Most of the time our houseplants are all set with a bit of sunlight and plain water, but every so often, they might need a little extra feeding boost in order to thrive and be their best selves.
So can we use flower food for houseplants?
The short answer is no, you cannot use flower food for your houseplants. There is no value in feeding flower food to your houseplants. It is meant as a short-term solution for the flowers and there is no point in applying it to the soil or leaves.
Let’s dig in a little deeper and find out why.
Flower food typically contains a sum of three main ingredients: sugar, citric acid and sometimes bleach.
Sugar provides the necessary support for buds to bloom when flowers are cut before they are fully developed, since it acts a substitute for the naturally produced sugar during photosynthesis.
Citric acid helps the water circulate faster to the plants by lowering the pH level of the water, so flowers are less likely to droop.
Bleach, believe it or not, has its own important role. While sugar is very nutritious for the flowers, it also attracts all sorts of bacteria and makes plants stink. Bleach keeps bacteria away so flowers last longer. Clever, right?
So now you know that it is useless to use flower food for houseplants, but even if you do, what would happen? Let’s dig in a little deeper.
Can Using Flower Food Damage Houseplants?
Yes, but not necessarily. It depends on the concentration of each ingredient, so let’s take a closer look at what are the effects of every ingredient on houseplants.
Sugar occurs naturally in the process of photosynthesis of every plant. This means that our houseplants produce their own sugar from scratch. Pretty awesome, right?
They do that by using carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air and hydrogen from the water. So why would plants need any extra sugar?
Well, they don’t. The truth is that houseplants do pretty well on their own when it comes to sugar, and all we humans need to do is provide them with the favourable conditions for them to produce sugar. That is, water and air.
But what would happen if you still applied sugary water to the soil?
Well, you might notice some damage to the plants in time, for a few reasons:
Sugar will drain houseplants during the osmosis process. How come? When the sugar content in the water is too high, water will be drawn from the plant by the osmotic pressure, rather than absorbed by the roots, so the plant is more likely to dehydrate.
Sugar will attract fungus and bacteria. Because of the nutrients it provides, sugar creates the perfect environment for fungal spores and bacteria, making a mess out of the plant’s growing environment and putting it to unnecessary risk.
The pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity in a solution and it can have values from 0 (acidic) to 10 (alkaline). Citric acid naturally occurs in citrus fruits and typically has a pH level of 3-3.5. That means it is acidic and it can have a corrosive effect.
Houseplants feel most comfortable with a 5 to 7.5 pH level, meaning that adding citric acid to a plant’s soil or spraying it on the leaves can create an unsuitable environment for the plant to grow healthy.
Ok, so what does actually happen?
Adding large doses of citric acid to the soil of a houseplant will acidify the soil and therefore any water added to that particular soil. If it sounds dangerous, that’s because it is.
So citric acid can have a negative effect even on a healthy houseplant, because the acid burns the plant’s root system, preventing the essential absorption of the nutrients.
Sounds pretty rough, but it doesn’t mean that citric acid is all that bad for your houseplants. It may even be useful in smaller doses. In fact 16 percent solution of citric acid acted effectively as a repellent for bugs without significant damage to the plants, besides some minor cases of discolouration of the leaves.
If you’d like to know more about what are the effects of spraying citric acid solution on plants, check this in depth study done on Sweet Basil.
It is important to know that bleach comes in two main types:
oxygenated bleach, which is not caustic and it poses no harm to plants.
chlorine bleach, which is very damaging for houseplants and will even make any soil that comes in contact with it, useless.
Although chlorine is naturally produced by plants and is an essential part of the soil, a high content of bleach can cause chlorine toxicity, which is dangerous for the plants.
What Is The Difference Between Flower Food And Plant Food?
Flower food and plant food are hugely distinct because they serve two very different purposes.
Flower food is the combination of sugar, citric acid, and some type of chlorine, usually bleach. It comes in liquid or powder form and it helps freshly cut flowers look fresh for a longer period of time.
If you keep flowers often, I recommend this flower food to keep your flowers fresh for a long time. I keep these packets in my house and found them to be much better than those that come with the bouquet.
Anyways, flower food can be a temporary fix for a bouquet of flowers, but has no effect on potted houseplants.
But what is plant food?
Plant food is this mixture of naturally created sugar, minerals, macronutrients and micronutrients absorbed from the enriched soil that plants use to grow healthy.
If you are looking for an example of plant food, click here to check the one I have been using lately. It’s absolutely miraculous for indoor plants and more comfortable to use than the regular one.
Plants have the fantastic ability to make their own food with the nutrients they absorb from the fertilized soil, plus the magic jumble of air, water and sunlight.
Plant food is often used interchangeably with fertilizers, but are these two the same?
Nope, technically they are not.
Fertilizers are what gardeners use to supplement the soil so it can provide the plant with essential nutrients to grow and bloom perfectly.
Here is an example of fertilizer that works great, should you need one.
Sure, plants can take most of their necessary nutrients – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – from air, light and water, but apart from these, plants also need a number of other nutritious supplements so they can fully reach their potential.
This is where fertilizers come into action. Fertilizers contain, among other ingredients, the three main nutrients that plants crave for:
Potassium – plants need it when leaves are yellow or a very pale green in color.
Nitrogen – needed when dark veins are spotted on pale green leaves.
Phosphorus – should be used when dark green foliage is noticed.
These ingredients can come in different percentages in a fertilizer, depending on the specific purpose of the fertilizer. Although a plant requires more nutrients than just these three, this mix contributes to a happy combination that provides plants with the essentials for an absolute well-being.
The truth is, plants have the amazing capacity to feed on nature’s most basic and unique gifts, but sometimes they need our help to get the most out of what’s there, grow beautifully and live a long life.
Flower food is meant as a short-term solution for the freshly cut flowers and there is no point in applying it to your houseplant. Flower food actually has some ingredients that could damage your plant.
Stay kind, stay green and see you next time!