Plants are pretty self-sufficient living things that usually require only five basic necessities: light, air, nutrients, growing space, and water. One of the main ways humans take care of plants is by providing them with essential hydration using water. When you're taking care of plants in your home or outdoors, you may have asked yourself if plants grow better in salt water, sugar water, or tap water.
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The best way to water plants is by collecting and using rainwater from nonpolluted areas, but tap water is generally a safe and recommended alternative as opposed to salt water or sugar water.
Do Plants Grow Better in Tap Water?
When it comes to watering plants, tap water is generally safe to properly hydrate and care for your plants. Many plants and gardening specialists suggest using rainwater from nonpolluted areas if you're looking for the best watering option. Still, you can use tap water if you don't have access to or space for storing rainwater.
Though tap water is generally safe for plants, it can sometimes be harmful to your plants depending on the area in which you live and the chemicals added to the water. If your local water contains high amounts of chlorine, salt, or fluoride, it may be best to switch to watering your plants with distilled water, which has gone through a purification process to remove all minerals.
Plants primarily absorb liquids through their roots, so make sure to water as close to the soil and roots as possible. Your plant may also benefit from being spritzed with water on its leaves throughout the week, so take the time to research your plant's type for proper care.
Is Salt Water Safe for Plants?
For most plants, salt water is detrimental to their health. Some plants, like mangrove and southern red cedar trees, gaillardia flowers, and muhly grass, are saltwater tolerant, but most plants are not. Salt affects a plant's normal growth process and prevents it from getting essential nutrients and hydration. Saltwater damage in plants interferes with photosynthesis and eventually results in a plant dying. Spraying salt water on leaves can even lead to leaf burn. So, unless your plant is meant for a saltwater aquarium or coastal living, avoid using salt water.
Can I Use Sugar Water for Plants?
The safest answer is no. While there's some evidence showing that sugar water can be beneficial to plants needing an extra boost, not enough research has been done to make it a guaranteed safe option. Sugar has been shown to help plants dying from disease or infestations, but adding too much can cause an adverse effect. Plants generally do an excellent job of creating and regulating their own naturally made sugar during photosynthesis, and adding a human-made sugar water mixture to their soil is a gamble on whether it'll help or not. Overall, it's best to save your sugar for coffee and cookies and let plants regulate their own intake.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst: The Impact of Salts on Plants and How to Reduce Plant Injury From Winter Salt Applications
- Almanac: How to Water Plants for Healthy Growth
- University of Florida IFAS Gardening Solutions: Salt-Tolerant Plants
- Let's Talk Science: Needs of Plants
- Ecological Landscape Alliance: Rainwater for Gardens: Why Plants Love Rainwater Best
- Statesman Journal: Why Rain Is Better Than Tap Water for Houseplants
- Plant Care Today: Should You Use Distilled Water For Plants?
- University of Maryland Extension: Watering Indoor Plants
- University of Nebraska - Lincoln: Research on Sugar Application to Crops
- Oxford Academic: Sugars and Plant Innate Immunity
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine: Effects of Sugar on Vegetative Development and Floral Transition in Arabidopsis
- University of Massachusetts Amherst: Sugar and Acidity in Preservative Solutions for Field-Grown Cut Flowers