Can Borax Kill Plants?

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Borax can help kill some weeds in gardens.

Borax is a chemical compound with the formula Na2B4O7, also known as sodium borate or sodium pyroborate. Among its other uses, borax can act as a herbicide to kill certain undesirable plants in your garden.

Function

Borax contains boron, which in trace quantities is an essential nutrient for plants. When levels in the soil climb too high, however, boron becomes toxic and can kill plants instead. Symptoms include yellow and brown spots near the edge of leaves, wilting stems and plant death.

Amount

The amount of borax to apply depends on the area and the kinds of weeds you're trying to control. The University of Minnesota Extension and the Iowa State University Extension both recommend mixing 10 oz. of borax in 4 oz. of water then diluting this solution in 2 1/2 gallons of water. The resulting mixture is enough to treat 1,000 square feet.

Warning

It's extremely important not to overapply borax. Not only can the borax kill other desirable plants like turf grass, but the excess boron may accumulate and linger in the soil for a long time, creating a "hot spot" where other plants cannot grow.

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John Brennan

Based in San Diego, John Brennan has been writing about science and the environment since 2006. His articles have appeared in "Plenty," "San Diego Reader," "Santa Barbara Independent" and "East Bay Monthly." Brennan holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.