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Hard water isn’t always the best thing to give your plants. Hard water is overly calcareous, meaning that it contains significant amounts of calcium carbonate (also known as lime). This can cause limescale deposits to develop - this is the same residue you might see building up around taps and sinks.
Using hard water on your plants is not usually an issue, but some plants are much more sensitive to this than others. Lime sensitive plants can end up with stunted in growth or even wilt if minerals begin to build up in the soil.
Some common signs:
New growth is paler, or has a green veining on otherwise pale leaves (chlorosis)
Brown, dry leaf tips or edges
WHAT TO DO NOW
Any leaf damage, or discolored leaves won't heal, but if they still have some green, you can leave them on the plant.
In bad cases, or if you believe your lime sensitive plant has got too much lime buildup in the soil, you can repot it in new soil appropriate for your plant.
To prevent lime buildup in the future, use distilled water or rainwater for your most sensitive plants. Flushing the soil now and then and using regular tap water can also help prevent buildup in less sensitive species.
Note! You should not use softened water on your plants as this is treated with salt. You may not see decline right away, but your plants will slowly decline and weaken as the salts build up.
WHAT IF I ONLY HAVE ACCESS TO HARD WATER? If you live somewhere with hard water, 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 regular pitcher filter will decrease the minerals present in the water, but not eliminate them entirely. Rain water is also a great alternative for sensitive plants.
IS LIMESCALE HARMFUL TO MY PLANTS? Limescale buildup is unsightly, and for the most part harmless if the plant isn't very sensitive to lime to begin with. You can manually remove the visible buildup on the soil surface or the edge of the pot.