than you may realize every time you flush.

- if you are using an RO (reverse osmosis) Filtration System, consider including the typically optional waste water reducer insert. It's just a little plug in the drain to waste line that cuts down on your waste water in the filtration process without noticeably hurting quality for hydroponic use.

- consider using a low-flow shower valve, or shut-off the water while you are lathering up (or better yet, having someone lather you; showering double conserves water too)


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Brad Paisley knows the importance of water. Kinda. Well, a different sort of importance anyway.
Last modified on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 18:00

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