Does Watering Plants with Soft Water Help or Hurt?

Plants never do well when watered with soft water. Softened water contains high amounts of salt. The sodium in salt interferes with the natural water balance of plants and, in a sense, tricks them into thinking that they are receiving more water than they really are. The result is tragic, as plants slowly die of thirst.

How To Avoid Hurting Plants With Soft Water

There are ways to keep your soft water for personal use but protect your plants from the negative effects.

1. Mix Rainwater With Softened Water 

Set out a barrel to collect rainwater. Combining fresh rainwater and soft water will lessen the damage from sodium. There will still be traces of salt that get into the soil, but not as much. If you live in an area that gets minimal rain, purchase gallons of distilled water as an alternative.

2. Bypass Your Soft-Water Line

Some people have a full-house softener but keep one faucet or outdoor spigot that is connected to the main water supply separately. This is not difficult and can eliminate the problem of using soft water on indoor or outdoor plants. Just mention your desire to the water softening company that installs your soft water tank.

How To Help Soil That Has Been Compromised by Softened Water

Not all areas of the country have the same degree of soil quality. If you live in an area where the water is only slightly hard, you may not have a need for a water softener. Different parts of the country have varying degrees of hardness in the water. It is not a good idea to avoid using a water softener just to save your plants and soil. Hard water can tear up pipes and appliances and leave a mineral buildup on sinks and tubs.

Check your water's pH balance to see how much alkalinity it contains. Plants such as azaleas, caladiums and begonias may not grow as well in hard water. In these cases, reverse osmosis may be a solution. Many soft water companies believe that the water produced by reverse osmosis is the best water for serious gardeners. Precision control ensures the right nutrient flow to your plants. If you have delicate plants, consider switching to water produced by reverse osmosis instead of hard water.

If you fear that your yard and garden have been treated repeatedly with soft water, it is possible to reverse the pattern through leaching. Leaching is when your soil is saturated with unsoftened water in order to wash away the salt from softened water. Care must be taken, however, to replace any washed-away minerals in the process.

Watering trees and soil occasionally with softened water will not kill them, but never make it a habit. If you feel that your plants are not as healthy as they should be, have your soil tested for poor pH balance and your water tested for too many hard-water minerals. You should be able to reach a happy balance by mixing rainwater with soft water to improve the situation.

It is not always easy to keep the right water balance between what is comfortable for humans and what is needed for plants and soil. The easiest way is to keep softened water available inside and natural well water, or rainwater, outdoors for lawns, trees and gardens. Keep an eye on areas that seem to be less productive than others. The balance can be different in one part of your property depending on past care. Whatever your method, watering is a necessity when it comes to tending to your plants.

For more general watering information, read the following articles:

How to Choose a Garden Irrigation System

Garden Watering Made Easy with These Top Tips

Everything You Should Know About Deep Watering

How to Keep Outdoor Plants Watered When You're on Vacation

How Deep to Water Your Plants

A Guide to Water-Efficient Gardening

Plants and Water—A Brief Look at How Water Affects Plant Growth 

Waterlogging—What It Is and How to Prevent It

A Guide to Watering Your Plants in Hot Weather 

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