Anyone use epsom salt as fertilizer for houseplants?

grice(z5 Michigan)April 8, 2008

Hello everyone! I haven't posted here in awhile.It's good to be back. I saw the tail end of a story on the afternoon news last week.There was a woman from a nursery who said t epsom salt is a good thing to use on houseplants. She said it makes the plants grow and thrive. Has anyone else tried this? How much epsom salt do I use? Would 1tsp per gallon be suffcient? I have an aspidistra,some pothos,a zz,parlor palm,sago,spineless yucca,several ficus,calamondin(sp?) citrus,hoyas,and some philos that I'd like to try this with.Should I not use the epsom on any of the plants that I've mention?

Thanks for the help.


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Hey GRICE!!!!! How are you??? Long time no see for sure. How have you been? Where have you been hiding? I'm happy seeing you here.
Okay regarding Espom Salts. People who add ES swear it makes a big difference. In fact, last summer, a woman I met on the internet, and who happens to live in IL, gave me a beautiful Mandarin Orange. She used ES's liberally, and I have to say, the citrus is gorgous. She used a lot more than recommended on the pacakage. Every leaf is vibrant green, and very healthy.
This is the dosage on ES's bag. For house plants, mix one teaspoon per gallon of water and feed (their word) to plants every one to four weeks. It also says, for quicker results, water plants after applying this product.
There is also a dossages for outdoor plants, so if you need additional information let me know..
I notice (most) generic ES brands, do not detail use on houseplants. Wonder why?
Grice, don't be a stranger. I'm really happy seeing you. At least you're still growing plants. Some people have given up. Please keep us posted..hugs, Toni
PS..ES's aren't use in place of fertilizer. It's to be used along with fertilizer. It's an additional Magnesium Sulfate. Keeps foliage green.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:45PM
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speaking of Epsom Salts, I was curious....Can they turn clay pots white, even cause white crust. I remember I mixed some into soil then planted some plants in clay pots, and within 6 months, I had white crust, thick as could be falling off the sides and top of my pots. The only fertilzer I was using at that time was Neptunes fish harvest.
So basically, if one starts to use ES within their clay pots, can we expect this to happen to the pots? I think the word SALT in Epsom makes me question it.
Take care all of you!! :-)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 5:53PM
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grice(z5 Michigan)

Hello Toni!I'm fine.How have you been? I'm sorry to be such a stranger. I'll email you in the next day or so(if you don't mind).Yes I'm still growing the plants.All are doing well except for the yucca. It's being tempermental but I'm not going to let her get the best of me lol. I know what you mean about the generic epsom salts and the directions. I bought a carton today at CVS and it says nothing at all about using for plants. I'm not sure why the company wouldn't give directions for all its uses. If I ever want to take a long spa like soak then they have the directions for that covered lol. How are your plants,pets,&family? Thanks for the instructions for use of the salts on my plants. I'll send that email off no later than Thursday. Toni it's always good to hear from you my friend.You've made my day!!!:):):)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 7:09PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Anything furnished to a plant that includes any of the elements necessary for plant growth is a fertilizer. It may not be a balanced or complete fertilizer, but it IS a fertilizer.

To me, it makes no sense to select an element at random and simply furnish it to a plant in the hope that it will somehow help - especially if you have no clue what the result of furnishing that element might be.

For most of you, those using a bagged soil, the soil will have been pH adjusted with dolomitic lime, which is a source of both Ca and Mg in the same compound and in the proper ratio. As it slowly breaks down, it releases the Ca and Mg and plants can take it up. IF the soil somehow becomes deficient in Mg (the ONLY reason you would EVER need to add Epsom salts), it will also almost certainly be deficient in Ca.

Ca and Mg are what is termed 'antagonistic' in soils. This means that how much of one is in the soil affects how much of the other can be taken up. The most favorable ratio of Ca to Mg is about 4 parts Ca to 1 part Mg. When you start adding Mg at the extremely high rate (for one element) of 550 ppm as suggested by 1 tsp/gallon, you virtually insure an antagonistic Ca deficiency unless you add about 2,200 ppm Ca. Plants should not be asked to tolerate these dosages, added to their other nutrient needs, plus the dissolved solids in the water you water with.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:20AM
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does anyone know if Epsom Salts cause clay pots to crust with white stuff?
If not answered here, I will start a thread just for this..Thanks. I don't think anyone saw my question..:-(

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 9:47AM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

For as long as I can remember, and I'm guessing I have some memories from 66-67 years ago, persons have recommended "Epsom salts" for one darn thing or another.

BTW, why is Magnesium sulfate a chemical compound containing magnesium and sulfate, with the formula MgSO4 called "salts" with an "s" on the end of the word salt?

Anyhow - my grandmother often started statements with "anyhow" - to my knowledge no one has ever demonstrated any spectacular or even particularly impressive uses for the sutff in the home or garden. The persistence of stories about Epson salts seems to be a result of the fact that it has a cosmetic effect when added to a bath or soak and it is a cheap laxitive. I suppose if your plants show some need for additional magnesium it would be a quick fix.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:18PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I doubt it, but am not positive. Then again you could try it & see.

In the past, I have mixed some ES into my watering to no ill effects. I saw no evidence of it building up on my clay pots. Then again, I only did it in moderation.

I've heard of ES being applied more to outdoor plants (like roses & or azaleas) than indoor plants.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:19PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes it can/does, Mike. Since it's a dissolved solid in solution, when the water goes away (evaporates) the solids are left behind in the soil, or in your case, on the outside of the pots. Tap water does the same thing as it evaporates, leaving behind ANYTHING dissolved in the water.

If symptoms indicate you have reason to suspect a Mg deficiency, it makes much more sense to add dolomitic (garden) lime to the soil which also adds Ca in the proper proportion. The only situation you'd be likely to encounter where you wouldn't need to add additional Ca is if you run across a soil that had gypsum instead of lime added as a Ca source to keep soil pH lower. THEN, it would be appropriate to add Mg (Epsom salts) only, but it would be highly unusual for you to encounter a soil like this, unless you made it yourself.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:16PM
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Thnaks all. thank Al to. I have made my own, the way you showd me and only added gypsum. The fertilizer you prepared for me in the MG has added epsom right?
So I am prepared to see my pots turn white as soon as I start fertilizing with your mix you shared. At least this way I know it is nothing growing on my pots due to something bad.
Thanks alot to you all. So epsom salts can turn clay pots white.:-)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:36PM
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grice(z5 Michigan)

Thanks for the responses. Al I'm a lay person who grow plants as a hobby. I appreciate your response and your expertise though I would have loved to have it put in lay terms lol:).
Thank you all.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 4:36PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

That's right, Mike.

Grice - I basically said: * It's pretty silly to just go adding stuff to plants & hope it works. * That there is a relationship between Magnesium and Calcium in soils, and that too much Epsom salts will make it impossible for a plant to absorb Calcium. * To use garden lime if your plant is KNOWN to have a magnesium deficiency because it has the Calcium to go along with the Magnesium & you won't have an imbalance like you will when you only add Epsom salts.

Any better? ;o)


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 6:23PM
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Hey Grice, I'd love hearing from you. I sure miss emailing like we used to. I hope everything's okay at your end. When someone disappears there's a 'story' behind it. And most aren't good.
Well, I'll explain later. I'm okay, pets and plants fine, but still have mega problems w/son. U know how it goes..I thank God for plants and pets, otherwise I'd give up.
As I stated above, I only used ES's once, this year. The people I have talked to who use ES';s been adding for years, and vow by it, which is one reason I went ahead and bought a bag. It never hurts to experiment, and since ES's aren't chemicals, I have no problem 'experimenting' to see how plants look afterwards, though it may take a few months to notice a difference, and if there is a difference to notice. LOL.
Some people say cigarette ashes are good for plants, but that's something I've never tried. LOL. For one thing I'd be worried it'd start on fire. Although, I got hold of cig butts, (when a new Gardenia I got had scale, before knowing Fish Emulsion would rid them) so I made a batch of cig butts in water for 24 hours. To be honest, it didn't kill the scale. Then I applied a strong insecticide, followed directions to a T, only to have the plant die. From that day on, and this was about 1995, I never again used chemcial insecticides, and won't.
When you have time, drop me a line or two or ten..LOl..hugs, Toni

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 7:49PM
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grice, magnesium is one of the essential elements in the chlorophyll molecule and if it is in short supply, the leaf color pales but in a particular pattern. On most leaves there will be a green(er) triangle-shaped area at the base of the leaf. On many grasses it shows up as a yellowing between the veins. The trouble is that the latter symptom can be due to other reasons. I would expect the healthy leaf to have about 0.75% Mg. As far as I remember Epsom salt was obtained by boiling down water from springs at Epsom in England. As to why 'salts' and not 'salt', spring water contains many salts and my supposition is that any product obtained by boiling down spring water would be called 'salts'. Long ago and far away, we were given 'salts' or 'Epsom salt' as a purgative. Both were magnesium sulfate. Trivially, there is a colloquial idiom around this concept as in "he passed through the village like a dose of salts!"
In exterior lawn care, elements like iron, magnesium and manganese are used instead of nitrogen for 'greening'. The advantage of this is that one gets the prettier shade of green without the additional growth and the accompanying extra mowing.
The pharmaceutical product is less expensive presumably because it is used in a bath for soothing the feet and discarded. The horticultural product must pass strict labelling criteria and this testing is expensive.
I almost forgot the one, fun application of magnesium sulphate. We used it for frosting plain glass.
But these days one has to use a product in accordance with its labelling.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 9:41PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Al,

(I'm not Grice but), I particularly appreciated the lay version, (IMO) much better, thanks for that extra effort.

(PG) Karen

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 11:03PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Karen. Over the years I have come to have plenty of affection for the collective 'you', which is all the forum contributors/participants grouped together. I've made GW an extension of my growing hobbies & spend the time here that perhaps I might be spending watching TV, but I enjoy it here soo much . . . , and the reward in terms of friends being made has been remarkable.

In my travels on GW, I see all manner of bad or often just ineffectual advice. That in itself isn't usually enough to make me want to respond, but if the advice has the potential to harm your plants, or somehow negatively impact the fun/pleasure you get from nurturing them, I feel kind of obligated to respond/point that fact out and offer the reasoning behind why I responded or dissented.

Take good care. ;o)


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 11:46AM
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grice(z5 Michigan)

Thank you Al.That's much better :). I prefer the "Plant Growing Guide For Dummies" approach LOL.
Thank you Rona!
Toni I sent you an email. I'm not sure if you got it or not but it's always good hearing from you and my friends here on GW. Do you still have the same email addy?
I've never tried cig butts before. I have tried the egg shells in water.My mom used them and had wonderful results. I used them and all I got was a smelly house when I opened the jar :( .
I'm so sorry to hear you're having trouble with dear son. Don't you dare give up Toni!That's an order lol.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 10:20PM
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