Wondering if the multipurpose bottle of vinegar can be sprayed on your plants? I am sure some of you are.
It can be tempting to use it as most of us always have it in our households and we use it for various purposes, from cooking to cleaning to health care, but you remember reading somewhere that it might even help houseplants thrive.
Is it true, can I spray houseplants with vinegar?
The short answer is no, you can’t spray houseplants with vinegar, it’s not safe. Vinegar will dry out the leaves and it will give the plant a really hard time to recover. Furthermore, if the vinegar gets in the soil, it will kill the plant altogether. But this does not apply to all plants.
How come? Let’s see what really happens there.
Why you can't spray houseplants with vinegar
Bear in mind that by vinegar I mean the good old fashioned apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, however you want to call it, potato-potahto, and not commercial vinegar.
Household vinegar gets a lot of popularity for being a useful item to have in the kitchen and homes in general, some might say it can do miracles on plants.
Well, I don’t know about you but, while I do enjoy a bit of the good old vinegar in my salad, when it comes to my plants, I believe in science and experience more than internet tittle-tattle.
So if you are looking for the whys, here comes the explanation. Household vinegar contains 5 to 8% acetic acid by volume, which is a dominant chemical, hence the pungent smell and distinctive taste.
Spraying vinegar on your houseplant’s leaves makes the acetic acid interact with their cell membranes, destroying them and therefore, drying out the plant’s leaves.
If you spray houseplants with vinegar, only the parts of the plant that were touched by the vinegar will be injured.
The good news is that even though results are quick, they are not always lasting. Although the plant might look dead within 24 hours from the incident, in most cases, the roots are still alive and the plant will grow again in no time.
Unlike in the case of alcohol, this is not universally applicable to all plants though. Some plants are more susceptible than others to be harmed by the vinegar’s burning effect.
Young, annual houseplants are most vulnerable and I would advise avoiding any kind of experiments on them, including spraying it with vinegar. Mature perennial or annual plants, on the other hand, are more likely to recover from damage.
Okay, but what about the roots? What if some vinegar gets in the soil?
There’s no need to worry as long as we’re only talking about small amounts. If only some vinegar got in the soil and it might travel to the roots of the plant, most probably the plant will be fine, especially if it is a mature perennial.
Small quantities of household vinegar are not efficiently absorbed by the root system so chances are the plant will not die.
Effects of vinegar on common houseplants
So when we’re talking about houseplants, we refer to the wide range of plants adapted to grow beautifully inside our warm and cozy homes. But not all houseplants are the same. In fact, one could say that each houseplant is unique.
Now, if you spray houseplants with vinegar, the damage level depends on the size and age of the plant. Let’s see.
Damage: 0/5 – vinegar makes them happy.
Vinegar is yummy for the acid-loving plant, so when you spray vinegar on them, they will thrive, as they feel most comfortable in a rather acid environment and make the most out of it. Some acid-loving plants are:
Some succulents and most cacti
Damage: 1/5 – usually not harmed.
Ah, the evergreens! Perennial woody plants who had quite a long life behind them, have probably seen and endured more than a few drops of vinegar on their leaves. These are the staples, the old heroes of your house.
Think of Dracaena. If she’s grown about 3 feet/ 1 meter high, she’ll be fine at the touch of the household vinegar.
Of course, it depends on the quantity, but worst comes to worst, if she’s tall and healthy, she’s got enough foliage to recover from the damage.
Another good example is the Snake Plant. They’re not too tall per se, but they have strong, thick foliage that is less susceptible to the harm caused by the acetic acid in vinegar.
Damage: 2/5 – can be harmed
The most common effect of vinegar on succulents is some cosmetic damage.
Here is the threshold where if you spray houseplants with vinegar, the houseplant can be left with scars on its leaves. This happens if the household vinegar has been sprayed on it in small quantities.
If there was a rather large amount of vinegar sprayed or poured onto the succulent, it can develop fungal infection and die within 3 weeks to 2 months.
Also, the level of damage depends on the type of succulent.
You can expect the most damage in plants like Huernia or Echinocereus (cacti), while Aloe and Haworthia (both the same family) are among the ones that came out with only some skin scars.
Damage: 4.5/5 – most vulnerable
Technically, all herbaceous should be considered annual plants, because they don’t have woody stems, but there are always exceptions from the rules, hence the perennial herbaceous plants.
And they can be tough cookies, or not.
Take the Salvia Divinorum, for instance. She makes a lovely houseplant that serves as a herb and will grow year after year if she’s kept indoors but will not survive frost.
As per the vinegar, if she is sprayed by accident, the leaves that got touched will be burned and should be removed. But most likely, she will recover right in time for the next season.
You can still use vinegar on houseplants
To keep pets away
Those of us who have pets know that they are curious creatures who love to get in trouble.
So, if you worry that your cat will sit in their favorite houseplant pot or even pick a fight with your beloved succulent, here’s a simple solution: soak a towel with vinegar and wrap it around the pot.
I guarantee your cat will be repulsed by the smell and look for trouble somewhere else.
To repel bugs
The same method from above can be applied to put an end to pests on your plants.
For a more extreme solution, you can also soak some cotton balls into vinegar, drain well and then place them randomly on the soil of your houseplant.
To make acid-loving plants happy
Some houseplants love a high level of acid in their soil. These are plants that thrive both indoors and outdoors and include a wide range, from fruit plants to lovely potted flowering plants.
Think of gardenias, or daffodils, for example. They love an acid environment and will be more than happy to be sprayed with vinegar on their leaves or have it poured on their soil.
Although the vinegar’s effect is temporary for these plants, it will act as a quick acid boost.
If you’re curious to know more acid-loving plants, you can find more of them in this article.
Help! I sprayed or watered my houseplant with vinegar.
We all make mistakes and there is no reason for you to beat yourself up about this one! In most cases, if you accidentally spray houseplants with vinegar or pour vinegar on them, you should flush or rinse them with lots of water, but it depends on the quantity of the sprayed vinegar and on the size of the plants.
If you want to find out exactly what to do in case this happens, check out the following cases and see which one has the solution for you.
Vinegar on young plant
Danger level: 5/5
To be honest, you can’t do any worse than if you water or even spray houseplants with vinegar when they are young.
But no need to panic. What you can do is rinse the leaves of the plant well as soon as possible with clean water.
This should be done before the vinegar dries off, in which case, there are some chances the houseplant will recover. This is because the acid will not have had time to penetrate the leaf’s cell and destroy the membrane, but only weaken it.
If the vinegar dried and it’s been a long time since the incident happened, there’s probably no point in rinsing the leaves anymore because the acid had already got to the cells, destroying their membrane.
In this case, the plant will die.
Vinegar on old plant
Danger level: 3/5
If you spray houseplants with vinegar and the plants are old and large, there is still hope.
In this case, I would recommend rinsing very well with water or, if the plant is large and there is not much time, pour a bucket with lukewarm water over the houseplant quickly.
If it is a wood stem plant, then it will be fine. Even if the damage seems rather significant, the plant will recover in time for the next season.
If it is an annual plant, it will be pretty damaged but with a bit of luck and if you act fast enough (before the vinegar dries off), you have good chances to save your houseplant, even if it loses some of its leaves.
Diluted vinegar on young plant
Danger level: 3/5
In this case, flush it with lots of water. There is not much else you can do to stop the vinegar from killing the plant apart from that.
There is a chance the plant will make it on its own. However, you can also try to help it recover by watering it more often than usual and offering the best possible conditions.
Diluted vinegar on old plant
Danger level: 1/5
If you spray houseplants with vinegar when the plants are old and the vinegar solution is not so strong, your plants will be okay.
This is the best-case scenario and your houseplant will recover soon or if you’re lucky it won’t get damaged at all.
Just make sure your houseplant has the best conditions, gets enough sunlight and the right amount of water, so there are no other factors that could harm it more.