New Viral Trend: Should You Use Banana Peel Water For Plants?
Seen the new viral trend around banana peel water as a fertilizer for your plants? Not sure if it's just a myth that it actually works? In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton breaks down if you should be using this controversial method for providing nutrients to your plants.
The internet is full of tips, tricks and hacks designed to improve your life in every way, including in gardening. One of the recent favorite hacks doing the rounds on social media, especially on TikTok (or PlantTok as it’s known), is banana peel water, also called banana fertilizer tea.
You can find countless videos that talk of the benefits of using this DIY water as a type of fertilizer for both indoor and outdoor plants. But, as with all speculation, should you be rushing out to try the newest craze? Does this hack provide all the benefits it claims to, or are there problems with the underlying science?
In this article, we take a look at the pros and cons of using banana peel water as a nutrient enhancement or type of fertilizer for your plants. We dig deeper into the claims, and whether or not you should be using it on your plants. Let’s jump in and dig a little deeper!
Plant Nutrients Explained
Much like humans, plants require certain nutrients in different amounts. They allow them to grow correctly and for all their systems and processes to function as intended. These are split into three categories – macronutrients, secondary nutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are those needed in the largest amounts. You may have noticed the acronym NPK on fertilizer packaging. These are the symbols for these three essentials: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen is mostly in charge of leaf and stem health. Phosphorus helps flowering and potassium covers root and overall plant health.
Secondary nutrients are needed in lesser amounts than macronutrients but are just as important. These include things like calcium and sulfur that contribute to cell health and plant growth.
Micronutrients like iron and boron are needed in very small amounts. But, deficiency of any of these micronutrients can cause major problems with growth and overall health.
Banana Peel Fertilizer Water Claims
If you’ve been on houseplant social media pages recently, you’ve probably already seen the plant hack about banana peel fertilizer tea. Pictures of chopped-up banana peels in sealed jars of water seem to be everywhere, prompting everyone to try this new trend.
So why is this such a popular suggestion? For starters, we all know that bananas have lots of potassium in them. In fact, it’s the most commonly touted benefit of eating these fruits. Potassium is one of the three macronutrients that plants require in large amounts. So, bananas are believed to be as beneficial for plants as they are for humans.
Although nitrogen is the most talked-about nutrient for houseplants due to its contribution to leaf growth, potassium is also important. It not only promotes strong root health, but also impacts the uptake of water and helps houseplants better handle a missed watering or two.
By fertilizing your plants with this controversial method, proponents claim they will get their much-needed potassium readily available to the roots, as well as other trace micronutrients.
Does it Really Work?
These claims all seem to make sense at a first glance. But, on closer inspection, there are some holes in the arguments.
The first issue is the level of potassium that ends up in the water. Different recipes recommend steeping the peels for different amounts of time – some overnight, and some for more than a week. However, even over long periods, very little potassium actually leaches into the water.
The claims equating the potassium content to what the plants end up receiving are therefore misleading. Most of that potassium remains in the peels rather than in the water.
The second issue relates to the levels of nutrients your plants need. Potassium is not the only macronutrient required. They also need a balance of nitrogen and phosphorus (as well as other nutrients) to grow effectively.
Gardeners reading these claims may believe banana peel water is a holistic fertilizer, when in fact it only provides one of the required nutrients. Even then, it only adds an almost insignificant amount of that nutrient to the soil.
Downsides & Problems
As with almost any “hack” or “tip” – there can be some downsides to trying this out on your own plants. Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems you may run into if you decide to try to leverage this method to improve the growth of your plants.
If you try this trick even once, you may have to deal with more than just a nutrient deficiency. Banana peel water, due to the small traces of banana that remain in the water, quickly attract a wide variety of pests to the soil.
One of the most common problems in fungus gnats. These annoying bugs are tiny flying pests that hang around the soil and your plants, quickly spreading to the rest of your home wherever moisture is present. They also lay eggs in the soil, growing to eventually take over your home.
Fungus gnats are also very difficult to get rid of. Unlike other sap-sucking pests that can be wiped off the plant with neem oil, these flying bugs will quickly move away from the plants when you try to get rid of them. Sticky traps are your best line of defense but don’t always catch all the culprits. And once they have laid eggs in the soil, only repotting can get really rid of them.
Inadequate Feeding Routine
Banana peel water cannot be considered a complete fertilizer. In fact, whether it can be considered a fertilizer at all is questionable due to the low nutritional content. Using just this mixture to feed your plants will quickly lead to problems with nutrient deficiency.
Most houseplants benefit from a regular fertilizing routine during spring and summer. Since they live in the same pots for several years, they can quickly use up the existing nutrients in the soil, needing a top-up in order to grow further.
Tropical foliage plants require a balanced fertilizer with equal parts of all macronutrients, including some trace secondary and micronutrients. Just potassium, and small amounts of it at that, cannot provide all the plants need, resulting in greater nutrient deficiencies over time despite the belief that you are ‘fertilizing’ them.
If you don’t strain your banana fertilizer tea correctly, you will likely end up with small pieces of banana in and around your houseplant soil. Besides attracting pests, these can slowly start to rot, resulting in an unpleasant smell around your plants.
The longer you use the tea, the more these problems can build up. This will eventually permeate your house or outdoor garden area with a strong scent.
This can also lead to mold growth in the soil, a common problem in houseplants with excessively moist soil. This can eventually hinder growth (and also doesn’t smell great either). Mold is often difficult to remove from the soil. It can also be released in the air, potentially creating a harmful environment around your plants depending on the specific fungus involved.
What You Can Do Instead
So, maybe you’ve decided this trend isn’t something you’d like to do, and prefer to stick with tried and tested methods. Let’s take a look at some other more traditional things you can do to help improve the growth of your plants.
Compost Your Peels
Even though there are reasons not to make banana fertilizer tea, that doesn’t mean the peels can’t still be beneficial for your plants. The best place for these peels, rather than the trash, is your compost pile.
Here they will decompose, releasing the essential nutrients contained within them. This, combined with nutrients from other decomposing organic materials, is a much more holistic nutrient source than fertilizer tea. You can even compost citrus, despite popular belief otherwise.
If you don’t have a compost pile outdoors, there are always ways to start indoors. Compost bins are available in all shapes and sizes to use indoors and out. Not only does this limit the amount of trash going into landfills, but it can also be used to improve the health of your plants over time.
Add Balanced Fertilizer To The Soil
For those who suspect a nutrient deficiency and were hoping banana peel water would solve all their problems, there are far better options out there designed to improve the growth of your plants.
Specialized houseplant fertilizers have all the right nutrients in the right ratios. They are designed for quick uptake to improve growth right away, specifically in houseplants. Depending on what you’re growing, there may even be a formula specially made for that specific plant.
If you are planting outdoors in a garden bed, or are planting veggies, stick to a high quality organic fertilizer for your plants.
Not only are these better for the plants, but they also allow you to know exactly what is going into your soil, preventing issues with nutrient imbalance later on.
We all love a good internet hack, especially when it purports to help our plants grow bigger and stronger. Hacks like using Epsom salts on tomatoes have proven scientifically to have certain benefits. Unfortunately, when it comes to banana peel water, most of the claims are either exaggerated or simply not true.
That shouldn’t stop you from giving it a go if you want to. There are plenty of gardeners who swear by tricks like these based on their own anecdotal evidence. As long as you are prepared to deal with the downsides of banana peel fertilizer, whether you give it a try or not is ultimately up to you.