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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Is Epsom Salt Good for Garlic Plants?

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Epsom Salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, has been touted as a cure-all for plants in the garden. Is Epsom Salt Magic Ferry Dust? Is Epsom salt good for growing garlic? Epsom Salt is not a miracle cure, though Epsom salts have been used to relieve magnesium deficiency found in some soils.


Pouring Epsom Salt on the Soil near Garlic Plants


Epsom salt is not a fertilizer or plant food. It contains only two elements that plants need, namely magnesium and sulfur. Epsom salts have been used to ease magnesium deficiencies found in garden soil. The magnesium in Epsom salt is highly soluble and can leach or run off into water supplies, contributing to water pollution and escaping the soil it’s meant to improve. If your soil tests positive for magnesium deficiency, Epsom salts might help your lawn with some growth and lushness.


Question: Is Epsom Salt Good for Garlic Plants? I have read that Epsom salt can do everything from jumpstarting garlic plants to fertilizing trees around our yard. How do I know when to use Epsom salts for plants, and how to separate fact from fiction?


Answer: Assuming you have already performed a soil test and have determined your soil is deficient in magnesium, then adding Epsom salt to your garden soil, near your garlic plants, has the potential to help them grow stronger. It is important to use Epsom salt in moderation. Too much Epsom salt can harm plants. Epsom salt has a place in the garden. Because Epsom salt contains relatively high levels of magnesium and sulfur in can help balance soils that are deficient in magnesium and sulfur. Although these are essential elements plants need, they are among many that contribute to growth and flowering or fruiting. Both elements aid in photosynthesis and help plants absorb the three macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). But plants don’t need magnesium and sulfur in large amounts; most soils have adequate amounts of magnesium and sulfur. Some soils tend to be magnesium deficient, especially sandy and/or acid soil. Magnesium can also be leached by heavy rainfall, irrigation, erosion, and extensive cultivation. So replenishing magnesium with Epsom salts certainly sounds like a good idea. Though, magnesium is a mere minor player in the scheme of plant health. Finally, don’t expect Epsom salt to replace good gardening practices in regard to watering, plant care and weeding.


Fact or Fiction. Is Epsom Salt Good for the Garden?

It’s quite the horticultural controversy. Some gardeners consider natural, inexpensive Epsom salts to be a wonderful addition in the garden, the secret to plentiful blooms, bigger, tastier fruits and veggies, and beautiful garlic plants. Others insist these claims are overrated and that Epsom salts can even do harm. Read on to find out if your crops may benefit from this ages-old yet fiercely debated mineral compound. If you already added fertilizer to your garden soil, keep in mind that many fertilizers contain magnesium. Adding more in the form of Epsom salts is counterproductive. Adding Epsom salts to soil that already has sufficient magnesium can harm your soil and plants, such as by inhibiting calcium uptake. Spraying Epsom salt solutions on plant leaves can cause leaf scorch. Excess magnesium can increase mineral contamination in water that percolates through soil.


According to the University of Minnesota, Magnesium is the central core of the chlorophyll molecule in plant tissue. Thus, if Mg is deficient, the shortage of chlorophyll results in poor and stunted plant growth. Magnesium also helps to activate specific enzyme systems. They have indicated that magnesium sulfate can increase cell uptake of key minerals, including nitrogen and phosphorus. Testers in five states gave pepper plants a standard drench of 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts to one gallon of water, twice a month, and reported that many of the treated plants showed thicker foliage and larger vegetables.

New and transplanted roots need tender care. The magnesium might help new seedlings get a good start, but adding it really isn’t necessary if you’re starting with quality garden soil and potting mixes. On the other hand, using some Epsom salt for gardening likely won’t harm plants or soil unless it’s applied often and too heavily.



What is Epsom Salt?

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound with the chemical formula MgSO4. Chemically, it has 10% magnesium and 13% sulfur. These are nutrients that are essential to many plants for the roles they play in growth and development. It is named after Epsom, a town in Surrey, England, where it was first discovered in the 17th century. Epsom salt is a technical term for magnesium sulfate. It is a white, crystalline solid that is soluble in water. Epsom salt is not made in a lab, but it is a naturally occurring mineral. It is made when magnesium and sulfate ions from seawater evaporate, leaving behind a deposit of magnesium sulfate. Epsom salt can also be found in some natural hot springs.


Here are some additional facts about Epsom salt:

  • Epsom salt is a mineral compound that contains magnesium and sulfate.

  • It is named after Epsom, a town in Surrey, England, where it was first discovered in the 17th century.

  • Epsom salt is a white crystal or powder that is soluble in water.

  • Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are important for plant growth. Magnesium is involved in many important biochemical reactions in plants, including photosynthesis and the creation of chlorophyll. Sulfate is a component of many important proteins and enzymes in plants.

What Minerals do Plants Need to Grow?


Plants need a variety of minerals to grow, including:

  • Nitrogen: Nitrogen is essential for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids, which are necessary for all aspects of plant growth.

  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is essential for the formation of cell walls and energy storage.

  • Potassium: Potassium is essential for water transport and photosynthesis.

  • Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for chlorophyll production and photosynthesis.

  • Sulfur: Sulfur is essential for the formation of amino acids and proteins.

  • Calcium: Calcium is essential for cell walls and photosynthesis.

  • Iron: Iron is essential for the formation of chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

  • Manganese: Manganese is essential for the formation of chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

  • Zinc: Zinc is essential for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids.

  • Copper: Copper is essential for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids.

  • Boron: Boron is essential for the formation of cell walls and photosynthesis.

  • Molybdenum: Molybdenum is essential for the formation of proteins and nucleic acids.

  • Sulfate: Sulfate is used in the formation of amino acids, proteins, and oils. It is also necessary for chlorophyll formation, promotes nodulation in legumes, helps develop and activate certain enzymes and vitamins, and is a structural component of two of the 21 amino acids that form protein.

Plants obtain these minerals from the soil. The soil contains a variety of minerals, including these essential nutrients. When plants grow, they absorb these minerals from the soil through their roots.


Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are important for plant growth. Magnesium is involved in many important biochemical reactions in plants, including photosynthesis and the creation of chlorophyll. Sulfate is a component of many important proteins and enzymes in plants. When Epsom salt is applied to the soil, it dissolves and the magnesium and sulfate ions are absorbed by the plants. These ions are then used by plants for growth and development. Epsom salt can also be applied to the leaves of plants. When dissolved in water, Epsom salt can be sprayed on the leaves of plants. The magnesium and sulfate ions will be absorbed by the leaves and used by the plants for growth and development.


Here are some of the benefits of Epsom salt for plants:

  • Improved growth: Epsom salt can help to improve the growth of plants by providing them with a source of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium is an essential mineral for plant growth, and sulfate is a component of many important biochemical reactions in plants.

  • Increased production of flowers and fruit: Epsom salt can help to increase the production of flowers and fruit by providing plants with a source of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium is an essential mineral for plant reproduction, and sulfate is a component of many important biochemical reactions in plants.

  • Reduced risk of pests and diseases: Epsom salt can help to reduce the risk of pests and diseases by providing plants with a source of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium is an essential mineral for plant defense mechanisms, and sulfate is a component of many important biochemical reactions in plants.

If you are considering using Epsom salt for your plants, it is important to do your research and consult with a professional to determine the best way to use it.




Use Epsom Salt in Moderation

In some cases, Epsom salt is good for plants. It is a natural mineral compound that contains magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium is an essential mineral for plant growth, and sulfate is a component of many important biochemical reactions in plants. Epsom salt can be absorbed by plants through their roots or applied to the leaves of plants.

When Epsom salt is absorbed by plants, it can help to improve the growth of plants, increase the production of flowers and fruit, and reduce the risk of pests and diseases.


If you are considering using Epsom salt for your plants, it is important to use it in moderation. Too much Epsom salt can damage plants. The best way to use Epsom salt is to add it to your soil or to apply it to the leaves of your plants.

Here are some tips on how to use Epsom salt for plants:


Are there Negative Aspects of using Epsom Salt in the Garden?

Epsom salt is generally safe for plants when used in moderation. However, there are some potential side effects that can occur when Epsom salt is used in excess. According to the University of Minnesota Extension site, "adding Epsom salts to soil that already has sufficient magnesium can actually harm your soil and plants, such as by inhibiting calcium uptake. Spraying Epsom salt solutions on plant leaves can cause leaf scorch. Excess magnesium can increase mineral contamination in the water that percolates through soil."


These side effects include:

  • Salt burn: Epsom salt can cause salt burn, which is a condition that occurs when plants are exposed to too much salt. Salt burn can cause the leaves of plants to wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die.

  • Water stress: Epsom salt can also cause water stress in plants. Water stress occurs when plants do not have enough water to meet their needs. Water stress can cause leaves of plants to wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die.

  • Pests and diseases: Epsom salt can attract pests and diseases to plants. Epsom salt can also make plants susceptible to pests and diseases.

If applied directly onto foliage, Epsom salts can cause leaf scorch. Use a wetting agent and avoid spraying on particularly hot, sunny days to mitigate this. Calcium deficiency can cause root rot, common in tomatoes. Epsom salt may worsen the situation because calcium and magnesium compete with each other for absorption by the plant. There is no clear evidence that any disease is controlled by Epsom salt.


Another concern with Epsom salts is that they’ll wash away with water that runs off and become a pollutant that contaminates waterways. So, avoid using too much Epsom salt or any soil additive or fertilizer to do the least harm to plants and the environment. Instead, keep plants consistently watered and soil rich in nutrients with annual additions of organic compost.




Why is a Soil Test Important Before Adding Any Fertilizer or Epsom Salt to the Soil?

A soil test is an important tool for any gardener or farmer. It’s wise to understand what’s going on with your soil before using fertilizer or amendments. For example, plants may show signs of magnesium deficiency, but excess potassium in the soil may be prohibiting magnesium intake—a condition that may be best addressed by adding nitrogen. It can help you to determine the existing nutrient content of your soil, the pH level, and the presence of any pests or diseases. This information can help you to make informed decisions about what crops to grow, how to fertilize your soil, and how to prevent problems.


There are many benefits to getting a soil test. Some of the most important benefits include:

  • Knowing the nutrient content of your soil: A soil test can tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium your soil has. This information can help you to choose crops that will do well in your soil.

  • Knowing the pH level of your soil: The pH level of your soil affects the availability of nutrients to plants. A soil test can tell you if your soil is too acidic or alkaline. If the pH level is not correct, you can adjust it by adding lime or sulfur.

  • Knowing if your soil has any pests or diseases: A soil test can also tell you if your soil has any pests or diseases. If your soil does have pests or diseases, you can take steps to control them.

Getting a soil test is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to improve the health of your plants. By knowing the nutrient content, pH level, and presence of any pests or diseases in your soil, you can make informed decisions about how to grow your crops. Here are some tips for getting a soil test:

  • Take a sample of soil from several different areas of your garden or farm.

  • Collect the sample in a clean container.

  • Send the sample to a laboratory for testing.

  • The laboratory will send you a report that shows the nutrient content, pH level, and presence of any pests or diseases in your soil.

  • Use the report to make informed decisions about how to grow your crops.

The primary nutrients that plants require are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are referred to in the gardening world as N-P-K. The nutrient value of Epsom salts is 0-0-0, meaning they contain no traces at all of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium. If you do choose to use Epsom salts on your plants, it’s important that you are aware that Epsom salts are not a substitute for fertilizer. Epsom salts do not contain any of the essential nutrients a plant needs, and instead, you should be feeding your plants with a balanced fertilizer to help sustain them. Epsom salts can be beneficial, but they should be used as an additional secondary supplement, and not as the primary means of feeding a plant.


What if I have Sandy or Acidic Soil?

If your soil is sandy or really acidic (with a pH level below 6.0), it is more likely that it has a magnesium deficiency. The only way to truly know that is to do a soil test. Check with your county extension office to learn about soil makeup in your area and to find soil testing resources before adding Epsom salts, garden lime, or other amendments. If soil lacks magnesium, use Epsom salt to boost it, but don’t expect it to be the end-all solution for low magnesium or other elements in soil.



My Plants are Giving Visual Clues of Problems

Plants are amazing organisms that can communicate with us in a variety of ways. One way that plants communicate is through visual clues. These clues can tell us a lot about the health of the plant and whether it is in need of care.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for visual clues from plants. First, it is important to know what the plant normally looks like. This will help you to identify any changes that may be a sign of a problem. Second, it is important to look at the entire plant, including the leaves, stems, and roots. Each part of the plant can give us clues about its health.

Here are some of the most common visual clues that plants give us:

  • Yellowing leaves: Yellowing leaves are often a sign of a problem with the plant's roots. This could be due to overwatering, drought, or a nutrient deficiency.

  • Wilting leaves: Wilting leaves are often a sign of a problem with the plant's water supply. This could be due to overwatering, drought, or a problem with the plant's roots.

  • Discolored leaves: Discolored leaves can be a sign of a problem with the plant's nutrients. This could be due to a nutrient deficiency or a problem with the plant's soil.

  • Brown spots on leaves: Brown spots on leaves are often a sign of a fungal infection. This could be due to overwatering, poor drainage, or a problem with the plant's soil.

  • Holes in leaves: Holes in leaves are often a sign of an insect infestation. This could be due to a lack of pest control or a problem with the plant's environment.

If you notice any of these visual clues, it is important to take action to help the plant. If you are not sure what to do, you can always consult with a professional gardener or plant pathologist.


Cornell University Assistant Professor Neil Mattson says plants will show visual cues if they are starved for a particular nutrient. If a plant’s leaves turn yellow all over the plant, it can be a sign they need more sulfate. If lower leaves turn yellow between the veins (that is the veins stay green), they may need more magnesium. Some nutrient disorders can look alike so growers can contact their county extension agents either before they plant to test a soil sample or, if they notice a problem, they can bring in a plant for diagnosis. “Plants need those building blocks” says Mattson. “Magnesium and sulfur are essential nutrients.” Although magnesium and sulfur occur naturally in soil, they can be depleted by various conditions, including heavy agricultural use. But unlike most commercial fertilizers, which build up in the soil over time, Epsom Salt is not persistent so you can’t overuse it. Mattson – who adds Epsom salt to his fertilizer for plants such as roses, pansies, petunias and impatiens – says gardeners can proactively mix Epsom salt with fertilizer and add it to their soil monthly, or they can mix one tablespoon with a gallon of water and spray leaves directly every two weeks. Epsom Salt is recommended by Master Gardeners and used regularly by commercial growers around the world. Tests by the National Gardening Association confirm that roses fertilized with Epsom Salt grow bushier and produce more flowers, and it also makes pepper plants grow larger than those treated only with commercial fertilizer.


A Funny Story About Epsom Salts

Once upon a time, there was a fairy who lived in Montana, USA. The fairy loved to help the plants in the forest, and loved helping plants in gardens. She was always willing to give plants a helping hand.


One day, the fairy was flying through Paradis Valley, not far from Chico Hot Springs, when she saw a group of garlic plants gathered in a raised bed garden. The fairy landed and asked the garlic plants what they were doing. The garlic told the fairy that they were not feeling well, and likely had a mineral deficiency. They did not want to feel sick anymore. The fairy took a look at the garlic leaves and realized that sure enough, they needed help. The fairy told the garlic plants that she would help them, and she flew away to find a solution.


The fairy flew to the nearest human town and went to the pharmacy. In Livingston, Montana, The fairy asked the pharmacist for help, and the pharmacist gave the fairy a bottle of Epsom salt. The fairy thanked the pharmacist and flew back to the garlic plants that were resting in the raised beds.


In a soft, delicate voice she told the garlic plants "Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are important for plant growth. Magnesium is involved in many important biochemical reactions in plants, including photosynthesis and the creation of chlorophyll. Sulfate is a component of many important proteins and enzymes in plants. When Epsom salt is applied to the soil, it dissolves and the magnesium and sulfate ions are absorbed by the plants. These ions are then used by the plants for growth and development. Epsom salt can also be applied to the leaves of plants. When dissolved in water, Epsom salt can be sprayed on the leaves of plants. The magnesium and sulfate ions will be absorbed by the leaves and used by the plants for growth and development. Epsom salt is a safe and effective way to improve the health of plants. It is a good source of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are important for plant growth."

She offered the Epsom salt to the garlic plants. The garlic were hesitant at first, but they eventually took the Epsom salt. She dissolved the Epsom salt in water captured from the nearby Yellowstone River and sprayed the solution on the garlic leaves and poured the remaining solution into the soil, near the garlic roots.


To the fairy's surprise, the garlic started to feel better immediately. The plants thanked the fairy for her help, and the fairy was happy.


The fairy learned that Epsom salt can be used to help garlic plants feel better, and she was happy to have found a way to help the garlic in the raised beds. This solution would be her new magic pixie dust.



Additional Information on Epsom Salt

Epsom salt – actually magnesium sulfate – helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, increases chlorophyll production and deters pests, such as slugs and voles. It also provides vital nutrients to supplement your regular fertilizer. According to the Epsom Salt Council: https://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/


Why Put Epsom Salts on Plants? Why not? Even if you don’t believe in its effectiveness, it never hurts to try it. Magnesium allows plants to better take in valuable nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. It also helps in the creation of chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. In addition, magnesium greatly improves a plant’s ability to produce flowers and fruit. If the soil becomes depleted of magnesium, adding Epsom salt will help; and since it poses little danger of overuse like most commercial fertilizers, you can use it safely on nearly all your garden plants. How to Water Plants with Epsom Salts Want to know how to water plants with Epsom salts? It’s easy. Simply substitute it for regular watering either once or twice a month. Keep in mind that there are a number of formulas out there, so go with whatever works for you. Explore More Before applying Epsom salt, however, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested to determine whether it’s deficient of magnesium. You should also be aware that many plants, like beans and leafy vegetables, will happily grow and produce in soils with low levels of magnesium. Plants like roses, tomatoes, and peppers, on the other hand require lots of magnesium, and therefore, are more commonly watered with Epsom salt. When diluted with water, Epsom salt is easily taken up by plants, especially when applied as a foliar spray. Most plants can be misted with a solution of 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of Epsom salt per gallon of water once a month. For more frequent watering, every other week, cut this back to 1 tablespoon (15 mL). With roses, you can apply a foliar spray of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water for each foot (31 cm.) of the shrub’s height. Apply in spring as leaves appear and then again after flowering. For tomatoes and peppers, apply 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt granules around each transplant or spray (1 tbsp. or 30 mL per gallon) during transplanting and again following the first bloom and fruit set.


How to Apply Epsom Salt to Plants

Epsom salts in the garden are most commonly used as foliar spray. You simply mix in the required amount of Epsom salt with water and spray it on the leaves of a plant. Ideally, do this in springtime just as new leaves are emerging, and again after blooming. Epsom salts can also be added to water and used as a soil drench, watering the plant at the soil level. When planting, you can add Epsom salts directly to the soil, or work it into the soil without diluting it in water first.


Conclusion

Epsom salts contain micronutrients and have the potential to be a beneficial supplement for some plants, especially roses, tomatoes, and peppers. Epsom salts have the potential to improve soil quality in some instances, though it would be detrimental in others, such as in acidic soil. Epsom salts do not contain any key nutrients, and therefore should not be used in place of a balanced fertilizer. Epsom salt is not a fertilizer or plant food. It contains only two elements that plants need. Epsom salts have been used to ease magnesium deficiencies found in garden soil. The magnesium in Epsom salt is highly soluble and can leach or run off into water supplies, contributing to water pollution and escaping the soil it’s meant to improve. If your soil tests positive for magnesium deficiency, Epsom salts might help your lawn with some growth and lushness.


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