If you are trying to offer your houseplants the maximum care and attention, you need to know which plants hate tap water.
Many plants are fine with tap water, but it can do some serious damage to some specimens that are more delicate, especially if you live in an area where the water is full of chalk.
Here is the complete list of houseplants that usually need distilled water:
1. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula)
The Venus flytrap will not tolerate the chemicals or chalk in tap water.
These plants are highly sensitive to chemicals and cannot stand a buildup of nutrients around their roots, so they will quickly become sick and die if you water them with tap water.
This is particularly true if you live in a hard water area, where the water is thick with limescale. If you notice a buildup of either chalk or salt in your plant’s soil, you will need to repot it quickly, or it may die.
Watering guide: Venus flytraps like to be kept reasonably moist at all times, although they don’t appreciate sodden soil. They are marsh plants, so don’t let them dry out.
2. False Shamrock (Oxalis Triangularis)
This plant produces fleshy rhizomes, and it doesn’t like these being coated with chalk or chemicals.
If you are in a soft water area, the False Shamrock might cope reasonably well with being given tap water, but in hard water areas, it will struggle.
If you don’t have any distilled water, consider collecting rainwater from the garden and giving it to the plant.
If you notice a buildup of chalk on the surface of the soil, you will again need to change the soil and swap to watering the plant with distilled water.
Watering guide: water when the top inch of the soil has dried out, but not before.
3. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra Elatior)
The cast iron plant is generally not very sensitive, but it doesn’t like being watered with fluoride-heavy water.
Most tap water contains a lot of fluoride, and if you use too much tap water for the Cast Iron plant, you may notice its leaves curling and dying.
There are various types of cast iron plants, and all of them will prefer distilled water to tap water – although some are more sensitive than others.
Watering guide: water when the soil starts to dry out.
4. Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
Parlour palms are also not fond of the fluoride in tap water, and will struggle if they are constantly watered with tap water.
It’s best to give them distilled water at least some of the time if you are able to.
These plants dislike having water sitting around their roots, and the tips of their leaves will turn brown if they end up with too much fluoride in their soil.
If you see your Parlour Palm’s leaves browning and the plant’s soil hasn’t dried out, you should swap for distilled water as soon as possible.
Watering guide: aim to water fairly frequently, but keep the soil slightly dry, rather than too wet.
5. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena Sanderiana)
If you are growing lucky bamboo in soil, it may manage reasonably well with tap water, but if you want to grow it in just water, you need to make sure you are using distilled water.
Lucky bamboo doesn’t like chlorine and will struggle to grow in highly chlorinated water.
Even if you grow this plant in soil, it will prefer being given distilled water; this should promote healthier growth and richer foliage because the plant will not be stressed.
If you are going to use tap water, it’s a good idea to let it stand on the side for at least 24 hours before you water the plant. This will allow some of the chlorine to evaporate off the water, although it doesn’t necessarily get rid of other chemicals and contaminants in the water.
An even better solution is to boil the tap water and let it cool down, if time allows.
Watering guide: water when the soil is dry to about an inch down.
6. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)
Dragon trees are sensitive to fluoride, and won’t cope well with tap water, so it’s best to use distilled water. Again, too much fluoride will cause leaf browning at the tips of the plant’s leaves, and it is best avoided.
If you aren’t sure whether your dragon tree is suffering as a result of the tap water, inspect some of its leaves closely. If you have a variety with red edges, it may be hard to tell if they are turning brown unless you look closely.
It’s therefore a good idea to check regularly if you want to use tap water.
On the whole, dragon trees will grow much better when given distilled water.
Watering guide: only water when about the top inch of the soil has dried out.
7. Peacock Plant (Calathea Makoyana)
Peacock plants are very fussy about their watering routine as a whole, so you will need to pay close attention to the moisture levels in the soil.
Peacock plants like limited water, but they don’t like to be dry, and they will not tolerate tap water even in small quantities.
They need to be given distilled water instead, although you can use rainwater if you don’t have any distilled water.
Watering guide: you need to keep the soil damp, but neither dry nor wet. It can be very difficult to get the watering schedule right for a peacock plant.
8. Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura)
Prayer plants have a strong preference for distilled water, and will seriously struggle if they are given tap water.
Because these plants have such pretty, painted leaves, you need to provide the right kind of water to maintain their foliage. Avoid tap water at all times.
Watering with distilled water will keep the plant happy and keep chemicals from building up around the plant’s roots.
Peacock plants prefer tepid water, rather than cold or warm.
Watering guide: water regularly to keep the prayer plant’s soil damp throughout the year. Water a little less in the winter so that the plant’s soil has time to dry out.
9. Fishtail Palm (Caryota)
If you have a fishtail palm, you may already be aware that these plants don’t like tap water at all; they are sensitive to both the chlorine and fluoride in it, as well as the other chemicals.
Unfortunately, they dislike tap water so much that even boiled water won’t cut it.
To keep their leaves lush and green, you need to use filtered or distilled water, or rainwater.
Watering guide: allow the soil to slightly dry in between waterings. This plant would rather be under-watered than over-watered.
10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace lilies are much loved plants, but they are also sensitive to chemicals and will not appreciate being watered with tap water.
If you are growing one of these glossy green plants, you’ll need to provide it with distilled water to keep the foliage fresh and beautiful.
Putting a lot of chlorine and fluoride in the pot could kill the plant.
Watering guide: peace lilies droop dramatically when they are thirsty, and you should keep your plant well watered. However, permanently soggy soil will lead to the plant’s roots rotting, so be careful.
11. Kentia Palm (Howea Forsteriana)
The Kentia palm will get sick if it is exposed to the salt in tap water. You will be able to see the salts building up in the soil over time, and they will result in the plant’s leaves dying surprisingly quickly.
Keep your Kentia palm watered with distilled water to ensure its foliage stays fresh.
If you have used tap water and you notice the leaves starting to die, flush the plant’s pot out with distilled water or plant it in fresh soil.
Watering guide: give this plant a drink about once per week during the summer, but don’t over-water it, or it will start to rot.
12. Ti Plant (Cordyline Fruticosa)
The Ti plant is sensitive to the fluoride in tap water, and its leaves will start to wilt and turn brown if you keep watering it with tap water.
The tips and edges of the leaves typically show this browning first, but whole leaves may die if you continue watering it with tap water.
The fluoride will build up in the soil, damaging the plant’s roots and making it sick. You should therefore make sure you are using distilled water for this plant; this will keep it as healthy as possible.
Watering guide: the Ti plant should be watered when the surface of the soil dries out. In the winter, reduce how frequently you are watering it, as it doesn’t like to stay permanently soggy, and it may curl up and die if it is given too much to drink.
13. Areca Palm (Dypsis Lutescens)
Like many of the palms, the areca palm has a strong dislike for the chlorine and other chemicals in tap water, and it also dislikes hard water.
You may find that your areca palm struggles to maintain its glossy green foliage if you keep using with tap water, particularly if you live in an area with hard water.
Instead, use distilled water to refresh your plant and keep its soil free from contaminants.
Watering guide: the areca palm does not like being soggy, and prefers its soil to be lightly moist at all times. It will not appreciate being dried out or flooded.
14. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
Spider plants are more tolerant of tap water than many of the other plants on this list, but they still prefer distilled water.
If you use tap water constantly, you may find that the plant starts to die back. Its leaves will turn brown and crispy at the ends.
Where possible, use distilled water at least some of the time. This will help to rinse chemicals from the container and keep the plant happy.
Watering guide: when the top inch of the soil has dried out, give the plant a good drink.
15. Aloe Vera
The aloe vera is a lot less fussy than some plants on this list, but it still prefers distilled water to tap water, especially if you are in an area with a lot of lime.
If you have distilled water available, your plant will be much happier and should grow better, even if you give it tap water occasionally.
Watering guide: when the top few centimeters of the compost have dried out, water your plant.
There are many houseplants that do not enjoy being watered with tap water, and instead need you to provide distilled water to them.
The chemicals found in tap water, plus the chalk that is often dispersed through it, can clog up or damage a plant’s roots, and many different plants will be healthier if watered with distilled water.
Where possible, opt for this over tap water.
Houseplants Corner – How to make tap water safe for houseplants
Home Water – US hard water map