After 12 hours of research evaluating 45 products, we picked PowerGrow Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Bucket Kit 5 Gallon as our top choice.
Want to step your home gardening setup up a notch? If you've already got the greenhouse and LED grow lights, it's time to kick things into high gear by using the best eco-friendly but highly effective hydro systems.
Hydroponics is defined as "the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil." Basically, it's a dirt-free option that allows you to grow plants in a new, effective way. Instead of soil, you use sand, gravel, water, or, in the case of bubbleponics, hydroton clay pebbles.
Whether you are using one of the hydroponic kits or one of the fully integrated hydroponic systems, they will all work the same way.
The best hydroponic system options will use 10-20% of the water consumed by regular gardening, but it's believed to produce juicier, larger fruits and plants.
Here's the good news:
Below, we've done the research to find the best hydroponic system choices for your use at home and in your garden. We've got hydro systems of all shapes and sizes to help you find the solution that meets your gardening needs best. Happy gardening!
Easy to use, great for growing organic produce, user-friendly assembly, high-impact plastic, unique square design, grows plants from small to large, large water capacity, and low water requirements.
Small capacity and weak air pump.
Setup: This hydroponic system is designed to be super easy to set up right out of the box. The bucket-style system just needs to be filled with water, connected to the air pump, and the growing media added to the lid. The reservoir will hold 2 gallons of water at a time, and you'll have no problem getting the garden up and running within 15 minutes.
Ease of Use: The air pump may not be the strongest on the market, but the rest of the bucket-style system is tough enough to handle years of daily use. The bucket is durable and unlikely to leak, and you'll have no problem figuring out how to operate the system. It may need refilling every few days, but it will be a simple, user-friendly system to use.
Capacity: The square-shaped bucket can hold more plants than you'd get from a round bucket, so you can grow up to 7 or 8 small plants in the same garden. However, this system can also grow medium and large-sized plants, making it one of the most versatile in terms of plant options.
Price: At $60, this is slightly on the pricier side, but a worthwhile investment if you want a simple garden that requires very little time and effort on your part.
Vertical design, more effective water use, save space in your home or garden, great for growing smaller plants, looks classy, makes gardening super simple and easy, quick set-up, quiet pump, and inexpensive.
Doesn't come with plant nutrients or growing media, and the watering system must be purchased separately.
Setup: This set of stackable planters is incredibly simple to set up. Just follow the instructions to stack the food-safe polypropylene containers, add the growing media and plant nutrients, then plant the seedlings. You may have to buy the watering system separately, or you can water them by hand. It'll take a grand total of 10 minutes to get the system set up and running smoothly.
Ease of Use: If you are watering by hand, you simply need to water the top layer of planters and let the water drip down through the stacked layers to catch in the drip pan at the bottom. The flow-through design helps you to reduce water usage. The fact that it's stacked vertically means you use up far less of your garden, garage, or shed space than you would with a typical planter.
Capacity: There are only five stackable planters, but each comes with enough space to grow 3-6 plants. You'll want to stick with smaller plants—strawberries, succulents, herbs, flowers, etc.—but you'll find this has a surprisingly large capacity despite its small size.
Price: At $40, this is one of the better-priced systems on our list. You'll have to water by hand (or pay more for the watering system) and buy the growing media and plant nutrients separately, but it's still one of the most inexpensive ways to start hydroponic gardening at home.
Includes four 5-gallon buckets, comes with everything you need to grow your own plants, 1-year warranty, makes growing plants super easy, durable, reliable, versatile, and one system for four different growing options.
Doesn't include nutrients, pH test kit, or growing media.
Setup: This is a larger version of our top-rated hydroponic system. It includes four 5-gallon buckets instead of just one, and the kit comes with the hoses required to connect each to the pump. All you have to do is fill the buckets with the specific amount of water, hook up the hoses and pumps, and add the plants. You can get growing in 20 minutes or less.
Ease of Use: This kit doesn't include a top feed watering system for your plants, which will require a separate pump for each bucket. However, it's designed to immerse the plants' roots in water, allowing them to absorb water through their roots for simple hydroponic growing. The kit is incredibly simple to use, though you'll need to buy your own growing media, pH test kit, and plant nutrients.
Capacity: Each bucket comes with a 6-inch net pot lid, which provides you with enough space to grow three to eight plants per lid. The fact that there are four buckets means you have a lot of growing space to use for whatever plants you want to cultivate.
Price: At $100, this system is fairly well-priced, if slightly on the costlier side. You'll end up paying more if you want to upgrade the system (adding top feed watering), but for a beginner kit, it's a really great deal.
This indoor system is designed for growing small plants, but with precise controls that allow you to have total command of your growing process. It's ideal for cloning cuttings or growing plants that require specific light and temperature conditions.
VERY small unit.
Setup: This hydroponic system is designed for precision gardening. The basin cover allows you to control the amount of light received by the plants every day, and its compact size makes it easy to move to a room with less humidity, heat, or direct sunlight according to the plants' unique demands. The system can be set up in just a few minutes, but it offers precision in a way few other hydroponic systems can.
Ease of Use: If you want to just grow seedlings with little or no fuss, the machine is beautifully easy to operate and automates the entire gardening process for you. However, if you're conducting a science experiment or trying to clone cuttings, you'll love how easy it is to control the growing process from the very beginning.
Capacity: The garden is sized for six small cuttings, so don't expect to produce a wealth of plants from the garden. However, if you need precision over quantity, this is your ideal system.
Price: $55 is a decent price to pay considering the versatility and user-friendliness of this garden. Whether you want to grow indoors or outdoors, this hydroponic system will deliver the results you want.
This countertop hydroponic kit is perfect for those who want to grow herbs in their kitchen rather than their backyard. If you don't have a lot of garden space but want to plant and grow, this is the reliable planter for you.
The buttons are a bit clunky and the plastic is flimsy.
Setup: This is one of the easiest hydroponic systems you'll ever set up. It takes literally minutes to fill the water tank, assemble the layers, add the growing media, and plant your seeds/seedlings. You'll love how easy it is to get the garden growing, and the package actually comes with seed packets for 7 gourmet herbs, including Thai and Genovese basil, Thyme, Dill, Chives, Mint, and Curly Parsley.
Ease of Use: The hydroponic system is supremely easy to use, thanks to the built-in LED control panel that gives you all the watering and aerating options you could want. The control panel will let you know when you need to add water, more nutrient solution, or growing media. The LED grow light will help to speed up growth of the plants, even if your mini-garden is indoor and out of direct sunlight.
Capacity: The garden can hold up to 7 small plants at once, and it's designed to be compact and used indoors. Don't expect enough plants to feed a family, but it's more than large enough to grow herbs for use in your cooking.
Price: At $215, this is definitely the most expensive of the hydroponic systems on our list. However, given its automated operation and ease of use, it's one worth considering if you want to grow your own herbs indoors.
Simple and straightforward design, minimal equipment required, and comes with everything you need to get started with hydroponic gardening. A great product at a very affordable price!
Not the most advanced set, built for newbies.
Setup: This hydroponic system is built on a 5-gallon bucket, which makes it very easy to fill with water, assemble, and get running right out of the box. The FDA-approved bucket is safe and suitable for growing all sorts of plants, and you'll find the kit comes with the pump, air stone, tubing, growing media, and even a set of seed starters. If you're looking to get your first hydroponic garden up and running easily, this is your best choice.
Ease of Use: The system is very easy to use, and it's designed to be fully automated. Once you set the air pump and water pump up, it's simple to follow the instructions and switch it all on. It will require very little in the way of attention and maintenance to keep the garden running smoothly.
Capacity: The fact that it's a 5-gallon bucket means it will hold enough water to grow a small garden. The lid has a 6-inch section filled with growing media, so you'll be able to grow a few small plants. This small capacity makes it a good starter kit to help you learn the ins and outs of hydroponics before upgrading to a full-size system.
Price: This is a well-priced set that contains everything you need to get started with your own home hydroponic gardening. You will probably end up upgrading after a year or so, but it's a great starter kit!