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    Default Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    So, I recently potted up some new houseplants to brighten up my office at work. One of the pots, however, is growing a crust of salt crystals where the soil meets the pot and I'm curious/concerned as to what's going on.

    The pot in question is actually an old ice bucket (with drainage holes drilled into it). It was rumoured to be silver, but we were skeptical of that since it looks, weighs and feels like plastic.

    The soil is a fairly standard potting compost, so quite nutrient-rich. Salt only grows when the soil is wet, but it is very rapid when it happens.

    The plant in the pot is a young dragon tree (dracaena marginata). So far it has shown no ill effects after about a month in the pot.

    So, any guesses as to what the salt is? Will it harm the plant (e.g. is it sucking nitrogen out of the soil, depriving the plant of nutrients) or the pot (will it eat holes in the sides)? Is there anything we can do to stop/mitigate it?
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Nitrogen salts aren't super common I think, and neither plastic nor silver should do much to create them. Although there might be some possibilities if the bucket turns out to be aluminum, which doesn't seem to be uncommon and can feel a bit plasticcy if you see the metalic color and subcontiously expect steel. It seems more likely that the salt is just actual table salt. Is there any chance the bucket was used to store say salt for de-icing the sidewalk at any point? The ever changing water levels in the pot could be recristalizing it.
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    It's not an uncommon phenomenon with potted plant, though I've always seen it only on clay pots.

    To my great embarrassment, I don't remember what the stuff is, though I am pretty sure it came up once in school during my gardener apprenticeship. But I am pretty certain it's completely harmless.

    I suspect it's actually some form of Calcium compound.
    Last edited by Yora; 2019-05-16 at 03:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Ideally, you want to find a local inorganic chemist to do qualitative analysis. But easy things to do yourself are:

    1. look at the shape of the crystals
    2. see what color, if any, the substance adds to a flame.

    For example, common table salt, sodium chloride, has cubical crystals, and adds a bright yellow color to a flame.

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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Interesting thoughts, guys. I'll take a closer look at the crystals when I'm back in the office on Tuesday. If it's a calcium salt, does that mean it's not a threat to the plant's life? That's my top priority, obviously.

    I'd be very surprised if the bucket ever held any other kinds of salt, for the record (when I say 'ice bucket', I mean the kind you put bottles of wine in, not the kind you use when de-icing pavements).
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    If there was so much dissolved salt in the soil that it forms crystals, the plant would have been completely dead for a long time. To my knowledge, it's completely safe.
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Hmm... are you sure it is a salt and not some form of mold that is growing on the top layer of the soil?
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Do you have hard water? We have very hard water where I live, and we get white crystals building up on the dirt of our housplants quite often.

    We do also get white-colored molds periodically...
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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Water here (Edinburgh) is officially medium hardness, but I used to live in Essex so I know what limescale looks like. This isn't that. Man, I miss the taste of hard water...

    Anyway I'm 100% sure it's not a fungus. See photos below: it's very obviously a mineral. I've gathered up a little bag of it now, which I could potentially set fire to, but I think I'll get myself a magnifying glass and have a closer look first.

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    Default Re: Any Soil Chemistry Experts Here?

    Looking at the pictures, I would agree that it is not hard water scale. I look forward to finding out what it is.

    I also agree about the taste of hardwater. No other water beats it.
    Last edited by Melayl; 2019-05-21 at 04:26 PM.
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