Some houseplants are very sensitive to the chemicals and minerals in tap water. Prayer plants (Maranta, Calathea, and Geoppertia) and Anthuriums are the two most common houseplants that can suffer from tap water sensitivity.
When watered with tap water, these plants often develop browning on the leaf tips and edges. The harsh chemicals in tap water also cause additional stress to the plants, affecting their health, growth potential, and ability to fight off pests and diseases.
In today’s post, we will discuss a super easy and affordable way to create safe water for these sensitive plants so that you can grow them into large, healthy, and beautiful specimens.
Table of Contents
- Why is tap water so problematic for some plants?
- Okay, but can’t you just let your water sit overnight and then water your plants safely?
- The Easiest Way to Make Safe Water for Sensitive Plants is to Use a Water Conditioner
- Related Articles
Why is tap water so problematic for some plants?
Tap water is designed to be safe and beneficial for people to drink, not necessarily for anyone or anything else.
Tap water often contains fluoride and chlorine or chloramine. None of these are good for our more sensitive plants.
Chlorine and chloramine are added to control bacterial and viral pathogens in the water, such as stopping the spread of norovirus. Read more about it here on the CDC site.
Fluoride is added to our tap water to protect our teeth, just as it is added to our toothpaste.
Depending on where you are located around the globe, varying amounts of calcium, magnesium, salts, and other minerals will also be present in your water.
The amount of these minerals determines how hard your water is. The more dissolved minerals in the water, the harder the water is.
Many plants are also sensitive to these salts, just as they are sensitive to the salts in fertilizers and can suffer fertilizer or salt burn.
Having chlorine, chloramine, and fluoride in our water serves a very important purpose for us, but our plants aren’t always thrilled by it.
In fact, carnivorous plants are incredibly sensitive to the minerals and chemicals in tap water. You can do everything perfectly in terms of care EXCEPT for using distilled or safe water to hydrate these plants, and your carnivorous plants may die because of how sensitive their roots are.
Some other plants (such as ferns, spider plants, African violets, and orchids) can exhibit signs of stress from tap water too.
The truth is that tap water isn’t really ideal for any of our plants, but only some of the plants show serious signs of stress because of it.
Bonus information on fluoride:
The mineral fluoride occurs naturally on earth and is released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. All water contains some fluoride. Usually, the fluoride level in water is not enough to prevent tooth decay.[…]
Community water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride in drinking water to a level recommended for preventing tooth decay.Water Fluoridation Basics, CDC, United States Government, Source
Okay, but can’t you just let your water sit overnight and then water your plants safely?
There is a popular belief that all you have to do to prepare water for sensitive plants is leave it out for a day or two. Once you do, any bad stuff will evaporate out, and the water will be safe.
Unfortunately, this is a myth and isn’t true. Well, at least not completely true because:
- Chlorine DOES evaporate if you allow your water to sit for at least a day, ideally longer.
- But Chloramine does NOT evaporate, regardless of the length of time the water sits
- And Fluoride does NOT evaporate, regardless of the length of time.
- The same is true of the other salts and minerals
The CDC reviews this as well, linked here on the CDC site.
The Easiest Way to Make Safe Water for Sensitive Plants is to Use a Water Conditioner
What is a water conditioner?
A water conditioner is a liquid that can be added to tap water to detoxify chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, and heavy metals, allowing water to be safe for certain pets and plants.
Water conditioners are most commonly used in the aquarium industry. Chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals are toxic to fish.
Because of this, aquarists had to figure out various ways to make it practical for people to keep fish alive in their homes and provide their fish with clean, nontoxic water. Water conditioners were the answer.
One of the reasons why houseplants love being watered with water from a fish tank is that it is “pure” water where all of the yucky chemicals and stuff the plants do not like have been removed. The other bonus is that the water is rich in natural fertilizer from the fish waste.
Why do I recommend water conditioners for houseplant growers?
Water conditioners are super affordable, easy to use, and very accessible. They are available in every pet store with an aquarium supply section!
The one I recommend is Seachem Prime. I’ve been using this product for decades with my freshwater aquariums and, more recently I use it for watering houseplants.
It took me a very long time to make the connection that I could use this product for my plants just as I could for my fish.
I linked Seachem Prime to Amazon through the affiliate program, which means I could make a few pennies if you buy using the link above. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use my link. Any money I may make will go back to support this blog.
How do you use it?
Conditioners are very easy to use. Like fertilizers, they have easy-to-follow directions on the bottle that explain how much conditioner to use for a specific amount of water.
The little bottle I linked above requires only 2 drops of water condition for every 1 gallon of water.
To make things super easy for myself, I bought a couple of 1-gallon watering cans. Now I simply fill up the watering cans, add 2 drops, and stir.
It’s so easy that I water all of my plants with detoxified water. It might be my imagination, but they all look happier.
Here’s the watering cans I bought and liked. I tried a different kind from a big box store, but it was made from a thinner plastic and the handle would bend when the can was full and heavy. That was super annoying.
The cans below have been nice and sturdy and I like having a larger amount of water. Fewer trips back to the sink for refills is nice!
The watering cans are available in lots of colors, too. There is also a smaller size, which is nice as well. I have both. I found these particular watering cans in local stores and online.
The watering can is linked to Amazon through the affiliate program, which means I could make a few pennies if you buy using the link above. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use my link. Any money I make will support this blog.
Water conditioners are awesome because:
- They easily make your tap water safe for sensitive houseplants
- They can be found at any pet store with an aquarium supply section
- And are affordable to purchase
The only real downside is that water conditioners do not remove fluoride. To do this, you would need to buy distilled water or have a better filtration system that guarantees the removal.
But for the average grower, water conditioners can work very well for most plants in most circumstances!
For Incredibly Sensitive Plants, An Important Note
For incredibly sensitive plants, like carnivorous plants, water conditioners may or may not be enough. You would need to do some testing. My best recommendation in those cases are the Zero Water Pitcher, which I originally learned about from California Carnivores, a world-renowned carnivorous plant grower.
ZeroWater 6-Cup 5-Stage Water Filter Pitcher (linked via Amazon affiliate program)
“5-Stage Filtration: Removes virtually all total dissolved solids (TDS) for the purest tasting water; Total Dissolved Solids are organic and inorganic materials, such as metals, minerals, salts, and ions dissolved in water.”
The quote above is from their Amazon listing.
This pitcher is different from Brita filters and other related filters.
The more common water pitcher filters DO NOT remove all dissolved solids. They will not create the type of 0 TDS (total dissolved solids) water you are looking for, particularly when growing carnivorous plants.
The Zero Pitcher has been super useful for me when growing carnivores and even for refilling humidifiers around the house. Great product if you are looking for a different alternative.