Should You Water Your Plants with a Banana Peel?

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Banana peel water for plants is all the rage on social media. Does it work? We tried it! Here's the verdict.

Bananas may be a nearly perfect food with their handy packaging and versatility, but they generate a lot of waste. More than one-third of a banana’s weight is in the peel. Wouldn’t it be great to get something beneficial out of it?

It’s not a far-fetched idea. Banana peels can be used for animal feed and blended into smoothies (wash them first — banana production is pesticide-heavy). Industrious vegans even make banana-peel “carnitas.”

If eating the peels doesn’t appeal (sorry!) to you, what about other ways to use them before tossing them in the trash? If you’re a gardener like me, maybe you’ve seen the newest trend going around “garden Twitter” and other social media sites: banana peel water. No, not to drink. To feed your plants.

The idea is simple. Put water in a jar, toss in banana peels and wait. After a day or two, add the water to your watering can and water your plants with it.

Does it work? Is there any science behind the idea? I decided to try it out myself on two houseplants, and talk to a master gardener about this trend.

Are Banana Peels Good for Plants?

Sure, but probably not through banana water.

Banana peels are organic material, which simply means the remains of carbon-based life. This could be leaves and roots from plants that die, or dead animals and waste. Organic material plays a major role in soil health by providing nutrients for plants to take up and distribute to the rest of the plant.

But before plants can use organic material, it must be broken down into useable chemical elements like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Plants use these nutrients in the form of specific ions that must be near the plant roots. Until the elements take a form that plants can use, what’s the point?

Think about a compost pile. You throw eggshells, banana peels and coffee grounds in the pile and turn it every now and again. After a while, all those scraps break down into a different substance that’s rich and nutrient-dense. Getting good compost can take months or even years, depending on conditions.

If it takes microbes, air and water in just the right composition to break down organic materials into useable nutrients, it’s questionable that letting a banana peel steep for a day could do the same.

Boiling banana peels shows some promise for extracting potassium to aid people with kidney disease. But without a controlled process in place, homemade banana water nutrient concentrations are impossible to quantify.

Still, what could it hurt? It’s just a banana peel. Surely plants can derive some benefit from soaking a peel in water. Unfortunately, no studies have been produced showing the positive effects of banana peel water on plant growth, according to the University of Maryland Extension.

So yes, banana peels can be a source of nutrients for plants. But no, there’s no evidence putting a banana peel in water for a day or two is worth your time and effort.

How To Use Banana Peels for Plants

The best way to use banana peels for plants is to add them to your compost pile or toss them into your countertop compost bin, then use the nutrient-rich compost to top-dress houseplants or fortify your garden soil. It’s a good idea to cut up the peels, too. More surface area for organisms to work on means faster breakdown of organic material.

Because houseplants can live their whole lives in one pot, they use up the nutrients in potting soil pretty quickly. If your houseplant has been in the same pot for a while, it might be time to re-pot.

If it’s happy with its home, or it’s really large and hard to re-pot, add compost to the top. You may have to lightly scrape away some of the soil at the top to avoid overfilling the pot.

Compost is great for the garden, too, but it’s a good idea to test your soil first. Adding too many nutrients is detrimental to soil and plant health.

In case you’re wondering if you can just toss banana peels directly into the soil — another common Internet trend — don’t bother. It’s an inefficient way to get nutrients to the plant roots. Rotting fruit and peels will eventually break down, but they’re unstable in the soil and invite pests.

The Verdict: Did Using Banana Water for Plants Work?

Inconclusive. Banana water didn’t hurt my ponytail palm or dracaena. They’re doing fine, but I’m not sure they look any different, either. They got a taste of banana-flavored water for a few weeks, and that’s about it.

I did not develop any gnats or other bugs. I didn’t kill my plants. These are good things. But I think I will stick to throwing the peels in the compost bin.

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Ally Childress
Ally Childress is a licensed electrician and freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas.