Another Essential to Plant Health: Water Hardness

Michael Hagedorn

Do you have a film of white buildup on your pots or leaves? Pale, yellowish, and lackluster growth on the bonsai? If so, you may have very hard water, and that can be a limiting factor for plant health.


Above 150 ppm (parts per million) of hardness (Ca + Mg), we get beyond the zone where container plants may be maintained in good health. Over time the roots of containerized trees begin to be coated by the same minerals that coat the outsides of the pots, usually calcium and magnesium…which is essentially liquid limestone. Imagine that: Coating our roots with rock. (Which is less cool than it sounds, really.)

Hard water is a common problem in arid areas of low rainfall, but it can happen in many other places, too.

What’s the problem, then?

  • In extreme cases, very hard water may limit the root’s ability to draw in water (an osmotic…

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