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Using sugar water to feed plants is a popular gardening hack. This is based on the claims that since plants produce their own sugar using photosynthesis, adding sugar water is like a supplement of additional sugar that would boost their growth.
This article discusses what sugar water is, the idea behind using sugar water, and whether it has benefits for your plants. Let’s get started.
What is Sugar Water?
Sugar water is a solution made by dissolving sugar in water. It is often used in cooking and baking as a sweetener, or as a simple syrup for cocktails and other beverages. Sugar water can also be used in gardening and plant care, as a source of energy for plants and insects.
To make sugar water, you simply need to dissolve sugar in water until it’s completely dissolved. The proportions of sugar and water can vary depending on the intended use, but a common ratio is 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of water. The water should be heated until the sugar is fully dissolved, and then allowed to cool before using.
Does Sugar Water Help in Plant Growth?
The evidence seems to show that this is a myth and that sugar water doesn’t offer the benefits it is claimed to provide. For some plants, this solution proves to be inadequate to help with growth, while for some, it can prove harmful and can even kill the plants.
There are many reasons that rule out the claims that sugar water is beneficial for plants. Firstly, plants don’t possess a digestive system like humans that metabolizes sugar.
Secondly, store-bought sugar is a complex sugar called polysaccharide, while plants only produce glucose which is a monosaccharide. The sugar from the local grocer isn’t easy to break down because it is complex.
Thirdly, plant roots don’t absorb sugar from the soil. When you feed your plants sugar water, it can block the pores on the root systems and prevent them from even absorbing water. This results in a wilted plant and eventual death of the plant in most cases.
It is true that plants carry out the process of photosynthesis to produce sugars. But they are self-regulatory and produce enough sugar for each stage of their life.
Feeding plants with sugar water can also end in the following:
- Wilting leaves
- Yellowing of leaves
- Lack of blooms or lesser number of blooms
Another problem with adding sugar water is that the soil contains sugar. A soil that is high in sugar can attract harmful micro-organisms and pests which could negatively affect the plant’s health and growth.
All this points to the fact that adding sugar water to plants will not improve their health. On the contrary, it can harm plants and can even kill them.
However, it is backed by scientific evidence that feeding plants with sugar water would attract beneficial insects. The sugar water is like an artificial honeydew and attracts minute pirate bugs, adult lacewings, adult weevil parasitoids, adult hoverflies, lady beetles, and big-eyed bugs.
Can Sugar Water Break Down Nutrients in Soil?
Sugar water may help some plants, but not in the way that most people think. What happens when you add sugar water is that sugar energizes the beneficial soil microbes that then start to break down even more organic matter in the soil.
The plant eventually feeds on these and the more nutrients it absorbs, the healthier it becomes. Healthy plants can carry out their own sugar production efficiently and they also regulate sugar production according to their needs.
When Not to Use Sugar Water
When you see that your plant is healthy and growing normally, then never use sugar water. A plant growing well is a sign that it is absorbing enough nutrients from the soil to produce as much sugar as it needs. If you add extra sugar to the soil, then it can prove damaging for the plant.
If your plant looks wilted a few days after it has been transplanted, this could be due to transplant shock. Transplant shock happens when the roots have been damaged and they cannot absorb enough nutrients from the soil for healthy growth. Secondly, the leaves weren’t yet ready to face too much sun and they have been burned.
Adding sugar water in both cases would not be helpful, and it can even worsen the condition. Let the plant recover on its own from the transplant shock while you keep it away from direct sun.
When to Use Sugar Water
In the case of cut flowers, you can add sugar to the water in the vase. This prevents the flowers from wilting since the cut flower stems can absorb sugar directly and it revives the carbohydrate content. This temporarily keeps the flowers fresh as it feels that the plant is alive and producing sugar for the flowers.
Alternative Options for Sugar Water
If you see that your plants are struggling with preparing their food and carrying out the process of photosynthesis, here are some tips that you could try to revive your plant.
You can get organic fertilizers to add to your plants to give them a boost. But make sure that the plant food you are getting is right for your plant and that you follow the instructions carefully. Using mulch and compost is a natural way to provide the soil with the vital nutrients that it needs.
Young seedlings don’t have enough leaves to carry out photosynthesis and produce enough sugar for their needs. Club soda or sparkling water is mineral water that has carbon dioxide bubbles dissolved in it.
Plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, and a drink of club soda or sparkling water can help your plants absorb the gas faster and produce quick results.
Club soda contains minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and other minerals in minor quantities. Plants suffering from nutrient deficiencies highly benefit from this.
Remember that watering the seedlings once a week with club soda is sufficient. It is also good to note that the higher the content of carbon dioxide in club soda, the higher the benefits to your plants.
If a plant is having difficulty in the process of photosynthesis, then wrap a plastic cling over the top of the plant. This creates a greenhouse effect and helps trap carbon dioxide which then speeds up the process of photosynthesis. Remember not to keep the plants wrapped for long. Check the moisture levels regularly.
Although sugar water is popular as a gardening hack, it is not backed by scientific evidence as beneficial for plant growth. It seems that there will be more negatives than positives in using sugar water as a plant feed except in the case of cut flowers.
If you see that your plant is struggling, try to problem-solve by considering its growing conditions and environment. We hope this article has helped bust the sugar water myth for you.
Sugar Water FAQs
There are many reasons that rule out the claims that sugar water is beneficial for plants. Firstly, plants don’t possess a digestive system like humans that metabolizes the sugar ingested. Secondly, grocery sugar is a complex sugar called polysaccharide, while plants only produce glucose which is a monosaccharide.
The grocery sugar isn’t easy to break down because of being complex. Thirdly, roots are unable to absorb sugar from the soil. If you give the roots sugar, it can block the pores and prevent them from even absorbing water. This results in a wilted plant and eventual death.
We know that plants carry out the process of photosynthesis to produce sugars. So, it is thought that adding sugar will be an effective supplement. But plants in their process of photosynthesis are self-regulatory and produce enough sugar for each stage of their life.
A plant becoming an adult from a seedling will produce more sugar as compared to a mature plant because it needs more sugar. So, adding sugar is not effective.
A soil that is high in sugar can attract harmful micro-organisms and pests which could negatively affect the plant’s health and growth. Hence there is no scientific evidence to prove that adding sugar water to the soil will help plant growth. On the contrary, it can harm plants and can even kill them.
Although it is not recommended, sugar water can help microorganisms in the soil break down nutrients. However, it is not an alternative to fertilizer.
Sugar water will not bring a plant back to life if it is already dead. In order for a plant to grow and thrive, it needs a range of nutrients, including water, sunlight, and minerals from the soil. Sugar is not necessary for a plant’s growth, and adding it to water will not revive a dead plant. In fact, too much sugar can actually be harmful to plants, as it can cause them to develop fungal diseases or attract pests.
If you think your plant is dead, the best thing to do is to remove it from its pot and check the roots to see if they are still alive. If the roots are brown and mushy, the plant is likely dead and should be disposed of. If the roots are white and firm, the plant may still be alive and can be repotted in fresh soil with proper care.
Sugar water does not go bad in the same way that other foods do, because it does not contain any organic matter that can spoil. However, sugar water can become contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms over time, especially if it is not stored properly. It is best to use sugar water as soon as it is made and to discard any unused portions.
If you need to store sugar water for later use, keep it in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator and use it within a few days to be safe. It is also a good idea to label the container with the date it was made to keep track of how long it has been stored.