Garden Myths Soil

Help! I Put Orange Juice in My Plant!

I always have a little smile on my face when I see a cry of despair on Facebook from someone who accidentally gave their plant something other than water to drink. Coffee grounds, Pepsi, bleach… You definitely have a busy life!

Your Misadventures in the Plant ICU

The comments of those who want to help you are sometimes quite extreme: add X product, change the soil, repot, wash the roots, cut off all the leaves and make a prayer to the God of harvests. In fact, all these extreme treatments (except the prayer) are more likely to damage your plant than the orange juice your child gave it.

If a toxic, a really, really toxic, product has fallen into your soil… something worthy of the dip in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, then it may be serious… And too late. The roots must have already suffered, dissolved and died… Along with the pot and the rest of the plant!

(A new white hair will grow on my head for every reader who doesn’t understand my reference…)

If it is a little less toxic, but still dangerous, you can always wash the plant. Not in the washing machine! In the shower or sink, run water over the soil for several minutes. The water flowing through the drainage holes will “rinse” the soil and carry the product into the sink. This leaching process, however, also tends to leach out the nutrients from the soil and drain it. Consider adding fertilizer, or better yet, some new soil to put nutrients back into your plant.

Do not try to “neutralize” the product. If you put vinegar in and decide to balance the acidity with a basic product like baking soda, you may just poison your plant more. The second product won’t necessarily go everywhere the first one did and may bother other roots in a different way. It’s like having a cold right foot and a hot left foot; do you wear socks or sandals? One trauma at a time for your plant, please!

Photo: Nataliya Vaitkevich.

Your Plants Are Tougher Than You Think

In nature, between animal urine, acid rain, rotten fruit and human pollution, I guarantee that plants see a lot! I know that, in a pot, plants don’t benefit from all the underground life and heavy rains to help the soil renew itself, but frankly, it takes more than a little 2% peroxide to kill a potted plant. Of course, there are always fussy plants that die with tap water… but they are pretty rare (and when you have one, you know it!)

I’ve heard several stories of office colleagues feeding their leftover coffee or soda to plants. These anecdotes often end with “this is the most beautiful plant I’ve ever seen!”

Basically, what is compost and fertilizer? Sugar, carbon, nitrogen… The same as in your little one’s bottle, so don’t panic if they spill some ;).

Photo: cassidy muir.

Audrey Martel is a biologist who graduated from the University of Montreal. After more than ten years in the field of scientific animation, notably for Parks Canada and the Granby Zoo, she joined Nature Conservancy of Canada to take up new challenges in scientific writing. She then moved into marketing and joined Leo Studio. Full of life and always up for a giggle, or the discovery of a new edible plant, she never abandoned her love for nature and writes articles for both Nature sauvage and the Laidback Gardener.

3 comments on “Help! I Put Orange Juice in My Plant!

  1. I wondered as well because I had reused a little spray bottle to spritz my new succulent plants and it may have still had a tiny film of CBD in the tube! But a month in and the succulents are doing great! I am about ready to transplant them (and no, I still haven’t posted the blog post about them yet).

  2. Suzanne Armstrong

    Thanks for this helpful advice. We often water our plants with room temperature tea leftover in the pot. Is this a good idea, or is water still best most of the time?

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