Keep reading to learn about the role sugar plays in plant care, what plants like sugar water, and why too much sugar water can be bad for your plants.
While the idea of feeding plants sugar may seem smart, it actually does more harm than good to most healthy plants. Read here to learn more.
If you have a few different houseplants and have been gardening for a while, you probably have heard about the magical benefits of spraying a plant with sugar water.
Since plants go through the trouble of finding air, light, water, and nutrients to photosynthesize carbohydrates and sugars, it only makes sense that the plant will do twice as well when provided with sugar water.
However, modern plant experts say sugar water can do more harm than good. Although plants like sugar water, it is important to know when the plant needs this and how much is enough.
What Role Does Sugar Play in a Plant’s Health?
One of the biggest differences between plants and animals is that, unlike an animal, a plant does not move around to find and hunt its food.
However, since it is a living organism that grows, breathes, and reproduces, it does need some source of energy to make up for its lack of locomotion and fuel its essential bodily systems.
This is why green plants need to be planted in moisture-rich soil that has calcium, nitrogen, copper, and iron, where they can get some sun during the day.
Sunlight, air, and water are the three primary ingredients that allow plants to produce their food.
As the plant absorbs water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air around it, it needs the sun’s light and heat to catalyze the photosynthesis process.
The result of the process is carbohydrates, including sucrose sugar and plant starch.
These sugars are broken down to release energy which helps the plant grow in height, produce new limbs and leaves, bloom seasonal flowers, and grow healthy fruit throughout the year.
If the plant has produced excess sugar, it can also store it in its roots, seeds, or stalk for periods of dryness and little sunlight.
Moreover, these sugars also help build up the plant’s natural immunity, which allows the plant to survive different infections, diseases, and infestations.
However, if a plant cannot produce sugar, it starts to get sick as soon as it consumes all its stored reserves.
Usually, it is almost impossible to miss this condition due to the drastic change in the plant’s physical appearance and growth rate.
Top benefits of sugar water for plants
While some gardeners use sugar water to treat nutrient deficiencies or stress in their plants, the benefits of sugar water for plants are not well established, and there is little scientific evidence to support its use.
However, some potential benefits have been suggested:
- Sugar contains carbs, which can supply plants with a rapid source of energy and boost development.
- Sugar water may aid in the stimulation of flower production in some plants, such as roses.
- Increases plant resilience: According to some gardeners, sugar water can aid to strengthen plant resistance to pests and illnesses.
- Sugar water may enhance root growth in some plants, but too much sugar can injure roots and encourage the growth of dangerous bacteria and fungi in the soil.
It is crucial to remember that, while sugar water may provide some temporary benefits to plants, it should be used sparingly and diluted with water to avoid plant damage.
The best method to maintain healthy plant growth is to use a balanced fertilizer that contains all of the necessary nutrients.
How is Plant Sugar Different from Sugar Water?
When most people think about sugar, they can visualize the white crystals they dust on their food to make it sweeter.
However, although white sugar is similar to the sugar a plant produces, they are generally different in nature and chemical composition.
Plants photosynthesize glucose, which is then converted into sucrose, as the latter is more soluble and easily transportable around the plant.
Moreover, plants can store their plant sucrose for longer periods and can rely on it during periods of deprivation.
However, the sugar water we prepare at home using white sugar can vary in concentration and chemical composition to plant sugar.
It is not as soluble and cannot be stored within a plant’s body. This is why sugar water is not the perfect alternative to plant sucrose.
Does Sugar Water Help Plants Become Healthier?
Sugar water generally has a very temporary and minor impact on a plant’s health.
If a plant is healthy, tall, and produces new leaves every other day, it is already self-sufficient for its everyday sugar needs.
However, if you add sugar water to the plant’s soil, you end up forcing a situation that will do your plant more harm than good.
If the sugar water is highly diluted, the plant may absorb it. However, such concentrations will have little to no effect on the plant’s health, growth rate, or appearance.
Hence, there is no way to say if sugar water will make your green companion grow faster or develop better immunity.
Why is Sugar Water Said to Do More Harm than Good?
As explained above, plants that are healthy and growing at a normal pace do not need you to provide them with a sugary solution.
Since their leaves produce highly soluble sucrose every day, it is best to let them take care of their needs independently.
However, now that we understand that sugar water will have no visible impact on a healthy plant’s growth rate and appearance, will it actually harm the plant instead?
Sugar Water Can Clog Plant Roots
Plant roots can absorb sugar from the soil and can push it up the plant.
However, since plant sucrose has a completely different and unique makeup compared to our store-bought sugar, as explained above, it is not always healthy for the roots to absorb the sugar water from the soil.
Due to the differences in their basic chemistry and structure, the added sugar can clog the roots and block the holes in the root’s cell walls as the plants absorb it.
Since the entire plant depends on the root’s high absorbability for water, clogged cell walls will deprive the plant of proper hydration.
As a result, the plant will be unable to photosynthesize any more sugar, lose its health, growth rate, and fresh appearance, and dehydrate before it dies prematurely.
What Plants Like Sugar Water?
Although sugar water is not the ideal option for a healthy plant, it can save a sick or dying plant.
Plants with sufficient healthy green leaves to capture sunlight and photosynthesize plant sucrose do not need any interference to grow and remain healthy.
However, if a plant is showing signs of distress, is not doing well on its own, and is close to death, providing it with a diluted sugar solution may give it the boost of energy it needs to regain its strength and produce new leaves again.
Although the impact of the sugar water solution will be quite visible by the plant’s instantly improved appearance, such effects can be temporary and short-lived if the plant is unable to regain enough strength to start making its own food again.
Signs Your Plants Need a Little Sugar Water
If your plant is displaying any or all of the signs listed below, you need to feed it a diluted sugar water solution.
- The plant’s stem is too weak to support the plant’s weight
- Leaves have lost their green pigment and are yellow or brown in color
- Leaves have developed brown-black spots
- The plant is experiencing excess leaf loss
- Leaves are developing dry tips
- Leaving are curling inwards to reduce their surface area to volume ratio
- The plant has grown no new leaves, flowers, or fruits
- The entire plant looks dull and dehydrated
List of plants that thrive in sugar water
While some plants may benefit from small amounts of sugar, using sugar water as a regular plant fertilizer is generally not recommended.
Sugar attracts pests and promotes the growth of dangerous bacteria and fungi in the soil.
Some gardeners, however, use sugar water as a temporary fix for plants suffering from nutrient deficiencies or stress.
If you decide to use sugar water, dilute it with water to keep the sugar from harming your plants.
The following plants may benefit from diluted sugar water:
- Tomatoes – Diluted sugar water can help tomato plants thrive and produce fruit.
- Roses – A modest amount of sugar water can aid in the creation of rose blooms.
- Sweet peas – Distilled sugar water can aid in the growth of sweet peas.
- Sunflowers – During the blossoming stage, sunflowers may benefit from a modest amount of sugar water.
- Tagetes spp. (marigolds)
- Petunias (Petunia spp.) are a type of flower.
- Ipomoea spp. (morning glories)
- Lavandula spp. (Lavender)
- Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) are a type of geranium.
- Fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.) are a type of flower.
- Begonia species (Begonia spp.)
- Impatiens (Impatiens spp.) is a kind of impatiens.
- Dahlias (Dahlia species)
- Hollyhocks (Alcea species)
- Tropaeolum spp. (Nasturtiums)
- Cosmos (Cosmos species)
- Zinnias (Zinnia spp.) are a type of flower.
- Viola spp. (pansies)
- Calendula officinalis (Calendula officinalis)
- Lily of the valley (Lobularia maritima)
Why is a Concentrated Sugar Water Solution a Bad Idea?
As mentioned above, give your plants a diluted sugar solution only when it seems to be doing poorly on their own. However, what makes concentrated sugar syrup a bad idea?
If you add a highly concentrated sugar solution to the plant’s soil, the accumulated concentrated sugar solution will have a higher osmotic pressure than that inside the roots.
Since water will always move from an area of higher concentration to that of a lower concentration, down the osmotic gradient, water will move out of the roots and enter the soil.
As a result, the plant will lose its vital hydration and will eventually die.
Signs You Have Given Your Plants Too Much Sugar Water
- The plant looks worse than before
- The leaves are twisted
- The plant is severely dehydrated
- The soil is wetter than before
Better Alternatives to Sugar Water Solution for Plant Care
Now that you know sugar water is not the ideal solution, pay attention to the table below to learn about the other, more effective alternatives you can use instead.
|Top Sugar Water Alternatives||Respective Benefits|
|Diluted plant fertilizers||Plant fertilizers contain various essential plant nutrients and minerals that will revive a dying plant and give it the energy it needs to photosynthesize food.|
|Lemon juice solution||Since most nutrients are too large to pass into the plant on their own, lemon juice’s acidic nature will help break down these nutrients into highly absorbable sizes.|
|Coffee or tea water||Apart from lemon juice, you can also use coffee or tea water to increase the soil’s acidity.|
While the idea of feeding plants sugar may seem smart, it does more harm than good to most healthy plants.
Hence, if your plant seems weak and dehydrated, add a lemon or coffee solution and a diluted fertilizer, and refrain from introducing any sugar to the soil unless necessary.
My name is Olivia, staying in the United States, and I love to have plants in my garden. Lots of plants are there in my balcony, indoor and outdoor garden also. Here I am trying to share useful tips on gardening, how to grow and care for various plants, etc. Check out more.