I religiously stuck to my watering schedules, and I kept a keen eye on my plants.
Imagine my surprise when my orchids were turning brown and my bamboo plants started wilting too. What had I done wrong?
I delved deeper into plants and watering them correctly, and what I found was most interesting.
Is Hard Water Bad for Plants?
Tap water in the U.S. is exposed to different chemicals and minerals to help ensure purity, boost public health, and keep it fresher for longer. This mineral and chemical-laden water, known as hard water, is bad for plants as it can cause scale build-up and water stains on your plants, leading to wilting.
Five Ways Hard Water Can Negatively Affect Plants
There are various ways hard water can affect plants. Any of these ways can lead to your plants dying.
While you may think you are doing good by watering your plants with the hose pipe and your local tap water, you could be busy slowly killing your plants.
It Leaves Scale on Leaves
The mineral content of water, which gives it the characteristic deposit-rich nature that makes up hard water, is what you will see as a white filmy coating on your plants’ leaves.
When you hose your plants with tap water, you will soon see a dull color on their leaves. This is due to the limescale that is deposited on the leaves.
Limescale will prevent the plants from breathing effectively, and soon, your plants will sicken and wilt.
Hard Water Changes Plant Pigmentation
Plants rely on their green pigmentation to help them produce food and oxygen with the process of photosynthesis. This pigmentation, known as chlorophyll, is essential for a plant to be healthy.
However, with the deposit of minerals such as lime, carbon, and iron on plants, these plants will lose their pigmentation and become unable to produce food or oxygen.
In my garden, I noticed some plants had first turned dull when I watered them with the garden hose, and soon, these plants were gray in color and turning brown.
This was due to the build-up of minerals and the slow poisoning of the plants with these minerals that are harmful to plants.
Calcium Carbonate Deposits on the Potting Soil
In some areas where the hard water has a particularly heavy mineral content, you may even see a deposit of grayish-white powder on the potting soil.
This will look as if someone bleached the plant’s soil. I find this discoloration of the soil is a result of mineral deposits from tap water that has not been filtered.
Avoid Chlorine in the Water
Chlorine is one of the main chemicals used in filtering and cleaning water. It is used for water decontamination.
If you were to expose your plants to chlorine, you would soon be faced with a large number of plants that are soon wilting and dying.
Too Much Mineral Salts in the Soil
The salt in the soil of your pot plant or in your garden is what controls how much water your plant will absorb.
When there is too high a mineral content, the plants won’t be able to absorb water and remain dehydrated. So no matter how much I watered my previous garden, my plants kept wilting and looking dreadful.
It was only once I had a soil test done that I was advised to balance the mineral salt contents.
How to Avoid Hard Water Damage
Hard water is something you either have in your state or you don’t.
While you can probably monitor the water contents and appeal to your local council if the water quality is poor, you will probably have to live with the hard water in your pipes. However, you can definitely save your plants from a nasty fate.
If you lived in a small apartment with one snake fern, then you could probably buy a few gallons of water a week and use this for your lonely plant. However, a larger garden or having several plants you want to care for means you need to step up.
By using technology, you can create a healthy garden too. Start by installing a water filter to help you take out the mineral contents of the water and have clean water for your plants.
Another great way to protect your plants from hard water damage is to get filtered or natural water in bulk.
While my grass does fine with a tap water spray, my irises and orchids are more picky, and I load up a couple of large plastic containers to take to a nearby stream where I scoop water for them each week.
This is a pain, but my plants have never looked better since I cut out the hard water that comes from my taps.
What Hard Water is
When tap water contains many different dissolved chemicals, it becomes known as hard water.
The magnesium and calcium that is found in hard water are most notably responsible for blocking pipes and drains, but it can also form a deposit on plant leaves.
This can potentially kill the plants you may be trying to care for.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hard Water being Bad for Plants
Do plants like hard or soft water?
Many plants don’t like hard water, but some plants also dislike soft water. Natural water is best for plants, but filtered water could work for watering plants as long the plants are not sensitive to soft water.
What happens if you use hard water to water plants?
Hard water will leave behind a mineral deposit or scale on plants when you water them with it. This deposit will stain the leaves, and it can also lead to your plant dying.
How long should let tap water sit I water my plants with it?
By sitting your tap water for 24 hours before you water your plants, you will be giving the chemicals and minerals that are already in the tap water time to sink to the bottom of the container you are using. This means the top three-quarters of water will be safer for plants the next day.
The Final Hardship
Having softened water in your tap will not help your plants any more than having hard water will. Chemicals that leave a residue aren’t good for plants.
The best water you can give your plants is to find natural water that is not polluted and water your precious plants with this.
I like to water my plants with rainwater that I collect, but you can also collect water from a river, spring, borehole, or creek near you if you want to avoid giving either hard or soft water to your plants.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.