Horticulturists are discussing which popular online “hacks” could be ineffective or even end up hurting your houseplants.
1) Coffee Grounds
Hundreds of TikTok and YouTube videos have discussed the benefits of using kitchen scraps such as leftover coffee grounds, eggshells, and the remnants of fruits and veggies to enrich houseplant soil. According to Julie Weisenhorn, associate extension professor within the University of Minnesota’s horticultural science department, the amount of nutrients in coffee grounds varies significantly by brand.
“If you’re concerned about nutrients, it’s better to use a fertilizer that’s labeled for your plants,” she says.
2) Ground-up Eggshells
Another TikTok hack claims that ground-up egg shells add calcium to houseplant soil. Simply placing the eggshells into the planter, however, skips steps that are needed for the plant to receive the nutrients.
“Eggshells do have calcium, but it needs to be broken down so that it’s available to plants,” says Terasa Lott, state coordinator for the South Carolina master gardener program. Composting them and using the finished product to amend the soil is the best approach.
3) Produce Scraps
Another hack that could cause harm to your plants is burying produce scraps in the pots. This tip could attract harmful pests and dangerously encroach on your houseplant’s already minimal soil space.
“If you start adding things into the soil, you could create a more detrimental growing environment,” Weisenhorn says.
Another TikTok tip alleges that you can rub mayonnaise on foliage to make it shinier. In reality, however, this could seriously harm your houseplants by clogging the stomata in their leaf tissue. Weisenhorn likens covering a plant’s leaves with mayo to clogging the pores of your skin with something greasy.
“Stomata are little openings that release air vapor when the plants become too turgid,” Weisenhorn says. “It’s a regular process of the plant and physiological function.”
YouTube videos suggesting watering with ice cubes may have stemmed from the common practice of watering orchids with ice, but this approach doesn’t work the same with other types of plants. Watering plants, which are typically from tropical environments, with ice could lead to root damage, root shock, or even kill them.