The Many Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide For Plants

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most versatile and effective tools that gardeners have at their disposal. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including preventing disease, increasing oxygenation, and improving nutrient uptake. Hydrogen peroxide is produced naturally by plants as a defense against infection. When applied to the leaves of plants, it acts as a powerful disinfectant, helping to prevent the spread of disease.

In addition, hydrogen peroxide increases the amount of oxygen that is available to roots, providing them with the energy they need to grow. It also helps to break down complex nutrients so that they can be more easily absorbed by plants. As a result, plants that are treated with hydrogen peroxide tend to be healthier and more vigorous than those that are not.

Hydrogen peroxide

Maybe your plants are struggling. Mold or fungal issues could be taking hold no matter how hard you work. Luckily there is a solution. Using hydrogen peroxide for plants and the garden can help to cure a myriad of issues. It is great for promoting root development, treating fungal disease, curing infestations and removing mold. If used correctly hydrogen peroxide for plants is far more effective than many store-bought or organic solutions.

It can also be used without fear of contaminating your soil. This guide to using hydrogen peroxide for plants explains how the chemical can boost your garden. We will also explain how to safely use and store the chemical. First, it is important to understand what hydrogen peroxide is. Hydrogen peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule H2O2.

When this extra oxygen molecule comes into contact with an organic compound it destabilizes the compound oxidizing it. This process is called oxidation reduction or redox for short and it is this reaction that makes hydrogen peroxide so effective as a plant treatment.

Hydrogen peroxide
This useful chemical can be used to boost your garden in a number of different ways. Hydrogen peroxide by Duncan CreamerCC 2.0

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless, sharp-smelling chemical that is often used in household cleaning products and disinfectants. It can also be used to disinfect small cuts or wounds, treat boils and acne, sterilize household cleaning products, kill mites and pests, remove algae from home aquariums, and bleach hair. In the garden, it acts as an organic treatment as well as a mild antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide is often sold in diluted or watered down solutions.

Different Types of Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound with the formula H2O2. It is a pale blue liquid at room temperature that has a slightly bitter taste. Hydrogen peroxide has a number of uses, including as an antiseptic and bleaching agent. It is sold in a variety of different concentrations, depending on its intended use.

The most common concentrations are 3%, 6%, 9%, and 12%. 3% hydrogen peroxide is the concentration typically used for household cleaning, while 6% or 9% solutions are used for bleaching hair. Higher concentrations, such as 12%, are used for industrial applications. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent and can be dangerous if used improperly. It should be handled with care and kept away from children.

  • 3% or household, this dilution is commonly used to disinfect small cuts and wounds, gargle or as a mouthwash. This dilution can also be used to disinfect household surfaces.
  • 6 to 10% or hair bleach. This dilution is commonly used to lighten hair.
  • 35%, food grade. Despite the name this is a strong solution that should not be consumed. Swallowing a food grade solution can make you seriously ill.
  • 90% or industrial strength. Again, a strong solution. Consuming even a small amount of this strength solution can be fatal. Industrial strength solutions are considered toxic to touch, breathe and drink. Used in commercial businesses to bleach fabrics and textiles this strength solution is not safe for use in the home.

2 Dilute hydrogen peroxide before use
Stronger solutions require dilution before use189/365 by JypsygenCC 2.0

How Does it Work?

Hydrogen peroxide has a similar chemical composition to water, its chemical formula is H2O2, similar to water’s H2O.

The extra oxygen in the chemical helps to aerate the soil, promoting root growth. This, in turn, helps flower and vegetable roots to increase nutrient and moisture uptake. The chemical can even be used to improve compacted or clay soil types.

Keen gardeners know that their flowers and vegetables often respond better to rainwater than a soak from a garden hose. This is because rain is a natural peroxide for plants. Using hydrogen peroxide for plants acts as a substitute for rainwater, boosting your prized specimens in a number of different ways.

3 Hydrogen peroxide acts like rainwater

Rainwater boosts growing flowers.

You can use hydrogen peroxide for plants as a mild antiseptic. Made up of hydrogen and oxygen this chemical is an ideal treatment for algae, fungal, bacterial and nematode issues, all of which are averse to oxygen.

11 Ways to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Plants

As long as you get the mixture right, it is easy to use hydrogen peroxide for plants.

When treating, aim to soak the soil around the root system. This helps to get rid of fungi, spores or mold.

How much you use depends on the concentration. A good rule of thumb is to mix one cup of household strength Swan Hydrogen Peroxide in 32 cups of water. This is ideal for treating flowers and vegetables growing in the garden, pots and planters.

For indoor specimens mix one part 3% solution with 48 parts water. This can be safely misted onto the leaves of both indoor and garden plants.

4 Hydrogen peroxide on indoor plants
Diluted solutions can be safely applied to indoor flowers.  

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to help plants in a number of different ways. The following are the most common uses. As well as explaining how the chemical benefits your plants I also explain how to mix up the correct solution and how to best apply it to the plants.

1 Soil Aeration

Well aerated soil means that air is able to move through the growing medium. This enables the renewal of life sustaining gasses such as carbon dioxide and oxygen. These support the metabolic process of the plant.

In a compact soil these gasses, as well as vital nutrients, struggle to get through the soil. This means that your plant may struggle to flourish and survive. A lack of oxygen in the soil also slows down microbial activity. This in turn slows down the decomposition of organic matter which can allow toxic substances to form.

If your soil is compact the root system won’t spread out and develop. Upon lifting the plant you notice that the roots are squashed or compacted.

5 Hydrogen peroxide improves plant soil
Rich, well aerated soil helps plants to thrive. 

In contrast, well aerated soil promotes root growth and increases both the chlorophyll content of the plant and the photosynthesis rate. Finally, plants growing in well aerated soil are less likely to suffer from issues such as salt stress.

Use a weak 3% solution and mix with water. A ratio of one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water is ideal. Place in a spray bottle and apply to the soil around the base of the plant. You can also add it to a watering can and soak the soil.

After the initial treatment, everytime you water the plant, use the hydrogen peroxide solution until your plants start to look healthier.

2 Treating Root Rot

One of the most harmful issues that can affect your plants, root rot is more common in heavy or waterlogged soils. It can also be caused by persistently overwatering plants.

Wet soil can prevent the roots from absorbing enough oxygen. Roots deprived of oxygen eventually start to decay and die. Additionally, weak roots are more susceptible to fungal issues.

While many of the fungi present in the soil benefit plant growth, some are malignant. Some of the most well known malignant fungi include:

  • Armillaria which causes leaf drop and die back,
  • Fusarium which causes stunted growth and the yellowing of the lower leaves,
  • Phytophthora which causes wilting and the yellowing of leaves as well as plant die back.

Root rot can cause leaves to wilt and stunt growth. If allowed to develop the disease also cuts short the lifespan of the plant. As well as being a severe issue, root rot can be difficult to spot in its early stages. Often, by the time you notice it, it is too late to treat.

To treat root rot, mix one cup of hydrogen peroxide with 32 cups of water. As the sun sets, pour the solution onto the soil around the plants and allow it to soak in overnight.

If you want to learn more about root rot, including how to prevent it, our guide to identifying root rot is filled with useful information.

3 Disinfecting Gardening Equipment

As we have already noted as well as being beneficial for plants, hydrogen peroxide can also be used to clean and disinfect pots, garden tools, greenhouses and potting benches. This is particularly useful if you are treating a diseased plant.

Correctly cleaning your tools and work surfaces can help to prevent the accidental spread of disease. You can also use the solution to remove fungus from pots and potting benches.

Remember, even in a healthy garden, it is good practice to regularly clean and disinfect your tools.

6 Hydrogen peroxide to clean tools
Keeping your tools clean helps to prevent the accidental spread of disease.  

To clean your garden tools, firstly wipe with a wet cloth, removing any dirt and debris,

Fill a bucket with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution. To create the solution stir 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide into 1 gallon of water.

Dip the metal parts of your tools in the solution. Do not expose any wooden or plastic parts such as handles to the solution. This may cause them to deteriorate.

Dry your tools thoroughly to prevent rust.

The same solution can also be used to clean potting benches, work surfaces and greenhouse glass. Wear rubber gloves and wipe down your surfaces with a cloth dampened in the solution. After washing, dry with a clean cloth. If you are cleaning greenhouse glass, use newspaper for a shiny, streak free finish.

4 Disinfecting Your Growing Medium

Different types of plants require different types of growing medium. For example a cactus or succulent may struggle in a general purpose potting soil that retains lots of water. Instead it requires a special succulent potting soil.

This means that you may have lots of different types of potting mediums stored in a shed. On occasion you may need to reuse the potting medium. Knowing how to disinfect the potting medium means that you can safely reuse it without the risk of spreading disease around your garden.

Many types of potting medium also contain organic matter such as compost. You may even be making your own potting mix using homegrown compost. Sometimes, however careful you are with your compost heap, the material may become infected with bacteria or fungi. Knowing how to disinfect the growing medium before plants helps to make it safe.

To disinfect your potting medium, fill a clean, disinfected pot with the potting mix. Sprinkle a hydrogen peroxide solution, 1 teaspoon diluted in 8 ounces or one cup of water, over the top. Allow the solution to soak in before watering.

Water 2 to 3 more times over the course of a week. The potting medium is then safe to use for plants.

5 Sanitizing Seeds and Speeding up Germination

Soaking seeds in water before sowing helps to soften the shells and increase germination rates. Using hydrogen peroxide in the water helps to speed up the process. It also kills off any bacteria that the seeds may have picked up.

Pour some 3% or household solution into a small, watertight container and soak the seeds for 3 to 4 hours. This is enough to kill off any lingering bacteria.

After removing the seeds from the solution, rinse in clean, fresh water and dry on a kitchen towel before planting.

You can also place the seeds in a sieve or mesh bag and dip them in a diluted solution. Placing the seeds in a mesh bag keeps them in place making removal and handling easier.

This is just one of a number of ways you can improve germination rates.

7 Hydrogen peroxide speeds up germination
You can use the chemical to speed up germination. 

6 Boosting Root Development

You can use hydrogen peroxide to boost limp, lifeless plants. Applying the chemical correctly helps to aerate the soil. This makes it easier for the root system to spread out and develop. It also helps the roots to take on nutrients and moisture. In turn, this boosts the health and development of your plant.

While you can spray a solution onto the soil, watering it in helps to maximize absorption.

If you are using a 35% solution, mix 2 teaspoons into 1 gallon of water. Apply this solution every other time that you water your plants.

8 Hydrogen peroxide for healthy roots
A healthy root system is vital to support above ground growth.  

7 Fight Fungal Infections

Using hydrogen peroxide for plants provides an effective way to treat root rot, fungal growth and mold. If used correctly the chemical won’t harm your plants.

Using a 3% solution add 1 teaspoon or 5mls of chemical to one cup or 240 ml of water. Mix and pour into a spray bottle. Apply to the affected plant.

You can make a large amount of the solution and store it in a cool, dark place. Do not expose it to light. This degrades the potency of the solution. Remember to clearly label the bottle.

Water the solution well into the ground. Almost flood the plant and surrounding soil. If you are treating a container plant, water until liquid pours from the bottom of the pot and the soil looks waterlogged.

Drenching flushes the surrounding soil of any lingering bacteria. If you are treating container plants, don’t let them sit in trays of water. Water the plants in one place before moving the pot to another.

After watering, allow the soil to almost dry out before watering again. Drenching in this way should cure most fungal infections.

8 Insect Repellant

An infestation of harmful insects in your garden can be disastrous. Months of hard work and care can be destroyed in a matter of hours.

A diluted 1% solution of hydrogen peroxide is not only safe to use on plants it can also keep them pest free. To make a solution add 1 tablespoon of the chemical to a gallon of water and mix well. This can then be sprayed onto the plants, deterring aphids and adult pests and killing insect eggs.

Used correctly this solution is cheaper and more effective than many store bought products. It is also safe to use on your plants.

9 Hydrogen peroxide cures infestations
Use the solution to treat aphids infestations.

9 Hydroponics and Aquaponics

As well as using hydrogen peroxide for plants, you can also use the chemical to treat a lack of nutrients or bacteria in hydroponic systems.

Hydroponic systems can often struggle with a lack of nutrients and bacteria due to the warm atmosphere necessary for the system to function effectively. Additionally, harmful bacteria can thrive in warm water which has a low oxygen content.

You can use hydrogen peroxide to boost oxygen levels in your hydroponic or aquaponic systems. You can also use it to kill off any bacteria or fungal and mold spores that may evolve.

10 Plants in aquaponic systems
The chemical can be used to boost oxygen levels in hydroponic systems.

Use a 3% solution, applying 2 to 3 teaspoons per gallon of water or 3 ml per liter. If you only have the more concentrated 35% solution to hand, dilute it before use. Mixing 1 ounce of 35% solution with 11 ounces of water dilutes it to a 3% solution.

When you are not using the chemical store it in a black bottle. Light exposure makes the chemicals break down more quickly meaning it loses its potency more quickly.

10 Weed Killer

As we have already noted, a weak hydrogen peroxide solution for plants provides a good way to kill off bacteria and fungi.

A stronger solution, such as a 10% concentrate can be used to kill off weeds saving you hours of back breaking work with the weed whacker. You can also use a 3% solution, combine equal amounts hydrogen peroxide and warm water and mix well. Warm water helps to increase the activity of the chemical.

Simply mix up the solution and add to a Plastic Spray Bottle. This can then be applied directly onto the weeds. You can also mix the solution in a bucket and pour it over the plants.

If you are using the chemical as a weed killer, be careful not to expose it to any nearby plants. A concentrated solution kills plants as well as weeds.

11 Hydrogen peroxide kills weeds
This is an effective weed killer.  

11 Water Treatment

An environmentally friendly way to keep your garden green lots of people harvest their own rainwater in a water butt. If you gather water, treating it with some hydrogen peroxide before using it on your plants helps to remove any contaminants such as harmful pesticides or chemicals.

You can also use the chemical to treat elements found in tap water such as chlorine.

For a 35% solution apply 2 mls of hydrogen peroxide for every gallon of water.

12 Hydrogen peroxide in water
The chemical can also be used to treat water before using it.

Hydrogen Peroxide for Plants Safety Tips

Whether you use hydrogen peroxide for plants or in the home, you should always take care when handling the chemical.

The most commonly sold solution is usually 3% hydrogen peroxide. This can be used to disinfect cuts or even gargle with. Swallowing a tiny amount won’t cause you any harm. If, however, you consume a significant amount or a stronger solution it can raise the oxygen levels in your blood and cause significant harm.

Ingesting hydrogen peroxide can also cause:

  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Irritation of the mouth, throat or stomach,
  • Foaming at the mouth,
  • Internal burns.

The stronger the percent solution the worse and more quickly the symptoms occur.

Inhaling significant amounts can also cause serious harm. Hydrogen peroxide can burn the skin and eyeballs. It can also kill you.

Despite having corrosive qualities, household strength hydrogen peroxide is unlikely to seriously harm your skin. However, it can cause minor skin irritations. It can also temporarily lighten the skin.

Skin contact with a stronger solution can cause burns, ulcers, blisters or scarring.

Swallowing food-grade or industrial hydrogen peroxide should be treated as a medical emergency. Contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. You can also contact 911.

Safely Handling and Storing Chemicals

Do not heat or boil hydrogen peroxide. This is an unstable compound and can explode if exposed to heat.

Wear rubber gloves when handling the chemical. This is particularly important if you are using a high concentration of the chemical as a weed killer. While garden or work gloves offer protection in the garden, they are not waterproof and won’t protect your hands from the chemical.

Store your chemicals in a safe, cold and dark place away from any heat source or direct sunlight. Exposing the chemical to direct sunlight causes it to quickly lose its potency.

For extra safety store in a tamper-proof bottle or a Youngever Refillable Bottle with a tight seal lid.

Always clearly label your chemicals. This prevents them from being accidentally handled or used.

Keep your chemicals away from children and pets.

13 Hydrogen peroxide for plants

Used correctly this chemical can help you to cultivate a healthy, productive garden.

Using hydrogen peroxide can benefit your plants and garden in a number of different ways. Whilst not considered an organic treatment it is safe to use in organic gardens and, when handled correctly, is also environmentally friendly.

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