Hydroponic Towers

Vertical hydroponic towers are gardening powerhouses. Often referred to as hydroponic gardens, vertical grow systems, hydroponic towers, hydro-gardens, and other associated names, these systems are compact, produce fast growth, abundant crops, and are easy to use. This is hydroponic gardening in its most efficient state. Let’s look at the history of vertical hydroponics, weigh the benefits of using a vertical grow system, and then summarize some of the vertical hydroponic grow towers currently available. First, here’s a quick DIY video in case you’d rather build your own.

The History of Vertical Hydroponics

The term “hydroponics” originates from the Greek words for “water” (hudor) and “work” (ponos). Thus, the literal translation for hydroponics is “water working.” In simple terms, hydroponics is the method of growing plants in water rather than soil.

Many believe hydroponics can trace its origins to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Legend says these gardens were 80 feet tall, featured elaborate terraces, laden with floating plants, and teaming with lush greenery and colorful flowers cascading down from the towers above. Amazing! So, if you thinking hydropic gardening is a new concept, consider this ancient civilization of Babylon, circa 600 B.C., with their beautiful hanging gardens…grown hydroponically.

Fast forward to modern times. Over the last few centuries, farmers and scientists have experimented with different methods of growing plants without the use of soil. The science of hydroponics has advanced to allow people to grow large quantities of food, use fewer natural resources, and with minimal labor required compared to conventional soil-based farming. Modern hydroponics opens an exciting new avenue for individuals, communities, and businesses to increase and control their access to fresh produce.

While it may be difficult to replicate the scale of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon within your home, business or outdoor space, there are plenty of modern ways to attempt this feat. One such method – which can somewhat resemble the vertical terraces of Ancient Babylon, in a much smaller scale –  is the use of a hydroponic grow tower. These vertical gardens are perfect for those who wish to grow a lot of plants within a limited space.

Vertical Hydroponics

Most gardeners today still use conventional horizontal farming. However, the possibilities surrounding vertical farming is creating a buzz. Not only within the garden community but also with global hunger advocacy groups and other groups concerned with the availability of fresh food. The efficiencies found in vertical farming – and specifically, vertical hydroponics – are what is creating this excitement. Thanks to technological advances in grow lights, grow systems, and highly-specialized hydroponic nutrient solutions, vertical farming is now widely regarded as a superior method of gardening.  While some communities, policymakers, and large business begin to look at how they may take advantage of vertical hydroponics, individual gardeners, small businesses and restaurants have also become interested in how vertical hydroponics may benefit them, and how they may participate in it. Many have found hydroponic vertical grow tower systems to be a perfect introduction into the world of gardening vertically.

vertical garden
Image by Cloudforest

What are Hydroponic Vertical Grow Towers?

By using a hydroponic vertical growing system – often referred to as a hydroponic “tower,” hydroponic “grow system,” or a hydroponic “vertical garden” – plant growing is at its most efficient state. Less space is used, faster growth is achieved, and soil-related problems are non-existent. In addition, much less water and nutrient solution are wasted due to their recycling capabilities, and indoor growing allows for year-round crops.

Vertical grow towers are hydroponic systems, often utilizing motorized pumps, water, and nutrient solution to grow herbs, fruits and any other type of plant. Each system has numerous “residential units,” which are essentially the holes on the sides of the system which house each plant. The towers stand upright, are compact, portable, easy to use, and are extremely efficient. For their square footage, it is quite amazing how much produce each tower can yield. As plants start to grow within the vertical garden, plant foliage can make these towers look quite attractive with their cascading vegetation (somewhat reminiscent of the towers supporting the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).

While indoor home, office, and business use is most common, these hydroponic towers are increasingly being utilized outdoors – in traditional gardening plots, terrace gardens, urban farms, and other agricultural upstarts. While other outdoor plants are typically grown at ground-level, hydroponic grow towers stand tall and upright, which makes harvesting crops a simple task (ie, limited bending and kneeling)

Benefits of Hydroponic Vertical Grow Towers

  • Efficiency – The clearest benefit of using a vertical hydroponic tower is its efficiency, enabling high productivity in a limited growing space. The capability of having a dozen or two plants per each square foot is quite amazing when compared to what conventional soil can yield. Most gardeners and urban-dwellers have limited space to work with. Therefore, these hydroponic vertical towers enable anyone with limited space to substantially increase the number of crops grown.
  • Compact and Easy to Maintain – Many hydroponics vertical towers are comprised of stacked pots.  This makes for easy planting, as these net pots are simply removed and re-stacked when tending to – or assessing –  the progress of each plant. Unlike conventional gardening, where maneuvering between the rows of plants is required, vertically stacked pots are simple to manage and maintain. Towers are portable, can be used indoors and outdoors (if the conditions are right), and harvesting of crops has never been made easier.
  • No soil – A clear advantage of all hydroponics is that no messy soil is used. Since these vertical gardens are grown using water instead of soil, weeds are not an issue.  Pests love soil, so – with the absence of soil to attract bugs, gnats, and other nuances – soil-borne diseases are not an issue. Fewer pest concerns mean fewer insecticides and fewer headaches.
  • Less waste – Advanced grow towers typically use pumps and motors to re-circular the water and nutrient solution to feed the plant. Natural resources are conserved, nutrient solution usage is managed efficiently, and the plants housed in the vertical garden are kept healthy without constant monitoring.

Before you begin

Once the tower is up and running, it becomes very easy to maintain. However, there are a few considerations before you start growing your vertical garden.

Light – As with all gardening, plants need a lot of sunlight to thrive. Generally, plants do well with 10-12 hours of sunlight per day. While an unobstructed window with southern exposure may suffice, supplemental light is often needed. See our page on grow lights to compare options.

Temperature – Stable temperatures for growing hydroponics are required. 60-80 degree ranges work for most plants grown hydroponically, with 70-75 degrees is ideal.

Nutrients – A good nutrient solution is essential to successful hydroponics. While some vertical towers already include nutrients with purchase of the vertical hydroponic tower, others do not. (for example, General Hydroponics – Flora Bloom Fertilizer )

pH adjusters – Different plants may require different pH levels, so adjusters are often necessary for controlling acid levels within the grow tower (for example, General Hydroponics – 1415 Control Kit)

Grow mediums – While the nutrient solution provides the nourishment in hydroponic grow towers, grow mediums act as a support for the plant and its root system, while also providing aeration and drainage. Some vertical grow system include grow mediums with purchase of the kit, while others do not. See our hydroponic grow mediums page.

Air-flow – Indoor grow towers may benefit from oscillating fans, or ceiling fans, as they are helpful in maintaining good air-flow surrounding your plants and their root system. Advanced vertical towers often have oxygenating features within their hydration systems, which help provide oxygen in the root system.

Choosing a Hydroponic Vertical Grow Tower

Ready to choose a hydroponic grow system? Let’s first review a few of the advanced hydroponic grow towers available, and then look at a mid-range and basic model for comparison.

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Large 5 Tier Vertical Garden Tower – 5 Stackable Indoor / Outdoor Hydroponic and Aquaponic Planters (64 Quart Tower – 16x16x38)

While many of the very basic vertically tier grow towers are for soil-based growing, there are a few that can also be used for hydroponic gardening. However, be advised – since hydration pumps or timers are not included, these systems require more attention, precision, and skill to grow hydroponic plants effectively. That said, one such scaled-down example of a hydroponic vertical tower is the “Large 5 Tier Vertical Garden Tower” by Mr. Stacky.

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Grow Up HGTC Vertical Hydrogarden Deluxe Planter Kit, 2.15-Feet by 4-Feet

If you don’t require an automatic timer to operate the system, the HGTC Vertical Hydrogarden Deluxe Planter Kit – by Grow Up – may be something to consider. Using only 4 sq ft of total space and growing up to 20 plants, this hydroponic tower works well in both indoor and outdoor environments. The Hydrogarden Deluxe Kit includes 5 stackable gardening pots, 20-gallon reservoir, and reinforced lid, submersible pump, plumbing, as well as a 4 9-Liter bags of growing medium and 1 Qt of nutrients.

  • Hydroponic – no soil means less mess and pests
  • Compact and portable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Grows up to 20 plants
  • Kit includes everything you need to get started (although, no timer functionality)

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Mr. Stacky Smart Farm – Automatic Self Watering Garden 

Mr Stacky makes vertical hydroponics easy with this 5-tier, automatic watering tower system. Taking up less than 2 sq ft of floor space, this 49″ tall hydroponic system is compact, efficient, and easy to set-up and maintain. The 20 planting locations can result in high yields of produce, and can be effectively used in both indoors and outdoors environments. Included in this kit are the 5 large stacking planters, 16 Gallon Water Reservoir, 250 GPH Submersible Water Pump, 7 Day Digital Timer, water distribution head, starter plant food, and all the pipes, tubes, adapters, and instructions to get you started.  For soil or hydroponics applications.

  • Hydroponic- no soil means less mess and pests
  • Easy assembly and minimal maintenance once the system is in operation
  • Uses less than 2 sq ft of ground space, yet has 5 tiers of height w/ 20 plant sites
  • Automatic watering – timer and pump ensures hydration, nourishment, and oxygen
  • Kit includes a pump, timer, reservoir base, and more
  • Year-round crops with minimal water and energy usage

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EZ Gro Patio Garden Tower Planter Kit

Simple yet elegant, the EZ Gro Patio Garden Tower Planter Kit is another great option for those space-constrained gardeners. It can be used indoors or outdoors, and measures 4 ft tall but only uses 1.5 ft in floor space, making this system highly compact, portable, and efficient. The kit includes 5 quad pots, each with 4 separate potting spots (so 20 potting spots in total); a 5-gallon reservoir base w/ cover; timer and irrigation pump w/ tube; diffusion cup; measuring stick; EzGro nutrient packs; and EzGro organic growing medium. In other words, essentially everything you need to get started growing a vertical hydroponic garden.

  • Hydroponic – no soil means less mess and pests
  • Compact – height of 4’ but only takes up 1.5’ of floor space
  • Kit includes growing medium, pump, timer, quad pots, reservoir base, and nutrients
  • Easy assembly and easy to maintain – watering only needed every 10-14 days
  • Produces year-round crops with minimal water and energy usage

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Foody Vertical Gardens 12 Hydroponic Garden: Automatic Watering & Rotation, 44 Planting Pockets, BPA Free, Food Grade & UV Resistant Tower Planter

Foody Vertical Gardens has released a few different models of hydroponic grow towers. While the “Foody 8” is mostly for outdoor use, the “Foody 12” is their model recommended for the indoors. This hydroponic system features, per the company, “an innovative deepwater technology that makes it the most productive vertical hydroponic system on the market.”  By utilizing a rotating motor and removable pots, the 12 residential units can grow up to 44 plants – using only 2 feet of floor space. Quite impressive! While the Foody 12 does not include built-in grow lights (like the Nutritower), this system can be placed near a well-lit window, and, if required, supplemental grow lights may be used (sold separately). For anyone seeking an easy-to-use, powerhouse-producing vertical hydroponic grow tower, the Foody 12 is a great option.

  • Hydroponic – no soil means less mess and pests
  • Powerful and efficient – grows up to 44 plants in 2 sq ft of floor space w/ minimal water and energy usage
  • Removable net pots make planting a breeze
  • Comes with growing medium
  • The deepwater technology automatically circulates water and nutrients
  • Motor automatically rotates the system, so plants will get full light exposure
  • Anti-oxidant and UV reduction elements reduce algae formation
  • Attractive, compact unit produces high-quality crops all year-round

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Nutritower – Vertical Indoor Hydroponics Garden System

This luxury model is an all-in-one, feature-rich hydroponic tower. Differentiating this model from the rest, the Nutritower comes with integrated lighting, which means no additional grow light supplementation (or even sunlight) is required. Built-in automatic timer allows the user to program when the lights go on and off, ensuring the plants get proper lighting. The hydration system automatically waters plants, providing a steady flow of nutrients and moisture. This is the ultimate system for those who are willing to spend on an attractive, stress-free, and productive vertical grow tower.

  • Hydroponic – no soil means less mess and pests
  • Fast, year-round plant growth
  • Space-saving, elegant design for home or business
  • Built-in grow lights ensure proper lighting
  • Easy-of-use – automatic timer for grow lights and hydration system
  • Comes with 24 net pots, filled with clay pellets (grow medium)
  • Efficient – only ~$10/mo in electricity costs and minimal water usage

Thanks for reading and best of luck on your vertical garden! For more helpful hydroponics and aquaponics articles, be sure to check out other uPONICS pages likes Hydroponic Herbs, Hydroponic Lettuce Nutrients, Best Grow Tent, and Grow Lights for Weed.