Is sugar water good for plants? Experts have their say on this gardening hack

Discover whether sugar water will benefit your plants and what it offers to your garden

Wildlife garden with pink tulips, wooden bench
(Image credit: Getty Images / Rosemary Calvert)

When it comes to gardening, there are numerous hacks that are thought to help boost your plants' roots and support healthy growth. So, is sugar water good for plants? And what benefits is it thought to provide?

There are all sorts of garden ideas that use pantry staples as fertilizers, pest repellents and compost ingredients, from using coffee grounds for plants to using tea leaves in the garden. Sugar water is said to provide growth that boosts foliage and flowers by transforming your plants' ability to absorb water and nutrients. But is this true?

We spoke to experts to hear their opinions on this gardening hack, and whether they think sugar water will help your plants or hinder them. 

Is sugar water good for plants?

Flower and plant beds. Borders of lupins, Inula, Campanula and meadowsweet.

(Image credit: Allan Pollok-Morris)

'Sugar water can be a wonderful boost to dying plants but I would not recommend it for every day watering,' says Rachel Crow, garden editor for Homes & Gardens. 'Sugar water can conversely cause damage to plants that are otherwise growing healthily by changing the way their roots absorb moisture and nutrients. Sugar water can prevent plants from getting the right nutrients from the soil and kill the plants instead of helping them.' 

Knowing when to water plants and how to water plants is a lot more beneficial to your plants than watering them with any specific mixture.

'Plants do not metabolize sugar as humans do and the sugars they produce (glucose) have a different make-up to the polysaccharides of our store-bought sugar,' explains Rachel. 'These can block the roots causing a healthy plant to rot and wilt as water cannot be absorbed.'

When might sugar water benefit plants?

Garden with hedges, flower beds and a brown free range chicken.

(Image credit: POLLY ELTES PHOTOGRAPHY)

Sugar, in diluted form, can help dying plants in the short term by providing a small boost to the plant's naturally occurring sugars. Adding sugar can also help to encourage microbial activity in the soil to support a dying plant quickly. 

'Sugar water may also provide a benefit for blooms from your cut flower garden,' suggests Rachel. 'If you have learned how to take plant cuttings then adding sugar water to your stems can help to keep flowers fresh in a vase for longer.' 

When adding sugar water to wilting flowers, combine one tablespoon of sugar with one quart of water and water a little and often. 'Do not add water to wilting flowers suffering from transplant stress,' warns Rachel. 'Plants can often look downtrodden after being transplanted due to the shock of the move however sugar water will only exacerbate the problem. These plants will likely revive themselves on their own with the help of specialized plant food or fertilizer.'

What to use instead of sugar water?

Castle Park Physic Garden, Bristol. Summer in a sensory garden.

(Image credit: Mark Bolton)

While there are many home methods of fertilizing plants such as using banana peels as fertilizer or using vegetable peels as fertilizer, standard plant food is one of the best options for garden plants, says Rachel. 'Instead of using sugar water, use commercial plant food such as MicacleGro available on Amazon (opens in new tab) or food from garden centers.'

Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen are the most advantageous for plants both inside and outside and are often very affordable making them the ideal purchase for avid and beginner gardeners alike. 

What liquid makes plants grow faster?

While there are plenty of hacks to help your plants grow faster, rainwater still carries more benefits for your plants than any other water. Rainwater contains nutrients that your plants require to grow strong, stable roots so collecting rainwater is also beneficial for watering indoor plants as well as out. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.