Anyone who is familiar with plants and has an affinity for gardening knows that there are many factors to consider when planting a plant. The question of the right substrate alone cannot always be answered so easily. Sometimes conventional potting soil contains too many or too few nutrients, sometimes the soil is not permeable enough or is too dry. How easy it would be to bypass these small but fine details! This is possible with cress plants. They also thrive on cotton wool. The following guide shows how easy it is to grow Lepidium sativum without soil.

garden cress

Lepidium sativum is one of the most popular kitchen herbs. The robustness of the plant alone makes growing your own very easy. In culinary terms, the plant scores with its aromatic pungency and high vitamin content. Other benefits are

  • high cold tolerance (develops from 5°C)
  • short germination period (only a few days)
  • undemanding to the location
  • can also be cultivated on the windowsill

Grow cress on cotton

Garden cress is so undemanding that the gardener does not have to wrap the plant in cotton wool. Or is that worth it? Yes, of course, because the plant’s greatest advantage is that it does not need any organic substrate to germinate.

Instructions – Materials Needed

  • cress seeds
  • cotton
  • a shallow bowl
Tip: Instead of cotton wool, kitchen paper is also suitable for growing.


  • Soak cotton in water until saturated
  • then wring out well
  • line the bowl with it
  • Distribute cress seeds evenly on the moist replacement substrate
Note: The gardener must be careful when sowing. The seeds are very fine, but should not form heaps. Equal distribution leads to higher chances of success. In addition, cress plants belong to the light germs. When growing, it is therefore important to only spread the seeds on the surface of the substrate or alternative. Too little brightness literally nips the seeds in the bud.

The further care

Since growing cress plants requires sufficient light, a bright location is essential. A window sill that faces south is best. However, too much sunlight can also have a negative effect on growth. The alternative substrate threatens to dry out and the seedlings die. With regular checks and the occasional spraying of the plant with an atomizer, the gardener can prevent this. Cultivation is possible all year round. Temperatures between 15°C and 20°C are optimal. However, the gardener should be careful not to expose the plant to dry heating air in winter. A location in the immediate vicinity of or directly above a radiator should therefore be avoided at all costs.

Tip: If no suitable location can be found where no heating endangers germination, a thick pad made of Styrofoam will help.

Why does Lepidium sativum thrive without soil?

The secret is in the seeds. These store enough nutrients so that organic material is no longer necessary. As long as the gardener keeps the alternative substrate constantly moist, the garden cress will grow on its own.

Harvest cress plants

Outdoors, cress grows from March to September. However, growing on the windowsill allows for a harvest at almost any time. Prerequisites are, of course, sufficient moisture and sufficient light and a harmonious humidity level. The first successes can already be seen three to four days after sowing. The final harvest can then take place about eight to twelve days later. Unfortunately, cotton wool is only suitable for growing cress. If the gardener wants to cultivate the plant permanently, he has to replace the initial “substrate” with real soil. Culinary use is only possible when Lepidium sativum develops seed capsules and blooms. Since experience has shown that cress plants rarely bloom in closed rooms,

  • Put the cress in a well-drained substrate
  • for planting outdoors remove weeds and roots from the bed
  • choose a bright location
  • Enrich soil with compost
  • Put the cress outdoors only after the last ground frost has subsided
  • when growing, keep a distance of 15 cm between the plants
  • Keep substrate constantly moist
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • Flowers appear after a few weeks
  • Seeds are ripe when they are dark in color
  • Cut off the cress pods with a sharp knife
  • Shake out seeds
  • store in a dark, dry place
Tip: Cress seeds you have harvested yourself remain germinable for up to four years. With proper storage, it is possible to grow a new culture. If desired, the repeated cultivation can be done again in a cotton bowl.

time of harvest

If the gardener lets cress plants grow untouched, they can reach a height of up to 60 cm. However, if the cruciferous plant is primarily intended for culinary use, it is advisable to cut off the pods beforehand. The higher the kitchen spice grows, the more it loses its sharpness and taste.

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