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How to grow Watercress at home

Home grow watercress at home

Home grow watercress at home

Growing watercress at home is actually Very easy despite the myth that watercress needs flowing water in order to grow. Although watercress will grow with better overall results in clean flowing water such a a stream or a quiet river flow which is the watercress’s natural habitat, I have grown my own watercress without flowing / running water in containers at home with great results.

Growing Watercress At Home

There are very few situations in which watercress will not grow. All the watercress plant needs to grow and thrive – is just water and light (like most plants); but as the name suggests, Watercress does however need more water than other plants, but CAN be grown in pots and containers.

Almost anyone can grow their own Watercress at home. You will be surprised as to where you can grow watercress.

Watercress can be grow virtually anywhere so long the watercress plant/s have light and water. Whether you have watercress in a flower pot on a window sill, planted in a pot in your garden, or if even if you are lucky enough to have a flowing stream at the end of your garden, watercress is actually very very easy to grow.

Watercress is not only a source of fibre but it is also high in vitamin C. Watercress has a peppery taste which can be used in salads, as a garnish, in a soup or just on its own.

In this article I will take you through the process of how so very easy it is to grow watercress at home.

The way I personally discovered how to grow water cress at home was a relatively simple one by way of experimenting. I bought some freshly cut watercress which had roots on the stalks, and picked out each of the stems with roots on and planted them like another plant and gave them water … after all they are just plants like any other which grow. These plants took hold within a pot that I watered well and within weeks I had Watercress plants that were providing regular crops for our salads during the summer months.

I have later found out that you don’t even need to source watercress plants with roots on.

Within a number of weeks I had and abundance of fresh watercress that I put in sandwiches, eat in salads and even made watercress soup.

Without any previous knowledge of how to grow watercress. I began to grow my first watercress plants in March.

So onto the main subject… how to grow watercress at home for the first time:

Step 1 – Find some watercress first!

The best place I have found to find/buy watercress from is notfrom your local supermarket, but better still from a farm shop or similar. I say this for two reasons:

  1. It’s good to buy locally and support local shops
  2. Farm shops or similar, generally sell freshly cut watercress that still has roots on (although roots are not necessary at this stage)

You can of course get your watercress from your local supermarket, but for me buying watercress locally i.e. a farm shop or local market/veg supplier seemed a more the best way tp go for many reasons.
If you want to buy your watercress from a supermarket you may find that generally the cut watercress has less or no roots at all on the stems. (As it was pointed out to me in a comment below)… you can buy watercress by the bag from your local super market and place the watercress stems in jar of fresh water for a few days and change the water every day and discard any that turn yellow. In a short time you should find new roots appear. I have tried this and it does work from watercress bought from a supermarket.

However, for this article I got mine from a local farm shop… this is what a fresh bunch of watercress looks like bought from my local farm shop.

A bunch of watercress

A bunch of Watercress

So, once you have found some watercress with roots on the stems (or used supermarket watercress and placed it in water for a few days), you will need to select the stalks that have roots – as these are the ones that you will be planting.

Select Stalks with roots

Select Stalks with roots

Try and select the stems with the most roots. These will be you main stems for planting as they will be the strongest and you will get far better results. But even stems that only have small roots are still worth planting. I have had a lot of success with planting cut watercress stems with few or small roots. They just take a little longer to establish.

Step 3 – Find a suitable container (with drainage holes VERY IMPORTANT) and fill it with rich compost

The container pictured below is one I had lying around which I actually drilled a few more drainage holes in, nothing major, just a few extra holes of around 5mm in diameter. (About 5mm across but 5 – 10mm will do… any latger and the compost will fall out).

Any deep plastic container will do even a bucket, but try and use a plastic container as terracotta for example will dry out too quickly. Just make sure your container has some drainage holes in the bottom to prevent the damp compost going stagnant. If the container cannot drain, then your watercress will not grow but will rot instead. In the container below, I drilled about 10 holes 5mm in width to allow for water drainage.

Once you have a deep container with drainage holes, you will need to fill it with some compost. Watercress grows naturally in flowing streams. Flowing streams provide a constant supply of fresh minerals and food for the watercress to grow, so I used half and half mix of shop bought compost and well rotted home made compost which is rich in nitrogen and nutrients. Basically watercress will grow in any compost (I have tried). As long as the compost is rich in nutrients, you can’t go far wrong. Once you have mixed your compost and filled your container, try and leave at least 3-4 inches from the top of the compost to the rim of the container as this will help contain your growing watercress.

Firm the compost down and give it REALLY good water… until the compost is literally saturated.

Use a deep plastic container with rich compost

Use a deep plastic container with rich compost

Step 4 – Planting your Watercress

Once your container has drained a little but still very wet, you can plant out your selected watercress stems.
Use a dibber a little larger than the size of the watercress stems to make holes in the compost.

Use a dibber to make holes in the compost

Use a dibber to make holes in the compost

Gently insert the watercress stem into the hole

Planting Watercress

Gently firm the compost around the stem

Gently firm the compost around the stem

Repeat making holes and inserting your watercress stems into the wet compost. When established, each watercress stem will take up a lot more space, so in this container I planted each stem about 4 inches (9-10cm) apart.

All planted for this container

All planted for this container

Water the planted stems well

Water the planted stems well

Step 5 – After Planting Watercress

After the stems have been planted and watered in, I placed the container in a cool and shady spot out of the sun.
You will probably find that soon after planting, the stems will have wilted… but do not despair! this is only temporary. After I planted mine and saw that they had wilted, I gave them some more water.. after all watercress naturally grows in flowing streams.

Wilting watercress stems

After planting - the stems do wilt

Water the container everyday to keep the compost wet. I used rainwater from a water butt, but tap water will do.

Step 6 – Established Watercress Plants

Providing your watercress stems had healthy roots, and you have kept the compost damp, you should after about 4-5 weeks have well established watercress plants.

About 4-5 weeks after planting the stems

About 4-5 weeks after planting the stems

Step 7 – Looking after your watercress

When and only when, the watercress stems have established themselves into growing plants and are producing new shoots should you begin to feed them. I used miracle grow as per the instructions on the packet, but any good quality plant feed should be fine. Feeding once a week or every 10 days should suffice, just remember to WATER your plants every day to keep the compost damp. IMPORTANT Watercress does not like stale or stagnant water.

Step 8 – Keeping your Watercress growing

Like most plants at some point they will produce flowers and watercress will also do the same. If your plants are healthy, you may notice that in time (once your watercress plants are established and you plants have been growing well and you have been reaping the rewards by cutting shoots regularlary), that the leaves become smaller and you may begin to see small buds forming… sorry I don’t have photo’s but hope to soon. If you see any one of these two things… this is what is going on.

  1. Your Watercress has is lacking in nutriments – your have not fed it enough.
  2. Your plants are wanting to produce flowers and goto seed.
  3. If your watercress plants are flowering, a way to stop this is to pick off the flowers to encourage more growth.
  4. Or let your watercress go to seed and wait for the seed pods to ripen, dry the pods (hope to have photos later) and then collect the seeds for next years sowing. After all watercress produces seeds just like any other plant.

Good luck in growing your very own watercress at home.. it really is very easy.

P.S take a look at where I live and the Bognor Regis Live webcam of the beach at Bognor Regis View live webcam

February 14th, 2010 Categories: At Home Tags:
  1. dean
    April 15th, 2010 at 00:53 | #1

    There is no need to buy watercress with roots on, buy an ordinary bunch and place it in a bowl of fresh clean water – after a couple of days roots will develop. Discard any that turn yellow or do not root and plant the rest.

  2. Joanie
    April 25th, 2010 at 15:06 | #2

    Thank you for great info about growing watercress… a subject I was most curious to learn about! Because you took the time to include the fabulous photos as well as detailed descriptions of each step, I feel confident enough to give this a try!

  3. Glenda
    October 4th, 2010 at 14:46 | #3

    I always thought that you needed running water to grow watercress. Are you sure this will work? I will try it and give you feedback. It does make a lot of sense to me since it is a plant like any other plant. I guess that the secret is to keep it wet. What about submerging it in water like so many others have said?

  4. Colin
    October 4th, 2010 at 16:22 | #4

    Hi Glenda,

    well… the photos in this post are my own watercress plants grown just in wet (it MUST ALWAYS BE WET or at least very damp) ordinary compost. Water cress grows naturally in running water, but having tried to grow in compost my self I know it works. The poto’s are from last year and at the end of the summer these plants went to flower and stopped growing… (I should have removed the flower heads). I recently bought another bunch of water gress which I now have in a glass on my kitchen window cill. I change the water DAILY and after a few days… roots started to appear. So I will be soon planting them out and keep in my greenhouse. I hope to be adding another post about how to watercress at home soon. called ‘Part 2′

  5. October 30th, 2010 at 17:40 | #5

    Thanks for a helpful guide. I did grow from seed – not very easy, they are so small and take a while. So I would recommend your way as better. And cheaper! My plants have gone small and now I know why. I hope they will grow on in mild Somerset winter, and then grow big leaves again when well fed in spring.

  6. December 7th, 2010 at 20:39 | #6

    I’ve started growing watercress from seed in pots in my kitchen. Although it has grown quickly the leaves are quite small. Is this because the plants are inside?

  7. Colin
    December 8th, 2010 at 11:13 | #7

    Hi Kay,

    How many plants do you have in the pot and also how big is the pot? It maybe that they need thining out or a bigger pot. Also try giving them some plant food such as miricle gro or similar. Make sure you follow the plant food instructions as you don’t want to over feed!

  8. December 21st, 2010 at 22:29 | #8

    I’ve started growing watercress from seed in pots in my kitchen. Although it has grown quickly the leaves are quite small. Is this because the plants are inside?

  9. December 22nd, 2010 at 09:40 | #9

    @kay Hi Kay, How many plants do you have in the pot and also how big is the pot? It maybe that they need thining out or a bigger pot. Also try giving them some plant food such as miricle gro or similar. Make sure you follow the plant food instructions as you don’t want to over feed!

  10. david
    March 7th, 2011 at 14:34 | #10

    Hi – Good idea growing watercress ‘at home’. I have done so, from seed the first time.
    Growing from stalks is quicker as the roots grow quicker for some reason.
    Good draining is MOST important – water laying in the bottom of the pot will put an end to the growth – quite quickly. If you can grow in running water ( make sure the water does not come from land grazed by sheep) it is even more productive.

  11. Jenny Symonds
    April 2nd, 2011 at 20:10 | #11

    What a brilliant site with such clear photos. I had been wondering how to grow watercress and this has been extremely useful. Thank you for posting such helpful info.

  12. Liz
    April 27th, 2011 at 18:20 | #12

    Fabulous. Thank you. I love watercress, but it’s so ridiculously expensive that it is just an occasional treat – definitely giving this a go.

  13. Dave
    May 6th, 2011 at 16:56 | #13

    I have a fish pond. Can the water cress in a protected basket, but without soil?

  14. Colin
    May 7th, 2011 at 12:23 | #14

    Hi… you could give this a try as long as the water is not stagnant. You may find that it will work. As long as the water cress has a good supply of minerals from fresh rainwater.

  15. May 28th, 2011 at 14:30 | #15

    I have a small pond with a filter. Planted watercress just downstream of where the water is sent back into the pond from the filter. It’s looking really good at the moment, so I think you should give it a go! And because you’ve got fish in there, there should be a good supply of nutrition.

  16. dannny
    June 7th, 2011 at 14:49 | #16

    Some guy I know grows his watercress in fish his pond with the carp etc. He has masses of the stuff. He had so much watercress he threw out two black bags full. I grow mine in a pot and it is pretty good.

  17. Colin
    June 8th, 2011 at 00:10 | #17

    Maybe he could sell it… where I am. fresh Watercress bunches of say about 3″ (inches) at the base, bunched sell for over a pound.

  18. Colin
    June 8th, 2011 at 00:17 | #18

    @Sharron Clemons
    It’s probably lack if light, but more importanly – nutrients. Water cress does need some form of nutrient – so just give it a feed with a normal plant food – once a week should be fine – and top up the water every day if gowing in just water.

  19. Kathi
    June 8th, 2011 at 04:06 | #19

    Does anyone know how to introduce watercress to a fast moving creek? I have some rooted, but don’t know how to hold it in place in the stream. Maybe someone has tried a basket or something that might contain it but not get carried away?

  20. Jon
    June 16th, 2011 at 18:33 | #20

    I am very new to growing anything to be honest, but love watercress so thought I would give it a go. I started from seeds and I have now got a few plants growing. I did have a problem with the stalks being really thin, but I took a friends advice and watered regularly with spring water which seems to have worked.
    But- today I noticed there are some tiny tiny little worm type things wriggling around on the soil. does anybody know if they will end up eating it, or can I just ignore them?

  21. Susie
    June 25th, 2011 at 20:57 | #21

    Does watercress require a certain PH? I took some from a stream 160 km from here, and hope to keep it in a basket in the Yukon River, which flows past my cabin. The Yukon R. is very alkaline (8.3). I am not sure of the PH in the stream where I got it.

    Also, I should mention that this stuff grows wild in abundance in this particular stream. The water comes from a spring only 50 meters away, so I do not know where all the nutrients are coming from, but it grows like crazy. Plus, the winters get fairly cold (-35C would be about the coldest, with averages around -15C), and yet it comes back every spring. I guess the stream does not freeze deeper down or somehow the roots survive.

    Just thought I’d let you all know. I live in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Where the watercress grows naturally is more temperate than most places up here because it is close to the ocean (Atlin, BC).

    Thanks for the info and ideas, and for any feed back re: PH, or thoughts on my plan to put a basket in the river in front of my cabin. Susie

  22. July 16th, 2011 at 20:56 | #22

    Hi there, very useful – thank you! I have some watercress stalks with roots in a jug on my windowsill at the moment and was wondering how best to plant them up (I just noticed a few roots on some of the stems I bought from the supermarket and stuck them in water to see what would happen). I love watercress but it’s so expensive for a small bag – growing my own should save me a small fortune! The roots are now quite developed, so I’m planning on potting them up & growing them indoors on the kitchen windowsill. Will they carry on growing all year round grow all year or do they die back in the winter – if they die back, will they regrow or will I have to plant new ones? Great site and your pictures are very clear and helpful, thank you.

  23. Colin
    July 17th, 2011 at 00:56 | #23

    @Sharron Clemons
    As long as they have a good base as in rich compost and watered regularly, they should do well.

  24. Jurgen Leipert
    August 6th, 2011 at 11:49 | #24

    Hi I built a fish pond some five years ago and threw in a handful of water cress once the fish and pond plants were established. Since then I have a year-round supply of the stuff and each spring I throw a few arms ful in the compst bin. Once it flowers it comes up every where so if you got to grow, you will have job on your hands to get rid of it.

  25. Easymouser
    August 10th, 2011 at 08:59 | #25

    Very interesting article and great to have the pictures even though the explanation was simple enough to follow. I have heard that you can plant it indoors in a glass bowl with marbles at the base to hold the roots and just water with no compost. I’m going to try both as we were given some fresh watercress with roots from a neighbours stream. This also had some seed heads so that’s my 3rd option. Oh happy days, let the trials begin.

  26. December 14th, 2011 at 19:23 | #26

    I really had given up on planting watercress. I had tried many ways but to no avail. Your
    article really stimulate me and give me the confidence to give it another go cause I love watercress a lot , not only me, my whole family,in fact. Thanks a million. I will go to our local market to buy some watercress tomorrow and get down to the project. wish me luck this time around, ok. once again, thank you very much. fr serene koh

  27. January 22nd, 2012 at 19:33 | #27

    always wanted to try this..love watercress..cost a lot at local supermarket…for few onces..question…I have a catfish pond.,..warm water, in central florida, I have tried once or twice to just “throw” pieces in the pond, no luck…the water is extremely nutriant…will it grow directly in the water, or should I try potting around the bank? your help/advice please Ed

    February 22nd, 2012 at 22:33 | #28


  29. Jayne
    March 8th, 2012 at 09:28 | #29

    Hi All, thanks for the great tips! I live in Australia and am finding it almost impossible to find watercress at the moment, so i am on a mission to grow some myself, and now with all the advise on here I reckon I’ll be eating watercress very soon….: ) now my first mission of finding a bunch first!!!!! Wish me luck : /

  30. Gee
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:30 | #30

    Banbury Bob, Can you please explain a bit more about how you did your setup for the watercress. Does it make a mess? I guess it would because the water runs on the floor. It is interesting, though. I would like to try it but don’t want any wet floors.

  31. Gee
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:34 | #31

    Thank you for this site and all the interesting comments. I have water cress growing in a cup. Just a few stalks but it is lush, the leaves are tiny, though. I guess it is because I have never fed them. They have been growing in the cup for about five weeks. Maybe, it is time to replant them and give them some fertilizer so they will really grow. I am looking forward to Banbury Bob’s response to my feed.

  32. Gee
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:38 | #32

    Has anyone ever made their own potting bench? Can anyone give details? Gee

  33. Samantha
    April 18th, 2012 at 10:07 | #33

    Hi All, I have been growing watercress for years in my pond. All I did was find a couple of pieces with roots on and place them in the pond weighed down with a couple of pebbles. I used to do this in the waterfall. When the watercress grew, it nearly covered the whole pond which was about six feet in length and three feet wide. So I had to put up a support to hold it up so the fish would not get entangled in it. I think it grew so well because of the nitrogen from the fish. I did have some probles with aphids, but could not spray them because of the fish, and as I was going to eat them. So I just washed them off before eating it. The watercress helped to keep my pond clear. and I made lots of soup and gave some to friends. Now I’ve moved home, and only have a very small pond, and no fish, I have had problems growing watercress. However last year I did manage to harvest some after adding plant feed to the water. This year I’ve just planted a couple of shoots in a pond pot with acquatic soil, so I sould have a better harvest, but may have to add some plant feed to the water, unless I get some small fish. The watercress will help to keep the water clear. So if anyone has a water feature, this is also one way to keep it clear as long as they don’t use the chemical compounds they sell at acquatic centres to clear the water. Good luck.

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