How to save your plants from soft water poisoning

In our previous article, Jesse’s Alocasia Melo died mysteriously (RIP). After studying the data and sending the soil off to be tested, we learned it succumbed to soft water poisoning. Signs of salt toxicity–burnt, yellow, and dry leaves–soon began to appear on his other plants. While it was too late to save the Alocasia, it’s not too late to save the rest. In this article, we outline how to save your plants from soft water poisoning. 

Step 1: Get Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water

You can find RO Water at your local hardware store. 

Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water

What is reverse osmosis water?

Reverse osmosis (RO) water is water that has been purified through a process called reverse osmosis. This process involves forcing water through a semipermeable membrane that removes impurities, contaminants, and minerals from the water.

Why does reverse osmosis water help plants after soft water poisoning?

  1. Removal of Sodium: One of the main problems with using soft water for plants is the high sodium content, which can lead to salt toxicity. Reverse osmosis effectively removes sodium from the water, thereby reducing the risk of salt buildup in the soil.
  2. Prevention of Salt Burn: High sodium levels in soft water can cause salt burn or leaf scorch, where the edges of the leaves turn brown or yellow. By using RO water, which is free of sodium, you can prevent further salt burn and allow the plant to recover.
  3. Restoring Nutrient Uptake: Sodium in soft water can compete with essential nutrients like potassium and calcium for uptake by the plant’s roots. Using RO water eliminates this competition, ensuring that the plant can absorb essential nutrients more effectively.
  4. Flushes Out Accumulated Salts: When you water plants with RO water, it helps to flush out the accumulated salts in the soil. This is because the purified water will leach away the salts as it percolates through the soil, gradually reducing salt concentrations around the roots.
  5. Creating a Controlled Environment: RO water is essentially a blank slate, devoid of minerals and contaminants. This allows gardeners to add back specific nutrients in controlled amounts, tailoring the water to the specific needs of the plants and helping them recover.

Step 2: Flush the Soil

To remove excess sodium from the soil, flush it with clean water. Slowly pour a large volume of sodium-free water onto the soil, allowing it to percolate through and carry away the accumulated salts. This may need to be done several times.

Step 3: Prune Damaged Parts 

Remove any severely damaged or dead parts of the plant, such as leaves that are showing signs of salt burn. This will help the plant to focus its energy on new growth.

Step 4:  Add Nutrients to RO Water

If your RO water doesn’t have any added nutrients, you’ll need to add them. This can be done by adding a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to the RO water before watering the plants. This way, the plants get clean water and the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

Step 5: Re-Pot

In severe cases, it may be necessary to repot the plant in fresh, sodium-free soil. Be gentle during the repotting process to minimize root damage.

Freshly flushed and repotted plant

Step 6: Monitor Plant Health

Keep a close eye on your plant’s health and look for signs of recovery, such as new growth. Be patient as recovery from sodium toxicity can take time. If you’d like a little help watching your plant, you can invest in a sensor that will read your plant’s vital signs. Learn more about the type of sensors to choose from in Sensors 101.



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