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Let’s dig into it before playing the blame game, shall we?
I want everyone to know they can have success with their houseplants, but I won’t deny it does take consistency and the willingness to give your plants the specific care they need.
The most common reason houseplants die is from overwatering them. Other problems that kill plants are issues with lighting (too much or too little), not repotting when necessary, and over or under fertilization. All of these problems are directly due to human error. But, sometimes, it isn’t directly our fault because some things can’t be seen by the human eye, such as problematic tap water.
So, in some cases, all of you serial houseplant killers might just be off the hook!!
What can be problematic about tap water?
The risks posed to houseplants by certain additives are hotly debatable among plant enthusiasts. Overall, most potential issues with tap water involve chlorine, fluoride, excessively hard water, and softened water. I’ll break down specific concerns about each.
Municipalities treat water with trace amounts of chlorine to kill harmful bacteria. This is, of course, safe to drink. However, although chlorinated water likely won’t ruin your plants, some evidence indicates that it may inhibit growth to some degree.
Over time, chlorine can also kill important microbes in the soil.
Again, however, it’s highly unlikely that chlorine alone will kill or seriously hurt your plants.
Often added to water to promote healthy teeth, excessive fluoride can build up in plant tissues and cause problems. Houseplants—particularly spider plants—can be vulnerable to fluoride damage. If your plant’s leaves have brown tips, it could be from fluoride toxicity. Still, while fluoride isn’t necessarily excellent for plants, it’s probably not the culprit if your plants are dying.
Hard water contains a large amount of calcium and magnesium. While these can be good for plants in small amounts, too much can cause get trapped in the soil, resulting in leaf burn.
When water is softened, calcium and magnesium are replaced by sodium, which most plants struggle to tolerate. It can trick your plants into thinking they’ve had enough water when they have not. Unfortunately, this can result in some pretty thirsty plants.
How should I filter or treat my water?
If you know your tap water is particularly hard or chlorinated, you may want to place your water in an open container on the counter overnight before watering your plants. This way, the chlorine will naturally dissipate. Fluoride, on the other hand, will not evaporate and must be distilled out.
You can also purchase distilled water from the grocery store or purify your own at home with a Brita Pitcher or a faucet system. If you only have a few houseplants, this could be the most straightforward option.
Of course, you can purchase an entire in-home filtration system to purify your tap water.
Remember: the jury is out!
As I mentioned, the extent to which tap water can damage your houseplants is up for debate. So, I am sorry to say, but you might still be the leading cause of your houseplants’ death.
All municipal water is slightly different; this makes it hard to pinpoint precisely whether or not your tap water could be causing issues. Only you can judge your own plants and the quality of your water. For more information on understanding water quality, you can check out this link here.