Is hard water bad for plants, plant lovers would wonder since it can leave behind mineral deposits and a layer of salt and calcium in the soil and roots.
This water with large amounts of bicarbonates is not suitable for your plants thus you need to be watchful if you are keeping them hydrated with it.
In this article, we attempt to answer the question as to why hard water is bad for plants and the damage that it can cause.
- Is Hard Water Bad for Plants?
- What Are the Effects of Hard Water?
- What Are Ways to Avoid Hard Water?
- Can Hard Water Damaged Plants be Treated?
Is Hard Water Bad for Plants?
Yes, hard water can be bad for plants as it has the presence of concentrated levels of several particles such as salts, bicarbonates, magnesium, calcium, and iron rust which can be left in the plant. The residue that this water leaves behind, is in the form of white chalky layers.
– High Levels of Mineral Salts in the Soil
Apart from calcium deposits, your soil may also witness a build-up of mineral salts. With an elevated level of minerals, the soil will not be able to absorb adequate water for the plant and thus will constantly face the stress of being dehydrated.
The mineral build-up through the balance in the soil overboard, so you will constantly find dry soil, brittle leaves, and weak stems.
– Exposure to Chlorine in the Water
Sometimes, chlorine can be a prominent component in hard water. It is used to decontaminate tap water and if it happens to be hard, your plants get exposed to it. Watering your plants with chlorinated hard water can put their health at great risk. Plants seldom fare well and over time they wilt and die.
– Makes Soil High in Alkaline
With its high levels of lime content, hard water can drastically alter the nature of the soil. Lime traces in soil over some time can make it alkaline. Thus, the alteration can be disastrous to the health of the plant, especially if it belongs to the category which prefers to grow in acidic to neutral pH soil.
What Are the Effects of Hard Water?
Hard water can damage the plants by leaving scale on the leaves, changing the pigment of the plant and its foliage, it would increase the level of calcium in the soil leaving it white, and lastly it would hinder the growth of the plant.
– Scale on Leaves
Using hard water on houseplants can result in scale covers on leaves. It is commonly known as scaling and can alter the nutrient and mineral balance of the plant.
This is a chalky residue that remains on the top of the foliage, on every spot water has been applied. As much as the water evaporates, the chalky minerals stay on the surface of leaves and stems. The result of this is that leaves will not be able to take in light as it is harder for sunlight to penetrate through the scale covers.
With inadequate sunlight, the process of photosynthesis is affected and the plant seldom can get complete nourishment. The white coating also tends to give the plant an overall dull look due to the limescale presence. Overtime scaling can make the plants weak and wilt.
– Changes in Plant Pigmentation
Hard water can cause changes in plant pigmentation. All plants contain the green pigment known as chlorophyll with the help of which they produce glucose and oxygen for the well-being of the plant. This pigment is thus essential as it also aids in trapping sunlight for the production of food.
However, hard water with its elevated presence of minerals like limes, iron rust, and carbon reduces this pigmentation. Over time it reduces the plant’s capability to produce food. You will notice the plant wilting and bearing a weak look, hence the foliage becomes limp and soon the leaves turn gray or brown due to the lack of green pigment.
– Calcium Deposits on the Potting Soil
Using hard water on plants can also result in calcium carbonate deposits in the soil. They occur in the form of a grayish-white powder strewn all over the soil and may often look as if the soil has been bleached.
Calcium is one of the main particles in hard water resulting in a carbonate build-up over time. With prolonged use of hard water on the plant, these deposits tend to suffocate the roots as they are unable to absorb adequate oxygen from the soil and slowly inhibit the growth of the plant.
– Changes in Flower and Leaf Colors
Plants that have vibrant shades and hues can be greatly affected by hard water. Chrysanthemums and roses with colorful blooms and radiant leaves respond by having changes in their shades. They may additionally look malnourished and the buds may even drop off before time.
– Hindering the Growth
It is a common practice that one would add a supplement or fertilizer to boost the growth of plant foliage. Most fertilizers contain salts and minerals that are in tune with the specific needs of the plant. Now, with the presence of salts in hard water that get deposited in the soil, the application of fertilizers may not produce the desired impact on the plant.
Hard water can throw the salt balance out of order and with too much of it, the growth patterns can be hampered. The existing soil composition does not react with the fertilizer component thus you will find that the plant instead of getting a growth boost would tend to be stunted or slow in producing foliage.
What Are Ways to Avoid Hard Water?
Ways to avoid hard water would be to let the water sit for a while, use a filter to sort the harsh minerals coming into your plant, use boiled water that has evaporated the minerals, you can even collect rainwater for irrigation.
– Let the Water Sit
If all that you have available is hard tap water, then the best thing to do is to have the water sit for a while before you use it to water your plants. Ideally, you could let it stay in the watering can overnight or for twenty-four hours as this will let the salts and extensive minerals settle down at the bottom.
Use the water the next day to water your plants, taking care not to empty the can completely but to leave a bit at the bottom. Discard this and after rinsing the can thoroughly, refill and let it rest until your next watering schedule.
– Use a Water Filter
If you have a smaller garden then installing a filter can protect your plants from the damage of hard water. Reverse osmosis filters especially help to keep the water clean of mineral content thereby reducing the impact on your plants.
– Use Boiled Water
By boiling water, the chlorine content in it can be reduced to a large amount. This will especially be beneficial to flowering plants. However, ensure you cool the water well before you add them to the plant to prevent scorching the roots.
– Collect Rainwater
Rainwater is the best water quality option available for both indoor plants as well as outdoor plants if you do not have any other. Collect rainwater and add them as and when available. If you have a larger garden and if costs are not an issue, then you could even consider using distilled water.
Can Hard Water Damaged Plants be Treated?
Yes, you can treat hard tap water for plants by shifting to an acidic fertilizer, repotting your plant frequently to get rid of th previous hard water, rebalance the pH of the plant, and avoid over fertilizing the plant to see the regrowth soon.
– Shift to an Acidic Fertilizer
As hard water raises the level of pH making the soil alkaline, it becomes hazardous to plants such as rhododendrons, daffodils, azaleas, and hydrangeas which love acidic soil. If you notice stress signs such as yellowing leaves, you can add an acidic fertilizer to bring down the pH to suit the plant’s requirement.
In addition, one thing you must know is that this type of fertilizer will help in the process of balancing the soil and the roots of the plant so that the plant would not face a stressful ecology. The soil would be healthy and the growth along with the fertilizer would grow fairly and thrive through the hard water’s residue.
– Repot Your Plant More Frequently
The best way to tackle salt build-up and to keep the foliage of the plant thriving and healthy, consider repotting the plant into fresh soil frequently. Hard water kicks in chalky deposits which over time prevent the roots from taking in nutrients from the soil. Thus a change of soil gives the roosts a good boost without the presence of extensive salts and minerals.
– Rebalance PH
Rebalance the pH of the soil by running down a mixture of vinegar or lime juice in water. Add it once a month to help balance the pH.
– Avoid Over-fertilizing Your Plants
Excess use of fertilizers can result in a salt build-up at the roots. As you stop over-fertilizing the plant, it would start to grow back on its own slowly, because the plant has gotten tired of the heavy minerals it fed on. The added problem of hard water could be disastrous to the health of the plant.
Remember to scale back on fertilizer use in the presence of hard water and avoid fertilizing plants in the colder months of winter.
– Can I Use Soft Water for Plants?
No, softened water is not the ideal choice to water the house plant. This is because water softeners are used to soften water, use ion exchange and replace calcium and magnesium with salt.
This salt may be minimal, however, it is still not suited for watering plants. The sodium will have a detrimental effect on the soil preventing it from taking in moisture, eventually turning the foliage brown.
You have now read how hard water can be detrimental to the health of houseplants, adding in an elevated level of salts and minerals.
Let us summarize all that we have learned in the below section
- Hard Water for houseplants is not an ideal option as it could kick in scales on leaves and calcium deposits in the soil. Increased exposure to chlorine and mineral salts.
- Hard Water also makes the soil more alkaline, thus bringing in changes in the vibrancy and colors of blooms and foliage.
- If you do not have a choice and have to water your plants with hard water, then you can reduce the impact by letting the water sit for a day before use, using a reverse osmosis filter, rebalancing the ideal pH with the help of vinegar and repotting the plant once a year.
- Soft water is not a good option either for plants as they are stripped of all minerals in exchange for salts. This sodium of the salt is equally hazardous to plant growth.
After having understood what’s good and not good for your plant, you can take the right measures now to grow them into thriving foliage. You have the right solutions at hand so go ahead and keep your house plants alive and vibrant, watering and caring for them right.