Orange juice and other fruit juices are said to be healthy beverages for the human body. If that's the case, then is juice good for plants too? Seems like a logical conclusion, or does it? Mother Nature lets loose with pure water, not juice, but does she know best? Let's investigate the effects of watering plants with fruit juices.
Is Juice Good for Plants?
Similar to salt, sugar absorbs water and therefore, can prevent plant roots from taking up appropriate amounts of it as well as valuable nutrients. The result of introducing too much sugar into a plant's root system can be inhibited plant growth or even death. Most juices, from apple juice to orange juice, have varying sugar contents depending on the brand. While apples do contain sugar, using unsweetened apple juice on plants will have little negative effect on growing plants but probably no benefit either. Citrus juices such as orange or grapefruit all contain sugars in the form of disaccharides and polysaccharides, but citrus peels are often included in fertilizers. Both citrus juices are quite acidic. So which is it? Is citrus juice good for plants?
Feeding Plants with Fruit Juice
Feeding plants with small amounts of citrus fruit juice is unlikely to kill the plant over a short period of time. However, lengthy exposures to citrus fruit juice as fertilizer will undoubtedly kill your plant. There is too much acid in citrus juices, which will eventually break down the plant's immune system, opening the door for mold, fungus, and bacteria to infect the plant, not to mention the sugars it contains may attract insects. That said, there is some benefit to using orange juice on plants in small amounts of a diluted solution. Combine water and orange juice in a watering can at a ratio of 2 tablespoons juice (15 mL.) to one quart of water (946 g.) and mix well. Then simply water the area around your plants. Try to water in at the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage. The residue left on foliage will be sticky and sweet, a sure way to attract every bug within a mile. Just use enough of the diluted orange juice mix to dampen, not saturate the soil. Wash out the watering can with a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. Wipe any orange juice off the foliage of the plants if you happen to drip any. All in all, however, there's really no need to replace watering with any type of juice. I suppose if you have an orange tree and the juice source is more or less free, you might give it a try. Just remember to dilute and use infrequently.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.