Will Soft Water Harm my Plants?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021


Woman watering houseplants

If you keep indoor plants in your home year round or if you look forward to maintaining a productive outdoor garden in the spring and summer months, you’ve likely learned some tricks in order to keeping those plants alive, healthy, and blooming. It isn’t always easy. At any given point, the plants you’ve invested time and money into can be susceptible to any number of damaging influences like insects, poor weather conditions, or even disease. There are countless ways to combat those issues, usually in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, and powders. But sometimes it can be good to start with the fundamentals. One of the more common questions in relation to plant health, is: “What kind of water should I use?” If you have water treatment equipment in your home or if you’re familiar at all with the differences between soft and hard water, you probably have some ideas already. The debate behind using hard or soft water for watering plants isn’t as black and white as you’d expect, though. Let’s take a look at four different “types” of water (hard, soft, rainwater, and reverse osmosis) and how they might impact the success of your plants.

Types of Water for Plants

While there are other grades and degrees of water available, the four main types we’ll be examining are:

  • Hard Water: 85% of homes in the United States have hard water. Hard water is comprised of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium and may leave calcified, flaky remnants behind after it dries.
  • Soft Water:  Soft water is treated to remove the minerals that make up hard water. Using a process called ion exchange , calcium and magnesium are removed from the water in a water softener and are replaced with small amounts of sodium. This reduces the mineral content of hard water and leaves behind a minute amount of sodium in the output water.
  • Reverse Osmosis: Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) water has gone through a multi-step filtration membrane system to remove contaminants and impurities. Water passes through carbon filters and is forced through a membrane which captures and reduces impurities including arsenic, chromium, fluoride, lead, radium, cysts, and more. It leaves you with fresh, clean, great tasting drinking water.
  • Rainwater: Rainwater has very few dissolved minerals and is considered naturally soft.

Using Hard and Soft Water

There is a lot of debate behind using soft versus hard water when it comes to watering plants. Ultimately, the decision to use either hard or soft water is usually situational. In the same way that hard water leaves scale buildup on your appliances and plumbing, it can also leave buildup around your more delicate plants. This buildup can happen on the soil, around the edges of the pot, and even on the roots of your plant. When scale builds up on the roots of your plant, your plant will eventually begin to repel water. For larger-scale watering applications, such as a garden, hard water is fine to use as long as the amount of total dissolved solids is low and it doesn’t have high amounts of other contaminants.

The small amount of sodium added to soft water can also potentially affect your plants. As you water more and more with soft water, the sodium may build up in the soil. Most plants do not tolerate sodium well, and the sodium makes them think they have taken in more water than they actually have, causing them to dry out. If you need to use softened water for your plants, be sure to occasionally water with another type of water such as R.O. or rainwater to rinse out the soil.

Using R.O. and Rainwater

R.O. water can be a great choice for watering your plants. It does not have any of the minerals that can buildup on and around your plants, helping them properly soak up the water they need to survive.

Rainwater is also a great choice for your plants. It is naturally soft, giving plants the water they need with water that has not been contaminated any way. The downfall of rainwater is that you need to collect it. Mother Nature is a fickle character, so you never know if you’ll have an adequate amount your plants need for growth. Plus, not everyone likes the idea of having a rain barrel or other buckets to collect rain or are able to have them at their home.

Which Water is Best?

Generally, rainwater is the best choice for your plants, whether indoor or outdoor, but not everyone has the space, ability, or desire to have a rain barrel at their home. The next best choice is R.O. water due to its lack of minerals and contaminants, making it safe for more delicate or finnicky plants. R.O. water is the same, fresh water you and your family use for drinking and cooking and works equally as well for your home’s plant-life.

If you’re concerned about the quality of water in your home, for you and your plants, give us a call! One of our technicians can come and test your water to find the answer to your problems. With our full line of WaterCare products, we have the right solution to keep everyone, people and plants, happy with their water!

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