Do you know that there are two types of water; soft water and hard water(It is a fact)? The words hard and soft are not literal, though. The phrase hard water refers to water that contains high levels of magnesium and calcium. Meanwhile, soft water is used to define water that contains a high concentration of sodium and a low concentration of magnesium and calcium.
A high concentration of sodium in water (obtained from salt) causes plants to die of thirst. The accumulation of salt in the soil will also make it difficult for plants to grow due to high salinity. This raises the question, is it safe to water your plants with softened water?
To answer this question, we first need to know what softened water is.
What is Softened Water?
Softened water refers to water that has undergone treatment to remove or reduce magnesium and calcium levels in the water. Most soft water treatment systems use potassium or sodium to remove minerals from hard water. In the process, the treated water is characterized by a high concentration of sodium.
Effects of Softened Water on Plants
Despite watering your plants, you might notice your plants drying up. This is because softened water causes plants to lose water through a process called osmosis. The high concentration of salt in softened water tricks the plant cells into believing they have enough water and eventually dry up due to thirst.
Over time, softened water leads to the build-up of high levels of salt in the soil. This causes salinity which prevents roots from absorbing water from the soil. Without uptake of water, the plants will eventually dry up.
Through osmosis, plants lose water to the saline soil causing water stress; the roots become dehydrated and less water is available for the plants to survive. Salinity in the soil will also cause stunted growth of plants. Plants develop smaller leaves than usual or unusual fruits.
However, the effects of softened water might vary depending on the species of plants. Some plants are more resistant to salinity and can grow well even when watered with softened water. Other plants will dry up at the slightest increase in salt concentration.
Now that you know the effects of softened water on plants, how can you use soft water for watering?
Using Softened Water for Watering Plants
As much as it is not safe to use softened water for watering, sometimes you might not have a choice. In such cases, below are some tips on how you can use softened water on your plants:
⦁ Use Potassium Chloride to Soften Water
Supplement sodium treatment with potassium treatment. Potassium is a plant nutrient and, therefore, will benefit your plants.
⦁ Install Salt-free Softeners
As the name suggests, these types of softeners do not use salt to soften water. Replace your salt-based softener with salt-free water softeners, and you can enjoy soft water without killing your plants.
Softened water is most preferred for home use. It does not clog pipes nor stain water tubs. However, it is not safe for watering plants. The best alternative is to use rainwater or install a second line to tap untreated water to water your plants. If you can’t avoid using softened water, use salt-free water treatment alternatives.