How to treat a plant that has been watered with lime

Excessively hard water isn’t always the best thing to water your plants with. Hard water is overly calcareous, meaning that it contains significant amounts of calcium carbonate (also known as chalk or lime). This can cause limescale deposits to develop - this is the same stuff as you might see building up in your home, around taps and sinks etc.

SIGNS

Using hard water on your plants is not always an issue, but some plants are much more sensitive to this than others, and can actually end up being damaged by the water. This will show up usually as marks on the leaves

For example:

  • Brown leaf tips

  • Brown or black spots

  • Yellow leaves

  • Wilted leaves

WHAT TO DO NOW

Firstly, you should gently remove all damaged leaves from your plant. Then, to prevent this from happening again, make sure to water any delicate plants with lime-free water (rainwater, water from a purifier or water from your dryer) in the future. Unfortunately, depending on your location, tap water can often be quite hard, so may not be suitable for your plants.

QUESTIONS

WHAT IF I ONLY HAVE ACCESS TO HARD WATER?

If you live somewhere where hard water is prevalent, it may be a good idea to invest in a water purifier, as this will help to filter out the excess minerals in your water - a bonus for both you and your plants! A cost-effective alternative to a water purifier is to collect rainwater. However, if you’re not able to access a purifier either and really have no choice but to water with hard water, you may need to reconsider which plants to have in your collection. Try to avoid sensitive/delicate plants and those that dislike high alkalinity - as this is common in hard water. Examples include begonias and Ericaceous plants. There are plenty of plants that prefer an acidic pH, so keep an eye out for those instead.

IS LIMESCALE HARMFUL TO MY PLANTS?

Limescale buildup is unsightly, and can also potentially cause damage to your houseplants. This is because it can interfere with nutrient availability. If you see limescale on your plants, on the soil or on the pot, you can remove it by scraping or wiping it off. Usually a wet cloth is enough to remove the buildup - just make sure to use distilled water or rainwater when cleaning, otherwise you’ll just be adding to the problem!