Adding Epsom salt to plants has been a hotly debated topic in the plant and gardening community. In this guide, we’ll be busting myths and confirming facts about Epsom salt. We’ll also be answering the burning question about this amendment: Can Epsom salt be used for plants, and how?
Before we look into the uses of Epsom salts in plants, here’s a quick rundown of the history and the general myths and facts surrounding this interesting compound.
What are Epsom salts?
Epsom salts are a type of chemical compound scientifically known as Magnesium Sulfate. This compound is made up of magnesium and sulfur and is classified as a salt. The name Epsom, on the other hand, comes from the mines where these compounds were first found: Epsom, England.
The uses of Magnesium Sulfate have been well-documented in history. As an oral medicine, this mix of magnesium and sulfur was once used to increase blood health and energy. These days, Epsom salts are now used in foot baths and even for plants.
So, what’s the lowdown on using Epsom salt for plants? We’re glad you asked.
Epsom Salt for Plants: Myth or Fact?
Alongside coffee grounds, eggshells, and banana peels, using Epsom salts has been one of the most popular organic methods of gardening. (Related Article: Coffee Grounds In The Garden: Good idea or not?)
Epsom salts have been highlighted for their versatile use: as a fertilizer, a foliar spray, a soil amendment, and many more. While Epsom salts have been touted as a cure-all miracle method for plant growth and vital nutrients, there are a few misconceptions about this compound.
Myth 1: Epsom Salt is the Best Organic Fertilizer
Though Epsom salts can definitely replenish Magnesium-deficient plants, they are not the only fertilizer for plants.
All major plant fertilizers contain a ratio of N-P-K, which stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These major elements are necessary for the growth of leaves and flowers and will aid in nutrient deficiency.
The main components of Epsom salt are magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S); these two minerals are indeed important to plants, but they are not the most important. In gardening, magnesium and sulfur are called trace minerals.
Plants need primary Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium nutrients more than they need magnesium sulfate. Again, while Epsom salt is a good way to add a nutrient boost to your garden, this compound is best used in conjunction with regular fertilizers as well as compost.
Don’t let this scare you off, though: Magnesium deficiency is a real issue that is primarily dealt with in the garden, and so Epsom salts are still an important tool to keep around!
Myth 2: Epsom salts can solve all gardening problems
Unfortunately, no evidence has shown that plants with Epsom salts are always better than those without them. Though Epsom salt is a garden favorite, its beneficial qualities have not been well-researched yet. Many home gardeners do claim it as a secret ingredient, though!
Growing plants with Epsom salts could theoretically help your planting experience. However, Epsom salt alone won’t do much for your garden without the basics. Water, good soil, and sunlight are the most important factors of plant care, and so adding Epsom salt might not produce your intended effect without these factors.
Myth 3: Epsom salts reduce blossom end rot
The most popular purported use of Epsom salts is for tomatoes; anecdotal evidence shows that this gardening compound can be used to prevent blossom end rot for perfect tomato fruits.
Blossom End rot is a result of a deficiency in calcium, not magnesium. Because Epsom salts are completely made of magnesium and sulfur, they cannot be used as a substitute for calcium.
How To Use Epsom Salt For Plants
With the most common myths for Epsom salts dispelled, you’ll be able to approach gardening with a clear, evidence-based method for growing. Below are some of the best uses for planting, growing, and maintaining your plants with Epsom salt.
Foliar Spray For Greener Leaves
For greener leaves, apply Epsom salt spray to your plants! Epsom salts make a nifty addition to plants as a foliar spray. Being made of magnesium and sulfur, these salts can help make your foliage shine.
Mix 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per liter of water (or 1 tablespoon of Epsom per gallon of water) in a spray bottle and shake thoroughly. Use your Epsom salt spray twice a month on the leaves of your precious plants.
The reason behind this foliar spray recipe is because the magnesium found in Epsom salts can help strengthen the chlorophyll of plant leaves. Using Epsom salts as a foliar spray may allow your plant to absorb extra magnesium and help plants absorb nutrients to grow.
With magnesium being an important component of plant chlorophyll, Epsom salts can definitely be used as a promoter of growth and nutrients for many plants.
For Pepper and Tomato Plants
Tomatoes and peppers are one of the most well-loved vegetables worldwide. Not only are they nutritious, but they’re very rewarding to grow. The most challenging problem, however, is the amount of care these plants require.
Tomato and pepper plants generally enjoy high levels of magnesium; because these plants grow prolifically, they need nutrients for photosynthesis and growth. If you’ve grown vegetables before, you’ll notice how much foliage a plant produces before it finally sets fruit.
The magnesium sulfate found in the Epsom salt aids in tomato leaf curl and blossom end rot. Tomato plants with Epsom salts are also resistant to yellow leaves and wilting fruits. Pepper plants enjoy magnesium as well.
Tomatoes and peppers greatly benefit from Epsom salts, especially around the time of their flowering stage. When beautiful yellow tomato flowers or white pepper flowers begin to grow, get your Epsom salt and mix 1 tablespoon per one gallon of water and spray liberally. Do this twice a month.
You can also try sprinkling Epsom salt around the soil of your tomatoes and peppers for more direct effects on the root level. For this method, you may want to use this compound with other fertilizers.
It’s not just tomatoes and peppers that benefit from this method: grapes, corn, and potatoes highly benefit from Epsom salt, too!
Epsom Salts as a Soil Amendment
Epsom salts are best used to make the soil more fertile and productive for plant growth, so try to add this compound to your soil before you begin your garden. Before using Epsom salts, make sure to check your soils with a soil test to know how much of it to add.
The sulfur found in Epsom salts helps to dissolve calcium found in the soil, while magnesium improves the quality and acidity of the soil. To reinvigorate your soil with nutrients, mix 1 cup of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and drench it all over the ground to heighten the levels of magnesium and sulfur. Repeat this process for all parts of your garden and wait for 2 weeks before planting.
If you’ve been able to test your garden soil, you’ll find that acidic soil benefits from Epsom salt the most as it can neutralize the pH levels of the ground. Some areas in the United States, like Mississipi, already have enough magnesium in the soil, so check your local area before trying this method.
Magnesium Deficiency and Epsom Salt
Magnesium deficiency is one of the main reasons Epsom salts are so useful: this compound helps to replenish magnesium and adds nutrients naturally.
The signs of magnesium deficiency are common in many plants. If the foliage of your plants is turning yellow, especially around the veins of the leaves, this may be a sign of deficiency. Other signs include the green color of the foliage starts to look pale, browning, or even red.
Before using Epsom salts, check if the yellowing of your plant’s foliage isn’t from overwatering. Overwatered plants usually look limp and weak, with mushy black roots. If this isn’t the case, your plant may really be suffering from a true magnesium deficiency.
To use Epsom salts to replenish magnesium-deficient plants, mix 1 tablespoon per gallon of water and drench all over the soil like regular water, or spray the mix over your plant leaves.
Unfortunately, Epsom salt can’t bring a yellowing leaf back to its original green shine. However, it’s a great way to make sure no more of the plant loses color.
Epsom Salt Seed Starter
Did you know that you can use Epsom salts for seeds, too? As a seed starter, a diluted mix of Epsom salt (1 teaspoon per gallon of water) can help germinate seeds faster.
Adding Epsom salt to your usual water soak before putting your seeds on soil can help plants grow. Not only does this help in growing stronger cell walls; seeds have a headstart from being magnesium-deficient, too!
Epsom Salt Fertilizer
Epsom salts can be used as a beneficial fertilizer for most plants. While it was mentioned earlier that Epsom salts aren’t quite the same as regular fertilizers, they still do offer plant growth and nutrients in the garden.
As a general fertilizer, Epsom salts are best used when sprinkled around the bases of plants. Try to apply 1 tablespoon of dry Epsom salt around your plant’s soil and replenish this every month.
Epsom Salt for Roses
Many rose gardeners swear by the use of Epsom salts to their plants, and for good reason: Epsom salt is said to produce more flowers and stronger stems!
Rose plants, in particular, are susceptible to magnesium deficiency. This garden favorite is vulnerable to brown spots in its foliage because it craves magnesium just as much as it loves water. Try using Epsom salt to combat magnesium deficiency and see the results for yourself.
There are generally two methods of Epsom salt use when it comes to roses: you can either add 1/4 cup of Epsom salts directly to the soil or dilute it in water. To mix Epsom salt in water, use a ratio of 1/4 cup Epsom salt per gallon of water and water it directly over your rose plant.
Be careful when applying Epsom salts, especially on roses. Rose flowers, white ones in particular, are susceptible to burning if Epsom salts are placed on a sunny day. Never
Try this method every month to strengthen the cell walls and general health of your roses. Other flowers that benefit from Epsom salts include Chrysanthemums, Sunflowers, and even some orchids, too!
Epsom Salt as a Beneficial Pesticide
Does your garden suffer from a pest problem? Fear not, the magnesium sulfate power of Epsom salts might be able to help!
Though this compound isn’t really similar to regular table salt, it still has the capacity to get rid of snails and other small pests. Sprinkle a small amount of Epsom salt around the soil of your garden, or apply it close to the base of your plants to deter small bugs from coming back.
This natural method could potentially end your pest problem in the meantime. As always, prevention is better than cure, so keep your soil healthy and inspect your garden often to avoid pests in the first place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which plants like Epsom salts?
The plants that enjoy Epsom salt the most are the rose, tomato, and pepper plants. These plants enjoy boosts of Magnesium because they often become deficient and turn yellow without it.
To know if your plants might benefit from Epsom salt, you could test it in a small patch of your garden.
Can Epsom salt be used on all plants?
Many plants benefit from using Epsom salt. If you’re worried about overwhelming the soil with too much of this compound, 1 tablespoon of Epsom mixed in one gallon of water is a safe bet.
Adding Epsom salt on plants is usually harmless. However, you may need to check if your soil is alkaline or acidic. Plants with Epsom salts benefit the most when their soil is acidic, as this compound helps to neutralize pH levels.
When should I apply Epsom salts?
The best time to use Epsom salt is always during a cloudy, overcast day. Never apply Epsom salt when the sun is shining too bright, as this may burn the foliage of your plants.
As for when during the season to use this compound, the choice is really up to you. For roses, begin applying Epsom salt when flower buds appear; the same goes for tomatoes and peppers. For houseplants, use Epsom salts twice a month, at most.
If you think you may be overwhelming your plants, you can use lower amounts of Epsom salt for gardening. Like the previous question, 1 tablespoon of Epsom mixed with one gallon of water is enough.
How much Epsom salt should I use per gallon of water?
If you’re just starting out, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water works fine. If your plants show no sign of damage after application, feel free to up your use to 1/4 cup per gallon.
Gardeners all over the world claim that Epsom salts are a gardening miracle, while others claim that it really has no benefits. Now that you’ve seen strong evidence for and against Epsom salts, you’re free to make a decision for yourself.
By the end of this article, you’ve hopefully found ways to use Epsom salts as a beneficial nutrient for your plants. Good luck, and enjoy your gardening journey!