Watering the plants doesn’t seem like a tricky job, but to really get them growing, it’s sometimes a good idea to look into different fertilizer options. For example, is rice water good for plants – or should you stick to good old faucet H2O?
You may have already heard of gardeners using rice water for plants to help stimulate growth and to protect their greens from the elements.
Before you go ahead and start watering plants with rice water indoors, let’s take a look at what this process actually does to your plants – and I’ll let you know if I recommend it, too!
What is rice water?
While it may sound like something you can buy bottled at your local organic food store, rice water is, in fact, the water you have left over from boiling rice.
This water may often go wasted back down the sink, which is why energy and eco-savvy gardeners often reuse the H2O to help feed their plants.
Some gardeners also choose to ferment rice water beforehand as a way of deterring certain pests from their plants. This is rice wine-making, and it typically involves you leaving rice in milk, sugar (and water, of course) in a sealed container.
Soil bacteria – the good kind – love sugar, meaning this is an extra sweet treat for your helpful microbes.
Not only is this considerate of water wastage, many people claim that rice water holds extra nutrients that can help keep their plants healthy, and may even inspire additional growth. But before any of that – do plants actually like drinking rice water?
Do plants like rice water?
Rice water can be beneficial for plants in that it will typically contain a few leftover nutrients from your cooking. What’s more, you can also feed the healthy bacteria in your soil with starch that’s left over from your last batch of rice.
Rice water may even help to stimulate the mycorrhizal network – and stimulate fungi growth, effectively helping your plants to grow stronger and more resilient.
Rice water can contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, though only in small amounts. With that, it’s always a good idea to keep topping up on fertilizer alongside.
The best rice water for plants should be boiled beforehand, though if you want to simply soak raw grains ahead, you’ll benefit from minimal effects.
Rice water can contain extra protein, fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, several B vitamins, magnesium, and more – and above all, it’s extremely environmentally friendly.
Are there any downsides to using rice water on plants?
As much as studies suggest rice water for plants can be beneficial, there’s a risk you’ll also be stimulating less helpful bacteria in your soil. Therefore, it’s best to water sparingly. Otherwise, you may actually be putting your greens at serious risk.
What’s more, any carbohydrates that are left behind in your rice water can harden up the soil and may even cause your plants serious stress.
That’s because plants aren’t used to absorbing carbs – their roots simply aren’t built for it. It’s all the more reason to go sparingly with rice water, if at all.
You may also find that rice water can attract certain pests, meaning it’s worth keeping vigilant for any visitors that may emerge in the weeks ahead.
Overwatering is always going to pose a risk to most plants, and the same applies if you are a little too liberal with rice water.
Leaving your rice water to ferment within your plants’ soil may also be detrimental to their health. Rice water can help to decompose some elements, such as moss, that can produce unhelpful fungi and even encourage rot at the roots.
If you want to avoid all risks of this happening, it’s probably best to stick to dechlorinated water (that you should leave overnight).
Using rice water on plants
If you decide that you’d like to give the rice water method a try, remember to do so sparingly. You should ideally only water your plants with rice leftovers once to twice each month. Try and introduce it as a bottom watering option when your plants are just starting to grow, as it’s at the seedling stage when they’ll need the added nutrients the most.
You can either mist or gently administer rice water from the top, too – but always make sure it’s cooled right down to room temperature. Many gardeners recommend bottom watering instead, as this means the roots get access to the nutrients directly.
Try sitting a potted plant with drainage holes in a small pool of rice water for 15 minutes, and then drain.
You may even prefer to simply water around the base of your plants every couple of days. Regardless of the method you choose, don’t purely rely on rice water to feed your plants – always make sure to fall back on dechlorinated water and traditional fertilizer to ensure your greens get the best start in life.
A word of warning – as many of you out there may use salt when boiling rice on the stove, remember to avoid transferring any water with leftover sodium into your plants. Too much salt isn’t good for anyone – or anything!
Should I start using rice water on plants?
The jury’s out – though research suggests rice water can be beneficial in growing strong, healthy plants, there are more reliable, less risky ways for you to ensure your greens get the hydration and nutrients they demand.
If you do want to give rice watering a try, simply remember to avoid adding salt to your plants’ soil, and only water every couple of weeks. Otherwise, you may find you end up causing more damage than you anticipate.
I’d recommend giving rice watering a try, if only on a gradual basis. See if your seedlings start to perk up, and if you don’t really notice a difference, switch back to good old H2O.
For alternative ways of watering plants for extra growth, consider using nettle tea or white vinegar – again, sparingly!