Watering plants

Water, as we all know, is something that most, if not all, of life on earth needs to survive. We sort of turn the tables on our houseplants when we bring them indoors and start to use the water that comes out of our tap. This was particularly true for me when I noticed that my beautiful spider plant that was full of tiny little babies started to do poorly. It did so well outside and was only ever watered with well water that was not treated. A quick little research pointed out that spider plants do not like treated or otherwise known as softened water. Since we had a longer fall and this plant could stay out outside to just past Halloween, it was very noticeable that the plant started to collapse quite quickly. Softened water is hard on many plants and can cause quick death to many of them. Besides excess sodium from softened tap water, the other problem that sometimes occurs with public water is a buildup of fluoride. Plants don’t need much of that mineral, and a buildup can also cause tip-browning or leaf-spotting. One of the most fluoride-sensitive species is the common spider plant. If you see that one spotting and tip-browning, there’s a good possibility that fluoride is an issue. So, there you have it! Water houseplants with non-treated water, which in my case means using water out of the tap in my basement that does not pass through the water softener. For others, this means a couple of things. The next time rain is expected, set some buckets outside and let them fill with rainwater or snow, which has no added chemicals. If you use a dehumidifier, use the water in the drain pan, which is distilled water, on your plants. Otherwise, draw water for your plants the day before you plan to water them. A day’s evaporation should clear the water of chlorine and give enough time for most minerals to settle harmlessly to the bottom. Discard the bottom one to two inches of water. You could also use bottled water but that may be an unnecessary cost to you.

Overwatering is also a problem for many plants. I think we tend to overwater more in the winter months because we are focusing all our attention on a small group of plants instead of our plants outside. If you are not sure if your plant needs to be watered, push your finger into the pot about two inches and if it is dry, then they could use a drink. There is also the debate on how to water which means from the top of the pot or from the bottom. The best way to water effectively is to move your plants, if they are small enough, to the sink and water until it runs out the bottom of the pot. Let it sit in the sink for a bit and return it back to its place in your home. If you water from the bottom, you must have a dish under the pot and then pour water into the dish to allow it to be drawn up through the bottom of the pot. After about a half hour or less, then discard what is left in the dish so that your plant is not sitting in water which will cause problems as well.

If you suspect that you have a plant that is sick from too much treated water, remove the plant from the pot and remove all the soil from the roots. Discard all the soil into the trash and repot. Within a week or so you will see new growth starting to come back on the plant which means you were successful in reaching the correct conclusion about what was going on with your plant.

Oh, and as far as my spider plant, it is doing much better now. For more on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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