Happy Hour: What Do Indoor Plants Like To Drink?

Drink up! Plants need water - but do our plants like to drink anything else? Photo: Pexels
Drink up! Plants need water - but do our plants like to drink anything else? Photo: Pexels

Drink up! Plants need water – but do our plants like to drink anything else? Photo: Pexels

After 40 years in business, we’ve learned a lot about plant care at Good Earth Plant Company, and we love to share our best tips with you.

One topic never seems to get old: how much should you water your plants? More people are guilty of overwatering their plants, not underwatering them. It’s important to get this right by monitoring your plants and checking the soil.

Have you ever wondered if your plants would ever like something besides water to drink? Some people use commercial liquid plant food. But what about some of the common liquids in your home?  Believe or not, the answer is – yes, sometimes!

Water is life – but there are ways to help your plants grow. Photo: Pixabay

First, though, our DISCLAIMER. Good Earth Plant Company’s professionals use nothing other than room temperature tap water. It’s safe, available, and effective. But we know people think about this stuff. Then they do a Google search. Or not, they just try it. So if you’re going to try this at home, we’ll prevent you from doing anything completely stupid so you don’t end up with dead plants – or worse yet, poisoned pets or children.

So let’s take a look in the kitchen.

Coffee has some uses – with limits. Photo: Stephanie Albert, Pixabay

Coffee: Some gardeners use coffee grounds as fertilizer, or add them to compost. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, and so does brewed coffee, along with measurable amounts of magnesium and potassium, which help to feed plant growth. So does adding coffee to your watering plan make sense? Yes – but not the same coffee you serve yourself. If you add milk, cream, sugar, or anything else to your coffee, it won’t do your plants any good.

If you have black coffee left over from your morning pot of joe, let it cool and then mix it half and half with water. You can then use it on any acid-loving plants, like African violets, bromeliads, aloes, ferns, orchids, and many flowering indoor plants.

Don’t use coffee every time you water. Once a month is fine. If you notice leaves turning yellow, you might have overdone it. You can also use coffee on lawns and roses.

Milk: Using milk on plants is right out of the old-time almanacs. Raw or unpasteurized cow’s milk has beneficial proteins and sugars along with calcium that plants use for growth, especially certain vegetable crops. Milk can also be a natural remedy for powdery mildew on plants.

But on indoor plants, using too much milk can result in bacteria growth and the natural breakdown of milkfats. The next thing you know you’ll be wondering why your plant smell like spoiled milk. You can still use a solution of half milk, half water outside in a vegetable garden by pouring it around the base of new and growing plants.  If you want to use the same solution to clean plants leaves, it’s safe and worth trying to see if it’s effective for you.

If you’re willing to share a sip or two, beer can benefit your plants. Photo: Michelle Riach

Beer: Want to share a cold one with your plants? Your favorite brew is loaded with beneficial bacteria yeast, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Plants need all these elements to thrive. Yes, you can pour the last bit of stale beer into your plant, but if you don’t want your house to smell like a local craft brewery, dilute it with water. It’s an excellent supplement to any kind of fertilizer. The acids can also help prevent fungi growth and keep pests (like fungus gnats!) away.

Are you wondering whether plants can get drunk? It’s OK, you can admit it. According to Canadian botanist Michael Shaw, the answer is no. Plants don’t have a nervous system like human beings or animals. When the ethanol from alcoholic beverages gets absorbed into our bloodstream and hits our brain, it messes up our nervous systems’ ability to process stimuli. Plants don’t have minds to get messed up.

DO NOT pour anything packed with sugar like sodas, juice, or energy drinks into your plants. It’s not especially harmful, but it will draw insects and pests and might cause a curious pet to chew or dig. Don’t pour hard liquor into your plants for the same reason.

Beer can help control snails in your garden, but be sure you don’t leave it anywhere it can hurt curious children and pets. Photo: Dirk Schumacher

You CAN use shallow pans of red wine to attract and kill fungus gnats. Most people have also heard you can use shallow pans of beer to attract and kill snails. BUT – please please be sure both are way out of the reach of inquisitive pets and children.

Unlike people, plants don’t ever get tired of water. So you really don’t need to experiment. We get plenty of questions about water too. Still? Sparkling? Tap? Distilled? We just found our topic for next week!

I’ll spare you stories about the awful things our brave horticultural technicians have found poured into the plants of building lobbies, offices, hotels, restaurants, and outdoor patios. Please have some sympathy and think about the person cleaning up your mess! We’re not your mom!

Do your plants need some tender loving care? Call on the experts at Good Earth Plant Company. We enrich people’s lives with plants. How about yours? Email us at info@goodearthplants.com