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What Kind of Water to Give Plants

guest123
13 years ago

What kind of water do yal use to water (and mist) your house plants? What is best? Tap water? Tap water from a tap with a filter on it? Distilled water or water purified by reverse osmosis? Rainwater? Bottled natural spring water? Dasani (kidding)? But seriously, what should I be using?

And should it always be room temperature? Thank you!

Comments (30)

  • Mentha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Rainwater is best, some filtration systems use salt to filter, so I'd be careful about that. I water with just plain tap water, usually warm. I have too many plants to filter water. I used to water with mu fish tank water, my plants loved it.

  • mr_subjunctive
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use tap water, lukewarm. Water that's run through a water softener contains salt and should be avoided, but unless your city water supply is very extreme in some weird way, it should be fine for most purposes. Some plants are sensitive to fluoride, and maybe should get distilled / reverse-osmosis / rainwater, but if you're watering heavily enough when you water, you shouldn't have a problem with fluoride unless your city water already contains a lot naturally.

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  • gobluedjm 9/18 CA
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use tap water except for the peace lily it gets bottled water.

  • blutarski
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If I ever get around to getting a rain barrel, all my plants will get rain water.

    I'm going to try to put my cacti on an all rain water diet- water when outside in spring/summer/fall, nothing when they're inside.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My spouse, who doesn't really care for plants has some very fine plants. She uses water from her Guppy tanks. Exclusively.

  • jefe12234
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If your tap water is of good quality then there's nothing wrong with using that. If not, then I'd use an RO filter. A good one will remove about 98% of the water's impurities. The downside is that they create something like 4 parts waste water to one part purified water. Some people use the waste water for washing clothes or for some other use. Those tap water purifiers like Brita etc are useless for plants. They may improve the taste of water by removing some organic compounds, but will not remove the minerals that we are concerned about. Rain water is a good choice if you can collect enough of it and store bought RO/distilled water is good if you only have a few plants.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've always used tap water with the rare exception of a fussy plant or two over the years. And in all my years of growing many kinds of plants professionally (in greenhouses and outside) and in my own home, I have never once warmed the water or waited until it was at room temperature.

    Many folks have learned that misting offers very little benefit for plants, although the task gives the owners a sense of nurturing. Of course, misting helps clean the dust away, and that's a good thing! ;-) IF I did mist my plants (which I never do), I think that I would keep a bottle of distilled water on hand so as not to make any water spots.

  • puglvr1
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm lucky enough to have a rain barrel, so I use that whenever I have it. When that runs out I use tap water. I have actually microwaved(lol) some of the water from the rain barrel when we had several cold snaps in a row. I would heat a small amount and add more to make it just lukewarm. Most of the time here in Fl, the water in the rain barrel stays pretty warm, it's in full sun 8 hours a day!

    I don't really mist my plants...Humidity in Fl, we don't lack, lol...

  • guest123
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks everybody - so it sounds like rain water is probablly best, followed by tap water if our tap water quality is good, followed by distilled/reverse osmosis water. And the temperature it seems is best luke warm, though cool water and not misting isn't going to cause problems.

  • pirate_girl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I don't get what the fuss is about (unless one has hard water). I've used tap water for years. My way is to keep 6-7 1/2 gallon jugs out filled w/ tap water at all times. I only use maximum 4-5 at each watering & I always refill them as soon as I'm done. This way there's always at least 4-5 jugs w/ room temp water which have been sitting for several days at least. I never have to think abt the water temp, works for me!

  • bunnygurl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I do the same as pirate girl except I only use 5-1.5L bottles 'cause I only have about 30 plants or so. But I fill them with plain tap water and let them sit for at least 24hrs before I use them and all my plants do just fine. I keep 2-1.89L bottles and a 4L jug aside just in case some are thirstier than usual. I use this water to wet the soil when I transplant as well.

  • jeannie7
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    yeah, unless its on a softening system, tap water is good enough.
    It does strike me that temperature could be a factor if its cold...like in the winter, so cold it stresses the plant.

    Question...I've always meant to ask the experts...or those who wish to be so classified:
    If we should use water that is allowed to sit overnight to gain room temperature, could we not just use water that initially comes out of the hot water tap.
    Its been sitting in our hot water tank...and until it runs for the few moments to gain a heated stream, is it not more of what we could use ordinarily.

    But, if having a choice, rainwater is agreed to be the best.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    jeannie, I believe that one of the reasons some people leave their water containers out is to allow chlorine to dissipate. (Of course, the water jugs have to be open.) There ARE a few chlorine sensitive plants out there, and that little step can solve the problem. Warm water from the hot water tank hasn't had a chance to be exposed to the open air.

    HOWEVER, heated water will get rid of chlorine much faster than cool. You can also aerate that water to speed up the process by pouring it from one container to another, or shaking the container for a few moments before leaving it to sit.

    It's worth mentioning that most municipal water sources don't have the level of chlorine that can be damaging to most plants. If you can taste it or smell it, I'd worry. Pirate girl, doesn't NYC have some of the best tap water in the country? (I might have just dreamed that, lol.)

  • pirate_girl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    No Rhizo, You did not dream that; that IS what they say.

    I drank it for years, tho' in Brooklyn, it's a little cloudy when first run from the tap. When I first moved out here in the late 80s, the Matriarch of my family used to suggest one let it stand for a minute or two so the cloudiness would clear.

    Then abt 10 yrs. ago I had heard there was cryptosporidium (don't remember exactly what that is, a bacteria maybe) in the water. I volunteered in the AIDS/HIV community & knew that was a potential hazard for those afflicted so I paid more attention. When I saw a HUGE water main replaced in my neigborhood (looked like the original was older than I am) I got concerned. That combined with the fact that I had a friend who was immuno-suppressed, caused me to start boiling my drinking water & have continued to do so ever since, except for the plants' water.

    I do remember thinking that Manhattan water was quite tasty especially when very cold!! The reason is our water isn't local, it comes down from Upper NY State, I believe the area called Croton, like Croton on the Hudson, etc.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I had to look up cryptosporidium and all I have to say is: GAK! We take safe drinking water too much for granted in the country and sometimes we shouldn't.

  • birdsnblooms
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I keep old milk containers filled with 'tap' water..Some containers are hidden behind taller plants. Chlorine evaporates and water is room temp. Plus handy when needed.
    Since Spider Plants (Chlorophytums) dislike chlorine, tepid, room-temp water prevents brown tips, so keeping milk containers nearby makes it an easy task.

    Aquarium water may have a 'fishy' odor, lol, understatement, but it's great for plants, especially foliage types.

    One year, I set out containers to collect snow..after it melted there was a whole two inches..lolol..

    In summer, rain-water perks up plants..For those who set plants outside in summer, did you ever detect, after a shower, a clean scent emitting from your plants? I've even noticed, many-a-plants sprout flower buds..

    Misting: I keep misters in rooms plants reside. They too are filled with tap water.
    If one can afford buying bottled water for their plants, then, by God, do it. Just be sure the company is legit.. :) Toni

  • Mentha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Toni,
    If used on a regular basis aquarium water does not have much of a fishy smell. I used to drain my tanks 1/4 the way once a week, (cichlids are really messy) besides, it couldn't smell any more fishy than FE ;) I know 4 times a month is extreme, but some fish require cleaner water than others. Speaking of which, I need to set up my fish tanks again.

  • pirate_girl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sorry Folks & Rhizo,

    Didn't mean to gross anybody out; I'm sure crypto is not that likely for immuno-healthy folks, but still.

    I had parasites as a child; I grew up in the tropics, our water wasn't safe to drink unless filtered. Unfortunately, as a girl I sometimes drank tapwater while brushing my teeth 'cause it was deliciously cold. My Mom said behavioral changes led to my diagnosis at which time the whole family was tested & my Dad was found to have other parasites at the same time. All treated & cured, we were all fine.

    I just looked it up to refresh my memory & saw many entries marked 'Wiki', so I post as a caution, don't read that, it's not reliable.

    I went to the CDC's site for latest info. Guess I'll keep boiling my water, just in case.

  • birdsnblooms
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Mentha, I too use Fish Emulsion, but some people cannot tolerate the smell.
    I suggested, to a friend in Ca, to spray her plants with FE to rid a bad case of Scale. She did..She said, she and her husband almost passed after unscrewing the cap. LOLOL
    Thankfully, she wasn't upset, and her scale kicked the bucket..

    Mentha, we used to breed Cichlids, mainly Jack Dempsey's, among other fish, (live and egg-layers.) They are VERY messy..If you set a plant, genuine or plastic in gravel/sand, they swoop down, dig 'm up, and everything'd go flying..lol..You're right, after cleaning, the smell isn't as strong. Have fun cleaning your tank. :)

    BTW, remember my Triangle Ficus? Our new dog, 1-yr-old now, Coco, decided it was tasty, (while we were out) chewed and ate it up..He also got a few succulents, plus 2 dishes of rooting sux.. Why do we love out pets??? lol. I saved one stem of Ficus, trying to root..sigh Toni

  • meyermike_1micha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I give all my plants rain water and distilled or bottled water all year long.

    Toni is right, my plants liven right up after a rain shower, and smell nice, especially my gardenias. They especially love thunderstorms. It is as if they are inocculated with steroids after each one!

    My plants rarely get tap water, especially all my palms.
    I am curious though.
    I noticed alot being said about cholrine, which isn't even the reason why I hate to use tap. In fact, it never occured to me it could be harmful... But thanks for the info:-)

    What I am wondering is, does anyone avoid using tap water because they are concerned of the salts or sodium in it?
    This is the reason why I haven't for years. It seems like when I use tap, the tips of my plams turn brown, my spiderplants too, and my clay pots turn a whitish color on the outside. Some might say it could be the fertilzers, but for years I never use fertilizer.

    This do not happen when I stop using tap.. It would happen to the ones I didn't care to use tap water in though.

    Does anyone who lets their water sit out to to disapate chlorine, avoid hosing plants down all summer from faucet when a drought is in progress?

    Should I be concerned about salts in my water, or should anyone else?

    If not then, I would love to save myself a buck or two and stop buying fresh water,when getting rain water at times in the winter when it is impossible to collect when it is frozen.
    I would also love to feel that watering my plants all summer with the hose to faucet will cause no harm too...

    Thanks alot

    Mike

  • gobluedjm 9/18 CA
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Bottled water isn't completely free of stuff. It has to go thru some purification process. All my plants get tap except the peace lily which gets bottled. If I notice it needs water ahead of time then I'll draw it and let it set overnight, but normally I don't think about it. It is just one bottle.
    My water here is very bad, full of lime and no telling what else. Doesn't seem to bother my plants.
    I hose them down outside when I think of it and no harm from it either.

  • mlevie
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    As much as half of all bottled water is filtered tap water, so you can save yourself a ton of money and do a lot of good for the environment by filtering your own tap water and using that. This will generally remove the chlorine as well.

  • daw_etc
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Rainwater? Eek, what an extra task to try to collect that!
    I find that letting tap water sit over 24 hours (for chlorine to evaporate) works nicely. For cuttings or new babies or fussy plants, I think making the water just a tad warmer than room-temp is nice because room temperature water is sometimes a lot cooler than one would think...

  • horse_chick
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use tap water 100% of the time on all my accounts, many of them have plants that are 10, 15 even 20 yrs old in them to no ill effects.

    Other then JCs which, on occasion will show fluoride damage.

    In general, the type of water used, doesn't matter. It's the amount given that ALWAYS matters. That bottled/rain water isn't going to hurt and if it makes one feel better to use it, then go for it. It's not necessary for thriving houseplants though.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    A little about water: All water basically starts out as pure H2O vapor in the atmosphere. It condenses around a nucleation point, maybe a dust particle, forms a drop, and eventually falls to earth or evaporates and starts over again to form another drop. There may be some airborn acids & other compounds that dissolve in it, but it's rather pure stuff. Essentially, at this point it is almost the same as distilled water, and because R/O water is usually extremely pure, we can include that in the discussion.

    Water passes into plant cells by osmosis. What drives osmosis is the difference between the concentration of solutes in the water that is inside cells compared to the concentration of solutes in the water outside cells. Water with high levels of solutes moves toward water with low levels of solutes until the level of solutes equalize, then water movement stops.

    What does this mean to plants? Lets start by recalling what I said about how water moves. Since distilled and rain water have essentially nothing dissolved in them, they pass into cells with the least amount of resistance (or difficulty). All tap water is chemically different, so we cannot make the generalization that 'tap water is ok' based on the experience of 1 or even 100. It may be, but it may not be.

    Highly variable in tap water are pH, alkalinity, hardness .... Important among the properties is what is dissolved in the tap water. Magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) are very common in water. Iron (Fe), sulfur (S), and other metals are usually present as well. I mention this because all these things dissolved in water are the same type of salts that fertilizers are made of.

    We can't even say that in all cases rain, distilled, or R/O water are best, unless we know what fertilizer the person is using. Most fertilizers that are soluble in water contain NO Ca or Mg. If we use distilled, rain, or R/O water with these fertilizers, we could run into deficiencies of these two elements unless we supply them. Usually, they are in the soils we use from a bag, but if we make our own soils and don't make the effort to supply them (garden lime or gypsum + Epsom salts), deficiencies of these elements are probable.

    Tap water can present another problem. Often, there are very high amounts of either Ca or Mg in the water. If the ratio of Ca to Mg gets skewed (3-4:1, Ca:Mg is a good ratio), it can affect the ability of the plant to take up the other element (an antagonistic deficiency). If for instance, your tap water has more Mg than Ca, you are probably going to see evidence of a Ca deficiency. If there is a fair amount of Ca, but almost no Mg, it's likely the opposite can occur. These deficiencies are common and can easily occur when we add Epsom salts (Mg+S) w/o adding Ca.

    One other important way that tap water affects plants (besides pH): As the level of solutes in the water rises, it becomes more difficult for the plant to take up water and the nutrients dissolved in it. It's always an advantage for us to keep the level of solutes in the soil solution low (especially in winter, when it's important for plants to absorb water efficiently). Let's say that we have an imaginary plant that will start to struggle with water uptake when the level of solutes reaches 1,000 ppm. IF we start out with tap water that already has 300 ppm dissolved solids in it, we can only add 600 ppm fertilizer, where with distilled water, we could have added the full 1,000 ppm.

    Why is this important? Well, if your plant needs the equivalent of 250 ppm N between doses, and you're using a 1:1:1 ratio fertilizer (like 20-20-20), that means that in order to supply the 250 ppm of N, you have to supply 250 ppm of both P and K as well (because they are found in equal measure in the fertilizer). That means you would supply 750 ppm of fertilizer to satisfy the need for 250 ppm N. When you add the 750 ppm to the 300 ppm in our tap water, suddenly you're at 1,050 ppm in the soil solution w/o even considering what residual fertilizer and dissolved salts are left in the soil before we fertilized.

    I'm not using the illustration to say you will have trouble with tap water, only to show that you need to be more careful; about your rates, your soils, and your choice of fertilizer blend %s. In the example above, we could have supplied 24-8-16 fertilizer at only 2/3 the rate of the 20-20-20, which would have satisfied the N requirement, provided more than adequate P&K and brought us in well under 1,000 ppm.

    If you use a fertilizer that supplies all the nutrients a plant needs in a favorable ratio (I'll post a chart) in rain, distilled, or R/O water, you can have the lowest concentrations of solutes in the soil solution possible, while still supplying nutrients at above deficiency levels. I most often use Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 because it has all the essential nutrients, including Ca and Mg, which are rare in soluble fertilizers. Plants do 'take what they need and leave the rest', but it makes no sense to knowingly supply nutrients the plant cannot use, because those unused nutrients add to the concentration of solutes in the water, increasing the solutes in the soil solution and making it more difficult for plants to absorb water & other nutrients.

    The chart:
    I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
    N 100
    P 13-19 (16) 1/6
    K 45-80 (62) 3/5
    S 6-9 (8) 1/12
    Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
    Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
    Fe 0.7
    Mn 0.4
    B(oron) 0.2
    Zn 0.06
    Cu 0.03
    Cl 0.03
    M(olybden) 0.003

    To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on. When you see that plants use about 6X more N than P, and not quite 2x as much K, it makes little sense to apply 20-20-20 and give them equal amounts of each.

    I know it was a long, long way to make the point that distilled/rain water are best if you want to use a fertilizer complete with all the essentials, but in the end, 'what kind of water you should use' depends in very large part on what is in it, how much of it, and in what ratios to the other elements that are also in it.

    Al

  • ronalawn82
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Tapla, that was such a well thought out piece of writing that it feels almost ungentlemanly to suggest there is an error in there. I remember osmosis as 'movement from weak to strong' which is apparently contradicted by your assertion:
    "Water with high levels of solutes moves toward water with low levels of solutes"

  • maidinmontana
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I used to keep a gallon jug in the cupboard to water my peace lily and spider plant, (they say they don't like chlorine) but then I just used really hot water from the tap and let it sit to cool down before watering. The hot water has sat in the water heater tank long enough that the chlorine isn't an issue.

  • tommyr_gw Zone 6
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I use rainwater as much as possible. I grow a lot of carnivorous plants as well as normal plants and tap water is a big NO NO for them.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Good catch, Ron. I wondered if anyone would read it. ;o) I switched my "high" with my "low" when I said "Water with high levels of solutes moves toward water with low levels of solutes until the level of solutes equalize, then (I should have said) 'net' water movement stops." What I said should have been reversed - in accordance with the hypo/iso/hypertonicity effect.

    When speaking of watering and fertilizing plants, I often describe plasmolysis or over-fertilizing, which occurs when the level of solutes in the soil solution (usually from an accumulation of irrigation water salts and fertilizer salts, or over-fertilizing) are higher than the levels in the water inside plant cells. This 'pulls' water from the cells (weak to strong, as Ron noted). When the cell water is depleted to the point where it cannot push outward on the cell membrane, the membrane collapses and pulls away from the cell wall.

    Here is what fertilizer burn (plasmolysis) looks like on a cellular level.

    Al