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Growing Rubiaceous ant-plants hydroponically


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I live in the state of Michigan in the United States of America.  This is a northern temperate climate, USDA zone 6B.  The temperature as I type this is 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside - a typical daily high temperature on a mid-winter day. 


No greenhouse, so I grow my plants indoors in the basement.  The house has a natural gas, forced air furnace with a humidifier attached.  But the highest humidity level it can maintain in the house is about 40 percent humidity.  That is not high enough for Rubiaceous ant-plants. 


So I have a number of grow chambers in the basement – two large aquariums turned on their sides with 4 foot fluorescent fixtures over them, 2 orchidariums, and a  9’ x 6’ plastic tent containing a 4 shelf grow cart with fluorescent fixtures.  Each growing chamber contains a room humidifier or has one blowing into it.  Each humidifier is controlled by a humidistat to maintain humidity between 75 and 80 percent in the grow chambers.  Each chamber has a small fan in it to keep air moving. Most of the plants in 2, 3 or 4 inch pots were arranged in trays under the lights in the grow chambers.


The switch to a hydroponic system had me cut plastic grating to fit the top of the trays.  This plastic grating is what they sell to put under a 4 foot fluorescent fixture in a drop ceiling. 


Then as I repotted plants I used a chunky epiphytic media consisting of about 30% long fiber sphagnum cut into roughly ½ to 1 inch pieces.  I mixed this with roughly equal amounts of charcoal, medium size perlite, coconut husk chunks (3 nights soaked in water and drained and refilled in the morning to remove salt) and fir bark like used for orchid culture.  I am sure there are hundreds of variations on the media that will also work, (see Drew’s notes in the topic below titled “How I grow M. tuberosa, H. formicarum, and other plants") 


As I repotted I put in the acrylic yarn as recommended by Drew through a hole in the bottom of the pot and had it dangle down thru the plastic grate. 

In the tray reservoir I really like to use the Maxsea fertilizer that Jay has recommended here on the forum.  I rotate it with other formulas, brands or plain water sometimes as well


I found the aquariums were overheating so I raised the lights slightly using some wood pieces and used a small fan blowing between the light fixture and the top aquarium glass to reduce that heat buildup.


I am getting much better and faster growth of my Rubiaceous ant-plants using this new hydroponic system


Here are some photos of one of the ‘aquariums on its side’ setups.  If I was more gifted with workshop skills I would use Plexiglas for the fronts instead of Styrofoam.






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