Leaching Salts from Houseplant Soil – Lose the White Crust

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Have you noticed that white crust in and around your plant pot or even worse on the plant itself? Over time the soil in potted houseplants develops salt buildup due to extra minerals left unabsorbed from water passing through them. Leaching salts from houseplant soil is the preferred method of removing salt buildup and involves using water to wash away excess salts in the soil.

Salt buildup formed as white crusts is usually seen more often in indoor houseplants than outdoor garden plants. Having indoor plants come with several benefits, from improving the appearance of your living space to helping to eliminate airborne pollutants and potentially boosting your mood. To get the best out of your home plants, you must take care of the soil in potted plants to ensure that the plants are healthier and last longer.

Gather Supplies

Getting ready to leach salts from houseplants will be a breeze if you gather supplies in advance. Grab clean water, a watering can, sink or bathtub, and a hand trowel.

How To Leach Salts from Houseplant Soil

Leaching salts from houseplant soil doesn’t require much expertise and can be done by any plant owner. Leaching involves the gentle washing of the plant-soil with sufficient water to help wash out the salts throughout the soil.

Firstly, you must gently remove any visible white buildup on the soil surface without removing a large amount of soil underneath. Removal of these white crusts can be done using a hand trowel or any other convenient tool. Try removing about just an inch of soil with the whitish sediments.

Next, gradually pour a sizeable amount of water through the soil while allowing it to drain. Place the pot over a sink or bathtub, and if it would be more convenient, you could take the plant pot outdoors to complete the leaching process. The initial water pouring helps the poured water dissolve the salts and pass out through the pot drainage. Avoid pouring all the water in at once to prevent waterlogging the soil with the salts remaining in the added water being taken back into the plant. Leaching of salts from houseplant soil should not be done too frequently; the required range should be in about 4-6 months.

Please note that at certain levels of excess salt deposition, leaching may no longer be effective. After leaching your houseplant soil, if you notice further signs of salt buildup on your plants, such as browning of leaves, wilting, and stunted growth, try to repot your houseplant.

Another good way to leach salts from houseplant soil would be a more systematic method done every three months. Firstly, water the plants sufficiently as you would normally do, then after a few minutes, repeat the watering process allowing the water to drain through for the second time. When water goes through the second time, it helps to wash the salts down after they have been dissolved after watering the soil the first time. Ensure to discard the drained water in the saucer immediately after.

What Causes Salt Buildup

The buildup of salts in houseplant soil can be seen as crusty, whitish sediments on the soil surface. The salts that build over time in potting soil are usually inorganic minerals dissolved in hard water or fertilizers that stay behind after the water has been removed through evaporation. These minerals are essential for plant growth in small quantities, but problems arise when buildup occurs.

These minerals are commonly found in nature, such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, and chloride salts. Depending on where you live and the minerals found in your home water, various salts can make up ‘hard water. Usually, water used for gardening with a pH greater than 7.5 is generally considered as hard. Fertilizer comprises several ingredients, including soluble salts and mixing with soil water; these minerals dissolve and are deposited after the water has been evaporated.

Salt buildups can either be seen visibly in the drainage hole or around the soil line of the pot. There is less likely to be a buildup of mineral salts with potted plants kept outside, receiving frequent rainfall. In this situation, rainfall helps to naturally leach salts for houseplant soil.

Why Leach Houseplants

These salt buildups increase without regular leaching of salts from houseplant soil and make it harder for potted plants to take up water and nutrients in the soil. Also, the persistence of salts in houseplant soil can lead to the plant’s increased absorption of those salts, leading to the browning o the tips of the leaves of the plant. This is known as ‘tip burn.’ The inability of the plant to take up enough water and nutrients could lead to stunted growth, plant discoloration, and at times, plant death. The appearance of these salt buildups can be unappealing and takes away the decorative purpose of some house plants.

Preventing Salt Buildup in Houseplants

Preventing the buildup of salts in the soil of your houseplants can, over time, reduce the amount of work required in the management of your plant. Also, preventive measures can help ensure that your plants stay healthier.

An excellent way to prevent the buildup of salts would be your house plants’ proper and regular watering. Try to also pour out the saucers under the houseplant pots after watering. Pouring out the saucers can be done 10-20 minutes after watering has been done. Don’t allow houseplants to sit in drained water in saucers; this would lead to reabsorption of the salts in the water by the houseplant soil. Also, some plant pots, such as clay pots, can absorb salt sediments, which can be seen as whitish deposits on the surface of the pot and the soil in it. If there are noticeably large deposits in the clay pot, try changing the pot. 

Some plants are generally more likely to be negatively affected by salt buildups, such as spider and corn plants. Leaching salts from sensitive houseplant soil should be more often as regular as a month, and measures preventing salt buildup should be taken more seriously to ensure that the plant stays healthy.

Watering Houseplants Properly

Watering your plants well helps reduce the frequency of leaching needed in the maintenance of indoor plants. Avoid watering your plants too often and try to adjust for the needs of each specific plant.

Usually, water when there are noticeable signs of soil dryness. To check, put your finger into the soil for any noticeable moisture. If it feels a bit too dry, it’s probably time to water. To water your plant properly, pour water directly on the soil evenly around the water until water starts to drain. Discard any excess water to avoid overwatering your houseplant.

Conclusion

Leaching salt from your houseplants is a part of ordinary indoor plant care. Steps can be taken to minimize salts from forming, but it will likely eventually happen. The good news is that it is a simple task to clean out.

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