Best Plants for NFT Hydroponics: A Guide to Thriving Gardens


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NFT hydroponics, also known as Nutrient Film Technique, is a modern method of growing plants without soil. In this hydroponic system, a thin film of nutrient-rich water flows continuously over the plant roots, providing them with essential nutrients. Although most beginners may opt the simpler deep water culture method, the NFT method is not difficult to start with.

In addition, NFT hydroponic systems are one of the most popular methods of hydroponic farming. This is because they offer several advantages over other hydroponic systems. As the popularity of NFT hydroponics continues to rise, more and more gardeners are embracing this innovative technique to cultivate a wide variety of plants. In the following sections, we will explore the best plants for NFT hydroponics and discover how to create thriving gardens using this method.

Best Plants For NFT Hydroponics

Firstly, NFT systems are very efficient in terms of water usage. The nutrient solution is continuously circulated through the system, which means that there is very little water wastage. This is particularly important in areas where water is scarce or expensive. They offer precise control over nutrient levels, pH, and other environmental factors, leading to healthier plants and optimal growth.

Secondly, NFT systems are very easy to set up and maintain. They require very little space and can be installed in a variety of locations, including greenhouses, warehouses, and even on rooftops. This makes them ideal for commercial growers who need to maximize their growing space.

Thirdly, NFT systems are very versatile. They can be used to grow a wide variety of crops, including herbs, vegetables, and fruits. This means that growers can diversify their crops and increase their profits.

Overall, the NFT method of hydroponics is a popular choice among commercial growers because it is efficient, easy to set up and maintain, and versatile. If you’re looking to start a hydroponic farm, an NFT system could be a great option to consider.

Related: You can learn in detail how the hydroponics nutrient film technique works in our own guide.

1. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens, including lettuce, spinach, and kale, thrive exceptionally well in NFT hydroponics systems. Here’s why:

  • Suitability: Leafy greens are ideal for NFT hydroponics due to their shallow root systems, making them perfectly suited for the thin film of nutrient-rich water that flows over the roots in a narrow channel.
  • Quick Growth: In NFT hydroponics, leafy greens have accelerated growth rates compared to traditional soil-based gardening. This allows for more frequent harvests and a continuous supply of fresh greens.
  • High Yield: NFT hydroponics provides an optimized environment for leafy greens, resulting in higher yields per plant compared to soil-based cultivation. This makes it an efficient method for maximizing productivity in limited spaces.
  • Nutritional Value: Leafy greens are renowned for their rich nutrient profiles, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as essential minerals. NFT hydroponics ensures that plants have access to an abundant supply of nutrients, promoting healthy growth and enhancing nutritional content.

To cultivate leafy greens successfully in NFT hydroponics, consider the following tips:

  • Nutrient Requirements: Leafy greens thrive with a balanced nutrient solution that includes nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Adjust the nutrient concentration according to the growth stage of the plants.
  • Temperature Preferences: Most leafy greens prefer cooler temperatures ranging from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). Ensure adequate ventilation and temperature control to create an optimal growing environment.
  • Lighting: Leafy greens require sufficient light for photosynthesis. Utilize full-spectrum LED grow lights or position your NFT hydroponics system in a location with ample natural light exposure.
  • Harvesting: Harvest leafy greens by selectively removing mature outer leaves, allowing the center to continue growing. This practice promotes continuous growth and prolongs the harvest period.

By following these guidelines, you can cultivate a bountiful and nutritious crop of leafy greens in your NFT hydroponics system.

2. Herbs

Herbs are a fantastic addition to NFT hydroponic systems, offering delightful aromas, culinary versatility, and ease of cultivation. Here are some popular herbs that thrive in NFT hydroponics:

  • Basil: Basil is a widely loved herb known for its aromatic leaves and diverse flavors. Varieties such as Genovese, Thai, and Lemon basil thrive in NFT hydroponics. They add a fresh touch to salads, pasta dishes, and sauces.
  • Mint: With its refreshing and invigorating scent, mint is a versatile herb for NFT hydroponics. Peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint are excellent choices. Mint is perfect for teas, desserts, and garnishing summer drinks.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a popular herb used in various cuisines. Its unique flavor profile adds a zing to salsas, curries, and salads. Cilantro flourishes in NFT hydroponics systems, providing a continuous supply of fresh leaves.

Maintaining herb plants in NFT hydroponics requires attention to specific techniques and considerations:

  • Pruning Techniques: Regular pruning is essential for herb plants in NFT hydroponics to encourage bushier growth and prevent legginess. Pinch off the tips of the stems regularly to promote branching and increased leaf production.
  • Lighting Requirements: Herbs generally require 12-16 hours of light per day. Position your NFT hydroponics system in an area that receives ample sunlight. If natural light is limited, supplement it with high-quality grow lights, preferably full-spectrum LED lights, to ensure proper photosynthesis.
  • Nutrient Solutions: Herbs have specific nutrient requirements. Maintain a balanced nutrient solution with appropriate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to support healthy growth and enhance flavor development.

By cultivating herbs in your NFT hydroponics system, you can enjoy a year-round supply of fresh and flavorful ingredients for your culinary adventures. Experiment with different herb varieties and explore their various uses in cooking, teas, and homemade remedies.

3. Strawberries

Strawberries are an excellent choice for NFT hydroponics, offering a compact growth habit and bountiful fruiting potential. Here’s why they are well-suited for this hydroponic system:

  • Compact Growth: Strawberry plants have a compact growth habit, making them suitable for NFT hydroponics setups that utilize narrow channels or gutters. Their small size allows for efficient space utilization and enables growers to maximize the number of plants within their hydroponic system.
  • Fruiting Potential: NFT hydroponics provides an optimal environment for strawberry plants to thrive and produce abundant fruit. The continuous flow of nutrient-rich water ensures that the plants receive an ample supply of nutrients, promoting vigorous growth and robust fruiting.
NFT Strawberries

To achieve successful strawberry cultivation in NFT hydroponics, consider the following factors:

  • Spacing and Support: Proper spacing is crucial to allow adequate airflow and prevent crowding, which can lead to diseases. Ensure that strawberry plants have enough room to grow and spread their runners. Additionally, provide suitable support, such as trellises or netting, to keep the plants upright and ensure good fruit development.
  • Nutrient Solutions: Strawberries require a balanced nutrient solution to support their growth and fruiting. Maintain a nutrient solution specifically formulated for hydroponic strawberries, ensuring adequate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Regularly monitor and adjust nutrient levels based on the plants’ growth stage.
  • pH Levels: Strawberries prefer a slightly acidic pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Regularly measure the pH of the nutrient solution and adjust it as needed using pH-adjusting solutions to maintain an optimal growing environment for the plants.
  • Temperature Control: Strawberries thrive in moderate temperatures, typically between 60°F and 80°F (15°C and 27°C). Adequate temperature control is essential to ensure optimal growth and fruit production. Provide proper ventilation, shade if necessary, and monitor the temperature within the NFT hydroponics system to create an ideal environment for strawberries.

By following these guidelines and providing optimal growing conditions, you can maximize strawberry production in your NFT hydroponics system, enjoying a continuous harvest of delicious and juicy strawberries.

4. Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes in NFT hydroponics offers numerous benefits, including disease prevention, increased yields, and superior flavor. Let’s delve into the advantages and tips for successfully cultivating tomatoes in NFT hydroponics:

Benefits of NFT Hydroponics for Tomatoes:

  • Disease Prevention: NFT hydroponics eliminates the risk of soil-borne diseases that commonly affect tomatoes. This leads to healthier plants and reduces the need for pesticides or fungicides.
  • Increased Yields: NFT hydroponics provides precise control over nutrient delivery, water availability, and environmental factors. This results in optimal growing conditions for tomatoes, leading to higher yields compared to traditional soil-based cultivation.
  • Superior Flavor: Tomatoes grown in NFT hydroponics often exhibit enhanced flavor profiles due to the consistent and optimized nutrient uptake. The controlled environment allows for the development of sweet, juicy, and flavorful tomatoes.

Tomato Varieties Suitable for NFT Hydroponics:

  • Determinate Varieties: Determinate tomatoes, such as ‘Roma,’ ‘Celebrity,’ and ‘Bush Early Girl,’ are well-suited for NFT hydroponics. These varieties have a compact growth habit, making them easier to manage within the hydroponic system.
  • Indeterminate Varieties: Indeterminate tomatoes, including ‘Beefsteak,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ and ‘Brandywine,’ can also thrive in NFT hydroponics. However, they require appropriate support and trellising systems due to their vining nature.
NFT Tomatoes

Tips for Tomato Cultivation in NFT Hydroponics:

  • Trellising: Provide sturdy trellises or support systems to help the tomato plants grow upright and prevent sprawling. This ensures better air circulation, reduces the risk of disease, and facilitates the management of fruit-bearing vines.
  • Pruning: Regularly prune the tomato plants in NFT hydroponics to maintain a single main stem or a few main stems. This practice promotes better nutrient distribution and prevents overcrowding, leading to improved fruit production.
  • Pollination: In NFT hydroponics, manually pollinate the tomato flowers to ensure proper fruit set. Gently shake the flower clusters or use a small brush to transfer pollen between flowers.

By following these recommendations, you can cultivate thriving tomato plants in your NFT hydroponics system. Enjoy an abundant harvest of flavorful tomatoes, free from soil-borne diseases, and maximize your gardening success.

5. Peppers

Peppers, including bell peppers and chili peppers, are some of the best plants for NFT system. These vibrant and flavorful plants bring a delightful kick to culinary creations. Here’s what you need to know about cultivating peppers in NFT hydroponics:

Types of Peppers for NFT Hydroponics:

  • Bell Peppers: Bell peppers come in various colors, such as red, yellow, and green. They are crisp, sweet, and perfect for salads, stir-fries, and stuffed dishes. Popular varieties include ‘California Wonder,’ ‘Red Beauty,’ and ‘Orange Sun.’
  • Chili Peppers: Chili peppers range in heat levels, from mild to fiery hot. They add zest to dishes, sauces, and marinades. Well-suited chili pepper varieties for NFT hydroponics include ‘Jalapeno,’ ‘Habanero,’ and ‘Thai Chili.’

Advantages of NFT Hydroponic Cultivation for Peppers:

  • Improved Nutrient Uptake: NFT hydroponics ensures a constant and precise supply of nutrients directly to the pepper plants’ roots. This results in enhanced nutrient uptake and promotes healthy growth, leading to vigorous pepper plants and abundant yields.
  • Disease Resistance: By eliminating soil-borne pathogens, NFT hydroponics reduces the risk of diseases that commonly affect pepper plants. This allows for a healthier growing environment and lowers the need for chemical interventions.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Peppers:

  • Temperature: Peppers thrive in temperatures between 70°F and 85°F (21°C and 29°C) during the day and around 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) at night. Maintain a consistent temperature range to promote optimal growth and fruit development.
  • Humidity: Peppers prefer moderate humidity levels, around 50% to 70%. Adequate air circulation and ventilation in the NFT hydroponics system help prevent excessive humidity, which can lead to fungal diseases.
  • Lighting: Peppers require at least 12-14 hours of bright light per day. Position your NFT hydroponics system in a location that receives ample sunlight. If natural light is insufficient, use high-quality LED grow lights to supplement the light requirements.

By providing the right conditions and nutrient solutions, you can cultivate robust and flavorful peppers in your NFT hydroponics system. Enjoy the versatility and heat levels of different pepper varieties while benefiting from the advantages of hydroponic cultivation.

6. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a popular choice for NFT hydroponics due to their vigorous growth, high productivity, and refreshing taste. Let’s explore why cucumbers thrive in this hydroponic system and how to cultivate them successfully:

Vigorous Growth and High Productivity:

  • Cucumbers are known for their rapid growth and abundant fruit production, making them an excellent choice for NFT hydroponics. The continuous flow of nutrient-rich water optimizes their growth potential, leading to larger yields compared to traditional soil-based cultivation.
  • With the right care and attention, cucumber plants in NFT hydroponics can produce a bountiful harvest of crisp and juicy cucumbers throughout the growing season.
NFT Cucumbers

Importance of Trellising and Support:

  • Cucumber vines have a sprawling growth habit, so providing adequate support is crucial for their successful cultivation in NFT hydroponics. Utilize trellises, stakes, or netting to train the vines vertically, optimizing space utilization and ensuring proper airflow and light exposure.
  • Vertical growth not only helps maintain the health of the plants but also facilitates easy fruit harvesting and reduces the risk of fungal diseases caused by foliage contact with the growing medium.

Nutrient Management and pH Control:

  • Cucumbers have specific nutrient requirements for optimal growth and fruit development. Use a balanced hydroponic nutrient solution formulated for cucumbers and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dilution ratios and application frequency.
  • Regularly monitor the pH of the nutrient solution and maintain it within the ideal range of 5.8 to 6.2. Fluctuations in pH levels can affect nutrient availability, so use pH-adjusting solutions to keep the pH stable and ensure optimal nutrient uptake by the cucumber plants.

Pollination Techniques:
Cucumbers require pollination for fruit set and development. In NFT hydroponics, where natural pollinators may be limited, manual pollination is often necessary. Gently shake the flowers or use a small brush to transfer pollen between male and female flowers. This ensures proper fertilization and a higher rate of fruit formation.

By implementing proper trellising, nutrient management, pH control, and pollination techniques, you can achieve successful cucumber cultivation in your NFT hydroponics system. Enjoy the abundance of fresh, homegrown cucumbers that are packed with flavor and make a delightful addition to salads, sandwiches, and refreshing summer drinks.

7. Beans

Beans, including green beans and snap peas, can thrive and produce excellent yields in NFT hydroponic systems. Their versatility, nutritional value, and ease of cultivation make them a popular choice. Let’s explore the benefits of growing beans hydroponically and how to achieve success in your NFT setup:

Types of Beans Suitable for NFT Hydroponics:

  • Green Beans: Green beans, also known as string beans or snap beans, are a classic choice for NFT hydroponics. Varieties like ‘Provider,’ ‘Tendergreen,’ and ‘Blue Lake’ perform exceptionally well in hydroponic environments.
  • Snap Peas: Snap peas, with their sweet and crunchy pods, are another great option for NFT hydroponics. Varieties such as ‘Sugar Ann,’ ‘Sugar Snap,’ and ‘Cascadia’ are known for their prolific yields and delicious flavor.

Benefits of Growing Beans Hydroponically:

  • Faster Growth: Beans grown in NFT hydroponics often exhibit accelerated growth rates compared to traditional soil cultivation. The optimized nutrient delivery system and controlled environment provide ideal conditions for rapid vegetative growth and early fruiting.
  • Reduced Pest Problems: By eliminating soil-borne pests and diseases, NFT hydroponics minimizes the risk of infestations that commonly affect beans. This reduces the need for pesticides and allows for cleaner and healthier plants.

Guidelines for Optimal Cultivation of Beans:

  • Spacing: Provide adequate spacing between bean plants to ensure proper airflow and light penetration. Aim for a spacing of 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) between plants to prevent overcrowding and promote healthy growth.
  • Trellising: Beans are climbing plants that benefit from vertical support. Install trellises or stakes to help the vines climb and prevent them from sprawling on the ground. This not only saves space but also promotes better airflow and facilitates easy harvesting.
  • Nutrient Solutions: Use a balanced hydroponic nutrient solution formulated for vegetables to meet the specific nutritional needs of bean plants. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution ratios and adjust the nutrient solution strength as the plants progress through different growth stages.

By following these guidelines, you can cultivate thriving bean plants in your NFT hydroponic system. Enjoy the abundance of fresh and nutritious green beans and snap peas, and savor their delightful taste in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to salads and beyond.

8. Flowers

NFT hydroponics offers an exciting opportunity to cultivate vibrant and beautiful flowers, such as marigolds and petunias, in a controlled and efficient manner. Let’s delve into the world of hydroponic flower gardens and discover how you can create stunning displays and enjoy the aesthetic appeal and fragrance benefits:

Cultivating Vibrant Flowers in NFT Hydroponics:

  • Marigolds: Marigolds are popular flowers known for their vibrant colors and pest-repellent properties. Varieties like French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) thrive in NFT hydroponic systems and can add a burst of sunshine to your garden.
  • Petunias: Petunias are versatile and come in a wide array of colors, from delicate pastels to vibrant hues. They are well-suited for NFT hydroponics, allowing you to create stunning flower displays with their cascading or upright growth habits.
NFT Flowers

Aesthetic Appeal and Fragrance Benefits:

  • Hydroponic flower gardens offer a visually appealing and well-organized display of blooms, allowing you to showcase a wide range of flower varieties and colors.
  • Additionally, hydroponic cultivation can enhance the fragrance of flowers. With precise control over nutrient delivery and environmental conditions, the aromatic compounds in flowers can develop more intensely, creating a delightful sensory experience.

Insights for Successful Flower Cultivation:

  • Lighting Requirements: Flowers require proper lighting to thrive. Ensure your NFT hydroponic system provides sufficient light intensity and duration. LED grow lights with a broad spectrum tailored to the needs of flowering plants can be beneficial.
  • Pruning Techniques: Regular pruning helps maintain the shape and vigor of flowering plants. Remove spent blooms and trim back excessive growth to encourage branching and continuous flower production.
  • Nutrient Management: Use a hydroponic nutrient solution specifically formulated for flowering plants. These solutions provide the essential macronutrients and micronutrients necessary for robust growth, vibrant colors, and abundant blooms. Follow the recommended dilution ratios and adjust the nutrient solution strength based on the stage of growth.

By incorporating these insights into your NFT hydroponic flower garden, you can enjoy the beauty and fragrance of vibrant blooms all year round. Create captivating displays, experiment with different flower varieties, and let the joy of hydroponic flower cultivation brighten up your indoor or outdoor space.



Claudia Lewis
About the author

I’m Claudia, a hydroponic gardening enthusiast with years of experience in this exciting and rewarding hobby. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different hydroponic systems, nutrient solutions, and plant varieties. 

On this website, I share everything I know about growing plants without soil. You’ll find everything you need to know to start your own hydroponic garden, from choosing the right system to selecting the best plants and nutrients.