Finding gardening hacks that are simple, cost-effective, and sustainable are exciting gifts that we encounter on our ventures in gardening. The idea of watering house plants with tea has become a popular notion, but we wanted to learn more about the science behind it and how it works.
Can you water plants with tea? Using leftover or freshly brewed tea can be helpful to hydrate, fertilize, and nourish plants. Be sure to utilize organic brands to limit pesticide use. Also, consider the pH needs of the plants that are being watered. Plants that enjoy marginally acidic soil will do well with the addition of tea.
For centuries, tea has been known for its healing and soothing qualities. The history of tea is as rich and complex as its flavors, so it makes sense that it continues to evolve today. Using it as a supplement in gardening is an excellent example of that evolution and sustainability.
What is in Tea?
When we brew a cup of our favorite tea, we seldom think about the different complexities within that teabag. The truth is that thousands of components are in tea, some of which are still being discovered and researched.
By sticking to organic brands of tea, gardeners help to ensure a cleaner and more efficient effect on plants. Those organic tea leaves will still contain many of the chemicals and complexities that regular tea possess, but they will provide far fewer pesticides.
According to the CBC, research has been found to show that some teas have pesticides higher than allowable limits. This means for the health and safety of plants–and self–stick with organic options if possible. Natural, organic matter will make for an excellent source of nutrients for plants.
Think of it as the circle of life – the plants we are blessed with on our earth, then become tea, which we can then use to help sustain new plant life.
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.Genesis 9:3
How Tea Affects Plants
The breakdown of tea leaves has shown us there is roughly 0.25% potassium 0.24% phosphorus and 4.4% nitrogen. That nitrogen level is higher than what is found in most fertilizers, which is excellent news. The one catch is that plants may not be able to utilize the nitrogen from tea fully.
Putting nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous aside, plants will benefit from other nutrients in tea.
Some of the healthy elements in tea include:
- Polyphenols – micronutrients we find in plant-based foods. Tannic acid is one of the most common and offers different benefits to soil.
- Theanine – an amino acid typically found in tea leaves and Bay Bolete mushrooms.
- Antioxidants – powerful protection from damage to cells. Natural antioxidants can include phenols, lignans, tannins and flavonoids.
- Vitamins & Minerals – specifically, green and black teas are high in vitamins C, D, and K, along with riboflavin. Mineral elements present include calcium, iron, magnesium, nickel, zinc and fluoride.
Which Plants Flourish from Tea
The powerful nutrients contained in tea will be helpful for some plants, but not as much for others. Keep in mind the acidic content of tea. Those amino acids and tannic acids can enrich soil by lowering its pH, which also means increasing its acidity.
Most types of ferns, for example, thrive on slightly acidic soil. The only exception being Maidenhair ferns which require a more alkaline based soil. Using tea for these ferns may not necessarily destroy them, but the same type of nourishment and progress will not be seen that will be seen from other ferns.
Here are some other plants that thrive on slightly acidic soil:
- East lily
- Spider Plant
- Rubber Plant
- African Violets
Gardeners should have at least a general idea of their soil’s pH. If they don’t, this is an excellent time to get it tested. Several ways are out there to help do this. You can buy a simple soil testing kit to find out your soil’s pH. Another option is to contact the local agricultural extension. They can help research the type of soil on which certain plants thrive so that gardeners can decide whether to use tea.
For more information on proper pH levels, Garden Express provides a great index.
How to Use Tea on Your Plants
A few different methods can be utilized for watering and fertilizing plants with tea. The first, being the most obvious, of simply pouring the tea over the plants as with water. Another is to bury the tea bag to enrich the soil. Here are the best practices for both methods.
The great news for either method is they are straightforward, cost-efficient, and give gardeners an excuse to enjoy one more cup of their favorite tea, or to avoid feeling guilty when letting a cup get cold.
Watering Your Plants with Tea
Using tea to water plants will work the same when considering the amounts and frequency. You will factor this into the amount of overall water typically given to the plant(s). Don’t add tea on top of the usual amounts of water usually provided to a plant.
If you have a cup of tea and decide to use it for your plants that day, just be mindful of how much water it has already received.
Never use hot tea on the plants. The extreme temperature will shock the plants and can cause irreparable damage.
- Brew a pot of tea using 1-2 organic tea bags
- Let is sit for at least a few hours, or overnight
- Once it has reached a cool temperature, pour the tea evenly over the plants
Burying a Tea Bag
This is a great way to enrich the soil with additional nutrients. Make sure to only use tea bags made of paper rather than polyester or other materials that are not able to decompose. It is also important to remove the staple and string from the bag.
This tea bag should be one that was already used. One of the great joys of gardening is finding ways to repurpose, reuse and nourish ourselves and plants simultaneously. The practice of burying a used tea bag is a great way to accomplish that.
Pro Tip: Whichever process you try, monitor how the plants react for the first few days and weeks once tea is introduced to them. Keeping a journal is a great way to track everything from their leaf quality to their growth speed, and overall health.
Tea vs. Fertilizer
Brewed tea has been shown to provide similar nutrients to that of many popular fertilizers. The one nutrient that it lacks is phosphorus.
If gardeners are interested in using tea for its natural abilities, sustainability, and ease, then it is definitely worth trying it out. The properties that tea presents are very similar to fertilizers and can help cut down on spending for those who are already avid tea drinkers.
Consider taking notes on how the plants did on the fertilizer vs. how they react to the tea. The decision to stick with it or not may lie in the progress and health of the plants, or personal preference if significant differences are not evident.
The Use of Tea on Plants
At the end of the day, tea can be a useful and convenient way to help enrich certain plants around the home. One of the biggest draws for using tea on plants is sustainability. Gardening is meant to be a fun, relaxing way to give back to our earth.
What better way to give back than reusing the plants that God blessed us with, to enrich the world around us?
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