water for houseplants

ann0nymous1March 31, 2007


Long time forum reader, first time poster.....

My question concerns water for houseplants. I have read other postings concerning the use of softened water. Would boiling softened water help? I also have access to hard water from the outside tap...what about boiling that? Which of the 2 would be preferable?


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I don't know of any reason boiling either water would help. If you are willing to go through the work of boiling water why not just go through the work of collecting rain water and using that?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:28AM
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I've always wondered if the chlorine in tap water had any effect on plants?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:47AM
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Hard is better than softened... almost anything is.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 5:22AM
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Yes Noki, chlorine in tap water DOES have a negative effect on plants. If you must use tap, first leave it out for at least 24 hours (or maybe overnight would be enough time).

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 2:18PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I've used tap water for my plants for many years, in many different locations. Never have I felt that I needed to leave the water out in order to allow the little bit of chlorine to evaporate. Nor have I ever seen any problems caused by the chlorine in tap water. I've also grown large greenhouses full of bedding plants, hanging baskets, etc. with no problem.

It's the soft water that can be the problem...and for some plants, fluoride.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 3:52PM
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Chlorine doesn't make brown tips on spider plants for you Rhizo? Tap water = brown tips for me. Switching to distilled water = no brown tips.

I recently used a fertilizer that contained a small amount of chlorine (intended for hydroponics) with the distilled water and poof! brown tips.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 5:57PM
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I've always used tap water, and nothing but tap water, for all my plants; it's been about two decades now. Most of the time I leave the water out to sit for 24 hours but there are many times that I simply fill up a jug and use the water immediately. In all these years, I have not seen any ill effects from tap water. And I agree with Rhizo that soft water and fluoride for some plants is the problem, not the chlorine. Other than that, I don't worry about the water for my plants - and they're not complaining.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 5:59PM
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I think if you leave the water out to sit for 24 hours "most" of the time, and use the water immediately some of the time, that's not as bad as using direct tap water ALL the time. I think it's the build-up of both the chlorine and flouride that causes problems like brown tips. I water my plants every so often with tap water, and I've seen no ill effects either. However, I do think that if you use tap water all the time, it will negatively effect the plants. Most people that I know use tap water and their plants are not very healthy looking, and many have brown tips. I can just SMELL the chlorine in my tap water! It can't be good for plants.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 6:37PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

No chlorine is probably best, but many times one just has to use what is there and available now, not 24 hours from now. Professional interior landscapers use whatever tap water comes out of the client's faucet.

Sometimes the brown tips are actually a symptom of improper watering (usually too much water). You can also get brown tips from accumulated fertilizer salts that don't get leached out.

I use tap water with chlorine and it works fine for me.

BTW, brown tips can be quickly fixed with a scissors if need be.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 7:22PM
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True Watergal...brown tips can be fixed easily. I get brown tips on some of my plants (my spiders and my ponytail palm), and I water them with filtered water ONLY. And I don't think the other reasons you posted are causing the brown tips. I think my watering schedule is pretty on par with the plants' requirements (I tend to water pretty infrequently...the spiders get watered when dry and the ponytail gets watered as often as my succulents...and the soil is very coarse and fast-draining). And I use a very mild fertilizer (Eleanors VF-11). So I'm not sure why the tips are brown, but it's "fixable" so I don't worry about it.

But if cutting the brown off, it's important to leave a tiny bit of brown when cutting the brown tips off....otherwise the brown will grow back.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 10:00PM
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Gabro, water quality is dependent on where you live as well. We don't have fluoride here and I don't smell the chlorine, so I guess it's not that bad to begin with. We drink the water straight from the tap. If it's good enough for us, it's probably good enough for the plants too. For the first 15 - 18 years, I never left water out in jugs; I've only been doing that for a few short years now, mostly so the water reaches room temperature - not necessarily to remove the chlorine. So let's say that for 15 years, hundreds of my plants got watered with water straight from the tap. I think that in all that time, I would know what type of quality the water in this area is since I live here, and whether there were/are ill effects on my plants from it.

But my results won't apply everywhere; each area has its own quality. The best thing to do is to know what type of water your area is servicing you with and take it from there. Tap water is not general - one size does not fit all.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 10:21PM
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Very true Naturelover. Some tap water is just undrinkable, whereas other tap water is fine without any filtration. I guess it depends on where you live. Lucky you...you probably save a lot of money by being able to drink from the tap and water your plants from the tap.

In terms of chorine (I'm not too sure how to test for flouride), I guess tap water can be tested by using a test kit from a pool supply store...that can help with both testing the tap water in general to see if there's chlorine in it, and also testing it after it has sat out for 24 hours (to see if and how much the chlorine has evaporated...if there IS chlorine in the water, that is). I read this somewhere, and it makes a lot of sense.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 11:20PM
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I've always been under the impression that brown tips were usually caused by a lack of adequate humidity and not related to the water.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 6:52PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Don't forget about Chloramine...
I don't age water either, never had a problem. It really depends on your local water source & local processing (IE; type(s) of filtration and types of chemical added to make the water potable)

Back to the original post;
Boiling will not soften water. Many things that can be in water will evaporate out but the mineral content of the water will not. Hardness is a common measure of the mineral content of the water.

Regular household water softeners can damage your plants so don't use water that has been passed through one. You can filter water though peat moss and it will soften it but it take some time for it to work.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 10:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Brich - chlorine and compounds of fluorine regularly take the rap for brown tips/margins that should more rightly be attributed to either or a combination of a level of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil that is too high, or a soil that remains soggy for extended periods (days) after you water. Both conditions inhibit water uptake and the plant's ability to move water to distal parts - leaf tips & margins. Low humidity is a condition that can significantly contribute to burned leaft tips and margins, but the most progress in eliminating or minimizing spoiled foliage will be realized through creating conditions that contribute to good root health/function, and the ability to water correctly. Fast draining soils that remain well-aerated after you water, and that you can water copiously to regularly flush out accumulating salts, will go a long way toward relieving you of having to look at spoiled foliage, and will also contribute significantly to improving growth and vitality.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 3:32PM
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