Bright sunshine on a hot day then a brief, cool summer storm lets loose. It can actually feel pretty refreshing when that cool moisture hits your face. Rain may be more than just nature’s way for our planet to clean the water; it can also be an added benefit for potted plants along with their outdoor growing friends.
Do indoor plants like rain? Yes, but moderation is key when it comes to rainwater and potted plants. It would be very easy to soak the roots to the point that it could kill your plants if the pot doesn’t have proper drainage.
Rainwater is actually very healthy for plants, better than just tap water. Between the chemicals in city water to the minerals that can be in well water, rainwater is actually the best choice for a plant, but you can’t just stick it outside whenever it rains and assume that would be sufficient. In potted plants, the amount of watering does need to be a bit more monitored than outdoor plants.
Tap Water Vs. Rainwater
In general, rainwater is hands down better for plants than tap water. It has fewer chemicals and more oxygen in it. Rainwater is healthier for any plant, no matter its current location. This is not to say that just leaving a houseplant outside is the best option, though. Outside factors can make your plant sick or damage it, like pests, wildlife, or harsh weather like strong winds.
Tap water has chemicals to clean it, fight bacteria, and the like. These chemicals are not healthy for plants of any kind, but houseplants can be more susceptible to it because of the lack of rainwater to clear away the chemicals on a regular basis. Tap water also usually has fluoride in it, which can inhibit the roots from being able to draw in water.
Limited exposure to the outside world will limit things like pests that may damage your plants. So finding the balance of healthy rainwater and exposure to things that can damage the plant needs to be found. A few short trips outdoors should be fine, especially to just enjoy a light spring shower, which can both water your plant and give it a much needed wash as well.
There is also the added benefit of being able to conserve water, which can be a major concern, depending on where you live. This can be achieved by collecting rainwater outside for indoor use. This will allow your plants to get the benefits of the healthier rainwater while limiting the risks of outdoor life for them. A win/win scenario as far as the plant is concerned.
You can limit some of the issues with the chemicals in tap water by leaving it in a bucket for at least 24 hours. Many of the more harmful chemicals will evaporate this way, leaving water that is a bit healthier for your plants. This is why just leaving water in your watering can would be more beneficial to them. After you have watered your plants, refill the can and let it sit till next time.
Even if you do use tap water on a regular basis, it is still a good idea to use rainwater a few times a month to help rinse off any chemicals that tap water use would leave on your plants or in the soil. The less tap water you have to use the better for the health of your plants. Eventually, the tap water may damage your planets enough to kill them.
Why Not Well Water?
While well water can be a bit healthier for any plant, including indoor plants, than tap water used in the city, it is not nearly as healthy as most people believe it to be, at least where plant life is concerned. Well water can contain things like magnesium, sulfur or calcium which can both leave a white residue on the plant’s leaves and be damaging to its roots.
Some well water may also have high concentrations of iron in it, which can also damage your plants. This occurs when water, such as rainwater, is filtered through the earth to underground aquifers. These aquifers are what wells tap into and bring water to the surface, but since it could have been sitting there for thousands of years, lots of minerals have a chance to dissolve.
Though most minerals can be limited by running the water through a filter before using it for your plants, a filter can’t catch everything, and some may still get through. Using a high quality filter will catch more things and help make the water healthier for both human and plant life, but a filter will not be able to catch everything no matter how high quality it is.
If you use a water softener for your well water, this now makes it just as bad, if not worse, than tap water because of the chemicals used to soften the water. Unlike rainwater, which nature softens naturally, water that we soften is done so with sodium which can damage the roots, possibly even killing the plant entirely.
The Biggest Danger of Rainwater
While rainwater itself is hands down the healthiest choice for plants, when you consider that potted plants may not have the proper drainage for a heavy rain, the biggest danger is actually overwatering your poor houseplant. Overwatering can not just damage the roots but will in essence rot or drown them. Even roots in a plant need to breathe.
Overwatering a houseplant can occur pretty easily since they do not have the natural drainage that an outside plant is afforded. They do not have 10 – 50 feet of soil mixed with rocks below their roots but mear inches to soak up extra water. So ensuring that your plant has proper drainage is vital.
This can be accomplished by using two little tricks that I have found to be very helpful.
- Make sure the pot you are using has drain holes at the bottom. This may sound very obvious to some people, but maybe not to others, especially those new to horticulture. Some new plant enthusiasts many be concerned that holes in pots can cause water to go all over the place. This can be prevented by setting the pot in a bowl while watering.
- Before you even add soil to the pot, add a couple of inches of stones to the bottom of the pot as well. This will keep the roots from sitting directly on the bottom and will allow for better water drainage in houseplants. Just that little extra bit of space will make all the difference in the world to your plants.
In the case of houseplants, abundance isn’t always better. Whether you are using tap water or rainwater, you should always check the soil before watering. It should feel a bit dry without feeling like a desert. If you can feel the moisture in the soil, the plant has plenty of water and will be ok for at least another day or two.
Taking into consideration the heat and humidity in your local area can make a difference too as to when you should water. If you have low heat and high humidity, evaporation is not a big risk so your plant will probably dry out less than a plant that is in a high heat, low humidity area.
While the key to watering an indoor plant may be about maintaining a balance, it will do less harm by underwatering your plant than overwatering it. If you see your plants begin to wilt a little bit, check the soil for moisture. If it feels dry, your plant may be trying to tell you it needs more water.
You can use a variety of methods to collect rainwater, though most of them usually boil down to a container left outside to be rained in or to collect run off. If your only intention for the collected water is to use it on your plants, then collecting runoff from your roof would be just fine. If you plan to make other uses of it, then just using a rain collection barrel would be a better option.
When you collect rain from the roof, you may also be getting chemicals from the roof, animal feces that is being washed off by the rain and any other number of contaminants that have collected on your roof since the last rain. While these contaminants would be bad for humans, for plant life, it may add in extra nutrients that plant can make use of.
Standing water, like would collect in a wheelbarrow, for example, though can get kind of nasty looking and would make a human sick, a plant would see it as a treat. While you may not want to use standing water as a regular source for your plants, it can be a nice treat once in a while. Healthier than tap water in any event.
The best option is to use rainwater collected in a barrel or a pond. It will contain things like bacteria and other goodies from nature, which will also fertilize your plants while watering them as well.
Collecting in Winter
If you happen to live in an area that gets snow in the winter, that does not mean you can only collect water in the summer. Collecting snow, either fallen or as it falls, is a good way to provide rainwater to your indoor vegetation in the winter. Snow has all of the same healthy properties that rain has, in solid form.
You can either leave containers outside to collect the new fallen snow or you can just collect what has fallen from your yard. Unlike humans, plants won’t get sick by being exposed to a little dirty snow. They can actually get more nutrients from things like bird feces. A little extra dust on the snow is not dangerous to plants at all and may make it a bit healthier for them.
Snow cannot be directly applied to plant soil as the extreme cold could damage the roots or the stem of the plant. It will need to be warmed to room temperature first. For this reason, it is always better to collect snow and add to your container after you have watered your plants. This would allow the snow to melt and resulting water to warm to a safe temperature before use.
The Benefits of Using Just Rainwater
- Rainwater is naturally soft. It is not filled with minerals or chemicals or fluoride like tap water is. It is the perfect source of water for a plant. Most well water includes salt or sodium, which is used as a softener, which is really bad for the roots of a plant, while rainwater is balanced perfectly for a plant.
- Rainwater is slightly acidic, where tap water or city water tends to be more alkaline to try to protect city water pipes. This can have a negative effect on your houseplants over time. This is why many serious indoor gardeners tend to try to balance the pH range of the water and soil they use. This is not needed in rainwater; it is balanced by nature.
- Rainwater will collect organic elements as it sits. While water straight from the sky is healthy, rainwater that has a chance to sit will continue to collect things that are healthy for your plants. Things like bird feces, pollen, and even dead leaves will enrich the water for your plants. It will become something like a mild liquid fertilizer for your plants and will feed them when watered. Unlike commercial plant food, rainwater is much more mild.
- Plants also need nitrogen, which can be absorbed from rainwater. In rainwater nitrogen bonds with oxygen, which creates nitrates. Rainwater actually contains the most absorbable version of nitrates and is able to be used more efficiently, as nature intended.
Plants exist everywhere in nature, and man just can’t completely replicate what nature took millions of years to design. Nature is the perfect system to care for plants and though humans can’t exactly copy it, we can take advantage of what is freely offered to continue to bring life into our homes.
While plants need water, not just any water will do, they need healthy water just as humans do, but what is healthy for us is not necessarily healthy for a plant. Things such as bacteria affect us differently than it does plants. It is this difference that can make caring for plants so frustrating, yet equally rewarding.
For example, humans can eat chocolate, so much in fact that they could get sick from the amount of sugar in it. Dogs can’t because most chocolate is toxic to dogs. This is due to the chemicals in chocolate that are harmless to humans but dangerous to dogs, and the same holds true for plants. Some things that are safe for us are very dangerous to plants.
While plants are obviously not animals, let alone mammals, they are living beings. They may not have a nervous system, but they are living, and in order to continue to be in that state, they need access to water and food. The majority of the food that plants get is from light, which is why light is so important, but they also need water. Water is just as vital to a plant as light is
It is for this reason that we need to be aware of what kind of water they are getting. If the water is not plant healthy water, it will show. Your plant could start turning colors, more yellow than green, could lose leaves, start to wilt or not produce flowers in the way that they should. If you notice your plant does not feel well, then taking a look at the water may be a good first step.
Best Reasons to Use Rainwater
It conserves water in areas that experience droughts. In some areas, especially those that have concerns about wildfires, water conservation may be vital. By collecting rainwater and using this to water, your plants will help to make sure that you are doing your part to conserve water too. With climate change becoming as advanced as it is, every bit helps.
It is organic and for those who are concerned about the amount of chemicals in our world and our water, trying to raise your plants as organic as possible is good for both your plants and the earth. With the news reporting on the latest lawsuit against some company that is leaking chemicals into our foods, trying to raise plants, even houseplants, without them is better.
Rainwater is like vitamins and food and water all rolled into one, at least as far as the plant is concerned. It can help to keep them healthy and to thrive in an artificial environment. By giving them water that is designed just for plant life, you will be giving them the best possible chance they can get.