Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What Is Rockwool?
- 3 Rockwool Cubes in Hydroponics Gardening
- 4 Rockwool Cubes for Seed Germination
- 5 Preparation of Rockwool Cube
- 6 FAQ
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 References
Hydroponics does not use soil, rather growing mediums are used.
Determining a perfect growing medium is the most challenging part for every hydroponic gardener.
But choosing the best one among all these substances is quite hard because each of these substances has different characteristics.
Rockwool is one of the most versatile hydroponic mediums, which hydroponic farmers widely use.
Gardeners mainly use rockwool for seed germination in their hydroponic systems. This material can retain moisture for a longer duration.
Thus, it is an ideal material for plant cutting propagation and germinating seeds.
Related post: Types of Growing Medium to Use in Hydroponics
What Is Rockwool?
You may know rockwool by another name – stone wool. This material is man-made.
To produce it, they collect an old volcanic rock, also known as basaltic rock, and then along with limestone, they melt it at high heat.
When the basalt rock reaches the lava stage, it is manufactured into fibers by spinning, and at this stage, it looks similar to cotton candy.
The manufacturers add a binder when the fibers are produced and slowly compress the entire substance into mats.
Later, the mats are cut into different sizes and shapes to meet the requirements in a hydroponic garden.
Rockwool Cubes in Hydroponics Gardening
Hydroponic is a popular indoor gardening system, where hydroponic growers use the soilless growing media to grow different plants.
In this system, you need to use nutrient solutions to supply nutrients and water to plant roots.
You can grow many types of vegetables and plants using rockwool.
The best hydroponic system to use this material is considered nutrient film technique or NFT. Plants that grow best in this substance are –
- Leafy green vegetables
Without these plants, you can grow flowers as well. Roses and Gerberas grow very well in this medium. 
Peat moss and coco peat can absorb and retain a large volume of water (more than their own weight). Rockwool has a similar capacity.
It can absorb excess moisture, and at the same time, it can keep the root zone oxygenated. Besides, it does not dry out completely.
It has been estimated that only 2% of the nutrient solution applied to rockwool organic compounds is considered unavailable.
Rockwool Cubes for Seed Germination
The cubes are very popular among indoor hydroponic gardeners because of their useful structures.
When the fine fibers are manufactured by spinning, they create a structure that can hold moisture and air simultaneously.
Since it also retains oxygen, you can use these cubes for seed starting or propagate the cuttings.
Since it is made of natural materials and volcanic rocks, it is acceptable in organic farming.
Due to the processing at high temperatures, rockwool cubes become inert, which means they will not undergo decomposition stages.
You may find these cubes in various sizes and shapes. The tiniest ones are considered great for starting seeds or propagating stem cutting.
Planting Seeds in Rockwool Cubes
When they are treated with high temperatures, rockwool becomes chemically and biologically inert during the manufacturing process.
That’s why you do not have to worry about its degradation. You can follow these steps to plant seeds in the rockwool cubes.
- First, you will have to prepare rockwool medium. To do this, soak the cubes in the pH-adjusted water. The ideal pH should range between 5.5 and 6.5.
- You will notice holes at the top of the cubes. Insert two seeds in each hole. Always use a fine object to push the seeds to the bottom.
- Now cover the hole with rockwool pieces and place them in a nursery tray.
- Keep these cubes in a humid region and supply fresh water to keep the cubes moist. Also, try to maintain the temperature between 70 and 80-degree Fahrenheit.
- Check the moisture and germination once every two days. The cubes must not dry. Also, make sure that the cubes are not in the waterlogged environment or excess water.
- If sprouts come out successfully, you can transfer them under the growing light and use a nutrient solution.
- Once they are established, you can include drainage holes.
Preparation of Rockwool Cube
When rockwool is treated with lime during the heating process, the pH rises to 8.
This naturally high pH inhibits the plant uptake of essential nutrients and causes nutrient deficiency.
This is why it is necessary to reduce the pH level of this substance to grow houseplants or flowers.
To do this, the cubes are first soaked in acidic water to lower their alkalinity. The acidic water will neutralize the lime and reduce the pH.
Once the pH reaches 6, you should wash the cubes properly with distilled water.
Make sure that the pH does not fall below 5 as it can damage the rockwool fibers.
Now soak them in water once again for 24 hours. The entire process is time-consuming. So, you must be careful during the process.
If the pH stays around 5.8, it will indicate that the cubes are ready to use.
What is rockwool and Rockwool Cubes?
Rockwool is a popular hydroponic growing medium with a higher water retention capacity and is ideal for propagation and seed germination.
How to use rockwool in hydroponics?
You can use solely rockwool as the medium or mix it with other minerals or organic materials.
What can I use instead of rockwool cubes in hydroponics?
You can use coco coir, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, sawdust, rice hulls, and many other types of hydroponic growing media as alternatives.
Is rockwool biodegradable?
Since it is an inert substance, it is not biodegradable.
Does nutrient solution boost plant growth?
Yes, plants growing in nutrient solution grows faster due to the accessibility of readily available nutrients.
Can you put rockwool cubes in the soil?
By placing small rockwool cubes into the soil, each rockwool cube can hold a little amount of water from which the roots of seedlings and plants can draw.
Just ensure you keep the soil and rockwool cubes moist (not drenched) to promote healthy root growth.
Since rockwool material retains moisture for a longer duration, roots can absorb water even when the rockwool slab is in high tension.
It ensures a sterile environment for growing plants because granulated rockwool does not contain weed seeds or pathogens.
However, it would be best if you were careful while transferring the seedlings or main stem to other soilless media or growing mediums because new systems can affect new roots to come out.
Without this, during the preparation of this natural product and its physical properties, many growers may have face health concerns, including skin irritation.
It is better to use a dust mask during the process.
 Bussel, W.T. and McKennie, S. 2004. Rockwool in horticulture, and its Importance and Sustainable Use in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 32(1): 29-37.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.