Is Sugar Water Good For Your Plants? - Backyard Boss
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Is Sugar Water Good For Your Plants?

Plants need four things to survive: sunlight, oxygen, nutrients, and water. However, recent advancements in agriculture have allowed for other properties to be added into the mix such as coffee grounds, various fertilizers, and namely – sugar.

Using sugar water on plants has been a common practice among home gardeners for decades. In recent years, this home gardening hack has evolved into a widespread myth on social media. As the theory goes, feeding your plants a sugar-water boosts plant growth by improving photosynthesis.

Many home gardeners swear by the extraordinary properties of using sugar water in your garden. At the same time, others warn of their disastrous effects. In this article, we’ll bust the age-old myth once and for all: is sugar water really beneficial for plants, or does it harm them in the long run?

How Does Sugar Water Affect Plants?

sugar on spoon closup with plant background
Image credits: Miles Schofield via Shutterstock

Currently, many different theories exist on the potential plant growth abilities of sugar water; however, it’s important to maintain awareness of its specific uses before trying it in your garden. 

In one study, the sugar-water theory was put to the test by separating two groups of coriander seeds; one group was to be watered with a sugar-water solution over a period of 7 days, while the other was to use only tap water. By the end of the experiment, the former group germinated far less than the latter. This led to the conclusion that sugar water had stunted the growth of the seeds.

Sugar water may be considered an effective growing hack in the gardening community, but there’s no scientific evidence to back up its supposed benefits. In fact, the use of this method may even cause your live plants to wilt prematurely or grow less quickly than normal.

When is Sugar Water a Good Idea?

Although using sugar water on live plants may not be the best idea, there are a few situations where the solution may be beneficial. Here are some instances in which you may be able to experience some benefits from sugar water.

Add to Cut Flowers

Add apple cider vinegar and sugar into vase with water to keep cut flowers fresher.
Image credits: ThamKC via Shutterstock

The best way to use sugar water on plants is on already-cut flowers. Unlike live plants, the stems of cut flowers can absorb the sugar to revive their carbohydrates. Sugar sends a false signal to the flowers that the plants are alive, encouraging them to bloom longer. However, this only serves as a temporary measure, and the flowers will eventually wilt naturally.

To use sugar water on cut flowers, begin by cutting the stems with a sharp knife. Then, remove any leaves and thorns to prevent the growth of bacteria and algae. Prepare the vase by filling it with water – most flowers do well in lukewarm temperatures, but spring flowers are better in ice-cold water. Add one teaspoon of sugar with a few drops of bleach to the vase water. To prevent fast wilting, add a bit more of the sugar-bleach solution after each daily water change. 

To Kill Weeds

weeds in grass
Image credits: Ilnur Kalimullin via Unsplash

Despite many claims of the sweetener being beneficial to plant growth, sugar can actually be an effective method of killing weeds. Sprinkling sugar across your lawn prevents weeds from growing by lowering nitrogen levels. In turn, grassroots are forced to search for nitrogen in the soil, causing weeds to starve. 

Without the competition and more nitrogen present in the soil, your lawn will grow much stronger and healthier. However, it’s important to never put sugar on grass varieties that require high levels of nitrogen. This can prevent these types of grasses from receiving enough nutrients for sufficient growth.

For Wilted Leaves

wilted houseplants on windowsill
Image credits: Pixel-Shot via Shutterstock

Although using sugar water on live plants won’t make them grow faster or improve photosynthesis, spraying a sugar-water solution on leaves that have already begun wilting could bring them back to life. Similar to how sugar sends signals of life in cut flowers, the concoction could also work to keep wilting flowers alive.

Keep in mind that you should never oversaturate your plants with sugar. The proper dosage for using sugar on your plants is 1 teaspoon of sugar per quart of water. Moreover, avoid pouring sugar water directly into the soil where flowers or vegetables are growing well. This can cause the plant roots to reject the sugar and die off prematurely.

Sweeten Up Your Garden

Sugar water may not be the best method of plant growth for a long-lasting garden, but it can bring you a lush, green lawn. Luckily, there are more ways to make your garden sweeter this year, and there’s no sugar required. Found in most gardening centers and home improvement stores, plant food is a safe alternative to sugar water; pick one up and follow the instructions to grow a vibrant, enduring garden.

If you have any experience with using sugar water in your garden, share your tips and tricks in the comments below!