It should work. Right?

You have plenty of cut flower food leftover and are thinking of using it for your other potted plants.

You cannot give cut flower food to potted plants because it’s used to preserve the flowers and not feed them. The ingredients in cut flower food are not plant nutrients. So the cut flower food offers no benefits to potted plants. Using it regularly could damage the soil and the plant.

In this post, I’ll help you understand why you should not give cut flower food to potted plants and how they can damage them. I’ll also help you understand whether you should use it for potted vegetables.

Let’s check it out.

Can you give cut flower food to potted plants?

Cut flower food is a misnomer of the product, which leads people to believe that it provides nutrition to the cut flowers to make them last longer.

Cut flower food is not a mixture of nutrients intended to mimic natural food as if the flower was still attached to the main plant. When the living plant absorbs nutrients from the soil, it undergoes a transformation in the roots and leaves to transform the nutrients into a usable format for the plant.

This is also not the intention of cut flower food. Cut flower food is not a nutrient food, but chemicals intended to preserve the cut flower for a longer period. The main ingredients in cut flower food are the following.

  • Sugar. Sugar in a low concentration can offer a limited food source to the cut flower and allow it to live slightly longer from this limited nourishment. The main reason for the sugar is to provide enough nutrients for flower buds harvested before the flower opens to live long enough for the flower to fully open in the vase.
  • A pH lowering agent. Cut flower food contains an acidic agent, often citric acid, to lower the pH of the water the flowers are standing in. Lowering the pH helps prevent mold from developing and helps to keep the water from the vase traveling up the flower stem.
  • Bleach. Bleach is a germ killer. The sugar added to cut flower food to act as a pseudo-nutrient attracts bacteria that will grow in the water and on the flower stems and cause the mixture to stink. Bleach kills the bacteria that try to feast on the sugar solution.

As you can see from the ingredient list in cut flower food, the intent is to preserve the cut flower rather than provide nutrients for it to grow.

Consequently, cut flower food does not have any significant nutrient value to warrant feeding it to your potted plant as a nutrient booster or as a food source.

Flower food shouldn’t damage your potted plants, but it’s never recommended because it won’t benefit them at all. The purpose of flower food is actually not to feed plants, but to preserve them, which is why it is better used in non-potted soil where plants are more at risk to environmental factors. Flower food won’t harm potted vegetables, but it’s not recommended on them either. – Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love

Can using flower food damage potted plants?

Using flower food can damage potted plants because it will cause the soil environment to change and make it detrimental to the growth and health of the plant in the long run.

Since cut flower food offers no nutritional value to your potted plants and it contains chemicals, you may be concerned that giving cut flower food to your plants may damage your potted plants. This may be a particular cause of concern if you have already given cut flower food to your potted plants.

If you have already done this once or twice, you may be lucky, but you should discontinue the practice immediately. Instead, feed your potted plants proper organic fertilizer and compost to meet their growing requirements.

organic fertilizer
Organic fertilizer I use for my plants

Cut flower food can be used on your plotted plants for situations other than providing nutrients, but we will get to that later.

The ingredients in cut flower food can build up in the soil in the pot and even in the plant itself and prove detrimental to the plant’s long-term well-being.

Let’s examine how each of the ingredients can affect your potted plants.

  • Sugar. Sugar that is not absorbed will crystallize in the soil, where it will act as an osmotic agent and suck water out of the plant’s roots in a similar manner as salt. The additional sugar content will also attract unwanted insects such as ants to the potted plant.
  • Citric acid. Most plants prefer a soil pH that is between 6.0 and 7.0pH. Citric acid typically has a pH of between 3.0 and 3.5pH. The acidity of the soil affects how effectively a plant can absorb nutrients. Creating a more acidic environment in the soil can affect the plant’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs, and it may starve. The acidity may also burn the roots and root hairs, affecting the plant’s efficiency in absorbing water and nutrients.
  • Bleach. Bleach will kill all bacteria in the soil, even the good bacteria that the plant needs to fix nitrogen in the potted plant soil. Excessive bleach can chemically burn the roots, reducing the plant’s ability to absorb food.

These chemicals will take some time to build up in the soil, so if you have given cut flower food to your plants, there may be no need to despair just yet.

Some plants prefer a slightly acidic environment to the normal pH range of plants, and a dose every now and then of cut flower food may be beneficial for these types of plants. However, you would need to know your potted plant’s requirements and preferred pH levels before giving them cut flower food, and you would need to limit the amount.

Cut flower food is usually a mixture of water, sugar, citric acid (usually lemon juice), and bleach.  The bleach keeps the water from getting cloudy and inhibits fungal and bacterial growth.  The sugar feeds the flowers. However,  pouring this mixture into a potted plant will not help the potted plant.  It makes its own sugars through photosynthesis.   Depending on the sensitivity of the plant, the bleach could cause a problem although it is present in such a small amount it probably won’t be noticeable to most plants.  The same is true of the citric acid.  – Stephanie Suesan Smith,  Ph.D., Garden Copywriter

How to use cut flower food on potted plants?

We have established that cut flower food is not a substitute or a suitable source of nutrients for potted plants, but that does not mean that the product does not have any application for your plants.

Cut flower food can be used as a pest deterrent and a disease deterrent on your potted plants. However, the mixture is not poured into the potted plant’s soil but used as a foliar spray to kill bugs, pests, and fungi on the leaves and stems.

Mix your cut flower food as per the instruction on the container, and then dilute the mixture 1:1 with water. Place the diluted mixture in a spray bottle and use it as a foliar spray against mites and fungi on your potted plants.

Can you use flower food for potted vegetables?

You should not use cut flower food on potted vegetables because it does not offer any nutrient value, and you do not want the vegetable absorbing the chemicals in the flower food. You should not use it as a foliar spray on potted vegetables either. Natural alternatives would be a better choice.

Potted vegetables are plants you will consume, so you need to be particularly careful with the substances you use on these edible plants.

There is a reason that organic vegetable growing is so popular. What you feed your vegetables eventually ends up in your system when you eat them. The most natural and organic form of nutrients is the best food to use for your potted vegetables to get them to thrive.

If you need to give your potted vegetables a boost every now and then, you can look into various liquid organic fertilizers. The plants will absorb these liquid nutrients quickly and offer a nutrient boost to your potted vegetables.

Is flower food the same as plant food?

Flower food is not the same as plant food and should never be used as a substitute food for growing or potted plants. Flower food is not essentially a food but rather a preservative to keep the flower upright and blooming for longer. It does not offer nutrient supplements to growing plants.

The name “flower food” gives the wrong impression that flower food contains plant nutrients. This is not the case, and it should not be considered a food or a nutrient supplement for your growing plants.

Instead, feed your plants with a product designed as potted plant food, or give your potted plant some fertilizer or compost to boost the nutrient level in the soil in the pot.

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