Do plants grow better with tap water or distilled water?
Good old H2O is essential for all life on Earth. Plants require water to grow, but not all water is good. Tap water around the world is filled with fluoride and other chemicals that can harm plants. The pH balance of water must be also optimum for fauna, but most water contains impurities.
However, distilled water has gone through a distillation process rending it pure and balanced.
How Water Affects Your Plant’s Growth
Water is an essential element for all plants. Depending on the genetic makeup of a plant, will determine if the plant needs more water or less, and some plant’s genetic makeup allow them to survive during a drought.
Plants absorb water through their roots, which travels up their stem, through xylem vessels, to either their leaves, flowers, or fruit. Water carries nutrients that it absorbs from the soil, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
If a plant receives too little or too much water, it can have a damaging effect on them. If there is too little water, the nutrients can’t be absorbed, and the growth will eventually stop.
They will also not appear healthy, because they will start to wilt or shrivel up and their leaves will dry up, turn brown and eventually die.
If there is too much water the roots can rot and they are unable to receive enough oxygen and other nutrients. It can also cause the plant to become lazy, so it will no develop or maintain its root system, which will eventually cause it to die.
What Is Distilled Water
Water is not found pure, (with a pH of or close to 7), in nature. Something will always dissolve in it, which is why distillation is used to create distilled or pure water. Steam distillation is the most common form of producing purified water. It combines evaporation with condensation to create pure water.
In short, the water droplets that are created from condensation is collected to create pure water. This water has had the major of the common impurities or soluble substances removed from it, such as organic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, etc.
Why Distilled Water is Useful
The type of water that is used is also important. Distilled water is as close to pure water as can be found, most of the impurities have been taken out of it. Some tap waters contain chemicals which can build up in the soil of the plant.
Some tap water is considered “hard,” or contains a lot of minerals in it, which some plants cannot handle. Also so households use water softeners.
The water softeners add high levels of salt to the soil and deplete the nutrients from the soil. Another problem with tap water can be the pH level of the water.
If the water is too acidic or alkaline, the plants are unable to proceed in using the water to gain its nutrients. If the water is too acidic (that is with a pH below 7), it reduces the amount of calcium, magnesium, and potassium the plant receives.
If the water is too alkaline (with a pH above 7), the calcium builds up and stops the plant's ability to absorb nutrients. One way of making sure your plants are getting the correct type of water is by using distilled water.
Plants that live indoors, in greenhouses and nurseries have a higher chance of buildup from chemicals or minerals in the plant's soil. These plants don’t have a chance to wash them away like outdoor plants can with rainwater.
These plants have a higher chance of not getting the proper nutrients with the buildup. One way to prevent this is by using distilled water. Since distilled water is pure water, with no chemicals or minerals, there is no chance of chemical or mineral build up.
Solutions For Loss Of Minerals – Indoor Plants or Greenhouses
Distilled water has all of the impurities taken out of it, which includes minerals. Some minerals that are removed from the water are essential to the growth of plants. One way to combat this is to add plant food to the soil to make up for the minerals lost.
distilled or RO water for hydroponics?
When using hydroponic gardening, water replaces the soil. Without soil, there is no way to filter out the impurities, which can cause an increased and quicker buildup of chemicals and minerals.
Distilled water also allows you to have complete control as to what is put into your systems, and in turn what goes into your plants.
Loss of Minerals and pH levels – Hydroponics
In hydroponics, water takes the place of soil, so it is crucial to make up for the lost minerals. Two minerals that are lost, when using distilled water calcium and magnesium. Cal-Mag is a type of nutrient solution that should be added to hydroponic systems.
These nutrients, not only help to make your plants grow, but they also help to balance out the pH of the hydroponic system.
The pH levels in hydroponics is another important thing to check. Distilled water has a pH level of 7, which, is not found naturally. Also when pure water mixes with CO2, it causes the water to become more acidic.
The ideal pH level for plants is around 6 because plants are able to draw the most nutrients at this level. So, you must continually check the pH levels in the tank.
The Cal-Mag supplement also helps to keep the pH level in check.
So you don’t necessarily need distilled water if your water source is safe. However, there is a big plus when using distilled water.
You don’t need to worry about impurities in your water, or if those impurities build up in the soil around your plants.
Distilled water is cleaner and healthier for your plants, and they will help to grow the plants to their full potential.
3 diffrent ways to Make Distilled Water at home
You can buy distilled water at the store or by a water distiller. However, if you want to make your own, there are three common methods for making distilled water.
Method 1- Glass Bowl
Items needed: 5-gallon stainless steel pot, glass bowl, lid, ice, water, stove, clean storage containers
Possible needed items: round baking rack, tongs, hot pad holders
- Fill the pot half about halfway with water.
- Set the glass bowl inside the pot. It is important to make sure that the bowl floats if it doesn’t place the round baking rack on the bottom of the pot and set the bowl on top of it.
- Place the lid upside down on top of the pot and fill with ice. This will create the condensation, with a hot/cold barrier.
- Boil the water in the pot. As the stem begins to rise, it will condense on the lid, and then fall into the bowl.
- Continue until you have as much pure water as you want.
- When finished, shut off the stove, and take the lid off.
Note: Take the bowl out of the pot. *Be careful not to burn yourself, this is when the tongs and/or hot pad holders would come in helpful* *You can also leave the bowl in the pot until the bowl cools down if you prefer*
Store the water once it is cool.
Method 2- Glass Bottles
Items needed: 2 glass bottles (preferably one with an outward neck curve), 5-gallon stainless steel pot, duct or gorilla tape, a bag of ice/ice pack, water, stove, clean storage containers.
- Fill one bottle with water. About 5 inches from the top.
- Join the two bottles together. Make sure they are secured tightly with duct tape or gorilla tape.
- Fill the pot with water. Enough to cover the bottle filled with water.
- Tilt the bottles to about a 30-degree angle. Lean the empty bottle on the pot’s rim. The bottle with the outward neck makes it easier to collect the distilled water.
- Place the ice on the top of the bottle that is outside of the pot. This creates the hot/cold barrier.
- Continue until you have enough water.
- Store in containers.
Method 3- Rainwater
Items needed: Clean container, rain, outside, clean storage containers
- Place the container outside. It will collect the rainwater.
- Leave it outside for two days. This allows for the minerals to dissipate.
- Store in storage containers. *It is also a smart idea to boil or treat the rainwater if you live in a place that has a lot of chemical debris in the rainwater. *
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.