You rise. I rise. All rise! Or should we say all rice–not because the judge is coming–but rice water for plants is here to make your plant even healthier! If you are worn to threads to make your single orchid bloom, tired of preparing plant food cocktails to fight shy of over-fertilization, or want to keep your plant happy, this smart, eco-friendly trick should definitely work for you. Backed with scientifically validated studies, rice water for plants is unlike other click-bait home hacks employed by many expert gardeners to kick-start plant growth. For this reason, we have written all the information you need to get started on this houseplant marvel!
Is Rice Water Good for Plants?
Rice water is absolutely a glory for plants! From growth-stimulating properties to good microbiota-enhancing effects and flower-inducing benefits, ask yourself twice: Is rice water good for plants? It's a sacrilege to this holy plant hack!
Benefits of Rice Water for Plants
With rice water, plants enjoy various benefits, including:
- Increased plant growth
- Reduced risk of overfertilization
- Nutrient-packed leaves in vegetables
- Boost yield of many crops
- Help good bacterial populations in the soil
- Aids in rooting and propagation
Disadvantages of Rice Water for Your Garden
Although numerous studies justify why rice water is good for plants, if misused and overapplied, it can lead to:
- Leaching of nitrogen ions (in sandy soil)
- Hardening of the soil crust
- Blooming of harmful bacteria and molds
- Attracting starch-feasting pests like ants and gnats
Hence, like with other plant regimens, the trick is to apply with moderation!
Rice Water Uses for Plants
To avoid your hard work going up in smoke, rice water must be properly applied. Each purpose may have a specific application process, including:
Rice water as fertilizer is perhaps the well-studied aspect of exploiting this promising plant food. It is not a surprising fact, as washed rice water contains several elements (N, P, K, microminerals, amino acids, and vitamins) that can boost growth. However, before ditching your usual fertilizer, it is important to note that you may only observe this in a few groups of plants rather than the others!
If you are one of the planet warriors who wish to align with the UN’s sustainability goals, rice water plants! Rather than deliberately spilling it into your sink, put it to good use by splashing it onto your thirsty houseplants!
Only scanty scientific studies have shown evidence whether rice water on plants can undoubtedly stimulate plant blooming. What is certain is that the dissolved nutrients in the milky white water may help assist in flowering. So have fun and experiment in your own garden laboratory!
While fermented bioinsecticides–one of the rice water uses for plants–is still a broad area of study for pesticide scientists to explore, a few plant enthusiasts assure pest-repelling activity. However, fear not in applying this product to your plants. In theory, microbe-assisted aging of rice water and other rice by-products (rice bran) was shown to produce organic acids and phenols–a promising insect-deterring substance!
Orchids are quite demanding plants to propagate and cultivate. However, with rice water fertilizer, pretreated orchid plants saw a significant increment in terms of shoot length and number!
While it may sound counter-intuitive, diversifying the microbial population in the soil can also promote growth–thanks to their secreted hormones beneficial for the roots! This is one of the indirect roles of applying rice water in plants. So go ahead and have a try!
How to Make Rice Water for Plants
Many dedicated scientists have already studied various preparations to optimize its use. Learn how to make rice water for plants with the following methods!
Fermented rice water for plants is perhaps the most effective soil inoculant as it also contains beneficial bacteria that stimulate growth. To prepare this aged liquid, simply follow the tips below:
- After cooking rice, place a few scoops inside a mason jar and fill it with water just above it. Use distilled water, as chlorine in the tap can kill the microbes.
- Alternatively, washed rice water can be directly fermented without the cooked rice. It will make the final product less thick than the cooked rice.
- Cover the vessel with a cheesecloth and store it in a dark spot for 1-2 weeks. Some gardeners put them in “nature,” such as in the forest or the woods, to harvest the good microbes.
- Some fungi may grow on the surface. If you see black, brown, or orange growth, discard it and start anew. You should only see white mold, which is deemed harmless. Pro tip: fill as many jars as possible and place them in various locations. It may also be helpful to lessen the fermentation to about 3-5 days, just enough for the bacteria to grow.
- After fermentation, filter and dilute the fermented rice broth and water it to plants periodically. Do not apply it in pure form as it can encrust on the soil surface and may attract gnats.
Fermented Rice Water for Plants — Is It Good?
Lactic acid-forming bacteria that ferment the solution may possess growth-inducing hormones that propel plant growth. They also secrete antimicrobial substances that suppress the propagation of other harmful microbes. With that said, start applying fermented rice water to your plants!
The idea of boiling may stem from the fact the nutrients are released from the grains, and the proteins are denatured, making them more available. While this may be faster than fermented water, its effects are yet to be validated by science. Still, it is worth trying!
- Mix a :1 ratio of rice in water.
- Boil for 30-45 minutes or until the grains soften. Please do not forget to stir occasionally.
- Strain the grains to separate the rice water extract using a cheesecloth or a strainer.
- The resulting liquid is starchy and thick. Before applying, cool it down and thin it by adding water. If applied directly, it may accumulate in the topsoil and harden it like a stone.
Considered to be the easiest and fastest, saving the whitish residue after washing the grains and applying it later is a method with less risk of forming a starchy, crisp soil layer. If you decide to do so, follow the tips below:
- Simply wash the rice with water, ideally with a 3:1 water-to-grain ratio. You can also increase the amount of water to make a less concentrated solution.
- Soak it for about 30-45 minutes. Alternatively, rubbing the grains within your palms also helps extract the nutrients rapidly.
- Extract the liquid using a strainer.
- Store the liquid in a glass jar or a spray bottle. It can be left in a container without refrigeration for about 3 days, but it is still best to cool it. Shake well before spraying to resuspend the colloidal particles in the water.
Methods of Applying Rice Water to Your Plants
Now that we have tackled how to make rice water for plants let’s delve into the different modes of how it can be applied!
If not the easiest, misting is the most convenient way to apply rice water in plants. Simply take a hand spray and mist it daily for your houseplants. Dissolved nutrients can be directly absorbed through the foliage. It is also a suitable application procedure in epiphytic plants like orchids, which absorb both water and nutrients in the leaves and their aerial roots.
If you have succulents or smaller plants, administering your greenie’s regular dose of rice water is best applied at the bottom. Once the pot seems bone dry or slightly moist, simply dip the entire container (or half of it) in a bucket filled with the starchy mixture. Bubbles will stop forming when you completely submerge the pot with water, while the half-filled container will have less liquid after the medium has sponged in the amount it needs.
Also called top watering or drenching, watering plants with rice water over the soil surface is a practical approach for gigantic shrubs or trees indoors unless you want to break your spine for lifting such hulking plants. Simply pour the amount you want until you see the excess water running through the holes. This way, the water is evenly distributed to the root system.
How Often to Use Rice Water on Plants
If you are wondering how often to use rice water on plants, the exact figure is not really established. One study recommends applying fermented rice water during watering time. However, as each homemade formulation may vary in viscosity due to the starch content (especially the boiled preparation), you will know when to cut back the application–once the topsoil appears coagulated. It can block the soil gas exchange that favors the growth of anaerobic bacteria and fungi, eventually causing root diseases.
What Plants Like Rice Water
Theoretically, most plants would benefit from rice water. However, since only a few were scientifically tested, knowing the plants that have been demonstrated to show promising results, such as the following, will give you an idea of how to apply it to its relative correctly:
- Mustard — In a study conducted in Indonesia, drenching rice water with mustard plants yielded surprising results: plants were taller, had larger leaves, and had heavier biomass. For best results, apply weekly during the growth season.
- Tomato — If you need to ask what plants like water, our definite answer would be this ruby fruit! As shown in various field and greenhouse trials, tomato plants watered with starchy rice extract grew taller and bore plumper and heavier fruits compared to the plants that received distilled water.
- Eggplant — To maximize the yield, water your eggplants with at least 750 mL of rice water when the soil appears dry. However, there is still a need to supplement your plant with additional plant food such as from compost or earthworm castings.
- Chinese Flowering Cabbage - Asian vegetables like Chinese flowering cabbage will perform well by watering a 3:1 water-to-rice ratio (unfermented rice water). Leaves will expand and store more nutrients–thanks to various growth-promoting bacterium and nutrient-enhancing properties of rice water.
- Desert rose — One of the spectacular flowering succulents, desert rose or Adenium, can be induced to bloom by the periodic splashing of rice water. As they are not heavy feeders, the light mix of nutrients is just enough to boost the plant’s growth. Just do not forget to allow the soil to completely dry out before watering to avoid rotting.
- Orchids — Known to directly snatch nutrients and water using its leaves and hygroscopic roots, this aerial plant will surely benefit from regular misting or rice water. However, if white starchy deposits accumulate on leaves, be sure to wipe them off to keep them photosynthesizing.
- Mushrooms — While mushrooms are not plants, they are quite happy with rice water. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms can yield the best quality and quantity if grown in a concentrated solution of rice wastewater and agar (a medium to culture mushrooms).
Is Rice Water Better than Regular Water for Plants?
In terms of the number of nutrients and plant growth-promoting properties, rice water is better than regular water. It can be applied regularly, but with moderation, during the plant’s drinking time.
What Plants Like Starch Water?
Many plants have been proven to benefit from the application of rice water. Garden favorites like tomato and eggplant; Brassicas like mustard and Chinese flowering cabbage; and ornamentals like orchids and adenium are some plant examples that appreciate starch water.
How Long Can You Keep Rice Water in a Spray Bottle?
It is best to use it immediately to prevent further fermentation and growth of unwanted molds. Preferably, store it in the fridge for about one week to keep the organic compounds stable and slow down the fermentation rate.
What Are Liquid Alternatives to Rice Water for Plants?
Fresh coconut water can be utilized in lieu of the starchy solution. However, dodge the processed ones as these contain additives, preservatives, and extra sugars, which can harm the plant. Also, apply moderately to prevent rotting.
Can Rice Water Kill Plants?
While rice water rarely kills plants, it has a secondary effect that can harm your plant if applied excessively. Accumulation of starch on the surface binds the soil and may impede root airflow, which may cause fungal-related root putrefaction.
How to Store Rice Water?
Fermented and unfermented washed rice water can be stored in two ways. After fermenting, store the liquid in a jar inside the fridge. For extracted rice water by washing, you can leave it for about 3 days, even without refrigeration.