This post will cover the differences between hard and soft water, examine the different kinds of water, and give you tips on how you can reduce the harmful effects of hard water on your plants.
Hard Water vs Soft Water for Your Plants
There are several things you should know about using either hard or soft water for your plants. The short answer being that softened water is rarely good for your plants, while hard water can still cause issues.
Hard water has a high mineral content, which means that houseplants will get the benefits of getting the nutrients they need from their roots. On the other hand, soft water usually contains few minerals at all, so most plants thrive on this kind of water. There are some exceptions to this rule depending on where you live (i.e. if you reside in an area with a lot of limestone rock).
While hard water can leave behind salt and bicarbonates that leave behind residue on your leaves and stems (and will build up calcium carbonate and salt in the soil), it does provide your plants with many of the nutrients it needs, whereas soft water does not, forcing you to feed your plants more fertilizer than normal to make up for the difference.
Hard water typically has a high pH level. If most of your plants love acid (such as daffodils, azaleas, or hydrangeas), you may see signs of distress. To overcome this, simply add an acidic fertilizer as you water your plants.
Different Types of Water
Understanding your water will help you to grow healthy houseplants indoors. Although we rarely consider it, there are multiple types of water, each with pros and cons of its own when it comes to watering your houseplants.
Here is what you should know:
1. Distilled Water
Distilled water doesn’t contain any contaminant whatsoever, so it’s perfect for watering plants. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive, making it harder for the average indoor gardener to justify.
2. Tap water
If you’d rather just stick to plain old tap water, here are two ways you can improve its quality: First, let it sit out overnight. That allows more time for the chlorine to evaporate off. Second, boil it until it turns clear. Then cool down the water as quickly as possible by pouring it over ice cubes, allowing it to reach room temperature.
Rainwater is ideal for houseplants. It is exactly as it sounds, water that is collected during rainfall events. When collecting rainwater, remember to keep track of the date and amount of precipitation. Collecting rainwater isn’t easy, especially since it needs to be stored somewhere dry. A simple solution would be to collect rainwater in buckets placed outside near trees or shrubs. Make sure you clean those buckets regularly, though, or mold will build up.
Another option is to install gutters along your roofline. These allow excess water to drain away naturally without having to store it anywhere. Of course, you’ll need to get permission from your landlord before installing gutter systems.
And finally, you can buy special rain barrels made specifically for storing rainwater. They come in various sizes and styles, ranging from small ones designed to hold less than 50 gallons, to large models capable of holding hundreds of gallons. Some people prefer to simply place containers under eaves or windowsills instead of purchasing specialized equipment. Either way works fine, provided you follow proper storage procedures.
4. Well Water
Water drawn from wells has been treated through some sort of filtration process. This means it contains fewer contaminants like iron, manganese, nitrates, sulfates, and other things that could harm your plants. However, there may also be traces of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. It’s important to know whether these elements pose health risks when ingested by humans.
The good news is that most municipal drinking supplies have very low levels of both lead and arsenic. But even if they aren’t harmful, you still shouldn’t drink them because they won’t provide enough nutrients for your plants. In fact, many experts recommend using filtered well water exclusively for growing houseplants.
5. Bottled Water
The last kind of water available to us is bottled water. Bottled water tends to cost much more per gallon than either rainwater or well water. Plus, it often lacks certain essential trace mineral content found in natural sources. Still, bottled water is generally considered safer than tap water due to strict regulations governing public supply facilities. As far as which brand to pick, it all depends on personal preference. Many brands offer their own unique benefits, including claims that they filter impurities out of the source water.
How to Reduce Harmful Elements in Your Water
If you cannot collect rainwater or you don’t have the time or resources to treat your current water, you may be able to leach the soil. This process will essentially rinse your plants’ roots in order to wash away the buildup of salt.
When you notice the white buildup of salt, you will need to leach the soil, being careful not to remove more than 1/4 inch of the surface of the soil. Here’s how you can do this:
Place your houseplant where it can freely drain, such as a sink or a bathtub. Alternatively, you can take it outside.
Pour a large amount of warm water over the soil, making sure to let the water drain properly instead of pouring over the sides. The warm water will help clear the soil of the salt.
Repeat the process every 3 to 6 months to ensure that your houseplants remain healthy and thriving.
Alternatively, you can add a little acid (such as lemon or lime juice) to your watering occasionally. This will help with the overall build-up. You can also wipe down the leaves of your plant with this mixture to help keep them pure.