All plants need water, but carnivorous plants are a little high maintenance when it comes to theirs!
Pure water is essential to growing healthy carnivorous plants. In most places, drinking water has too many total dissolved solids (TDS). These are minerals, usually salts, in the water that will burn the sensitive roots of carnivorous plants if used repeatedly. Remember, these plants evolved to receive nutrients from food, not from their roots.
TDS is measured in parts per million (ppm). This measurement can be taken with a handy tool called a TDS meter. I highly recommend EVERY carnivorous plant grower get one of these! Not only can you test to see if certain water sources are safe, it’s a good idea to test your plants’ water trays to see if any minerals build up in the soil over time.
50 ppm is considered the safe upper limit for most carnivorous plants. Ideally, we want 0 ppm, but anywhere up to 50 is okay.
Since tap water isn’t acceptable in most areas, where can we get pure water? Below are several sources from which you can get water for you plants, depending on your personal budget and needs!
Distilled water by the gallon. Also called deionized water in the UK. This is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get pure water when you’re just starting out. Distilled water is often under $1 per gallon. If you have just a few plants, 1-3 gallons can last a week. Until a few months ago, this is what I was doing. But soon I was making multiple trips to the store, and using 8-10 gallons a week! I had to move on to a different method at that point.
If no distilled water is available, look for water purified by reverse osmosis (RO), but WITHOUT minerals added for taste. This water will also have very low TDS.
Water refilling stations. Many grocery stores have RO water via their refilling stations. The cost is around 30 cents a gallon, but beware! Not all of them are the same! Buy one gallon first and test it with a TDS meter. I got water from a high-end, boutique grocery store which measured around 200 ppm, pretty similar to my tap water at home. I tested water from a less fancy grocery store, which measured at 10-12 ppm. SOLD!
ZeroWater filtration system. These are an option if you don’t need a lot of water, but still don’t want to purchase it by the gallon. They’re small, easy to store anywhere, and come with a TDS meter! Filters can be expensive to change, but remember you can let your TDS to increase up to 50 ppm, and it will still be safe for your plants. Because I’m paranoid, I probably wouldn’t let it go past 30 ppm but that’s just me!
Home Reverse Osmosis system. This is one of the methods with a higher upfront cost, but will pay for itself quickly if you have a large collection and need lots of water. There are many different RO systems to fit your various needs. Some fit under a kitchen sink and connect to your faucet. Others are portable and can sit on a counter top or connect to a garden hose.
Rain water. Rain is some of the purest water there is, so use it when you can! It can be as simple as leaving containers out when it rains, or you can invest in a rain barrel. Rain barrels can be fancy and decorative like this or super basic and portable like this. (Note: rain barrels are currently illegal in Colorado. I’m not encouraging any illegal activities, just use your best judgement!)
If it snows in your region, you can also collect and melt snow for your plants!
Other possible water sources include:
- distilling your own water at home. If this is what you want to do, godspeed! I envy your patience and resourcefulness, though not your energy bill.
- catching water from an air conditioning unit. I’ve read mixed results from this method, so I recommend testing with the trusty ol’ TDS meter before using this water on your plants.
- Water stores. You can buy water in bulk from specialized water stores (as well as RO units and such), but these stores aren’t available in all areas.
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