Why Sugar Water Might Be The Key To Reviving Dying Plants

What do you do if your precious plant baby has started to wilt and, no matter how much you try, seemingly refuses to try and get better? Just add a little bit of liquid sweetener. Theoretically speaking, a mixture of sugar (which has at least 56 different guises, according to Virta Health) and water can help your plant thrive again. Sugar acts as a quick energy source in humans,  and when mixed with water, it's more easily absorbed. Similarly, it's almost like a liquid IV for plants, sending a burst of life-saving sucrose directly to the roots.

However, it's important to keep in mind that this particular foliage hack should only be reserved for plants that are having a tough time surviving the rigors of the world. That's why before you go dosing up your plants, first do some basic maintenance by pruning back the dead stuff. You'd be surprised at the positive effect this can have on your flora family. If you've exhausted your options, and your plant still looks like it's on death's door, then opting for a bit of liquid plant-electrolyte might be your best bet. 

How sugar works its magic

Using sugar water as a magical plant elixir isn't new when it comes to extending the life of cut flowers and even Christmas trees. However, these mixtures are a bit different because they utilize other ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and even vodka.

According to Healthline, sucrose (alias table sugar) is what's commonly known as a monosaccharide or simple sugar. These types of sweeteners are the fastest and easiest to absorb and convert to instant energy. When used in moderation (and on foliage in dire need of assistance), a mixture of sugar and water can act as a quick source of liquid fuel that also helps promote growth. This isn't due to the actual solution itself, though. The sugar water indirectly helps boost a plant's resilience by feeding the microbial bacteria in the soil. These beneficial pathogens help break down organic matter in the substrate, which makes it more nutrient dense. This is the only way plants can benefit from a beverage made of sucrose and water.

Everything in moderation

While it's fine to occasionally sugar up your sickly flora, remember that moderation is everything. Sugar acts as a quick shot of instant fuel, which means that it's actually kind of easy to overdose your poor petunias. "Over juicing" your plants (healthy or recovering) can not only damage the plant's internal structure, Garden Myths explains that high concentrations of liquid sucrose can cause water to leach from the roots, which ultimately leads to dehydration and untimely plant death. It can also create a nutrient imbalance in the plant's substrate, meaning your plant is trying to survive in dead or acidic soil. If you're worried about overfeeding your plant, there are two telltale signs that you should keep an eye out for: Yellowing leaves with random, rapid wilting and-or fewer blooms right after feeding.

Giving your plants too much imitation "nectar" can also attract sugar-loving pests like houseflies and ants. Like a siren's song, these little monsters are lured in by the sweet, sweet smell of sugar-saturated soil and can quickly infest your poor houseplant.